Tim Ahrens ’85 M.Div.

2008 Distinction in Congregational Ministry

Tim Ahrens met William Sloane Coffin while a student at Yale Divinity School, at about the same time he and his classmates were nurturing their activist sensibilities by doing things like protesting the launch of nuclear submarines and supporting clerical and technical workers in their strike against the University.

Now senior minister at the First Congregational Church (UCC) in Columbus, OH, Ahrens attributes his contact with Coffin as a student and in the years following as key to honing his sense of purpose, which is deeply rooted in what he describes as God’s call to justice.

For Ahrens, some of the important justice issues are articulated in the mission statement of the progressive faith-based organization he played a key role in founding—We Believe Ohio:  “YES to justice for all, NO to prosperity for only a few; YES to diverse religious expression, NO to self-righteous certainty; YES to the common good, NO to discrimination against any of God’s people; YES to the voice of religious traditions informing public policy, NO to crossing lines that separate the institutions of religion and government.”

Two and one-half years after its founding, We Believe Ohio is a robust but loosely organized group that spans the state and includes over 400 pastors, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders.  Ahrens has also played leadership roles in two other Ohio groups:  Sanctorum, a ministry program for the GLBT community; and BREAD (Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity), an interfaith group dedicated to building power to “do justice.”

Ahrens has served First Church since January 2000.  Under his leadership the church has become “Open and Affirming,” and it has doubled membership, mission activities and stewardship.

Known as an outstanding parish minister who “speaks truth to power,” Ahrens’s voice is heard far beyond the pulpit, in many national print and electronic media venues.  His specific social justice interests lie in the areas of improved education, fair housing, health care reform, equal rights, and abolition of the death penalty.

Prior to arriving at First Church, Ahrens was senior pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus.  He also was pastor of a Cleveland congregation and served urban ministries, before ordination, in St. Louis, New Haven, and Philadelphia.  He is a 1980 graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

 Ahrens and his wife, Susan Sitler, are the parents of four children


Columbus, Ohio