Karen Swallow Prior, a longstanding English professor at Liberty University and author, is leaving Liberty to join the faculty of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Prior will join SEBTS in the fall of 2020. She will represent the first research professor the Southern Baptist seminary has hired in its history.
“She is a gifted teacher in the field of English and literature who loves Christ, the gospel and the Great Commission,” SEBTS President Danny Akin said of Prior. “Our students will be blessed to sit under her instruction. She is a wonderful addition to the outstanding faculty of Southeastern,” he wrote in a statement.
Karen Swallow Prior to Bring Literary Expertise to SEBTS
Prior’s expertise is in 18th-century British literature. She received her undergraduate degree from Daemen College in Amherst, New York and her graduate degrees (M.A. and Ph.D.) from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
She is considered a highly esteemed thought leader in the evangelical world and often weighs in on issues with which the evangelical church grapples. She has been outspoken about her lack of support for President Trump, even while some at Liberty University feel they don’t have the freedom to be so bold under Jerry Falwell Jr.’s watchful eye. (Falwell is a strong supporter of President Trump, whom he’s invited to speak at Liberty a couple of times.) Prior will be leaving Liberty after teaching there for more than 20 years.
Not one to shy from controversy, Prior has also been outspoken about the SBC’s need to reconsider its treatment of survivors of sexual abuse. Prior was one of many women to call for Paige Patterson’s resignation after it came to light last year that he had intimidated at least one female student into silence after she disclosed sexual assault. Patterson formerly held the position of President at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before he was let go amidst the scandal. Before that, Patterson led SEBTS where one alleged coverup occurred.
In addition to her prowess when it comes to the written word, Prior is also known for her ability to help Christian students connect with their culture in positive ways. The dean of SEBTS, Scott Pace, says of her: “As a conservative evangelical and cultural ambassador, Karen brings a unique combination of skills and expertise that will help train our students through a Christian liberal arts education and equip them to give their lives for the cause of Christ in the church, among the nations, and in every aspect of society.”
Indeed, Prior is excited to train students to fulfill the call of God on their lives. “I’m looking forward to being able to join with Southeastern in its exciting mission of sending students, future pastors and future scholars across the globe according to God’s calling on their lives and the Great Commission,” she said.
Prior is the author of three books: Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me (T. S. Poetry Press, 2012), Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist (Thomas Nelson, 2014), and On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life through Great Literature (Brazos, 2018). Prior has also lent her writing talent to publications such as The Atlantic and The Washington Post, as well as other places. (See Prior’s article on the process of healing she experienced after she was struck by a bus in 2018.)
“At Liberty, I have been privileged to disciple Christian young people for 21 years, primarily in my discipline of English,” Prior said. “My mission in teaching has always been to have students leaving my classroom loving life, literature and God more than when they came in. I look forward to continuing in that mission as I move into this new assignment at Southeastern.”
Liberty University tweeted their appreciation to Prior for her years of service. “We are so grateful for Professor Karen Swallow Prior and her 21 years of Training Champions for Christ. And we wish her many years of fruitful ministry, teaching the students at