December 2020 News Perspective Online

Faculty Profile: Charles Curran

Charles “Charlie” Curran jokes that there’s “much more past than there is future” in the story of his career. Now in 80s, he’s been at SMU for 30 years. But he continues to teach and to write, with one book just published and another forthcoming.

Curran’s career began as a Catholic priest teaching theology at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.  His dissenting position on church teachings eventually led to his ousting.

“In 1968, when Pope Paul VI reiterated the church’s condemnation of contraception, I came out with a statement the next day saying that one could disagree with the encyclical and still be a loyal Roman Catholic,” he said. “I think there are things that are core and things that are further removed. On the latter there can be diversity and dissent from official church teaching.”

The Vatican didn’t agree. An investigation ultimately determined he was not suited to teach as a Catholic theologian. His job at Catholic University ended in 1986. Around the same time, SMU had made a decision to give greater importance to ethics.

“No Catholic institution was willing to hire me,” he said. “But SMU made me a marvelous offer. That’s why I’m at SMU. And probably why I’m staying longer than I should’ve stayed.”

Curran remains a priest in good standing. While he’s not technically part of the Perkins faculty – as a university professor, his office is at Dallas Hall – he has taught Perkins courses every year since coming to SMU.

Over the past five years, he’s taught on a reduced schedule, one class each fall at Perkins and one for SMU. This year he’s having to teach in a new way, due to the pandemic. He’s leading a seminar for master’s and doctoral students on Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, following the hybrid format, with some students in the classroom and others joining remotely.

“Frankly, the Zoom is not my favorite way of teaching,” he said. “I didn’t expect it to work very well, but I was happily surprised.”

Eight students attend the seminar, with one joining from Mumbai, India and another from Puerto Rico, thanks to the remote component of the class.

“That’s made possible by the Zoom stuff,” he said.

Curran continues to write as well. In July, he published what he thought would be his last book (“my caboose”): Sixty Years of Moral Theology (Paulist Press, July 1, 2020.) But after preparing an address at the Catholic Theological Society of America – he served as the organization’s president 50 years ago – he decided to write one more.

“They had never had a history of the society, so, since I had the time, I thought, ‘I might as well write it,’” he said. He just finished a book chronicling the Society’s story, with publication by Paulist Press set for 2021. However, he’s careful not to call the book a “history.”

“I’m not a historian,” he said. “I don’t do archives.  I insisted we call it The Catholic Theological Society of America: A Story of 75 Years. I don’t want to be flying under false colors.”

Looking toward the future, Curran still believes that Catholic Church must change its stance on sexuality, including homosexuality and contraception. He believes change has already arrived, only church teachings have failed to catch up. He followed, with interest, Pope Francis’s recent statement expressing support for same-sex civil unions.

“He’s not changing the teaching, but he is showing a care and concern for gay people and I think that’s an important step forward,” he said. “But it’s only a step.” 

Research Interests

Fundamental moral theology, social ethics, role of the Church as a moral and political actor in society, Catholic moral theology

Book on His Nightstand

The Browns of California, a memoir of Pat Brown and his son Jerry Brown. “Pat Brown was an old-fashioned, backslapping politician, a hale hearty fellow well met,” he said. “His son Jerry was governor of California for four terms and ran for president three times.  Columnist Mike Royko nicknamed him Governor Moonbeam. It’s a well written book and shows Jerry Brown’s strengths and weaknesses.”  Curran describes himself as a “a political junkie” who has followed the 2020 election and related news closely.  “One of the benefits of our system is that democracy is based on the fact you can’t trust people,” he said. “That’s why three branches to check on one another. To quote Winston Churchill, it’s the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

Who He’d Invite to His Fantasy Dinner Party

“I’ve been asked that question a dozen times, and I always refuse to answer,” he said.

Something Most People Don’t Know About Him

He’s an avid golfer, and always has been.  “I caddied as a little kid,” he said. “I never played well, and these days I play worse. But I developed an interest in the history of the game and playing the courses in England.” While doing graduate work in Italy and Rome in the 1950s, he played golf in St. Andrews in Scotland in 1957. (The greens fee at the time: 75 cents.) Before COVID, he traveled often to England and Ireland, and golfed whenever he had the chance, playing 10 of the 13 courses of the British Open.

 Daily Spiritual Practice

Curran follows the monastic ritual of morning prayer and evening prayer and prays a daily centering prayer – “Into your hands I commend my spirit” to clear his mind. “As you go along in life, it changes,” he said. “I’ve been to enough funerals of people my age. The older you get, there is a quiet and a peace that comes from that.  We have so much to do that we lose that sense of peace at times. Peace is a great gift that Jesus gives to us.”

December 2020 News Perspective Online

2020-21 Faculty Books

An updated listing of publications by Perkins faculty – including 15 new books and articles published in 2020 – is now available. Click here or the image below to view and download.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Fall Convocation

Some 250 attendees from around the U.S. gathered virtually November 15-16 for the annual Perkins Fall Convocation, “Leading Into Change,” with author Tod Bolsinger of Fuller Seminary and Grammy-award winning gospel music icon Kirk Franklin. Normally held on the campus of SMU in Dallas, this year’s event took place online, with attendees joining from 19 different states, including Alaska and Pennsylvania.

Kirk Franklin kicked off the event on Sunday evening, November 15, with a presentation entitled “Kirk Franklin Speaks from the Heart about Leading Into Change,” followed by an informal conversation with Priscilla Pope-Levison. Monday’s events opened with online worship with global music led by IziBongo. Tod Bolsinger presented three plenary programs: “Leading in Uncharted Territory,” “Trust, Conflict, and Transformation in Uncharted Territory” and “Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change.” Participants also had the opportunity to interact with Bolsinger and in breakout groups, and to attend a selected afternoon workshop.

Kirk Franklin

In the kickoff event, Franklin shared his personal story: how he was raised by 64-year old Gertrude, a distant relative who adopted him and took him to church regularly. Despite limited financial means, Gertrude managed to get piano lessons for him.

“I was able to see Gertrude model and mirror what Jesus looked like,” he said. Later, when his career took off, he stumbled into drugs and promiscuity, but Gertrude’s example led him back to faith.

He also talked about his decision to boycott the Dove Awards, after his prerecorded comments decrying police violence against people of color were edited out before broadcast.

“People loved his authenticity,” said Pope-Levison. “He’s an incredibly strong Christian, and that has led him to take some difficult stances.”

Franklin shared the story of his son racing in a relay. One team member dropped the ball, but the team was able to recover and win.

“It’s so easy to look at all the negativity in the world and get discouraged, to lay down the baton,” he said. “But God always saves the fastest runner for the end. You have been called for such a time as this. I’m here to let you know that this can be the most beautiful moment in history, because this difficult time can be the divine reset button.”

“It was just him,” said Edgar Bazan, a United Methodist pastor and breakout group leader. “Not a lecture, not a TED Talk, just himself. It was real stuff.”

Tod Bolsinger

Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark) explored the wilderness with the expectation of finding a waterway passage to the western territories of the United States. Instead, he discovered the Rocky Mountains. His planned mode of travel – via canoe – wouldn’t work.

That story inspired Tod Bolsinger’s book, Canoeing the Mountains.

“How do you canoe over mountains?” he said. “The answer is, you don’t. Trying harder is like paddling a canoe when there isn’t any water. We need to learn a new way of leading.”

He noted that Lewis turned to Sacagawea, a Native American woman, who helped the expedition navigate unfamiliar territory.

“When we go off the map, those who have neither power nor privilege in Christendom are the trustworthy guides and necessary leaders,” Bolsinger said.

Bolsinger talked about how the pandemic has led leaders into uncharted territory – and how it has exposed the “underlying conditions” of the church: a lack of deep discipleship; a lack of deep community that keeps people connected in times of division; a lack of wisdom and courage to speak prophetically, collaborate for justice and serve the common good. But he also sees the pandemic as providing “opportunities to hit the organizational reset button.”

Attendee Shanterra McBride was inspired by Bolsinger’s insights into leadership.

“As leaders, we should remember to say, ‘I don’t know,’” said McBride, who also presented a workshop, entitled Communicating the Why Behind the Change. “Not just for our own benefit of taking off the facade but also for the benefit of the people we are leading. I’ve heard this before but, for some reason, on this day, it was like a huge exhale.”

Rosedanny Ortiz, a Perkins student, wanted to experience the Fall Convocation before she graduates in May. She was also moved by Bolsinger’s plenaries.

“He talked about how combining technical competence, adaptive capacity and relational congruence can bring transformational leadership,” she said. “As leaders, we can expect to experience sabotage, which is ‘human thing that anxious people do.’ But we need to ‘stay calm, stay connected, and stay the course.’”

Kelly Graeber, a staff member at Custer Road United Methodist in Plano, complimented Bolsinger’s presence throughout the event and his willingness to answer questions from participants.

“The main takeaway for me is, it always comes down to relationships with other people,” she said. “The human race thrives on relationships. If we do not have them, we will perish.”

Bolsinger’s words also hit home for Bazan.

“I’ll remember what he said: ‘The moment of crisis, you will not rise to the occasion, you will default to your training,’” Bazan said. “We look for safety. There is nothing wrong with that. There’s use for that. But there’s the risk of not using the opportunity.”

Pope-Levison noted that the Office of External Programs, which organized the event, used the Mighty Networks platform to host the event, in the hopes of offering more opportunities for attendees to converse informally. She acknowledged that it involved downloading an app and it was initially tricky for some attendees.

“This is a learning time for us,” she said. “But this platform enables a lot of interaction before, during and after the event. It’s like a closed Facebook group, and it will never close down.”

Graeber noted that she liked the ability to see other attendees. She was pleasantly surprised by the “heavy hitters” who were present, including a few bishops and other church leaders, from all over the country.

“These are people who are in a position to make a change,” she said.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Faculty Updates: December 2020

Remember. Breathe. Dream.

A guided meditation that Habito had recorded earlier for YouTube found a second life as part of multimedia exhibit called Remember. Breathe. Dream. now underway at Cara Mia Theatre in Dallas. The exhibit includes installations created by Cara Mía’s Playwright in Residence Virginia Grise, Dallas sculptor Andrew Scott in collaboration with Ruben Habito, and storyteller and healer Stefanie Tovar.

“At this moment of national instability, ‘Remember. Breathe. Dream.’ invites us to ground in our shared humanity as a possibility for creating another future. This exhibition is curated to provoke us to remember where we have come from, breathe in the present moment and dream out our future,” said David Lozano, Cara Mia’s Executive Artistic Director. Tickets are available; reservations for timed entry required. The show continues through December 13.  Read more about the exhibit in this Dallas Morning News story.


Essay Published

Alyce M. McKenzie, Director of the Center for Preaching Excellence, has contributed an academic essay on teaching preaching to the web resource library of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.  View the article here:  Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Thoughts on Preaching and the Teaching of Preaching. McKenzie, who is also Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship, wrote the essay at the request of Lilly Endowment, Inc.


Book Featured

Priscilla Pope-Levison’s new book, Models of Evangelism, was recently featured in a Christianity Today blog, “20 Truths from ‘Models of Evangelism’ by Priscilla Pope-Levison.” Read the post on The Exchange, a blog by Ed Stetzer, here.

Pope-Levison, Associate Dean for External Programs & Professor of Ministerial Studies, was also interviewed about her book for the program Equipped with Chris Brooks on Moody Radio.  Listen to the interview here.  Other media coverage included a review of the book in Influence Magazine, an excerpt in Baptist News Global, and an interview for Influence Podcast.

December 2020 News Perspective Online

Staff News: December 2020

Deacons Recognized

Two Perkins staff members were recently mentioned in an update on deacons in the North Texas Annual Conference. Deacon Heather Gottas Moore serves under appointment as Program Coordinator for Perkins’s Office of External Programs. Deacon Andy Keck serves at Perkins as Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives and Special Assistant to the Dean. In a recent meeting of North Texas deacons, Keck reported that overall enrollment is rising at Perkins, and that 42 current Perkins students are exploring the path to deacon in multiple conferences.

Heather Gottas Moore

Andrew Keck


Anderson Departure

Bridget Anderson, Associate Director of the Office of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations, will conclude her Perkins career on Friday, December 4. She and her husband, Michael, have accepted new positions and will relocate to Charlotte, N.C., to be closer to family.  Anderson has worked closely with almost all Perkins faculty, staff, programs and centers during her tenure and has contributed to rebranding, marketing, social media and public affairs efforts.



December 2020 News Perspective Online

Alumni/ae Update: December 2020

Robert Hasley’s New Book

As a young man, the Rev. Robert Hasley (Master of Sacred Theology ’77, M.Div. ‘78) wondered how his grandmother could always say, “Everything is gonna be all right,” when pain, harm and suffering persist. Yet her faith sustained and comforted her in times full of fear, anxiety and stress. Hasley shares homespun stories and anecdotes of a life lived in faith through good times and bad in his new book, Everything Is Gonna Be All Right (Invite Press, 2020). Hasley, who is senior pastor of St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, was honored in a book-signing event on November 8. To learn more or to purchase the book, click here.


H-G Alumni Featured

Together, Pastors Frank and Elizabeth Acosta have navigated moving to a new country, learning a new language and attending two different seminaries. They banded together in marriage and parenting while sharing pastoral duties at First Methodist Conroe’s Celebración ministry.  Married 16 years with a two-year-old son, the couple is originally from Cuba. Read a feature about the Acostas on the Texas Conference website here. The Acostas both completed M.Div. degrees in 2020 at Perkins’s Houston-Galveston program.


Sutton-Adams Attends Boston College

Hannah Sutton-Adams (M.Div. ’18) was accepted into Boston College and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Theology and Education. Sutton-Adams expressed appreciation for the support of the Perkins community. “This acceptance is a testament to the nurturing power of academic and religious communities,” she said.


Christian Watkins at NCC

Rev. Christian Watkins recently moderated a Zoom panel hosted by the National Council of Churches, “Where are we? Spiritually diagnosing America’s Illnesses.” Watkins (M.Div. ’19) recently joined the staff of the NCC in a newly created position to serve as Justice Advocacy and Outreach Manager. In this role, he is helping elevate NCC’s work on ending mass incarceration and racism as well as developing a mini-grants program to support ministries involved in this work. Most recently, Christian served as the 2019-20 Wendland Fellow for Faith and Justice of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church.


Fighting Racism  

Lowry Minton Manders (MSM ’04) is working in the Lake Highlands neighborhood of Dallas to fight racism.   Along with Denita Jones, she has established a Facebook group of more than 1,000 “Lake Highlands Area Moms Against Racism.”  The Facebook group has created a forum for conversations on anti-racism, the Black Lives Matter movement and personal experiences of neighbors.  “We are trying to create a safe place for everyone,” Manders said.  Read stories in Lake Highlands Advocate magazine here and here.

News November 2020 Top Story

A Message from the Dean: Meditation on “The Life Everlasting”

“And they lived happily ever after.” That is the fairytale ending we read to our children before switching off the light at bedtime. We reassure them that dragons and witches and bullies do not finally triumph, that virtue is rewarded and that love endures. We reinforce their belief in a moral universe in which happiness is the offspring of goodness and not its chance acquaintance or certain competitor.

But life soon confronts our children with other narratives, stories in which every wrong is not righted nor every injustice overturned. They discover danger, witness prejudice, and experience failure. They learn that things do not always work out as they hope and that they cannot always get what they want. Eventually, they encounter death and with it loss that is not reversed by a wizard’s spell or a heroine’s kiss.

Life thus schools us in doubt. We cannot believe everything we hear. It is right to doubt that we can “lose twenty pounds while eating whatever we want,” or “look ten years younger overnight,” or “get rich working only a day a week from home.” It is right for us to question such extravagant claims, lest we be swindled, lest we be injured, lest we be disappointed. Prudence demands that we become wary of strangers and suspicious of even our own motives. On one level, this is no more than an awareness of sin, in others and in ourselves. More deeply, it is a recognition of the mystery of evil, whose embassy is to thwart and cheapen and diminish human life.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” For many people today, that advice applies preeminently to religion, whose hopes are dismissed outright as wishful thinking. The real world consists only of what is accessible to scientific verification. Therefore, meaning itself is an illusion. The universe has no creator, no purpose, and, ultimately, no future. According to today’s most popular cosmology, in the end there will be only a burned-out and dissipated universe: not noise and fury, but silence and futility, signifying nothing. In this scenario, there can be no “happily ever after.” According to microbiologist Jacques Monod,

[T]he choice of scientific practice, an unconscious choice in the beginning, has launched the evolution of culture on a one-way path: onto a track which nineteenth-century scientism saw leading infallibly upward to an empyrean noon hour for mankind, whereas what we see opening before us today is an abyss of darkness.2

To me, the wishful-thinking argument is a nonstarter. Retrospectively, I might regard as wishful thinking a material universe whose physical characteristics, such as electromagnetism and gravity, are so finely balanced as to make possible the emergence of life and, even more extraordinary, sentience. Who could have predicted a cosmos whose rock would birth Pythagorus’s theorem, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Chartres’s cathedral, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Nevertheless, such a universe exists. Not every desirable object is an illusion.

Our desire for purpose, order, and meaning is fundamental to our existence. Many of the earliest cultural artifacts are religious in nature, and belief in life after death is nearly universal. This does not prove the validity of religion, but it certainly weighs in its favor. As C. S. Lewis put it, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”3 Or, to use Huston Smith’s analogy, wings do not prove the existence of air, but they surely count as evidence. We know instinctively that we are something more than the sum of our parts and part of something more than ourselves. Consider the final chorus of Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock,

We are stardust, million-year old carbon
We are golden, caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

On the one hand, we are, quite literally, stardust, assemblies of primordial carbon. On the other hand, we are something more, something “golden.” Yet, we are not now fully ourselves; we are “caught in the devil’s bargain.” To get “back to the garden” is to go to the place of wholeness and innocence for which we long.

Christianity is grounded in the hope that we shall indeed arrive at such a place–not the garden but that for which the garden is the prefiguring image, the Reign of God. The core affirmation of Christian faith is that God–not evil, futility, and death–is the final reality in the cosmos. This belief encompasses not only the hope of eternal life but also the expectation that creation itself will be redeemed (Rom. 8:18-25). Why believe in the happy ending? For the first Christians the answer was obvious: because of Jesus’ resurrection.

Many years ago, my wife, Robin, became increasingly ill over a period of weeks. She was tested for numerous ailments, nearly all of which would have proved fatal. After two months, she could scarcely get out of bed, and I began to take seriously the possibility that she would die. My faith was hard pressed. Did I truly believe with Paul that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” that “neither death…nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:37-39)? It was not easy.

As I meditated on Scripture, I came to value particularly 1 Corinthians 9:1, in which Paul declares, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” This is one of only a handful of places where Paul refers back to his experience of seeing the resurrected Jesus. Moreover, Paul’s letters provide the only undisputed primary-source testimony composed by an eyewitness of the resurrection. His writings would be invaluable for this reason if for no other.

In the course of my wife’s illness, I learned to borrow from the faith of Paul and other early Christians who paid with their lives for their unyielding conviction that God in Christ had triumphed over death, in whose victory they believed they would one day share. Fortunately, Robin eventually recovered, but I have never forgotten what it was like to pass so near to death.

Concerning death the Bible is remarkably unsentimental. Paul and other New Testament authors do not tell us that deceased believers will become angels or stars, nor do they say that we shall be melded with some divine force. There is no greeting-card sentiment about God needing more company in heaven. Instead, death is seen as that great enemy which, apart from God’s ultimate and undeserved act of re-creation, would unmake us all. In short, death is real.

According to Paul, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The hope is for the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul. Eternal life is not a given; it is a gift bestowed only by God. The One who created conscious beings is able to recreate such beings by resurrection. Hence 1 Cor. 15:50: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” Christians are not required to believe in an immortal soul that exists independent of the body. Instead, Paul writes, “we will be changed” (v. 52), given bodies like that of the resurrected Jesus himself. On this point the New Testament is clear and yet sensibly reserved. Compare 1 John 3:2:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

Most theologians today reject the notion that heavenly existence will be static, represented at its silliest by the sitting-on-clouds-playing-harps stereotype. They see heaven not only as a place of endless praise, joy and fellowship, but also as a realm of ceaseless fascination and development. I am in no position to evaluate these claims, nor, beyond a certain point, do I find such speculations helpful. More concrete and much more useful is Paul’s advice about the present-day implications of our future hope:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:57-58)

The Gospel places demands upon us that conflict at many points with our worldly self interest. To love our enemies is not necessarily going to make us happy. To serve the poor is unlikely to advance us socially or economically. It is no accident that the radical ethic of Jesus is situated within an equally radical proclamation of the coming Reign of God. That is the only context within which it makes sense. To attempt to follow Jesus’ teaching while denying its core affirmation is an exercise in futility. “Eschatological demands require eschatological commitments and eschatological resources.”4

Paul urged the Corinthians to be steadfast and immovable, “always excelling in the work of the Lord.” But being “steadfast and immovable” implies meeting opposition, and “the work of the Lord” is endlessly sacrificial. Is it worth it? Yes, “because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Good deeds may be undone, faithful choices may be frustrated, and loving acts may be rejected; nevertheless, they are not wasted. The Christian philosopher Jerry Walls put it this way:

To recover heaven as a positive moral source is to recover our very humanity….It allows us to hope that the worst things that happen can yet come to a good end rather than to dread the prospect that the best things will come to a bad end. And if it is indeed the Holy Spirit who inspires this hope, it is a hope that will not be disappointed.5

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Is death the end, the final page in the story of our lives? Or can we believe in a happy ending? “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15:55, 57).

*This is an edited version of a longer sermon that appeared in the book Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles’ Creed, ed. Roger E. Van Harn (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 292-97.

2 Cited in Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters: The Fate of the Human Spirit in an Age of Disbelief (New York: Harper Collins, 2001), p. 41.

3 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960), p. 119.

4 Craig C. Hill, In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), p. 198.

5 Jerry Walls, Heaven: The Logic of Eternal Joy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 200.

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: November Update

The Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene, Ph.D.
Associate Dean of Enrollment Management

Greetings from the staff of the Office of Enrollment Management (OEM)!

First, some good news. Perkins is experiencing the highest enrollment in the last 15 years!

That’s despite the many challenges facing graduate theological education across the nation. All of our colleagues involved in recruitment and admission are feeling the strain, and only a few theological institutions saw an increase of new students this fall. Our enrollment reflects the hard work of the OEM and involvement of the entire Perkins community in our recruiting efforts.

However, it’s time to start thinking about next year. Many of our alumni/ae, students and other members of the Perkins community have asked, “How can I help?”

The answer is, “Send us prospective students!”

Caleb Palmer

As we strategize to recruit students to Perkins for fall 2021 and beyond, we are heeding your request to be involved in recruitment efforts, and we thank you for your desire to invest in the work of inviting those with whom you are connected. We find that you are in contact with individuals who desire to take the deep dive into theological education for personal enhancement; with those who wish to expand their theological reflection and conversation in an ecumenical community; and with those who are called to vocational ministry inside and outside of the church. Now more than ever, the church is seeking leaders who will be ready to lead with calm assurance and confidence through the waves of ever-increasing change. With these factors in mind, for the foreseeable future we have developed virtual events, honed our communications, and deployed new modes of contact to ensure that we are intentionally responsive to those you send our way.

Samantha Stewart

Recent data show that nearly 38% of this fall’s new students were invited to apply to Perkins by Perkins alumni/ae. (In the application process, students are asked the reason they applied to Perkins.) That is a significant number, and we thank you.

On January 29th, OEM is hosting a drawing for 12 fortunate winners! Nine will receive an SMU Perkins t-shirt (gray photo) and three will receive an SMU Perkins polo shirt. (blue photo).

How do you enter? If you know individuals who are considering seminary, rather than referring them to the website or passing along an email, share this form with them: click here.

If your candidate completes the form and lists your name and email as the person who referred them to Perkins, you will be entered into the raffle. It’s that simple!

Prize winners will be announced on January 29, 2021 — so you have plenty of time to share the link and get your name entered. There is no limit to the number of referrals you may provide.

Again, we are grateful for your support and for all the work you do for Perkins, the church, the community, and in your own places of business and families.


The Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean of Enrollment Management
Caleb Palmer, Ministry Discernment Associate
Samantha Stewart, Ministry Discernment Associate


“Growing up, all the pastors, youth ministers, and church leaders I
knew were graduates of SMU Perkins. I knew the school’s reputation and quality before I even inquired and that made all the difference for me.”
-First Year Perkins Student

News November 2020 Perspective Online

Office of Development: Philanthropy as an Act of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, although I am not sure we should really call it one.  To be sure, it is a time to give thanks for the blessings of the past, but it also is an opportunity to look ahead as we guide ourselves and our loved ones.

I recently came across an article by Betsy Brill, contributed a decade ago to, titled, “Five Ways to Improve your Family’s Philanthropy this Thanksgiving.”  Although the article was intended for families of great wealth, her suggestions struck me as applicable to us all.  Here is a summary of her five points:

  • Establishing family giving rituals is a great way to instill philanthropic values in children. Consider giving a donation together as a family.

The chosen donation should be appropriate to the age of the children.  Supporting your local zoo because your children like elephants is one suggestion.  Giving to a missionary family because that family has a child the age of one of your children would be a helpful reminder of the importance of their mission work.  There are a host of opportunities available.  The point, of course, is to get the whole family involved, and teach the children (while reminding ourselves of) the importance of giving.

  • Share your legacy plans, noting how you want to be remembered in the world.

We are often not vocal to our own family about our legacy and what we want to see happen with our resources after death.  Sharing our current thinking about our legacy will allow the family to understand what is most highly valued and what is desired for your estate.  At first it might seem awkward to talk about the future in this way, but it is important.  It is worth pushing through the discomfort.  This will teach your children that death is inevitable and that preparation must be made for our passing.  None of us knows when we will die.

  • Develop a family mission statement.

This statement can be extremely simple, such as “Helping to alleviate poverty,” or “Enhancing leadership for the Church.”  Or it can be much more complex, depending on the age of the children.  Entering into this exercise helps the whole family think about your collective legacy.  For many families, a steadfast belief in giving has been passed down from generation to generation.  Just like building wealth over time, a legacy of philanthropy can be handed down through a family.  Like many “habits,” giving is best started at a very young age so that it becomes natural and normal.

  • Reinforce positive money messages, especially during holidays which, in our culture, are consumer-oriented.

We and our families must continually be reminded that Thanksgiving and Christmas are not primarily about the possessions we have and what we get.  Both of those holidays concern what we have graciously received and, therefore, what our thankful response enables us to share with others.

  • Be open with your family about the places you invest your time volunteering as well as the money you give.

We need to remind ourselves that we give time and talent, not only dollars.  Share with your family what excites you about your service to others.  Service to others can be “caught.”  If your children (and others) see your excitement for a project, they might also become enthusiastic.  As you spend time as a volunteer, however, remember not to neglect your own family.

All of us understand that habits are important.  The more we do something, the easier it is to do it again.  To a large extent, the sum of our habit patterns makes up our personality.  Training ourselves and our families to be people of generosity is one of the most important habits we can instill in ourselves and others.  That would be a great personality trait to foster in our entire family.

As an alumnus of Perkins, or friend to the Institution, you know the importance of theological education in this extremely unpredictable time.  Leaders who know how to think theologically are necessary to guide the Church through turmoil and turbulence.  Executives of non-profit organizations must be organizationally astute, and theologically perceptive, in order to navigate in our society.  This is where a culture of philanthropy comes in: leaders in the Church and other good works must be supported by generous families who will stand behind the work that is being performed.  That kind of training is part of the education offered at Perkins School of Theology.

During this month of Thanksgiving, I challenge you to reevaluate your giving in a thankful response to what you have received.

I can be reached at or 214-768-2026 to discuss how you can create habits of giving that will benefit you, your family, and the causes you hold dear.

With a thankful heart,

John A. Martin
Director of Development

News November 2020 Perspective Online

GTE and the Pandemic

Despite the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Perkins students are encouraged to think ahead and consider registering for Global Theological Education Immersion programs in the second half of 2021 and beyond.

“At the moment, our risk assessment team at SMU is keeping in place restrictions on foreign travel until June 2021,” said Dr. Robert Hunt, director of Global Theological Education. “We’re taking a wait-and-see attitude as to what will happen, but we’re also encouraging students to register now, because these trips must be planned months in advance.”

Two immersions planned for early 2021 have been cancelled: the January 2021 Borderlands Immersion in McAllen, and the Spring Break 2021 Oklahoma Native American Culture Immersion. Even though both are within driving distance, it remains impossible to plan for safe group travel right now, Hunt said.

However, two international immersions are still tentatively planned for the Summer of 2021 — Memory, Religion and Politics in Israel/Palestine led by Dr. Susanne Scholz (June 2021) and the England/Wesley Immersion led by Dr. Ted Campbell (July 2021).  Registration for these Summer Term immersions closes January 30, 2021.

Two factors will ultimately determine whether the 2021 trips “make.”

“Will the countries be open to guests, including travelers from the U.S.?” said Hunt. “And will Perkins students and other participants be ready to travel again by then?”

The availability of a COVID-19 vaccine will also affect the timing.

Immersion trips scheduled for 2022 include two January Term programs: the Palestine/Israel Immersion, led by Hunt, and the Homeless Immersion in Waco led by Dr. Hugo Magallanes. A Spring Break 2022 to El Salvador led by Dr. Hal Recinos is also slated, as is a Summer Term 2022 trip to Asia and the Philippines led by Hunt.

Looking further ahead, to 2023, two January Term trips are planned: the Palestine/Israel Immersion (leader to be announced) and the Zimbabwe or Kenya Immersion led by Hunt. For Spring Break 2023, the El Salvador Immersion led by Recinos is also still on tap.

“Our students are enthusiastic; they want to go on these immersion trips,” said Hunt. “We don’t know for sure that they are feasible, but we still need to plan ahead.”

GTE Registration forms are available upon request to the director: Travel Stipends are available on the basis of need and availability of funds. Complete information is found on the GTE Registration Form. Students must have a valid passport to attend an immersion outside of the U.S.  For more information, visit or contact the Global Theological Education office at