In Pursuit of Wholeness & Restoration: A Retirement Tribute to Dr. Diane Chen

What a pleasure to reflect on Diane Chen and her legacy as Professor of New Testament, appreciated and loved by administrative support and faculty colleagues, students, alumni, and the congregations she has graced as preacher, teacher, and member.

In 2004, Diane came to us with a newly minted Ph.D. She has continued to read/write in her field, engaging newer scholars’ ideas, as well as those more familiar, always thinking about blessing the church – directly and through our seminary students, as they engage the New Testament. 

Diane is such an engaging teacher that students almost literally hang on her every word. They want to be like her – not as mimics of her presentation and style, but with heart and mind fully engaged with the Lord, the text, and their “audience.” Students seek Diane’s counsel on matters academic or other, because they value her wisdom and her sincere prayers, offered in a genuinely pastoral manner. 

Diane’s pursuit of wholeness and restoration – in individual and collective terms – means that her service rings with goodwill. Her suggestions and objections are registered in ways that show her insight and respect for the person/group on the receiving end; Diane listens carefully, and extends grace far longer than many. 

Diane’s faith is lively, informing every aspect of life. Professionally, and in her private life, Diane acknowledges and welcomes God’s presence and active involvement. Her love for God is consistently expressed through her careful work as scholar/educator, her wise, compassionate care for students/friends, and her generous, open-hearted interactions with all.

Diane will be missed after July 1st, but her decades of sharing not only the Gospel, but her very life with us will continue to bear fruit in and through the many, many people who now pass on what the Lord, through Diane Chen, has shared with them – in the classroom, in the sanctuary, in the wider world. May we honor her, by faithfully following the Lord Jesus, as has she, inviting others to “Come and see what the Lord has done!”

About the Author

Deborah WatsonDr. Deborah Watson serves as Associate Pastor of Narberth Presbyterian Church in Narberth, PA, where she began as a seminary intern in 1993. Debbie has taught at the Seminary since 1995, first as an adjunct, and now as affiliate professor in the areas of New Testament, New Testament Greek, Greek Exegesis, and Theological Research & Writing.  Debbie also serves as the Seminary’s Chaplain.

A Letter From Dr. Diane Chen

Dear Palmer community, 

In the past couple of months, I have drafted this email mentally multiple times and have never made it past the first sentence. It now seems to be the right time to let it be known that I will be taking early retirement by the end of the 2022-2023 academic year, in order to be available for the care of my elderly mother, who lives in California. Although I have no immediate plans to relocate, I anticipate spending more time on the west coast as needs arise.

Nineteen years at Palmer have gifted me with students who love the church, exhibit spiritual and intellectual curiosity, and take seriously the calling they receive from God. I will miss the Palmer classroom most of all. Amidst the challenges of theological higher education, evolving church environments, and the recent pandemic, I am grateful for the friendships among Palmer's committed staff and faculty colleagues, who never stop teaching me valuable lessons of trust, creativity, and faithfulness. The people in my teaching life I will sorely miss, as I step away from the academic life as I presently know it. Ahead lies the hope for new ways to serve God in non-traditional capacities outside of the academy. God has yet to run out of things for me to do, only that future assignments have not been revealed. This planner must learn to wait, trust, and obey. 

My heart is filled with gratitude and respect, not only for the Palmer community, but also for many Eastern faculty and staff members that I have come to appreciate through working together on projects and in committees. Although this spring is my last semester, my ties with Palmer will continue if there'd be another trip to the Holy Land (or, a new one in the footsteps of Paul), another elective to offer here and there, or another way to stay connected. In this post-pandemic age, possibilities abound. 

When I was ordained as an elder in the Presbyterian church, I was asked if I would serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. This is my prayer for Palmer, that the Seminary community, under the commissioning of God the Father, the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will exude energy, intelligence, imagination, and love as it ventures into the ever changing terrains of theological education, while remaining true to its foundational commitment to take the whole gospel to the whole world through whole persons. Methods, pedagogy, and delivery models may change, but the gospel is forever the old, old story of Jesus and his love, which all of us must tell. 


About the Author

diane ChenDr. Diane Chen came to Palmer Seminary in 2004 after earning her Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary. She loves the classroom and enjoys writing for the church. Her most recent work is a commentary on Luke (2017) in the New Covenant Commentary Series. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Dr. Chen has spent the last four decades on both coasts of the United States and still calls California home. She lives in Penn Valley, PA, and is an ordained elder of Narberth Presbyterian Church.