Politics & Government

Charlotte’s Tony Zeiss will lead the new Museum of the Bible

Tony Zeiss, outgoing president of Central Piedmont Community College
Tony Zeiss, outgoing president of Central Piedmont Community College JOHN D. SIMMONS - jsimmons@charl

Tony Zeiss, who retires this month after 24 years as president of Central Piedmont Community College, has taken on a new job: as executive director of the new Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

Zeiss, 70, will take over the still unfinished museum a short walk from the U.S. Capitol.

“It’s all about celebrating the history, the narrative and the impact of this amazing book,” Zeiss told the Observer Friday.

Zeiss is leaving his longtime post at CPCC, where Kandi Deitemeyer, 47-year-old president of a community college on the North Carolina coast takes over in January.

Zeiss, a member of the Church of Christ who teaches Sunday school and speaks in sanctuaries, will take over the $500 million museum in January. He’ll oversee a staff of more than 150.

The museum is the vision of an Oklahoma-based non-profit called the Museum of the Bible. Its chairman, Steve Green, is president of Hobby Lobby, a company that sued the federal government in 2012 over mandates involving contraception and the Affordable Care Act. A 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the company’s favor was seen by many as a victory for religious freedom.

Green’s collection of religious artifacts will form the core of the museum. It boasts 40,000 biblical texts and artifacts, including what organizers call one of the world’s largest private collections of Dead Sea Scrolls.

Critics have questioned the provenance of some of the artifacts. Others suggest the museum’s goal may be more to proselytize than educate. Zeiss denies that.

“We’re not even going to talk about religion except in a historical sense,” he said. “We’re just trying to give people an opportunity to be engaged with this amazing book.”

Zeiss said the 430,000-square-foot museum is non-denominational and will host an entire floor for Biblical scholars.

The museum opens in November.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill