New EMS Dean Brings Different Background To Seminary

Michael King, seminary dean
Dr. Michael King, seminary dean

Professionally speaking, Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s next dean is cut from a different cloth.

"I’ve been a pastor and a publisher," said Michael A. King, who on July 1 officially becomes dean of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

"Being a pastor and publisher has made me interested in how the church and world think and converse with each other, and seminary is a wonderful place to have that type of conversation."

Pastor and publisher

Unlike many seminary deans with exclusively seminarian backgrounds, King, 55, comes to EMS after 12 years as owner, editor and publisher of Cascadia Publishing House, an Anabaptist-Mennonite publishing company in Telford, Pa.

During that time, King also served as part-time pastor for several Mennonite churches in southeastern Pennsylvania.

He also has authored various books on contemporary Christian topics.

Succeeding Ervin Stutzman

King will succeed Ervin R. Stutzman, who left EMS in December to become executive director for Mennonite Church USA.

Sara Wenger Shenk, who became the seminary’s interim dean on Jan. 1, will continue to serve in that role through June 30. Shenk has been hired as president of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., a post she will begin on Oct. 1.

The Souderton, Pa., native is no stranger to the city. A son of missionaries, King and his family moved to Harrisonburg in 1972 and his parents still live here.

In 1976, King earned a bachelor’s degree in Bible and philosophy from Eastern Mennonite College, the predecessor to EMU.

He went on to earn a master’s of divinity from Palmer (Pa.) Theological Seminary in 1982 and a doctorate in rhetoric and communication from Temple University in 1998.

Shaped by childhood

It was the time his family spent doing mission work in Cuba and Mexico that King credits with shaping his life.

In the small town of Sagua la Grande, Cuba, in the mid-1950s, King witnessed graphic sights of the island country’s ongoing civil war between dictator Fulgencio Batista and then-rebel leader, and later Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro.

King recalls, as a preschooler, seeing bodies of victims of the ongoing violence carted off the streets.

"I remember staring through the windows and my parents calling me [away] because it was so intense," he said.

Two years after Castro took power in Cuba, the country’s relations with religious ministries waned and King’s family took another mission in Mexico City. As a socially "isolated" home-schooled student, King embraced reading, a hobby that spurred a growing love for books as a writer and publisher.

King and his wife, Joan, a mental-health consultant in Philadelphia, will keep their home in Pennsylvania and live part time in an apartment in Harrisonburg. They have three daughters: Kristy, Katie and Rachael.

Balance between scholarship and church

Officials at EMS say King brings an ideal background to his new post.

Fred Kniss, EMU provost who chaired the search committee that pursued King, says, "Michael brings a nice balance between scholarship and the church – those two sides set him up to be a good leader."

"He [King] is a wonderful choice for dean," Shenk said. "He’s just what I would have imagined might be best for the seminary – the gift of imagination and love for the church."

Contact Tom Mitchell at 574-6275 or