December 2022 News Perspective Online

Alumni/ae Updates: December 2022

Space at the Table

Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.

Perkins faculty and alumni/ae figured prominently in a Nov. 16 event, “Space at the Table: Conversations of Hope for the UMC Future,” which drew hundreds of people in Dallas and online. Hosted by Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, the gathering featured individual addresses as well as panel discussions with United Methodist bishops, seminary professors and young clergy.

Six Perkins alumni/ae and a current student were part of the young clergy panel: the Rev. Beth Evers (M.Div. ’07), Steven Lefebvre (M.Div. student), the Rev. Daniel Hawkins (M.Div. ’13), the Rev. Scott Gilliland (M.Div. ’16), the Rev. Keri Lynn Lucas (M.Div. ’19), the Rev. Joshua Manning (M.Div. ’17), the Rev. Bryant Phelps (M.Div. ’17) and the Rev. Trey Comstock,.

The academic panel included Ted A. Campbell, Albert C. Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins; Rebekah Miles, Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology and Ethics at Perkins; and GPRS graduate the Rev. Dr. Natalya Cherry (GPRS ‘18), Assistant Professor in Methodist Studies and Theology at Brite Divinity School.

All three speakers on the episcopal panel had Perkins connections: Bishop Cynthia Fierro-Harvey (M.Div. ‘99), Bishop David Wilson (a longtime instructor in the Perkins Course of Study School), and Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. (M.Div. ‘97; D.Min. ‘09).

Owen Ross in Africa

Photo courtesy of the Africa University Public Affairs Office.

As a student at Perkins, the Rev. Owen Ross (M.Div. ’02) spent a semester at Africa University. Between studying and classes, he began walking across the valley to visit the orphans at the United Methodist Old Mutare Mission, now named Fairfield Children’s Home. Today, Ross is director of church development in the North Texas Conference. The memory of the children stayed with him, and he has maintained a personal connection over the years to the Fairfield Children’s Home.

Over the years, Ross remained involved, returning to visit in 2001 and working to redesign the home from an institution to a series of huts that replicate a village. Ten children, with a range of ages spaced two years apart, live together with a “mother.” In a small house on the side, an “aunt” lives with her own biological family. The aunt is there to help the mother as needed. The name was changed from the Fairfield Orphanage to Fairfield Children’s Home because the kids now have a home and a family.

When Ross returned to the U.S., he found other people who had connections to the home, including the Fairfield Outreach and Sponsor Association, which will help coordinate projects and programs to be funded by the $800,029 gift coming from the South Carolina Conference.

The North Texas Conference has no formal relationship to the home, Ross said. “It has just been my personal relationship and passion from when I would walk across that little two-kilometer valley and back,” he added. “The kids grabbed my heart and didn’t let go.”

Read the UM News story here.

Interim Pastor Profiled

The Rev. Darrell Coats (Th.M. ’81; D.Min. ’87) was profiled in the Odessa American for his role as interim pastor of First United Methodist Church of Odessa, Texas. Coats, a career interim minister, has been at FUMC Odessa since last November and expects to be there until July. Many of his 14 previous such assignments have been shorter.

“Most had challenges and I love being able to go in and by the time I leave make sure the church is in a better place than it was when I got there,” the Rev. Coats said. “I don’t think I could do regular ministry again.” Before starting his work as an interim minister in 2009, he was pastor of churches in Valley View, Richardson, Lucas, Farmers Branch, Sherman and Lucas again. Read the profile here.

Bishop Saenz to North Texas

The South Central Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy announced on Nov. 3 that Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. (M.Div. 1997; D. Min. 2009) has been assigned to the Dallas and Fort Worth Episcopal Areas, serving the North Texas and Central Texas Annual Conferences, beginning on Jan. 1. Currently, Saenz is serving the Great Plains and Central Texas Annual Conferences.

The North Texas and Central Texas conferences did not merge; rather Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr. will lead two separate annual conferences. Shared episcopal areas have become more common in recent years as denominational shifts and a reduced number of bishops due to retirements have impacted the ability to assign each bishop to a singular conference.

Schwerin Elected Bishop

The Rev. Dan Schwerin (M.Div. ‘89) was elected on Nov. 3 as bishop in the United Methodist Church’s North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Currently serving as assistant to the bishop for the Wisconsin Conference, Schwerin begins work as a bishop on Jan. 1.  For 35 years, the Rev. Schwerin has enjoyed many contexts for pastoral ministry, including urban and rural churches; a new church plant; and a multi-staff downtown setting that became a reconciling congregation. He launched a beloved community of non-profits to benefit persons with disabilities, children dealing with grief, persons wanting to help battle generational poverty, and children who desired instruments, music lessons and a community who would enjoy their musical growth. In the Wisconsin Conference, he served as the superintendent of two districts. Bishop Jung selected Schwerin to lead a collaborative effort with conference partners to increase racial justice and radical inclusion.  Read the United Methodist News story here.

Vickers Named to Abraham Chair

An alumnus of the SMU Graduate Program in Religious Studies has been appointed as professor of Christian Theology and as the inaugural holder of The William J. Abraham Chair of Wesleyan Studies at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

The Rev. Jason Vickers (Ph.D. ‘04) will teach courses and conduct research in Wesleyan thought and practice in Truett’s newly formed Wesley House of Studies.  Vickers studied under and worked with William J. Abraham, the founding director of Truett’s Wesley House of Studies who died suddenly last fall. A popular teacher, prolific author, and ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Vickers currently serves as Professor of Theology at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. In a press release announcing the appointment, Bruce D. Marshall, Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine at Perkins, said, “Jason Vickers was just completing his graduate work with Billy Abraham when I came to SMU in 2001. Since then, Jason has established himself as one of the most accomplished American theologians of his generation. He has always remained true to his roots in the Wesleyan tradition and to what he learned from Billy about how to be a Wesleyan theologian. He brings to the work of theology not only much learning and experience, but the passion for the gospel and its faithful proclamation that was such a hallmark of Billy Abraham as a theologian and as a human being.” Read the release here.

Obituary: The Rev. Isabel Gomez III

The Rev. Isabel Gomez III (M.Div. ‘63) died November 10. He was a lifelong member of Emanu-El United Methodist Church and a retired clergy member in Rio Grande Conference. His pastoral ministry began in Tucumcari, New Mexico in 1963, and continued until his retirement in 2004. He also served as a chaplain at Parkland Hospital in Dallas for 15 years and was a member of the Perkins Alumni/ae Council for more than a decade, rotating off earlier in 2022. Services were held Friday Nov. 18. Read his obituary here.

Obituary: The Rev. Nancy Drake

The Rev. Nancy Schaefer Drake (M.Div. ‘96) died November 11. Drake attended Indiana University and later became the first female officer at Indiana National Bank. Nancy and her family moved to Plano, Texas, in 1987, where she continued to be an active volunteer, and deepened her involvement in the church. She enrolled at Perkins and graduated magna cum laude in 1996 at age 50. Nancy spent 12 years as an associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Grapevine. Her ministry took her around the world, from Honduras to Uganda and India. She also lifted up her community through work with Grace Presbyterian Village, Genesis Women’s Shelter, Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church and Grace Presbytery. In lieu of flowers, family asks for a donation to the Genesis Women’s Shelter of Dallas. Services were held Nov. 18. Read her obit here.

Obituary: The Rev. Ramon Womack 

The North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church announced the death of Rev. Ramon L. Womack (Th.M. ’69) on November 29 at the age of 92. Prior to retiring, he served United Methodist churches in Allen, Krum, University Park and First UMC Dallas. Services are pending.

Notes and cards may be sent to his son, retired elder the Rev. Clay Womack, 4022 Greensboro Circle, Garland, TX  75041.