Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary 1990 and 2003
Associate Professor of Ministry, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia; Presiding Elder, Atlanta District, Georgia Conference, African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church
In considering his ministry roles, Rev. Dr. Jeffery L. Tribble, Sr. reflects on Paul’s statement in Ephesians 4 that “some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers . . .” Early in his career, he felt called to be a pastor and enjoyed serving in the church; however, as he became increasingly aware of theological and pastoral issues in the congregations he served, he felt drawn back to the academy and to a teaching career: “some people find the question in the midst of practice, and I found it there.”
Even today, the roles of pastor and teacher are bound together in Dr. Tribble’s ministry: “Being a pastor is a key part of my identity even as a scholar.” Now, as a professor, his teaching is built upon scholarship that speaks to both the academy and the church: “I’m much more interested in writing to serve the church, in such a way as to be accessible to scholars as well as educated laity and clergy.” One of Dr. Tribble’s role models and mentors was Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr., a New Testament scholar who later became a bishop: “He was a shepherd in the classroom . . . students could tell that he loved the church, loved people, because he brought that relationship of care even to the classroom.”
Dr. Tribble’s willingness to embrace this dual identity emerges from his understanding of faithfulness, which he defines as responding to the call of God wherever that takes him. He credits Rosemary Keller and Rosemary Radford Ruether with this important advice: “Make sure your career does not get in the way of your calling.” While building a career means being upwardly mobile, climbing the ladder, and moving toward a particular goal, being faithful to the God who calls us often involves going in another direction entirely.
Inspired by his African-American ancestors, Dr. Tribble recalls the sense of pride he felt when he joined the faculty at Garrett-Evangelical in 2000, as he reflected on the people he represented and the long line of African-American scholars, pastors, and activists who had come before. Early in his career, Dr. Tribble’s theology began to take shape around the idea of transformation, and it was during his time at Garrett-Evangelical that he began to define his ministry in terms of praying, working, and teaching for personal and social transformation. He recognized clearly the importance of pastoring for personal transformation and for ministering in an urban setting for social transformation: “My formation was shaped between the tensions of those two poles.”