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James Brenneman, or Jim as he prefers to be called, has been president and professor of Hebrew Bible at Berkeley School of Theology since the Fall of 2017. Just prior to his call to BST, he completed nearly 12 years as president of Goshen College in Indiana. He previously served on the faculty at Episcopal Theological School at Claremont in Old Testament scholarship for 15 years and was founding/lead pastor of Pasadena Mennonite Church where he served for 20 years. He is an ordained Mennonite minister.
Jim has a BA degree in Natural Science/Biology from Goshen College in 1977, a MDiv degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in 1982, a MA in Religious Studies from Claremont Graduate University in 1991, and a PhD there in Hebrew Bible/Ancient Near Eastern Studies in 1994. He is the author of On Jordan’s Stormy Banks: Lessons from the Book of Deuteronomy published by Herald Press and Canons in Conflict: Negotiating Texts in True and False Prophesy published by Oxford University Press, and has written numerous book chapters, journal articles, and popular magazine articles on biblical, theological, science-religion, and other religious themes. An experienced public speaker, he has delivered dozens of lectures and presentations on a variety of topics related to his scholarly interests.
With a seed planted for transformational cross-cultural study while at Goshen, Jim has spent time in international scholarship related to his theological studies. He was awarded a grant from the Eli Lilly Foundation for sabbatical study in Jerusalem and London, returning to the Holy Land and Middle East nine times for study and leading learning trips there. He has served on a variety of state and national boards in higher education, receiving distinction in higher education leadership from the Association of Hispanic Higher Education. He has traveled the globe for work and pleasure (Honduras, Peru, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Dubai, India, Guatemala, Costa Rica).
Jim grew up in Tampa Florida, in Ybor City (Cuban Quarter), the home of HavaTampa Cigars, Cuban Coffee, and the Buccaneers. He is married to Dr. Terri J. Brenneman, a clinical psychologist who has a private practice in Montclair, and they are parents of one son, Quinn, an audio-engineer. They recently celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary and live in Berkeley. Jim expects to retire in the next few years, but plans to stay in the Bay Area.
Jim has long been active in civic life in his communities. He is currently a member of the Board of the Graduate Theological Union, the largest Interreligious PhD program in the nation, and an Advisory Board member of the Interfaith Council of Alameda County. He is a Founding Signatory of American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, served as the Higher Education advisor to President Obama before the Paris Climate Summit, and has been on many other boards, especially in higher education, regional economic development, chamber of commerce, and college sports. He is used to speaking on religious topics intersecting science, environment, and/or the importance of a religious understanding for any profession or for a truly comprehensive liberal arts.
Before moving to Berkeley, Jim was a member of the Goshen Rotary Club where he was a member of the Paul Harris Society and enjoyed working on their projects fixing up the homes of the poor, cooking pancakes for their annual fundraising breakfast, and working at their booth at the county fair each year.
Jim’s interests are many, if not always relaxing. As a former runner, he now enjoys long walks around Berkeley, as well as a workout at the YMCA now and then. Having grown up near the beach, his most enjoyable experiences have to do with walking, sitting, and reading “on any beach most anywhere.” He loves languages, having learned Spanish as a child and later ancient languages in graduate school (Greek, Hebrew, Akkadian, Aramaic) and is currently in an Ulpan class learning Modern Hebrew. He enjoys traveling and learning about different religious traditions.