Dr. Christopher H. Wisdom, who has served as a campus minister, church planter, and pastor, in addition to his 28 years as a U.S. Army chaplain, has been appointed Vice President and Professor of Practical Theology at Erskine Theological Seminary.
Wisdom received his undergraduate education at Nyack College in New York, and went on to complete the Master of Divinity degree at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1980. He earned an MBA at Syracuse University in 1993. He is also a graduate of Erskine Seminary, where he was awarded a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2004. He received the Master of Strategic Studies degree from the US Army War College in 2008.
The new vice president believes each of his educational endeavors has prepared him in some way for seminary leadership. For example, his degree from Erskine Seminary and his D.Min. project, “Training that Leads to Trust and Transformation: Servant-Leadership in Training Management,” helped him “to know Erskine and to know how to be a leader,” he said.
“The MBA helps me with the quantitative side of Erskine’s challenges right now,” he added. “The Master of Strategic Studies has given me proven methods for planning, programming, and decision making at senior leadership levels.”
He noted also that he attended a Christian college similar in size to Erskine.
His leadership philosophy, Wisdom said, “came out of the Erskine experience and was forged while I was in the army.”
He views his current work as “an opportunity to give back to Erskine, which gave so much to me.” His expression of gratitude is no empty phrase.
When Wisdom’s wife Ginny was in Walter Reed Hospital undergoing a test on her heart, she developed a complication in response to the microwaves used in the procedure. This required that a pacemaker be inserted immediately. “Our lives changed forever,” he said.
Deciding he could not continue his Doctor of Ministry studies, Wisdom phoned a seminary professor to say he needed to drop out. Instead of accepting his resignation from the program, the professor offered him a way to complete his coursework while enabling him to have time to care for his wife (who is now doing well).
Based in part on his own experience at the time of his wife’s medical difficulties, he cites “the extent to which faculty members are willing to work with students, to serve and support students,” as one of Erskine Seminary’s defining characteristics.
Wisdom, who says he “had to get through five gates” before being appointed—being considered by Dr. Brad Christie (then acting president), Erskine President Dr. Paul Kooistra, the seminary committee of the Board of Trustees, the Board of Trustees as a whole, and a synodical committee—believes strongly that God’s providence opened the door for him to come to Erskine as vice president for the seminary.
“I had not planned to do this,” he said. “I had planned to retire from the Army, which I did in June, and work on a Ph.D.” Since 2013, Wisdom has been engaged in Ph.D. studies in Reformation history at the University of Chester, Cheshire, England, with Wales Evangelical School of Theology, Bryntirion, Wales.
In his new position, Wisdom may not have much time to devote to his Ph.D. work. He will have an office in Due West, where he plans to spent two days a week, and another office at the seminary’s Columbia campus, where he plans to spend three days a week, traveling to other seminary sites as needed. He plans to continue working on that Ph.D., though, taking as a guide Joan Bolker’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day.
“I love to learn,” he said. “I think it helps me as a professor and as a senior administrator to be a student. Meeting deadlines, accepting counsel, being under authority, these will enable me to relate to the students.”
Wisdom is especially excited about working on leadership development in the seminary. “What congregations and communities need now is leaders,” he said. “I was taught some aspects of leadership in the church. I was definitely taught leadership in the army. As different as the academy is from the army, there’s always got to be somebody in charge, someone who is responsible.”
Wisdom is an ordained minister of the Gospel in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and lives in Columbia with his wife Ginny, who recently retired from her career as a registered nurse. They are the parents of three children and have three grandchildren.