December 2018 News Perspective Online

2018 Advent Worship: ‘What Child is This?’

As it has every year since 1959, the Perkins community will celebrate Advent by recalling an ancient story: the coming of the Christ Child. This year, however, the annual worship service will include some new twists.

The December 6 Advent worship service will be the first led by Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Perkins’ new Director of the Master of Sacred Music program.

“It’s a fresh take on something we do every year,” said Steuernagel.

The Nativity According to Saint Luke. Plaistow, England: Curwen Press, 1954.
Bridwell Library Special Collections, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

With the theme “What Child is This?” the service will revolve around three Nativity canticles (lyrical passages) found in the gospel of Luke: Mary’s song of praise (the Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55), Zechariah’s song of prophecy (Benedictus, Luke 1:67-79) and Simeon’s song celebrating the child’s arrival (Nunc Dimittis, Luke 2:29-32).

“This is a liturgical triptych,” Steuernagel said, referring to the three-paneled altarpieces of the Renaissance and high Middle Ages. “We are looking at these three scenes that surround arrival of Jesus – two before, the Magnificat and the Benedictus, and one after, the Nunc Dimittis.”

Perkins’ Seminary Singers will be joined by performers from Meadows School of the Arts for this service, which will feature, along with traditional hymns, five new original compositions commissioned especially for the occasion: a Prelude by Anthony Elia, director of the Bridwell Library; the Benedictus, by José Luis Manrique; the Magnificat by Marcell Silva Steuernagel; the Nunc Dimmitis, by Fernando Berwig; and a Postlude by Robert Frank, Associate Professor of Composition at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts.

The three thematic compositions by Manrique, Steuernagel and Berwig were commissioned by way of a Latin-American collective, called Ars Iubilorum, of which Steuernagel is a founding member. Since 2007, these composers have researched the intersection of Christian liturgical traditions and new music. Ars Iubilorum has collaborated with universities, churches, orchestras, ensembles and performers in South and North America, and in Europe.

The liturgy will be ordered around the three canticles.

“For each, there will be a scripture reading followed by the words of the canticle as framed by these new compositions. The congregation responds to the canticles by singing hymns,” Steuernagel said.

A moment of silence separates the first two canticles from the third, mirroring the contemplation of the baby Jesus by the Wise Men and shepherds. The final canticle, the Nunc Dimittis, recounts Simeon’s joyful response to the presentation of the baby Jesus in the temple.

Steuernagel notes that 2019 will mark the 60th anniversary of the annual Advent worship service at Perkins.

“We’re taking a new approach with a service that’s been observed at Perkins since 1959,” he said, adding with a chuckle: “It might scare a few people away. But I hope it will be a draw for some.”

Plan Your Visit

Perkins’ annual Advent Service takes place Thursday, December 6, at 4 and 8 p.m. in Perkins Chapel, 6001 Bishop Blvd., on the Southern Methodist University campus. The event is free and open to the public.

Parking is across the street from Perkins Chapel, inside the Meadows Museum Parking Center; enter the garage on the LEFT side of the entrance gate.


By Mary Jacobs, a Dallas-based freelance writer and former staff writer for The United Methodist Reporter and the Dallas Morning News.

December 2018 News Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Stephanie Bohan

Many students come to Perkins with the goal of moving into a new job, advancing in a current career, or becoming ordained.  

Stephanie Bohan’s goal, however, is to just keep on doing the job she’s already doing – “until the day I die,” she jokes – but doing it better. 

The Agape Clinic provides medical care to the East Dallas Community. (Courtesy Agape Clinic)

Bohan is Executive Director of The Agape Clinic, a nonprofit medical clinic which serves the community of East Dallas. On top of her job, she is pursuing a Master of Arts in Ministry degree part-time with a concentration in nonprofit leadership, which Perkins offers in partnership with the Cox School of Business.  

Bohan credits serendipity for the choice.  A sermon by her pastor, the Rev. Judith Reedy of Grace United Methodist Church, led her to Perkins’ website. 

“Judith said something about being a servant leader, I don’t remember exactly, except it made me go look at the website,” she said. “When I discovered the M.A.M. program, I felt it had been created specifically for me.” 

She became the first student to declare an intention to earn the degree with the nonprofit leadership focus.   

“I want to be the best leader I can be,” she said. “I was nervous at first; it had been at least 20 or 30 years since I turned in a paper for a grade. But I’ve been ridiculously blessed in this program.” So far, she’s earned straight A’s. 

“Every time I step on the campus, I feel like I’m becoming a better person and learning to become a better servant,” Bohan said.  

The Agape Clinic provides medical care to the East Dallas Community. (Courtesy Agape Clinic)

Founded by Dr. Barbara Baxter, who is also medical director and a member of Highland Park United Methodist Church — which played an instrumental role in the clinic’s creation —The Agape Clinic is the oldest charity medical clinic in Dallas and is independently funded. The clinic provides medical and dental care for anyone and everyone who asks for help. The clinic was located in the basement of Grace UMC for 33 years, until the clinic purchased the building across the street.  

Since Bohan joined in 2010, the Clinic has expanded its reach, from 2,800 patient visits to 18,000 patient visits per year, now delivering some $8 million in care to patients on a $850,000 annual budget, thanks to volunteers, donations and partnerships with educational institutions. Dental services are provided by students at the nearby Texas A&M College of Dentistry.  

A “cradle Catholic” who’s now a United Methodist, Bohan is a graduate of Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where she earned her degree in philosophy. Previously, she held positions in development at a Catholic elementary school and the Dallas Holocaust Museum. 

“I discovered I was naturally good at this,” she said. “I realized that nonprofit management was about doing good work and communicating it effectively. When you do that, you’ll never have to ask anyone for money. People naturally want to give and support you. Just stay focused on doing good work for the right reason.”  

Bohan said she was fearful when she started the job at Agape – fearful there wouldn’t be enough money, fearful they’d have to turn patients away, fearful they couldn’t serve everyone, fearful of failure.  None of those fears materialized. 

“There have been a million miracles that I have been privileged to witness,” she said. “I get to witness people giving of their time, lives saved, families kept whole because they didn’t lose a mom, a dad, or a child because they received good medical care,” Bohan said. “My life has been full of blessings that I could never have imagined because of this work.”  

Through her Perkins education, Bohan said, she’s getting closer to God, and preparing the way for more miracles.  

“If I’m a better servant, there are even more blessings to come,” she said.

December 2018 News Perspective Online

Faculty Profile: Ruben L. F. Habito

Ruben Habito speaks four languages, travels widely and dialogues comfortably with people of many different faiths. But one simple, short Bible passage serves as his “home base.” It’s Mark 1:11, “You are my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.”  

In Mark 1:11, Habito said, he finds a message that runs much deeper than a “warm fuzzy feeling” of being loved. 

“It’s a way to look at the suffering and agony of all the people in the world throughout history and even now, including our own, and to understand, that in the midst of our travails, there is something or Someone that whispers into our ear, in and through all of this, that we are not forsaken, that ‘I AM with you,’ that ‘You are my beloved,’” he said.  

Grounded in that verse, Habito has become a low-key but influential voice on the Perkins campus and beyond, as a faculty member, author, spiritual director and Zen Roshi (teacher).   

At Perkins, Habito heads the spiritual formation program, as well as a certification program for spiritual directors, with the goal of giving students a spiritual grounding for their ministry. He also teaches courses in world religions, with an eye toward “unpacking what we can learn from the world’s religions and enhancing and enriching our ways of doing Christian theology, ministry, and spirituality.” 

Beyond campus, Habito is founding teacher of Maria Kannon Zen Center, housed at White Rock United Methodist Church in east Dallas.  He began Zen practice under Yamada Koun in Kamakura, Japan in 1971 when he was a Jesuit seminarian in Japan.  

 “The Zen Center is a central aspect of my life,” he said. “It is nourishing for me to be able to sit in silence with people from all backgrounds and traditions, or none at all, who are seeking something genuine and authentic in life.”   

Mark 1:11 also informs Habito’s personal practice of daily meditation, which he describes as “basically just sitting in silence, and basking in Love.”   

Habito recently returned from gatherings of the Parliament of World Religions and the American Academy of Religion; he is often called on to speak at international interfaith gatherings and to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialogue.  He’s also the author of several books – his most recent is Be Still and Know: Zen and the Bible – that explore connections between Buddhism and Christian faith. Habito hopes his books and his work help make Zen accessible to people of all faiths as well as those with no religious beliefs.  

“Zen practice leads to an experience of our connectedness with one another,” he said. “That’s an underlying and recurring theme in my own work and in my own life.  Going deep into the core of our being enables us to open our hearts to that transcendent mystery, and at the same time, see our intimate connectedness with all beings, with all the earth.”  

Habito’s current research is aimed at crystalizing an understanding of the Trinity from an experiential perspective.  With the developments in systematic theology over the last few centuries, he said, a disconnect has arisen between spirituality and theology, with spirituality becoming a subdivision of practical matters that does not inform systematic theology, which attempts to explain ultimate reality in the light of Christian faith. Habito believes reconnecting the two areas can be mutually enriching.  

“More and more theologians are seeing that those two areas need to be reunited in order to do theology in a viable way that would address the crucial issues of our contemporary world,” he said.    

Teaching Specialties

The world’s religions, East Asian Buddhism, theology of religions and comparative theology, interreligious perspectives in spirituality and mysticism, prayer and spirituality, spirituality and Christian ministry. 

Research Interests

Japanese medieval Buddhism, themes in comparative theology, spirituality and socio-ecological engagement, Trinity and the world’s religions. 

What book is on your nightstand now?

“It’s a whole pile,” he said. “I’ll give you two: Entertaining Triune Mystery by Jeffrey Pugh and Savouring the Zen Oxherding Pictures by Patrick Gallagher.” 


Habito’s wife, Maria, is also a Zen teacher and serves as international program director for the Museum of World Religions in Taiwan. The couple has two grown sons, Benjamin and Florian.  

Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party, and what would you talk about?  

“First, let me give you the menu.  I would cook grilled salmon, using my favorite Cajun seasoning, called ‘Slap Ya Mama,’ and ratatouille. I would invite the following guests:  Augustine’s mother Monica and her famous son (I will tell him how his Confessions continue to move me deeply, but will suggest to him to keep his mother in mind when he writes about women); Nicholas of Cusa (will ask him about the spiritual experience that led him to the insight of ‘coincidence of opposites’ that characterize genuine religious phenomena); Julian of Norwich (will ask her about the struggles she had until she came to the realization that ‘All shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well’); Louis and Zelle Martin, the parents of Therèse of Lisieux (I would listen to their stories of raising their nine children and ask especially about the youngest, Therèse, and her antics as a little girl); and Simone Weil, whose book, Attente de Dieu (‘Attentive to God’ has been a major inspiration in my life, especially her solidarity with the suffering of the earth. I would tell her to eat more of the salmon and ratatouille, and not starve herself to death. Then we will have dessert, a nutcake baked by Maria along with purple yam ice cream from the Asian grocery in Richardson.”  

You get to ask one question at the Pearly Gates. What do you ask?   

“I’d just have a request: Can everyone else come in, too?” 


Habito Labyrinth at Perkins School of Theology 

In honor of Habito’s contributions to Perkins, Dodee Frost Crockett and William B. Crockett, Jr., donated a labyrinth to the Perkins campus, which was dedicated in 2009.  The Habito Labyrinth—a seven-circuit design, based on the eleven-circuit medieval labyrinth in France’s Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres—is located in the Frost Marcus Labyrinth Courtyard Gardens, in the open and accessible space between Prothro and Selecman Halls at Perkins School of Theology.  The path of the labyrinth is about one-third of a mile long and takes about 20 minutes to walk at a moderate pace. The labyrinth is open to anyone who seeks to walk the path toward peace.


December 2018 News Perspective Online

H-G Hybrid Format Provides Good Fit for Inaugural Class

As senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Gladewater, Texas, David Lee doesn’t have a schedule that allows him to attend seminary full-time on campus. He tried an online program at a respected theology school, but it didn’t quite click. Then he discovered Perkins’ Houston-Galveston Extension Program. It proved a good fit.   

“I need the convenience of an online program, but I didn’t enjoy engaging online with people I’d never met,” he said. “With the hybrid approach, you really do get to know people in the program.” 

Lee, 31, enrolled this fall, taking advantage of the newly-launched hybrid format of Perkins School of Theology’s Houston-Galveston Extension Program. The program allows students to earn the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) in three years, or Master of Arts in Ministry (M.A.M.) degree in two years, completely on-site in Houston through a groundbreaking distance-education approach.   

Like Lee, many other students found the new model appealing. Forty students enrolled in Houston in the Fall of 2018 – four in the Master of Arts in Ministry (M.A.M.) program and 36 in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree program, representing about half of the incoming class of M.Div. students overall at Perkins’ combined campuses.  

Five students in the Houston-Galveston Extension program shared an AirBnB rental during the residential portion of the program in November. Left to right: Kaylee Vida, Megan Twyman, David Lee, Carlene Barbeau, Daniel Curry.

Houston-Galveston Extension program students take nine (9) credit hours, or three courses, each semester and attend three semesters (rather than two) per year —which was the way the program was originally designed. Students are required to be physically present for 20 hours of face-to-face instruction—10 hours at the beginning and end of each semester—per class.  In addition to these three hybrid courses, other courses will be offered in one-week intensives, typically in the January Term or Summer. Students who successfully complete each of these courses in the regular sequence will earn the M.Div. degree in three years and the M.A.M. degree in two years. 

The Extension program has been in place since 1995, but in February 2018, the Association of Theological Schools approved the new model, which waives the Dallas campus residency requirement. Before, Houston-Galveston Extension students were required to complete at least eight courses—the equivalent of one year of the M.Div. and one-third of the M.A.M. — on the Perkins-SMU campus. 

“The new format is a big draw for many students,” said Hugo Magallanes, director of the Houston-Galveston Extension program and associate professor of Christianity and Cultures. “Students who are employed full- or part-time can attend seminary. It’s helping reduce the strain on students’ time and money while providing quality instruction from Perkins’ full-time faculty.” 

That was the appeal for Megan Twyman, 21, who works as a teacher and tutor in Shreveport, La. Having recently married, she did not think seminary was an option. 

“I had to keep my job to pay the bills,” she said. “I knew I felt the call to ministry, but I thought it would have to wait until we were more stable. God had other things in mind, though.” 

The launch of the Houston-Galveston program full-time hybrid program changed her mind. She enrolled this fall as an M.Div. student with hopes of becoming an ordained elder in the Louisiana conference.  The format proved a good fit for Twyman’s learning style.  

“As an introvert, I like being able to soak in a lecture before responding to my classmates,” she said. “Introverts often do not get to become engaged in discussion in the classroom setting like they do in the hybrid program.” 

Magallanes notes that, while convenient, the online portion of the program is demanding.  

“It’s not easier than face-to-face classroom work,” he said. “Typically, students have constant interaction with each other and the professor by way of forum conversations. In an in-person classroom, a few students might earn a good grade without participating in class.  You cannot get away with that in an online classroom.” 

However, Twyman said, she doesn’t feel isolated. 

 “I have a group of five people that I talk to almost every day, through group message about assignments,” she said. “We lift each other up, and I love to see them in person during face-to-face sessions.” 

Top Profs

Over the past few years, David Kim, 30, has listened as his wife, Danielle, talked about classes at the Houston-Galveston campus with well-known Perkins professors such as Ted Campbell and Billy Abraham.  Danielle will graduate in May; now David is taking classes from those professors, too. He’s studying through the hybrid program while working part-time as director of communications and community ministries development at Aldersgate UMC at College Station.  

 “Those professors are there in Houston teaching,” he said. “Just being able to talk to Ted Campbell, hear his jokes, observe his thought processes – it’s amazing. That’s one of the things I find really important in this program.” 

While some hybrid programs lean heavily on adjunct faculty, Houston-Galveston students regularly receive instruction from Perkins professors, who also teach full-time students who attend on campus in Dallas.  Many of the faculty members have completed a course in online teaching through SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Teaching the three M. Div. courses this fall are Campbell, Leslie Fuller, and Dallas Gingles, who is campus manager for Houston-Galveston.  Students also do coursework in Spiritual Formation (taught by Ruben L. F. Habito, Perkins’ Director of Spiritual Formation and Professor of World Religions and Spirituality, and the Rev. Mary Tumulty, Faculty Facilitator) and participate in internships, coordinated by Isabel Docampo, Co-Director of the Intern Program, Professor of Supervised Ministry, and Director, Center for the Study of Latino/a Christianity and Religions.

The launch of the new hybrid format this fall coincided with a move of the Houston-Galveston administrative offices to Houston Methodist Hospital, making it the only U.S. seminary located in a medical center.  Students have access to books and materials, now housed in the hospital’s library, and through the partnership, the Houston-Galveston campus will offer a one-week intensive in bioethics in January.   

The new location also capitalizes on a number of Methodist connections.  Perkins alumnus and Executive Board member Charles Millikan (M.Th. ’71), who was involved in founding of the Houston-Galveston campus in 1994, is Vice President for Spiritual Care and Values Integration at Houston Methodist and also holds the Dr. Ronny W. and Ruth Barner Centennial Chair in Spiritual Care.  Millikan notes that the hospital’s senior chaplain, BJ Hightower, was among the first students to enroll in the Houston-Galveston campus program, earning her M.Div.

Residential classes, spiritual formation and community engagement also take place in the program’s three partner sites: St. Paul’s UMC and St. John’s UMC in Houston, and Moody Methodist Church in Galveston. 

This year’s incoming class comes from the Houston area as well as Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, Florida and other parts of Texas. The average age of students in the program is 40. 

“Generally speaking, the program tended to attract older students, but now because of the online portion, the program is attracting more younger students as well,” Magallanes said.  

Full-time Students

Another advantage of the hybrid format: students can now choose to attend full-time at Houston-Galveston, which was not an option until now, and those in degree programs are eligible for scholarships. 

 Dallas Gingles, who is a Ph.D. graduate of Southern Methodist University, adds that the hybrid launch coincides with another milestone for Houston-Galveston – the selection of Cynthia Fierro Harvey as the 2018 recipient of the Perkins School of Theology’s Distinguished Alumnus/a Award. Harvey, now bishop of the Louisiana Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church, was one of the first graduates from the Houston-Galveston program, earning an M.Div. in 1999. She is the first graduate from the campus to receive the recognition. He expects similar great things from the incoming class of students.  

 “I’m incredibly impressed with this class; they’re all hard workers,” he added. “The hybrid launch effectively changes the program to a full extension campus, where you can get everything you need for a degree here, without having to go elsewhere.  

To Learn More

Prospective students interested in learning more about the Houston-Galveston Extension Program are invited to this information session: 

Houston-Galveston Information Session
Tuesday, December 4
7 – 8:30 p.m.
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
5501 S Main Street
Houston, TX 77004

Please register at 

Individual visits to both locations may also be arranged. 

For additional information or questions, contact Stephen Bagby, Director of Recruitment and Admissions, at or 214-768-2139. 


By Mary Jacobs, a Dallas-based freelance writer and former staff writer for The United Methodist Reporter and the Dallas Morning News.

December 2018 News Perspective Online

Faculty Update

AAR-SBL presentations in Denver

Perkins and SMU were well-represented when the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature took place Nov. 17-20 in Denver. Many Perkins School of Theology and SMU professors—as well as SMU Ph.D. students— presented research and participated on panels and in committees. A complete list of Perkins- and SMU-affiliated speakers, including their presentation topics, is available here. In addition, Perkins friends and alumni/ae at the meeting, as well as those in the greater Denver area, gathered November 18 for the annual Perkins-SMU reception at the Sheraton Denver Downtown.

Perkins Faculty Receive Sam Taylor Fellowships

Five Perkins faculty members have been named recipients of Sam Taylor Fellowships from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund of the Division of Higher Education, United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. They are: Jaime Clark-Soles, Natalia Marandiuc, Hal Recinos, Marcell Steuernagel and Ted Campbell. The Fellowships, funded by income from a portion of Taylor’s estate, award up to $2,000 for full-time faculty members at United Methodist-related colleges and universities in Texas and support research, “advancing the intellectual, social or religious life of Texas and the nation.” Campbell, for example, will use the funds to help with a proposal for a second edition of his video “Five Waves Over Dallas” on waves of migration into Dallas.


Marandiuc Book Wins Prize

Natalia Marandiuc

Indiana Wesleyan University’s John Wesley Honors College announced that Natalia Marandiuc’s The Goodness of Home: Human and Divine Love and the Making of the Self (Oxford University Press, 2018) is the winner of the 2018 Aldersgate Prize. The selection committee unanimously chose “The Goodness of Home” among 70 nominations.  For more information, read here. Marandiuc, assistant professor of Christian theology at Perkins, will accept the prize at IWU in April. Read more here.





McKenzie To Be Recognized at Preachapalooza

Alyce McKenzie

The board of directors of Academy of Preachers, Inc., has nominated Alyce McKenzie, LeVan Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins, to be honored with its 2019 Preachapalooza Honors in recognition of her “exemplary contributions to Christian ministry in the area of Homiletical Writing.”  The honor will be awarded at a Gala in Atlanta on January 4, 2019.  The Academy of Preachers is a national ecumenical initiative dedicated to supporting and inspiring young people in their call to gospel preaching.

December 2018 News Perspective Online

Fall Convocation 2018: JustWorship

After reading a book about the history of slavery, Brian McLaren was haunted by this image: Southern slaveowners in the antebellum South, sitting comfortably in the church pews on Sunday mornings, hearing the words, “You are forgiven.”   

The image shows how Christian worship has the power to save or destroy the world, he said. And going forward, he believes the path to destruction is straightforward: “Just keep worshipping exactly as we’ve been worshipping since 1607 … and just keep worshipping exactly as we’re worshipping now.” 

McLaren shared that warning at Perkins’ Fall Convocation, which brought about 135 alumni, ministers, laypeople and others to the campus of Southern Methodist University Nov. 12-13. With the theme “JustWorship,” the program featured speakers and workshops, a resource fair, and worship. 

Several worship experiences were offered throughout the program, including opening and closing services at Highland Park United Methodist Church, a labyrinth walk, a Taizé service, and a Worship Under the Stars event on Monday night (moved indoors due to inclement weather, but still moving and inspiring, according to attendees.)  

“Worship was truly the highlight of the event,” said Priscilla Pope-Levison, coordinator of the program and Perkins’ Associate Dean for External Programs & Professor of Ministerial Studies.  “Participants got to see the breadth of worship experiences, and each illustrated this idea of bringing together both loving God and loving neighbor.”    

Monday Night Plenary

The centerpiece event was the Monday night plenary at Highland Park United Methodist, “How Can Worship Save or Destroy the Planet?” featuring McLaren and Sandra Van Opstal.  

McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian whose most recent book is The Great Spiritual Migration: How The World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking A Better Way To Be Christian. Van Opstal, a second-generation Latina in the U.S., is the Executive Pastor at Grace and Peace Community on the west-side of Chicago and author of two books on worship, The Mission of Worship and The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World.   

Both stressed the formative power of worship – for good or for evil. 

“We’ve got to take a hard look at the role worship plays in forming us as people,” McLaren said. “Otherwise, our worship simply serves as a chaplaincy to an extractive and exploitive economy.”   

Van Opstal cited the words of Amos 5:22-24 as a clear warning against the idolatry of empty worship.   

“God is saying, ‘I despise your religious festivals. Away with the noise of your songs,” she said. “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” 

Church worship services can steer people toward becoming healers, or plunderers and killers, McLaren said. 

“We’ve got to face the fact that while we’ve been worshipping happily – this world has been treated like a trash dump,” he said. “The cries of the poor have gone unheard, and the power of the super-rich has increased. Christians have done these things Monday through Saturday and then gone to church on Sunday …. where worship just lifts them up and gives them more confidence to keep doing what they’re doing.”  

McLaren decried harmful beliefs related to the environment, such as, “Jesus is coming back so we might as well use it all up.”  

“It gives us permission to dominate and exclude to the harm of other living creatures,” he said.  

He also took issue with phrases often heard in church worship, such as, “Give us the lost.”   

“Give other human beings to us as our possessions? Define everybody else as the lost?” he said. “That renders other human beings as subhuman.” 

Growing up in a conservative evangelical family, McLaren said that he came to realize that he’d never heard a song that simply sang the words of Jesus.  

“It’s almost like our worship insulates us from what he said,” McLaren observed. “Worship tries to make us feel good rather than be good.” 

Van Opstal sparked laughs of recognition when she opened her talk by singing what sounded like a familiar contemporary hymn: “I’m coming back to the heart of worship, cause it’s all about me, Jesus./It’s all about me and how I feel about you, Jesus. 

“Our worship is all about intellect and intention –not about action,” she said. “We have words. So many, many, many words.”   

Worship cannot exist without embodying justice, Van Opstal asserted. Living in proximity to communities that are historically exploited, she has witnessed the sorrow and the hopelessness that exploitation creates. Worship should foster solidarity with these communities.   

“It has nothing to do with the carnival of multi-ethnic diversity,” she said.  “It’s about solidarity with those who suffer.  If we don’t do that, there will be more raping of the planet and we’ll just go on singing and building buildings and feeling pretty good about ourselves.”   

Van Opstal noted that North American Christians are still in the habit of sending missionaries out to the rest of the world, but instead, she says, the example of Christians in other parts of the world can teach North Americans.   

“Ninety percent of the world’s Christians are not in North America,” she said. “They have something fantastic happening in their churches. We have an entire generation of people who are wondering, ‘Where are the churches?’  Well, that’s where they are.”   

She mocked conferences that advocate superficial changes to worship – changing the style of worship, changing the color of the sanctuary – in hopes of bringing young people back to church.  

“You cannot slap a coat of paint on idolatry and fool young people,” Van Opstal said.  “What is happening in the global church in our so-called under-resourced communities is actually the gift that can save the world.”  

Kent and Susan Roberts, members of Highland Park United Methodist, found the words of McLaren and Van Opstal provocative and inspiring. 

“Sandra Van Opstal was just fantastic,” Susan Roberts said. “I don’t like praise music, and I’ve always wondered, ‘What’s wrong with me?’  She articulated why I don’t like it — it always felt so empty.” 

“The program opened up a world of possibilities for expanding the repertory of ways to experience Christianity,” Kent Roberts said. “Sometimes I get frustrated. But this felt like a door opening.”   

The convocation served as a good reminder of the church’s potential, according to Shandon Klein, a full-time Perkins student in the M.Div. program and Assistant Director of Welcoming at First United Methodist Church in Richardson. 

“It was a reminder to keep our eyes on the prize,” she said. “Not to just feed into the institution of the church but also into the movement for change.  You can build up your church and keep it in your own little box, or you can use the institution to literally promote change in the world.” 

2019 Convocation 

Plans for the Fall 2019 convocation were announced at the event.  Featured keynote speakers will include Rick Steves, the travel TV host, a guidebook author and devout Lutheran, who will speak on “Travel as a Spiritual Act;” Celestin Musekura, president and founder of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries; and Samira Izadi Page, founder and executive director of Gateway of Grace. The event will take place November 11 & 12, 2019, on the campus of SMU.

December 2018 News Perspective Online

Alumni/ae Update

Wesley Heritage – United Kingdom Immersion, 2019

Perkins alumni/ae and students are invited to travel to the birthplace of Methodism with the Wesley Heritage-UK Perkins School of Theology Alumni/ae Immersion program (July 10-22, 2019), led by Dr. Ted Campbell and the Rev. Connie Nelson. Participants’ understanding of John Wesley, his contribution to Christianity and his time will be enriched as the group tours sites in Oxford, Epworth, Bristol, and London. View the immersion flier, with detailed information, here. View complete itinerary here.

Women of Color Scholars at AAR-SBL 2018

Pictured: Sun-ah Kang (top row, fifth from left) and Raquel Feagins (top row, fourth from left.)

Two Perkins alumnae were among the 2018 Women of Color Scholars who met before the annual meeting in Denver of the American Academy of Religion, co-hosted with the Society of Biblical Literature:  Sun-ah Kang (M.T.S., 2013) and Raquel Feagins (nee Cajiri) (M.Div., 2007).  Started in 1988, the Women of Color Scholars program has provided financial, intellectual and personal support to United Methodist women of color pursuing doctorates in religious studies at seminaries and universities across the U.S., with the primary goal of increasing the number of women of color on faculty at United Methodist seminaries. The program is administered by the Office of Loans and Scholarships of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM.)

Dental Mission

Zak Kaping (M.T.S., 1994) and his son, Pan Kaping, in Ukhrul, Manipur, India.

Perkins alum Zak Kaping (M.T.S., 1994) helped coordinate a music/dental mission in July, which brought dentists and volunteers from Dallas to Phungyo Baptist Church, a church in Kaping’s homeland in Ukhrul, Manipur, India.  Kaping is pastor of Northwest Terrace Baptist Church, a new church start from Northlake Baptist Church in Dallas. His son, a dental student in Dallas who will graduate in 2019, also pitched in.

This was the first dental mission ever to serve this city; the dental team saw more than 300 patients in five days of work, all of whom were seeing a dentist for the first time. The team presented dental hygiene information, removed some un-restorable teeth and filled many cavities. Providing the dental care were two dentists, Dr. T. Bob Davis of Dallas, recently recipient of the 2018 American Dental Association (ADA) Humanitarian Award, and Dr. Bob Meyer, Executive Director of the Christian Dental Society, along with three senior dental students from Texas A & M College of Dentistry of Dallas: Pan Kaping (Zak’s son and Senior Class President at the school) and two classmates, Leke Olowokere and John Ratliff. Assisting the dental team with sterilization and supplies management were Diane Meyer and Dr. Davis’s son Creth.

Musical performances by Dr. Davis were also part of the program. The mission team overcame many obstacles to deliver a new grand piano to the community. Zak Kaping also restored an old WWII vintage army vehicle for the occasion.

“It was an adventure and a challenging opportunity to encourage a lot of fine international Christians in their own home city,” Davis said.

Santa vs. Advent

Rev. LyAnna Johnson (M.Div., 2015)

A column by the Rev. LyAnna Johnson (M.Div., 2015) recently appeared in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in Worcester, Mass. Titled “Keep the Faith: A complicated relationship with Santa,” Johnson’s tongue-in-cheek commentary contrasted Santa Claus as a symbol of consumer Christmas with the Christian understanding of the holiday. “As I started going to church as an adult … I found out about Advent, the season of hopeful anticipation before Christmas,” she wrote. “And that’s when my relationship with Santa went south.” But don’t worry, Santa wins her heart in the end; read her column here. Johnson serves as pastor at Simple Church Worcester, a United Methodist congregation in the New England Annual Conference.





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News November 2018 Perspective Online

Letter from Dean Hill

“What is your vision for the school?”

I was asked that question when interviewing for the deanship in early 2016. The answer I gave remains the same today: Perkins should be “an academy for the whole church in the whole world.” Both parts of that answer are equally important.

By “whole church,” I mean that Perkins should strive to be an academic resource for laity as well as clergy, and across denominational and other arbitrary boundaries. We have a duty to equip both clergy and laity for servant leadership in every arena, and that’s as central and essential as the task of granting formal degrees to prospective ministers and Christian leaders.

Perkins has a long tradition of reaching out beyond the walls of the academy. Two notable examples are the Perkins Theological School for the Laity held annually in both Dallas and Houston, and the annual Fall Convocation (formerly Ministers Week), which last November featured speaker Anne Lamott and this year (November 12-13, 2018) will feature Brian McLaren and Sandra Maria Van Opstal. Read more about the 2018 Fall Convocation.

Other non-degree programs seek to equip leaders in, among other things, youth ministry and spiritual formation. The periodic Faith and Business lunches and the annual Bolin Family Public Life Personal Faith Luncheon equip persons who wish to integrate their faith with their work outside the church. Read about the 2019 Bolin Family Public Life Personal Faith Luncheon with PBS News Hour anchor Judy Woodruff.

By “whole world,” I mean that Perkins should be globally engaged so that the school impacts the world and the world impacts Perkins. Almost every faculty member at Perkins has taught, lectured, studied, and/or taken student immersion groups abroad. A recent faculty conversation named contacts in more than twenty-five countries, and numerous faculty books have been translated into other languages. Many of these existing connections continue to deepen, and we are actively creating others.

Current students are encouraged to take advantage of immersion courses that place them in both U.S. and non-U.S. contexts for an intensive time of learning while immersed in another culture. Similarly, our Th.M. in Spanish has brought several students from Latin America to study at Perkins. A record number of international students enrich all of us on the Dallas campus, offering fresh understandings of the Gospel that are both challenging and inspiring. Perkins alumni themselves are well represented in leadership positions around the world, often inviting opportunities for further engagement with our school.

Perkins is indeed “an academy for the whole church in the whole world,” and it will continue to grow into that vision in coming years.

News November 2018 Perspective Online

International Students Enrich Perkins Experience

Just a few months ago, Ishmael K. Mathiu, a third generation Methodist and an ordained minister, was serving as mission coordinator for his church in Kenya.

Now, he’s sharing his gifts with the community at Perkins School of Theology.

Mathiu is one of six students in Perkins’ newest class of international students—a substantial increase from previous years, when only two international students were admitted per year. This increase is due to a change in the decision to admit qualified international students and not limit admission to only two. The six students came from Zimbabwe, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China.

“They truly enrich our classroom and community life in significant and unique ways,” said Tracy Anne Allred, Assistant Dean of Student Life and Director of Community Engagement at Perkins. “It’s a different dialogue when you have that diversity, not just U.S. diversity but the global context of ministry and experience.”

Perkins’ international reputation helped attract the students, but most also had some personal connection before arriving on campus, said the Rev. Dr. Margot Perez-Greene, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at Perkins.

“Our alums recommend Perkins to their friends and former undergraduate classmates,” she said. “They’re our best recruiters.” Alumni returning to their home countries, combined with strong ties nurtured with overseas institutions such as the United Methodist Church’s Africa University in Zimbabwe, helped feed the pipeline. Francois Kazadi Mukosa, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a graduate of Africa University who toured the U.S. about 10 years ago as the school’s choirmaster; Mathiu visited the U.S. in 2015 through mission connections with First United Methodist Church of Grapevine, located in a Dallas suburb. In other cases, Perkins faculty who travel to other countries for speaking engagements or musical performances also help get the word out.

Perez-Greene notes that international students make incredible sacrifices to come to Perkins.

“Most of our new students have spouses and children at home,” she said. “They are sacrificing two years of their lives with their families to be here. The value they place on being able to acquire this education is nearly incomprehensible to us.”

Mukosa has a wife and three young children, ages 7, 3 and 1, back at home. Mathiu has a wife and two children, ages 15 and 11. Most international students do not have the opportunity to return home during their two years of study.

“This is the first time my family has been split up for a long time,” Mathiu said. “Other times, I’ve traveled for only one or two days. It’s a big sacrifice for them.” He joked that he “campaigned” with his children to get their blessing for his plans to study in the U.S., which led his wife to agree, too.

In the past 10 years, Perkins has awarded full scholarships annually – including tuition as well as room, board and other expenses – to two students. This year, the decision was made to
to provide an opportunity for more international students to be part of the Perkins community.

At a recent tea time for international students, Mukosa played his guitar for attendees. At home, he’s part of a musical group called Band Umoja — “Umoja means unity in Swahili,” he explains – now, he’s part of Perkins’ Seminary Singers.

“In the last two months, we have seen how much richer we are because of these six students,” Perez-Greene said. “They have become good friends. They have provided so much with regard to music, worship, reflection, and conversation.”

Allred notes that, while the new students are part of the scholarship program for international students, there are many others who bring a multicultural perspective – students whose home countries include Mexico, Korea, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Cuba, and Peru.

“They all add to the diversity that we value here at Perkins and bring that global perspective,” said Tracy Anne.

A memorial service was held on October 18 for M.T.S. student Yan (Judy) He of China, who died Oct. 5. The service, attended by members of the Perkins and SMU community, included an original composition by Dr. Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Director of the Master of Sacred Music Degree Program and Assistant Professor of Church Music. In addition, a quartet of international Perkins students led a congregational hymn in four languages. The homily was delivered by Herbert Coleman, Director of Retention and Student Success. Gifts from the Perkins community and a letter of condolence from former U.S. President George W. Bush were presented to Yan (Judy) He’s mother and sister by Perkins Dean Craig C. Hill.

News November 2018 Perspective Online

Development Update: The SMU Fund for Perkins

Most financial planners instruct us to build an emergency fund so that money will be available when an unexpected expense arises. We all understand that is a sensible plan which we should follow.

The SMU Fund for Perkins acts as an emergency fund for the institution. Money donated to that “unrestricted” account can be used at the discretion of the Dean for various purposes that might arise. He can tap money from that account to underwrite unexpected costs, start new initiatives, or expand current programs.

This year our goal for the SMU Fund for Perkins is $315,000. That is 5% more than last year’s goal. I would love to see Perkins’ faithful donors greatly exceed that goal and surpass our wildest expectations.

Those of you who have met Dean Hill know that he is a careful steward of Perkins resources. Working closely with Business Manager Mark Greim he is charting the course for the next chapter of Perkins’ important mission. Mark, who is completing his first year at Perkins (an extremely successful year, I might add!), has often emphasized the importance of this fund.

You will be hearing more about giving to this fund as the year progresses. I hope you will join me in supporting this effort. To give to the SMU Fund for Perkins click here. You will notice in the “drop-down” menu that the SMU Fund for Perkins is at the top.

Why not make an initial gift to that fund right now? No gift is too small or too large.

As always, I am thankful for the faithful support of Perkins donors!

With a thankful heart,

John A. Martin
SMU Development and External Affairs
Director of Development, Perkins School of Theology