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Transforming Theologies, Transforming Lives

“United Seminary helped me figure out how to use my gifts, talents, and passions to serve my congregation and the denomination I love.” - Andrea Johnson, MDiv ’17, current DMin student.

After leaving her business career for a calling in ministry, Andrea Johnson graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 2017 and now serves as Minister of Congregational Programs at Minnesota Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. But graduating didn’t mark the end of her time at United.

AndreaAndrea Johnson, MDiv '17, current Doctor of Ministry student

Andrea has remained involved and invested as a current Doctor of Ministry student, member of the Board of Trustees, and enthusiastic donor. Her passion and support for United are inspired by the life-changing, theology-shaping influence of Demian Wheeler, associate professor of Philosophical Theology and Religious Studies.

“United Seminary and Demian Wheeler, in particular, changed my life, helped me find and live into my new vocation as a ‘congregational theologian,’ a term Demian coined for me and helped me discover,” Andrea said.

Andrea has taken several courses with Demian and noted how he cares deeply about exposing his students to a range of theological thought: Christian, Unitarian Universalist (UU), Humanist, Religious Naturalist, Liberation, Black, Queer, and Feminist.

“I have never met someone who is doing the work they feel called to do in the world more than Demian,” Andrea continued. “He is so passionate about teaching theology and helping students find their theological voice. He gives generously of himself and his time to mentor and support his students.”

“Theological Matchmaker”

Students joke that Demian’s greatest superpower is his “theological matchmaking” ability. Andrea recounted a UU class focused on religious naturalists where Demian proceeded to match each student with a specific theologian based on students’ theological inclinations conveyed in their papers and conversations.

1-6Demian Wheeler, associate professor, Philosophical Theology & Religious Studies

“Demian helps you articulate and be grounded in your own theology,” Andrea explained. “He makes sure you can start to do this—put stakes in the ground—that will ground and sustain your ministry far beyond seminary.”

Living Out Theology

Andrea says it was the last two years of seminary under the tutelage of Demian that her own theology and calling came into focus. 

“I was on the verge of being able to finally articulate the deep theological knowing I knew intuitively but couldn’t quite put into words,” she said.

Andrea’s theology incorporates the love ethic of Martin Luther King, Jr. grounded in pantheist religious naturalism influenced by the writings of Bernard Loomer. And she doesn’t just “think” her theology; Andrea lives into it, specifically her passion for racial justice and seeking ways to dismantle white supremacy.

“If we acknowledge God as the restless, ambiguous, interconnected web of being, and the ground of all reality, then we contribute to the divine life by the ethic of love we bring to the work of justice in this beautiful yet broken world,” she said.

A Hope for United

“I want other students to have the benefit of being mentored and taught by professors like Dr. Wheeler who care about them, who go the extra mile to make sure that their ministries or other leadership work is grounded in their faith, their tradition, and their deepest theological convictions,” Andrea said. “I want to help keep United Strong so there can be a progressive and prophetic voice that helps us embody the Great Commandment to Love God and Neighbor.”

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