The cornerstone of McCormick’s preaching and worship curriculum since joining the faculty on a full-time basis in 1998, Holper brought a wholly ecumenical, richly varied understanding of Christian spiritual expression to McCormick.
“When Professor Holper joined the faculty, we were looking for someone who combined a depth of scholarship with proven pastoral experience,” said McCormick President Cynthia Campbell. “McCormick students have benefited for a decade from the range of his interests as he developed courses in areas such as Christian Daily Prayer and preaching in the contexts of both pastoral care and social justice.”
An ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Holper began his professional career as a journalist, covering general assignments for the Chicago Tribune and then criminal justice for the Milwaukee Reporter, before enrolling in McCormick’s Master of Divinity program, where he earned his degree in 1977 and taught as an adjunct for three years beginning in 1982. By 1988, he had earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame, where he studied under the mentorship of Dr. James F. White, renowned scholar of and advocate for the renewal of Protestant worship. He was then named Associate Professor of Homiletics and Liturgics at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and in 1991 began his seven-year tenure at Union Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education before coming to McCormick.
Holper’s investment in the life of the Church has taken many forms. Beginning in 1976, he was the first pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Orland Park, Illinois, the town’s first church of the Reformed tradition now with a membership of 300. Subsequent pastorates included interim positions at St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in South Bend, Indiana, and at Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago. On the denominational level, Holper served on several committees and as moderator for the Presbytery of the Pines and then on the Task Force on the Understanding and Practice of Ordination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). In this latter capacity, he was a principal author of the task force’s report to the General Assembly as well as a member of the Editorial Committee for the Book of Common Worship.
A frequent lecturer at academic conferences and a workshop leader at national Christian education events, Holper has published articles appearing in Call to Worship, Reformed Liturgy and Music, Focus, Interpretation, As I See It Today, and Insights. He also contributed chapters on early ordination practices for The Ministries of Worship (ed. Robert Webber) and Beyond Establishment: Protestant Identity in a Post-Protestant Age (ed. Jackson Carroll and Wade Clark Roof).