New Faculty and Staff Welcome and Congratulations

The United Lutheran Seminary welcomes Dr. Crystal Hall to a faculty position, congratulates Dr John Largen on his appointment to a new position and Dr. Allison deForest on an expanded role on the staff with some teaching responsibilities.

Crystall Hall - United Lutheran Seminary

Dr. Crystal L. Hall joins ULS as an assistant professor of biblical studies. Dr. Hall’s research and teaching address the call to justice with the human Other alongside the call to justice with Earth as Other. Her research interests include the Pauline corpus, poverty and wealth in the Roman economy, and ecological and liberationist hermeneutics. Her methodological commitments include empire criticism, reading the biblical text within its historical contexts of empire, as well as feminist theory. She works to privilege voices that have historically been excluded from the classroom and the church.

Through Contextual Bible Study, Dr. Hall works to read the Bible prophetically with communities struggling against the structures that keep them marginalized. She has served as an assistant researcher with the Ujamaa Centre for Biblical and Theological Community Development and Research at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, under the mentorship of Gerald West. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Boston University College of Fine Arts, and an M.Div. and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Dr. Hall’s publications include forthcoming works “Insights from Reading the Bible with the Poor,” Fortress Insight Series, and “From Cosmos to New Creation: A Call to Justice with Earth in Galatians,” Rowman and Littlefield.

In addition to her work as an academic, Dr. Hall is a trained organizer and political educator. She has worked with organizations that draw on long lineages grounded in human rights, environmental justice and the leadership of the directly impacted. She has worked on staff with organizations including the Poverty Initiative (now the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice), United Workers and the Sierra Club.

“I’m thrilled to have been called to the ULS community. I look forward to working together with faculty, students and staff as we discern the call to God’s justice.”

Dr. Hall is a proud partner of Luis Larín. They reside in Baltimore. Dr. Hall enjoys salsa dancing, gardening and home improvement projects.

Dr. John Largen has been appointed as Dean of the Chapel at the seminary’s Gettysburg Campus.

“We are thrilled that John has agreed to serve as Dean,” ULS Interim President Dr. Richard Green said. “There is no one more qualified to take on these important duties. I know the whole ULS community is enthusiastic about John’s new role, and we all wish him well.”

Dr. Largen assumes the position after former Dean Dr. Mark Oldenburg retired at the end of the 2017-2018 academic year.

Dr. Largen stressed his wish to provide continuity by following the example set by Dr. Oldenburg. 

“Mark has guided the seminary so beautifully in its daily worship of God, and is an exemplar of Christian worship leadership,” Largen said. “As a Lutheran, I plan to follow his strong ecumenical example, continuing to invite the whole community into the riches of our various traditions.”

Dr. Largen’s duties will include planning and oversight of all chapel worship on the Gettysburg Campus, providing leadership for students and faculty to worship God in Word and Sacrament.

In addition, Dr. Largen’s duties include coordinating the Professional Ethics and Anti-Racism Workshops required of all ULS students, along with overseeing the spiritual formation degree requirement and teaching courses in formative spirituality each semester. 

Dr. Largen also will serve as a liaison to ELCA candidates at non-ELCA divinity schools and seminaries (especially Harvard, Yale, Union NYC, and Princeton) who are “affiliating” with ULS to satisfy candidacy expectations about Lutheran foundations and internship.

Dr. Largen served on the pastoral staff at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in  Columbia, S.C., from 1986 to 2012, with the final 13 years as the pastor to the seminary community for spiritual formation. As the seminary pastor, he was deeply involved in the worship life of the community and worked closely with the dean of the chapel. Until his new appointment, he was interim director of contextual formation and adjunct faculty at ULS.

Dr. Largen’s wife, Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen, is a professor of systematic theology at ULS. Dr. Largen’s “heart home” is the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where he grew up. He enjoys bluegrass music and advises anyone who wishes to take up the banjo to do it when they’re 8, not when they’re 58. He loves American history, medieval mystics, classic cars, and visiting with his and Kristin’s Swedish cousins.

Dr. Allison deForest will serve as the director of graduate programs, director of distributed learning and co-op programs and as director of institutional assessment with responsibility for ULS’ relationships with the Association of Theological Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. She will also serve as an adjunct professor teaching classes in New Testament.

“I find deep meaning in teaching and mentoring students,” Dr. deForest said, “and I’m committed to fostering good relationships with our accrediting bodies.”

Dr. deForest comes to ULS after having served as co-pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mahoning in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, where she celebrated the Ministry of Word and Sacrament, and focused on church administration and Christian education.

She has a Bachelor of Music degree from St Olaf College; a B.S. in chemical engineering from the University of New Mexico; an M.S. in environmental engineering from the University of Central Florida; an M.Div. from Wartburg Theological Seminary; a Master of Letters degree from the University of St Andrews; and a Ph.D from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Dr. deForest has two children, Mallory, who is working in a career as an actor, and Beau, who is pursuing college studies. “I love to sing, and I’m an avid knitter,” she said.