Virginia Theological Seminary Awards Five with Honorary Degrees


Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Tel: 703-461-1782
Email: cprather@vts.edu

(Alexandria, Va.)
- Honorary doctorates were conferred upon five distinguished recipients at Virginia Theological Seminary’s annual Academic Convocation yesterday. The doctor in divinity, honoris causa degree was awarded to the Rt. Rev. Gregory Orrin Brewer, the Rt. Rev. Jeff Wright Fisher, the Rt. Rev. Given Mzanje Gaula, the Rt. Rev. Sospeter Timeo Ndenza and the Rt. Rev. Robert Christopher Wright.

"We have some impressive honorary degree recipients who are making a difference in ministry, said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, dean and president of Virginia Theological Seminary, of the five men, all of whom are graduates of VTS. "It gives you a sense of the reach of this Seminary."

The Rt. Rev. Gregory Orrin Brewer was consecrated as the fourth bishop of Central Florida in March 2012. Before being called to Central Florida, Bishop Brewer, served as rector at Calvary-St. George’s Church, a 500-member, multi- cultural and multiracial, “program-size” parish with landmarked historic buildings in downtown Manhattan. His ministry in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida has been marked by an emphasis on a biblical preaching, seriousness about evangelism and Christian education, a willingness to innovate in worship and a commitment to social ministry.  He is a 1976 graduate of VTS.

The Rt. Rev. Jeff Wright Fisher from the diocese of Texas was baptized at St. John the Divine in Houston. A graduate of the University of Texas and Virginia Theological Seminary, Fischer was ordained a priest in 2004 and was ordained a bishop in Tyler, Texas in October 2012. He has not been silent on controversial issues, expanding the typical vision of ministry to include innovative church plants; encouraging interfaith conversation; and advancing Hispanic ministry.

The Rt. Rev. Given Mzanje Gaula committed his life to Christ at the age of twelve and became an active evangelist in his community in Tanzania. Gaula’s theological training includes St. John’s College and Msalato Bible College in Tanzania. He also studied at Carlile College, Nairobi, Kenya where he graduated in 1989 and received a bachelor’s in theology from St. Philip’s Theological College in Tanzania in 1994. Gaula was ordained in 1995. He received a master’s in theological studies from VTS in 2006 and received his Ph.D. in 2013 from the University of Aukland, New Zealand. In May 2012 Gaula was ordained a bishop in the Diocese of Kondoa in Tanzania.

The Rt. Rev. Sospeter Timeo Ndenza attended Virginia Theological Seminary from 1997-99 where he earned a master’s degree in theological studies.  He was appointed the diocesan general secretary and the principal of Tabora Bible School owned by the diocese from 1999-2006. He was then appointed the sub dean of St Stephen’s Cathedral from 2006-07. In 2008 he was appointed the assistant bishop of the Diocese of Western Tanganyika where he served until December, 2010. In January 2011 he transferred to St. Philip’s Theological College in Kongwa, Tanzania and was appointed as full time tutor until April 2012 when he was elected the first Bishop of the Diocese of Kibondo.

The Rt. Rev. Robert Christopher Wright was elected in June 2012 to be the 10th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. Wright had been rector at St. Paul’s Church, Atlanta since July 2002. Prior to that, he was canon pastor and vicar for two years at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, where he was chaplain at the Cathedral School for two years before that. Wright served as a U. S. Navy helicopter crew chief and search and rescue diver from 1982 to 1987. He then worked in organizations that serve youth in the Washington, D.C. area, including the Children’s Defense Fund. Wright also served as a child advocate under two D.C. mayors. He earned a master of divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1998.

Markham continued, "From around the world and from conservative to progressive, we are blessed to have alums who are making a difference to the Church and to the world."


Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing more than 40 different dioceses and nine different countries, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.