Phil Ryken, the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church, the church of which I and my family are members, was just named the eighth president of Wheaton College. The first excitement came even before the official announcement, when the website of Christianity Today magazine released the news yesterday before it was public. Dr. Ryken informed the elders of our church yesterday morning, at roughly the same time as the faculty of Wheaton was informed of the choice in a confidential meeting. The plan was to wait until after the move was announced to Tenth’s congregation this morning before making it public. A vibrant debate ensued on the CT website as to whether CT should have posted the news. Although it would have been far better for Tenth’s congregation if the news had not been leaked, I side with those who think CT acted perfectly appropriately in posting it. Only in rare circumstances—such as national security threats—should journalists withhold breaking news. If there are villains in the story, it is the people who leaked the information, not the reporter who published it.
While Ryken’s departure will be very hard for the church, I think he is a superb choice to lead Wheaton, which is arguably the leading evangelical institution of higher education in this country. He has strong academic values (and is the son of prominent Wheaton professor Leland Ryken), superb credentials, and is the most gifted administrator I have ever seen. (Full disclosure: I am a friend and had the privilege of talking to the Wheaton search committee during the search). Some of his views will be controversial, even within Wheaton’s evangelical community. Tenth Church does not have women pastors,or instance, and Ryken is a member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which has been very critical of New Perspective theologians such as N.T. Wright. But Ryken has a remarkable capacity to listen to those who may disagree with him on particular issues, and Jesus is the focus of every sermon he preaches and everything he does.
I cannot imagine a better choice to lead Wheaton for the coming generation.