Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and the Rev. Dr. Phyllis Anderson to receive honorary degrees at ULS Commencement

March 22, 2024

President R. Guy Erwin is pleased to announced that Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton and the Rev. Dr. Phyllis B. Anderson will both receive Honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees at the 2024 ULS Commencement on May 18. Bishop Eaton will preach at the morning Festival Eucharist and Dr. Anderson will give the Commencement address in the afternoon.

Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton was reelected to serve a second six-year term as ELCA presiding bishop at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Eaton is the ELCA’s fourth presiding bishop and was first elected at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Eaton earned a Master of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School and a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the College of Wooster.

Eaton was ordained in 1981 and served three different congregations in Ohio before being elected bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod in 2006. She was reelected synod bishop in May 2013, shortly before her election as ELCA presiding bishop.

Eaton’s four emphases for the ELCA are: We are church; We are Lutheran; We are church together; We are church for the sake of the world. These four emphases are fundamental to identifying who the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is.

In 2015, under Eaton’s leadership, the ELCA underwent an extensive vision process to help this church journey faithfully and effectively together in the years ahead. The process resulted in Future Directions 2025, a strategic framework that helps shared leadership across the ELCA realize common aspirations and better face the challenges of this church.

In addition, with Eaton’s guidance, the ELCA launched Bishop Eaton’s Leadership Initiative, which encourages all ELCA members to seek out and inspire gifted people in our congregations and communities to consider a call to the ministry of the gospel.

As chief ecumenical officer of the ELCA, she represents this church in a wide range of ecumenical and interfaith settings. She is vice president for North America on the Council of the Lutheran World Federation and serves on the governing board and development committee of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and on the Religions for Peace USA Council of Presidents.

As presiding bishop, Eaton travels extensively, representing the ELCA in a variety of capacities. This has included a visit to a Syrian refugee camp; commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with Lutherans from around the world in Namibia; participating in an ecumenical service to commemorate the Reformation in the Lund, Sweden, cathedral with Pope Francis; visiting with migrants in Honduras; and attending the fifth consultation of women pastors and theologians in Tanzania.

Eaton’s husband is the Rev. T. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopal priest. They are parents of two adult children, Rebeckah and Susannah.

The Rev. Dr. Phyllis B. Anderson was named the seventh president of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA in 2005 until her retirement at the end of 2013. She was the first woman to head a Lutheran seminary in the United States.  

Anderson graduated from California State University at Sacramento and Wartburg Theological Seminary. She earned a PhD in Systematic Theology from Aquinas Institute of Theology.  Ordained in 1978, . Anderson served as pastor of a three-point parish in Iowa, before joining the staff of the Iowa District of the former American Lutheran Church.

In 1979, Anderson was the first woman to preside at the eucharist at Wartburg Theological Seminary. She was the first woman assistant to a district president in the American Lutheran Church. As the first Director of Theological Education in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Anderson was often the lone woman among seminary presidents and board chairs.

In 1985 she became director of pastoral studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. When the ELCA was formed in 1988 from the merger of three Lutheran church bodies,  Anderson was called to serve as Director of Theological Education in the Division for Ministry. In that role she oversaw a six-year study of theological education, which developed a comprehensive plan for a theological education network in the new church, anticipating radical changes in the seminaries and the larger context of the church and society that continue to unfold.

In 1998 Anderson became the first director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Theological Studies at Seattle University School of Theological Education and Ministry, an ecumenical school within a Jesuit university, preparing women and men for lay and ordained ministers in eleven distinct church bodies in the northwest United States. A sign of these changing times in theological education, that thriving school will close this year.  

In retirement, Anderson lives in Sonoma CA, with her husband Herbert, whose distinguished career was also in theological education. She continues her commitment to Lutheran higher education as a member of the Board of Regents of California Lutheran University.