Campus in the evening

The Rev. David T. Gortner, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator and Instructor, Thriving in Ministry

staff headshot photo

The Rev. David Timothy Gortner, Ph.D. is the Principal Investigator and Instructor at Thriving in Ministry, a Lilly-funded VTS initiative.

A psychologist and priest, David has benefited from a rich educational background:

  • Ph.D., Psychology and Human Development, The University of Chicago
  • M.Div., focus in theology, Seabury-Western Theological Seminary
  • M.A., Psychology, Wake Forest University
  • B.A., Psychology, Wheaton College.

This intellectual “dual citizenship” fits well with David’s perspective on ministry in today’s world.  David grew up in and served in multiple Christian traditions — Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Christian & Missionary Alliance, Evangelical Mennonite, United Brethren, Roman Catholic, and Episcopal — and this gives David a helpful “insider-outsider” view and an ecumenical spirit that fits well with the aims of the D.Min. program at VTS.

David served previously on the faculties of Church Divinity School of the Pacific and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, teaching pastoral and practical theology, human development, and organizational leadership.

Since high school, David has served in congregations, hospitals, hospice, and university settings in Indiana, Illinois, and North Carolina, as a musician, youth minister, associate young adult and young family minister, chaplain, and church planter. He has provided instruction and consultation at regional and national conferences and gatherings across the U.S. and Canada in conflict engagement, evangelism, musical and liturgical ministry development, lay leadership development, clergy leadership development, young adult ministry, and effective community engagement. David has also worked in therapeutic settings of mental and rehabilitation hospitals and community treatment centers in Illinois, North Carolina, and Massachusetts, and is also a trained community organizer.

David wrote Transforming Evangelism (Church Publishing, 2008), which has been used widely by congregations and diocese across the Episcopal Church and other denominations. He wrote Varieties of Personal Theology: Charting the Beliefs and Values of American YoungAdults (Ashgate, 2013), a seminal study of how young adults construct theological views of the world and life.  He authored Around One Table (CREDO and College for Bishops, 2009), an online report on a nationwide study of Episcopal identity.  He co-produced A Feast in the Desert, a documentary of young adult ministry approaches. He directed the Clergy into Action study, and with his research team launched the Into-Action website, offering research and resources to help strengthen the preparation of seminarians and new clergy for more effective Christian leadership.

David is currently completing books on clergy leadership effectiveness and on young adult religious engagement, as well as a children’s book retelling the story of creation. David continues to work with churches, schools, and judicatories on evangelism, congregational development, community-building, and young adult ministry, both within and beyond the Episcopal Church.

David’s wife is the Rev. Canon Heather VanDeventer. David and Heather have two young daughters.