Westmont Magazine Reformation Scholar Ministers to the Church
Jennifer Powell McNutt ’00 shares her expertise in John Calvin and the Reformation with her students at Wheaton College, through publications for scholars and lay people, and by preaching and teaching at churches. This ordained Presbyterian minister, award-winning scholar, and recipient of an endowed academic chair communicates, her passion for the reformed tradition to the widest possible audience.
“I focus on my primary calling, my teaching and forming of students at Wheaton,” she says. “Thankfully, the Presbyterian tradition recognizes what I do at Wheaton, and the college supports my ministry in the church. I’m committed to translating my scholarship for the church—it’s a central part of my calling. In the classroom, I promote a global perspective of the history of the church as we dig into the life and thought of people such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.”
The daughter of two Presbyterian pastors, Jennifer felt called to ministry at a young age. She watched her parents serve together at Sherman Oaks Presbyterian Church in California and later in Lubbock, Texas, where her father led a mostly white Presbyterian church while her mother pastored a predominantly Black Presbyterian congregation, a first in the denomination’s history. In a racially divided community, the Powells worked to bring their congregations together.
“My parents inspired me and supported my calling,” Jennifer says. “I knew I wanted to earn a degree in religion and attend seminary.” She joined her brother, Elliott Powell ’97, at Westmont. When she visited him, she had fallen in love with the campus and become excited about studying with Robert H. Gundry, a preeminent New Testament scholar. Elliott now serves as senior pastor at their father’s former church in Lubbock, Westminster Presbyterian Church.
“It felt like God’s provision,” Jennifer says. “My experience at Westmont played a critical role in my formation as a scholar and a faithful Christian. I’m so incredibly grateful for my time there and for the lifelong friendships I developed.”
Her experience at the Oxford Honors Summer Program awakened her passion for European history and the reformers and inspired her to write her first paper on John Calvin. Participating in Europe Semester with history professor Rick Pointer and his wife, Barb, confirmed her interest in the Reformation.
Jennifer majored in religious studies at Westmont with a concentration in biblical languages. Gundry and his wife, Lois, supported her throughout her college years. “He was my mentor,” she says. “I discovered my passion for language and the Greek New Testament through his class at Westmont. Later on, I got my first faculty job teaching Greek.”
Jennifer studied dance with professor Erlyne Whiteman. “I’m forever grateful for the training and mentoring I received from her,” Jennifer says. “She taught me to see dance through a theological and biblical lens. I now have the privilege of passing that perspective on to dancers at Wheaton as their faculty adviser.”
After graduating, Jennifer enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary, where she earned a Master of Divinity and met and married her husband, David McNutt. “I prepared for both ordination and a doctoral program there,” she says. After David and Jennifer graduated, they got married and moved to St. Andrews, Scotland, to begin graduate degrees at the university. She earned a Doctor of Philosophy in history from the Reformation Studies Institute at St. Andrews and also studied at the University of Geneva. She split her time between Scotland and Geneva, where she conducted research in the Archives de Geneve. The McNutts then moved to England so David could complete a Doctor of Philosophy in theology at Cambridge University.
Jennifer joined the graduate school faculty at Wheaton College in 2008, the same year the first of their three children was born. Two years later, she was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). In 2019, she became the Franklin S. Dyrness professor in biblical and theological studies, an endowed chair honoring a scholar committed to the Reformed tradition, the Westminster Confession of Faith and the legacy of John Calvin.
Jennifer serves as lead editor for “The Oxford Handbook of the Bible and the Reformation” (Oxford University Press). She co-edited “The People’s Book: The Reformation and the Bible” (InterVarsity Press) and is editing a volume for the Reformation Commentary on Scripture series (InterVarsity Press Academic). Her ongoing archival research explores the history of the French Bible. Other projects include a social history of John Calvin’s thought and a textbook on Reformation theology.
Both Jennifer and David serve as parish associates at the First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn. David also teaches at Wheaton part time and serves as a full-time academic editor at InterVarsity Press. The couple founded McNuttshell Ministries to coordinate their teaching, preaching and writing activities. They enjoy working together and are co-authoring a book, “Know the Theologians,” forthcoming from Zondervan Academic.
“It’s a joy and privilege to equip congregants as well as future leaders of the church in the classroom to serve the Lord as thoughtful and faithful Christians,” Jennifer says. “The need is immense, and we’re doing what we can to answer the call.”