Rev. Paul Roberts, Sr.
The Reverend Paul Timothy Roberts Sr. is President of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, GA, a position he has held since the spring of 2010. Under Paul’s leadership, JCSTS has redefined itself—and is helping redefine theological education and expanding social justice understanding in the process.
An historically Black, Presbyterian-affiliated, theological seminary with a distinguished 154-year record of service to the church, JCSTS began to experience significant declines in enrollment in the early 2000s. These declines were a reflection of congregational membership declines in mainline denominations nationally. With low enrollment during the fall of 2010, the seminary’s closure seemed imminent.
Paul’s first order of business as the seminary’s new president was to build a new institutional culture—one that is welcoming to persons with no regard to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or class; seeks and engages in ecumenical partnerships; is not risk-averse; and adapts readily to the changing circumstances of church and society. Bolder moves followed as Paul reconstituted the seminary’s board of trustees, declined previous affiliations with unimaginative agencies, discontinued the Master of Divinity degree, launched a new online platform, and centered the seminary’s educational program around liberation theology and social justice.
Today, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary advances communities of faith, justice, and compassion through innovation in theological education. Hundreds of people now engage annually in the seminary’s affordable, justice-oriented programs. With new programs constantly on the drawing board for ordained and non-ordained persons, JCSTS projects enrollment will flourish well into the future.
Paul has raised millions of dollars in support of the seminary’s new direction. He is in demand nationally as a teacher and preacher and has been profiled in his alma mater’s publication, the Princeton University Alumni Weekly. His writings have been included in the Presbyterian Outlook Magazine, Journal for Preachers, Feasting on the Word (Westminster John Knox Press), and Pastoral Theology from a Global Perspective (Orbis Books).
Paul has served on numerous boards including the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and the Mountain Retreat Association of North Carolina. He has been a consultant and cohort leader with the Louisville Institute. Currently, he is a trustee of the Presbyterian Foundation and an advisory board member of the Ezra Youth Seminary and of the Ministry Collaborative of Atlanta. He is a corresponding member of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
A native of Stamford, CT, Paul grew up in Bradenton, FL, which he considers his home. He graduated from Princeton University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture and African American Studies. Prior to his ministry career, Paul worked in the business sector in New York City for eight years. He later earned the Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in New Testament Studies from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, GA. He is an Academic Fellow of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey in Celigny, Switzerland. From 1997 through 2010, he was the pastor of Church of the Master (PCUSA), a church founded in 1965 in Atlanta, GA, as an intentionally interracial congregation. in 2015, he was the interim preacher of the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville, NC.
Recreationally, Paul enjoys hot yoga and gardening. He and his wife, Nina, have one daughter and two sons.