Matthew Potts Named Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School

May 3, 2013
Matthew Potts Named Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School

by Jonathan Beasley

Episcopal priest and theological scholar the Rev. Matthew L. Potts, MDiv '08, has been named Assistant Professor of Ministry Studies at Harvard Divinity School, effective July 1, 2013.

Potts works at the intersection of the practices of Christian worship, among which he includes the practice of preaching and the ethics of Christian communities.

'We are delighted that Matthew Potts will be joining our faculty next fall,' said Dean David N. Hempton in announcing the appointment. 'His engagement with the practices of preaching and worship in his work as an Episcopal priest and his profound engagement with theology, ethics, and theories of religion will bring important offerings to our curriculum and community. The interdisciplinary quality of his work, and his willingness to question and rethink the categories of 'Christian,' 'theology,' and 'religious,' will lead our diverse student body into a deeper consideration of narrative, ritual, ethics, and theology in relation to preaching and practices of worship, and more broadly to the vocation of ministry.'

Potts will complete his PhD in May 2013 and is currently the assistant rector at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Falmouth, Massachusetts, where he has served since 2009.

He received a BA in English from the University of Notre Dame. After graduating, he entered military service as the main propulsion division officer onboard the USS Vincennes in Yokosuka, Japan, from 1999 to 2001.

Potts received his master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 2008. Later that year, he was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Western Michigan.

In 2009, Potts began his PhD work at Harvard. His dissertation, 'The Frail Agony of Grace: Story, Act, and Sacrament in the Fiction of Cormac McCarthy' (to be completed in May 2013), argues that the sacramental quality of McCarthy's novels challenges Christians to alter the manner by which they consider their ethical responsibilities. 

'Matthew Potts lives and works at the intersection of the practice of ministry and the study of religion,' said Stephanie Paulsell, Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies and member of the Faculty Search Committee. 'His integrated approach to the practices of preaching and worship offers our students a way into these practices that can sustain them throughout their ministries.'

Potts has received numerous academic honors, including the prestigious Williams Fellowship at HDS and a University Fellowship at Notre Dame. He served as a teaching fellow at HDS from 2009 to 2012. He is committed to, and intellectually engaged by, the ministerial formation of his students.

He helped to establish the nonprofit Touching Tiny Lives Foundation, which supports anti-AIDS work in southern Africa.

He has delivered papers at the Conference on Christianity and Literature in London and at the Anglican Studies Conference at HDS. He will soon publish a book review in Christianity and Literature, and he has been a regular contributor to, an online forum on theology.

'I am thrilled to join this renowned faculty and to continue studying with and learning from these scholars who have been and remain my intellectual and professional mentors,' said Potts. 'Since arriving at HDS eight years ago as a first-year MDiv student, I have received the best of intellectual and pastoral formation from Harvard. I have always here enjoyed a thoughtful encouragement inspired by both challenge and critique and a reverent reflection indebted both to prayer and to practice. I owe so much of my growth as both a scholar and a minister to this HDS community that I cannot but look forward with excitement to continuing my formation as a faculty member in years to come.'