Nearly a year and a half after its dean resigned amid financial scandal, the Yale-affiliated Berkeley Divinity School named the Rev. Canon Joseph Harp Britton as new dean of the Episcopalian seminary.
Britton will become the first permanent dean since former Dean R. William Franklin resigned in December 2001, after reports surfaced that Franklin had mismanaged the school’s finances. Britton, the founding director of the European Institute of Christian Studies in Paris, will replace interim Associate Dean Frederick Borsch as head of the seminary beginning July 1.
Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge praised the addition of Britton to Yale’s faculty, emphasizing his strong academic credentials, his experience as an ordained leader within the Episcopalian Church, and his ability to relate to both faculty and students at the seminary.
“Overall it was the right combination of academic and pastoral experience and sensitivity,” Attridge said.
Berkeley Divinity School has been affiliated with the Yale Divinity School since 1971, in an arrangement that allows Berkeley students to receive degrees from the Yale Divinity School. The relationship between the two schools came up for review at the same time Franklin’s financial abuses came to light. The University and Berkeley Board of Trustees reaffirmed the affiliation early last year.
Britton said he was excited to join the leadership of both the Berkeley Divinity School and Yale Divinity School during the revitalization of the relationship between the two schools.
“Through its affiliation with Yale Divinity School, Berkeley offers an extraordinary opportunity for the formation of new clergy with both an intellectual and spiritual depth,” Britton said in a press release Thursday.
Britton said he would use Berkeley’s relationship with the Yale Divinity School to improve the seminary.
“Given the very positive momentum created by the School’s renewed affiliation with Yale, I hope in collaboration with Dean Attridge and the other faculty to build on Berkeley’s existing strengths to enhance its already strong reputation as a seminary which trains especially qualified and capable leaders for the church,” Britton said.
The search committee, which was formed last spring and included members of the Board of Trustees and Attridge, received approximately 25 serious applications, Attridge said. The process was delayed, however, when former Divinity School Dean Rebecca Chopp left after only one year as dean to become the President of Colgate University.
Once Attridge was named dean in July 2002, the process began again. Approximately nine candidates were interviewed in New York in January and two were brought to campus in February. Attridge said Britton was offered the job on the basis of his visit.
An Episcopal Church Foundation Fellow, Britton received his training from Harvard University, the General Theological Seminary and the Institut Catholique de Paris.