After a national search, President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth announced Tuesday that Elaine Heath will be the new dean of the Duke Divinity School.

Heath—whose studies integrate systemic, pastoral and spiritual theology—is currently the McCreless professor of Evangelism in the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. She will take over the position from Ellen Davis, who has served as interim dean since Richard Hays retired last August.

“Elaine Heath is a leading scholar of emergence, the process by which religious faith finds new life outside familiar institutional forms,” Brodhead said in a Duke Today release. “At a time when the religious life of mainstream Protestantism is undergoing profound change, she will be a perfect leader for helping the Duke Divinity School retain traditional strengths while creatively responding to new challenges.”

Heath is the co-founder and leader of the Missional Wisdom Foundation, which aims to help clergy and laity develop missional communities through on-site learning and theological education. As an ordained minister, she has previously served as a pastor in the East Ohio conference of the United Methodist Church, and has served as a faculty member at SMU since 2005.

“The world is rapidly changing, and the church needs leaders who can guide congregations and other organizations through culture shifts toward a vibrant future,” Heath said in the release. “As part of one of the top research universities in the world, and because of its robust, historic grounding in the church, Duke Divinity School is well positioned to develop rigorous new forms of contextualized theological education while continuing its renowned intellectual tradition.”

The national search for the new Divinity dean was chaired by Randy Maddox, the William Kellon Quick professor of Wesleyan and Methodist studies at the Divinity School.

“We are excited to welcome Elaine Heath to the Duke Divinity School,” Maddox said in the release. “Leaders across the Christian spectrum have turned to her for guidance in reshaping the mission and ministry of churches in their local settings. And as an ordained United Methodist elder, she is deeply committed to nurturing the Divinity School’s historic Methodist connections, while equally passionate about the value of diversity and the importance of modeling an inclusive community.”