April 2022 News Perspective Online Top Story

Letter from the Dean: The (Seeming) Paradox of an Educated Clergy

Christianity is a religion of paradox. Material creation is good but somehow fallen; the meek inherit the earth; one finds one’s life by losing it; the reign of God is both present and future; believers are free and yet bound; justice is wedded to mercy; Jesus is both human and divine.

In Christian theology, truth is not found in the middle, as though by compromise. It is found instead in the tension between two equal but seemingly competing truths. This challenges the human mind, which greatly prefers simple binaries, the decisive mathematics of this vs. that, us vs. them.

I therefore have some sympathy for those who for the sake of making the faith understandable have chosen to make it easy. This is most often done by collapsing whichever of its inherent tensions seems most problematic. So it is that a perplexing both/and becomes a much more manageable either/or. A great many of the religions derivative of Christianity have had this impulse in common. Thus, for example, they might claim that Christ cannot have two natures and God cannot be three persons.

Something of the same impulse exists in much popular thinking about theological education. I have often encountered persons deeply suspicious of all seminary learning, believing that it is not only unnecessary for ministry but positively detrimental to it. In support, they might, for example, quote 1 Corinthians 1:19-21:

For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe?? Where is the debater? of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.

This is undeniably true, but it is not all that is true. The teachings of Jesus are filled with reversals that overturn what passes as common wisdom, and we humans are marvelously adept at rationalizing our way around them. But the person who penned these words, the apostle Paul, was himself well educated, and his remarkable skill as a writer explains his enduring influence. Indeed, Paul himself says as much in 2 Corinthians 10:10: “For they say [of me], “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.”

Speaking of letters, John Wesley received an earnest missive from a pious brother who declared, “The Lord has directed me to write you that while you know Greek and Hebrew, he can do without your learning.” Mr. Wesley replied, “Your letter received, and I may say in reply that your letter was superfluous as I already know that the Lord could do without my learning. I wish to say to you that while the Lord does not direct me to tell you, yet I feel impelled to tell you on my own responsibility, that the Lord does not need your ignorance either.”

Not how I would have put it but, yeah.

Piety is no substitute for knowledge, and knowledge no substitute for piety. As Charles Wesley–no intellectual slouch himself–masterfully put it, we ask that God would “Unite the pair so long disjoined, Knowledge and vital piety; Learning and holiness combined; And truth and love that all shall see.”

I close with a prayer on behalf of all lifelong learners:

Gracious God, we ask for wisdom free of boasting; inquiry free of arrogance; openness free of cynicism; conviction free of judgmentalism.  Let us neither be content with ignorance nor puffed up by knowledge. Indeed, let knowledge of you be an encouragement to humility, and knowledge of our ignorance an encouragement to study. We offer you the best of our minds, knowing that you would first possess the entirety of our hearts.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

April 2022 News Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management Update: April 2022

In the Last Stretch of Recruitment…

Our team is acutely aware of its own call: to recruit students for the transformation of the world. We realize that when God places a call on one’s life, it is nothing to take lightly. Thus, we respond swiftly to those prospective students who are inquiring as well as those admitted to Perkins. We recognize the decision to attend Perkins often turns the newly admitted student’s world upside down.  Nurturing our admitted students is vital, through the last days of enrollment and until the students arrive at their first classes. We are sensitive to the added responsibilities that many face as they prepare to come to Perkins: relocating their homes, rearranging their work schedules, arranging and paying for childcare, handling the financial challenges of graduate education, and somehow balancing school with family and work. We often speak about the complexity of the call to ministry, decision-making and discernment stress, and uncertainty about where this road may lead. These are emotionally charged issues all prospective students face. And we regularly remind ourselves that most of the time we are not recruiting immature students. These folks are being set apart for ministry.

When we allow ourselves to sit back and reflect upon the work we get to do, the reminder of the “who” we are recruiting and “what” we are recruiting for is a hefty and worthwhile challenge. The church of Jesus Christ, more than ever, needs courageous, adaptable, flexible, faithful leaders who can take the reins wherever they are, pick up and move forward. Ministry has never been easy work. It is now even more difficult. But we realize this is the church of Jesus Christ.  The rock we stand upon will not fail. It may change or morph into a new look, a different feel and shape, but it will not end. Not now. And so, we are encouraging anyone who will listen that now is the time to be prepared and equipped for when the opportunity presents itself. And it will. Have you noticed the number of retirements in your annual conference?

Throughout this summer, our team will carefully nurture our admitted students. “Summer melt” is a common phenomenon that affects all graduate education institutions. A certain number of students inevitably fall away or back out during the summer. To ensure that no student leaves for lack of support, we will personally interview each student before their arrival in the fall of 2022.   We will do all we can to provide the care they need as they take on the journey ahead. And we will continue to look under every rock, follow-up on every lead and host prospective students on campus. With your help, all of us — faculty, staff, administrators and current students — will embrace and welcome the new life, culture, and perspectives the new students will bring this fall to the rich diverse culture we know as Perkins.

For the past four years, we’ve experienced a surge of applications in the summer months. While we do not expect the surge to be as strong as in past years, we can continue to attract prospective students this summer with your help. And we have scholarships! So pick-up your phones or send an email to someone you know who might just view this time as the right time to begin the journey. Connect them to us (see emails below). Let them know we have resources that might make seminary possible for them.

We’re in the last stretch, but it is not the final stretch. Please join us in inviting individuals who will dedicate themselves to answering their call and becoming empowered to lead the church and our faith-based communities, agencies and hospitals toward a brighter future.

Grace and peace,

The Perkins Office of Enrollment Management Team



April 2022 News Perspective Online

War in Ukraine

Note: Names and other identifying details of the Ukrainian students and participants are omitted at their request, to protect their safety.

“Our daily lives have been shattered into hundreds of pieces.” That’s how one Ukrainian student described the situation in Ukraine, speaking during a March 11 Zoom conversation that brought together students from around the world.

The virtual gathering was organized by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies (IEE) at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv as a “bridge of solidarity” between students in Ukraine and other parts of the world.

“Academic communities in various countries have reached out to us offering their solidarity and help,” said an IEE administrator in the email invitation. “We thought that one of the ways in which this solidarity could be strengthened, would be by organizing meetings between Ukrainian students and their foreign peers. We see this as an opportunity to share what Ukrainians are experiencing, how they are reacting to the war, how the situation looks like from abroad, and how people abroad can help to stop the war and support their peers in Ukraine.”

More than 350 university students, faculty and staff joined the Zoom from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Hungary, England, Ireland, Scotland, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, India and Brazil. Four Perkins faculty and staff and nine Perkins students joined the conversation.  Dr. Ted Campbell, Albert C. Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins, has taught at the Institute for Ecumenical Studies in the past; he learned about the conference and invited members of the Perkins community to join.

Opening the Zoom, one of the organizers noted that many expressions of solidarity have come to IEE from church agencies around the world.

“We need this solidarity, and we are grateful for your prayers,” the organizer said.

Annette Kurschus, representing the Protestant Church in Germany, kicked off the virtual gathering with a prayer of petition: “Comfort those who mourn the loss of their friends. Change the hearts of the aggressors. Grant us your peace.”

Eight Ukrainian students shared a PowerPoint they had prepared and talked about their experiences, as students from around the world listened and answered questions. Some of the students had already fled to Poland. Those joining the Zoom from Lviv, in western Ukraine, were safe at the time of Zoom, but were keeping their backpacks near at all times so they could run to safety should the warning sirens go off.

Students who had fled to safety in Poland said they felt they had betrayed their country. One talked about survivor’s guilt — the feeling that “I’m alive, and other people are dying.”

“We just want to live our lives,” the student said.

Another student characterized the war as a struggle between good and evil. While it’s a very dark time, they said, their faith is strong, their people are brave and they are confident Ukraine will win.

Classes have been suspended at the University. At the time of the conference, the students were doing what they could to help the war effort: baking treats for the soldiers, weaving camouflage nets, collecting items for a nearby supply center operated by the military.

Dianne McCleary, a first-year M.Div. student, was one of the Perkins students joining the Zoom.

“I was amazed at the resiliency of those students,” she said. “They kept apologizing for being emotional, yet they were so calm and composed in how they spoke. Several kept saying, ‘We don’t want people to hate the Russians. It’s the Russian leadership doing this, this is not the Russian people.’ ”

McCleary, who is youth director at First UMC in Brownsville, hopes to share parts of the Zoom with youth in her church.

“It was a great opportunity to hear what was going on firsthand,” she said. “I want the youth in my church to see how this war is affecting the students in Ukraine. They might assume that life goes on, but it doesn’t. Life as they know it in Ukraine has come to an abrupt halt. I also want them to see that, in the midst of this tragedy, the students are finding ways to help others and support the soldiers.”

“Listening to the students share their sorrow for friends who have already be lost in the fighting was heartbreaking,” said Tracy Anne Allred, assistant dean of student life. “They shared from a deeply emotional level about their personal experiences, their lives as a University students in the midst of crisis, and how the world can connect and help make a difference.  They gave us historical film suggestions and news outlets covering the news from Ukraine. What a privilege for our theology students to engage with and learn from these Ukrainian students.”

“It was really gripping to hear these accounts in real time,” said Campbell. “We see the images in newsfeeds, but this made the reality very clear to us, especially as we heard the emotion behind the students’ voices. My prayers for all of them continue.”

Prayer Net

As a visible sign of their prayers and support for peace for the people of Ukraine, Perkins students have created a Prayer Net. Anyone can visit the Prayer Net in the foyer of Prothro Hall to add blue and yellow ribbons.

The Prayer Net is a joint effort of Feminist Advocating Change and Empowerment (FACE), led by Sara Cowley, President; and the Perkins Student Association Chaplain, Eunbyul “Stella” Cho.  The Prayer Net will remain until the end of the semester or until resolution is achieved.

Instructions for engaging with the Prayer Net are posted, and anyone may participate. The student volunteers are also creating a video with instructions.

To Learn More:

The Ukrainian students recommend these websites as resources:

Films to watch:

Places to get information:
(Ukrainian operated newspaper; not affiliated with the Russian government)

Ukraine’s officials:  — Ministry of Defense of Ukraine  — Twitter page of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine  — Twitter page of Minister of Foreign Affairs


April 2022 News Perspective Online

El Salvador Immersion

Hal Recinos, Professor of Church and Society, often tells his students: “If we want to live our lives awake in the Gospel, stay close to human suffering.”

By the end of this year’s Spring Break, a dozen Perkins students understood that clearly, after traveling with Recinos and host Edwin Pineda for a week in El Salvador. The group visited San Salvador and the Department (region) of Morazán, meeting with leaders of human rights and advocacy groups seeking justice for individuals and communities caught up in violence and abuse. Recinos has been leading this trip every other year for more than 30 years.

Stephanie Bohan, an M.A.M. student, said she was unprepared for what she saw; she spent time between visits processing what she’d witnessed.

“Seeing what poverty looks like for most of the world, globally as opposed to the U.S., and seeing the military armed guards in front of every nice building and at every public street – that was shocking,” she said.

“The prevailing economic conditions in El Salvador are dismal,” said Recinos. “The agrarian culture is shrinking, as are remittances, which represent about 17% of El Salvador’s GDP. On the other hand, there is openness, at least at the moment. People can talk about these issues publicly.”

One of the most moving stops on the trip was a visit to ORMUSA (Organización de Mujeres Salvadoreñas por la Paz), an organization working to address violence against women in El Salvador.

“Fourteen women a day are killed by their partners in El Salvador, for no reason other than they are women, and the machismo ideology says that women must be obedient to men,” Recinos said. “For many years, the police and judiciary tolerated such violence. It is still common today to find public servants who directly or indirectly prevent women from obtaining justice.”

ORMUSA helped draft a law in 2012 that made femicide — the deliberate murder of women — a criminal category in El Salvador and established special provisions to protect women from gender-based violence.  Despite these legal protections, 75% of femicide cases are never prosecuted.

Students also had the chance to speak with local leaders in El Mozote, the village where the Salvadoran Army killed more than 1,200 civilians — men, women and children — in 1981.  Recinos helped raise funds for a monument there.

“As the women shared the story of what happened, I was struck by the strength of the Salvadoran people and their commitment to bravery in the face of struggle,” said Julia Castleman, an M. Div. student on the trip.  “That was a recurring theme throughout the trip: there’s no reconciliation or healing without truth and justice. The government wants to deny the atrocities that happened, but there can be no peace without truth.”

The group also visited Christian Base Communities of El Salvador, where they met Father Rogelio Ponseele, a Belgian priest who arrived in El Salvador in 1970. Ponseele, 83, was an integral figure in the formation of the Communities, which faced increasing repression during the civil war due to their work organizing Salvadoran communities.  When it became impossible to safely continue pastoral work in San Salvador, Ponseele moved to the zones controlled by FMLN forces in Morazán. This area was constantly attacked by the Salvadoran military.  Today, the non-profit organization works with poor marginalized communities in human development, education, and sustainability projects.

Students also heard from women advocating for human rights in the community.

“The woman who spoke had the quiet confidence of a person so immersed in her faith that she knew she would prevail over the powers of evil that haunted her village,” said Dianne Carlson, an M. Div. student on the trip.

The group met with leaders of Pro-Búsqueda, a nonprofit association of Salvadoran families of children who disappeared during the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s. Thousands of children were kidnapped by the military and sold to adoption agencies.

“The government has refused to investigate where these disappeared children ended up,” Recinos said.

Pro-Búsqueda has located 473 of these children to date. One was a young boy who was kidnapped from his grandmother’s arms and eventually adopted by a family in Australia. The adoptive family was unaware that he’d been kidnapped.  That boy, now a man in his 40s, found his biological family through DNA testing, with Pro-Búsqueda’s help.  He and his adoptive family flew to El Salvador to meet his biological family.

“The entire village came out for this tremendous occasion,” Recinos said. “The grandmother was there and told him, ‘You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hug you.’”

Other stops included a visit to the tomb of Óscar Romero, the prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador who was murdered in 1980, and Divine Providence Hospital, where the group met with the Mother Superior of the Carmelite Order working at the hospital.  The group also attended services at Iglesia Luterana la Resurreccion and met Medardo Gomez, Lutheran Bishop of El Salvador and human rights activist.

Reflecting after the trip, students said their experiences will inform their work in ministry in the future.

“Witnessing the power of the church in these contexts was impactful,” Castleman said. “Not only was the church a source of healing in El Salvador; the church has also been part of the oppression throughout the history of El Salvador. I realized that, as a pastor, I will need to be careful. I can really help or hurt.”

Bohan, who just started a new job as CEO of Hope Cottage, an adoption services organization, will especially remember the visit to Pro-Búsqueda.

“I think this experience is going to add another layer of empathy for me,” she said. “Seeing how honorably they treated the adoptive parents, the birth parents and the children — I can carry that with me at Hope Cottage.

“I am a lawyer and a peacemaker,” said Carlson. “I will draw from the strength of those who live on the margins, that they are given a voice, in all that I do.”


Hal Recinos wrote this poem while on the trip, after the visit to El Mozote.

The Dark ©
I have many memories fired
in the dark in familiar seasons

of struggle that on mountains
erupt like images that come to

one at the end of a life. they
are stories given to me by the

poor fiercely describing fresh
new ways to hope and live in

a loathing world. I have known
too many campesinos here who

weep until death departs them.
they waited for new days to come,

for love to be carried into the
world with Angel’s wings, for

reasons that point to change
no one would find unworthy

and to drift a little closer to love
and justice. I have learned to carry

the future for them, to find it in Bibles,
reciting prayers in Spanish, delighting

in the life of school children gloated
with dreams and hearing the voices

of those gone yet whispering in the
dark to me. I confess the people of

corn who walk in the dark are right,
one day lightening will slice the top

of government and God will begin
a new heaven on earth!

H. J. Recinos



April 2022 News Perspective Online

2022 Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning

Perkins Summit draws attendees from around the nation for Bible study and more

In an impassioned lecture, Angela Gorrell reminded the audience: Joy matters.

Gorrell presented the keynote lecture at the 2022 Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning, Friday and Saturday, March 25-26 at the Dallas campus of Perkins. Some 55 people from nine states attended the annual event, with virtual attendees joining from as far away as Alaska, California and North Carolina. In addition to the Friday night lecture, attendees could choose from a selection of courses on the Bible, theology and spirituality taught by Perkins faculty and Gorrell.

The event was sponsored by the Howard-Holbert Endowment for Laity Education. Ten attendees were there thanks to a special arrangement with the Arkansas Methodist Foundation, which paid for tuition, travel and accommodations for clergy and staff in the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Foundation also supports Arkansas conference members attending other programs hosted by the Perkins Office of External Programs throughout the year.

Gorrell is the author of The Gravity of Joy: A Story of Being Lost and Found and assistant professor of Practical Theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.  She shared the story of her journey that culminated in her book. Eight months after she began working as an associate research scholar at Yale on the Theology of Joy and the Good Life Project, Gorrell lost three family members within the space of four weeks. One committed suicide at age 30; a nephew died of cardiac arrest at age 22, due to an undiagnosed heart condition; and her father died of organ failure related to opioid addiction.

“In the time that followed, I struggled to find meaning in my work,” she said. “I felt a deep, overwhelming sense of powerless. Suddenly, the word ‘joy’ made me cringe. Life was not joyful.”

Shortly after the three family members died, Gorrell traveled to Grenada, an island in the Caribbean, to get away. Arriving the first night, exhausted, she went to bed in her hotel room — but couldn’t sleep. A buzzing noise outside her room kept her awake. She called the front desk, and a hotel staff member came to check. The staff member quickly identified the problem.

“Those are crickets,” she said. “I can’t turn those down.”

Crickets have special significance for Gorrell. Born deaf, without bones in her middle ear, her parents found a doctor to perform a new surgery to implant prosthetic bones when she was a young child. The doctor warned that the surgery might not work. It would take time before the outcome would be known; he couldn’t guarantee the results.

After surgery, her parents loaded her into their car for the long drive home. And on the way, she suddenly asked her parents: “What’s the buzzing?”

“My parents realized I had never heard crickets before, and now I was able to hear,” Gorrell said.

That night in Grenada, Gorrell felt God’s presence in a way she had not felt since her father’s death.

“I felt his smile from that night so many years ago,” she said. “I remembered how he would tell that story with such delight. That was the moment when my parents realized that crickets were just the beginning of the world I had yet to discover. That night, I could remember the man who had lived and loved big, before he was in the grip of addiction. What had felt broken felt repaired. It was a redemptive, restorative joy.”

A turning point came 18 months later. After many tears and therapy sessions, Gorrell was invited to co-lead a Bible study at a women’s maximum-security prison. All of the women had mental health issues; all were in prison due to addictions to heroin or crack cocaine. Yet, they found a way to experience joy when the group sang together, “as if the music was revival for the dead parts of our souls.” One evening, they sang so loudly that one of the correction officers came into the room, expecting trouble.

“Our ashes became crowns of beauty,” Gorrell said. “Our spirits of despair became praise. From these women, I realized joy was not trivial. Joy is vital — for me, for you, for these women. Joy matters!”

Churches can become spaces where people can experience joy, Gorrell added.

“We can design physical spaces for joy,” she said. “Churches might set up a Joy Wall — a place where people can use spray paint or markers, to write their joys, to draw lines to connect similar things that others experience. It can become an interactive, dynamic conversation.”

By giving people permission to experience emotions — sorrow, anger, despair as well as joy — churches can create space where joy happens.

“We cannot make joy,” she said. “The feeling is a gift. But we can choose to rejoice. We either live exposed or we live numb, which is not at all. We can choose to live with open hands. We can live awake.”

April 2022 News Perspective Online

2022 Bolin Family Perkins Scholarship Luncheon is a Success

Not only did Perkins’ annual fundraising luncheon return to its usual in-person format in 2022 — the event was a rousing success. The Bolin Family Perkins Scholarship Luncheon took place on March 17 in the Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom.  (Last year’s event, with speaker David Brooks of The New York Times, took place virtually.)

“This was the most financially successful Bolin Family Scholarship Luncheon in the history of the series,” said John Martin, Director of Development for Perkins. “Every table was sponsored, and attendees were moved and inspired by the presentations.”  Net proceeds of approximately $125,000 will support the Black/Africana Church Studies Program scholarship fund.

Highlights included a video tribute to Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes Jr.,  a presentation on the Black/Africana Church Studies Program (BACS) and a keynote delivered by Rev. Dr. Richie Butler.

Holmes (M.Th. ’59; M.S.T. ’68) was honored with a video tribute produced by Matt Jacob, Associate Director of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations. The video chronicled Holmes’ outstanding career as senior pastor of St. Luke “Community” UMC from 1979 to 2002.

In the video, Holmes shared a formative experience from early in his life when he happened upon an accident scene. A Black man had been hit by a car and was bleeding profusely. Two police officers and two white ambulance drivers stood by, without rendering aid.

“I asked one of the officers, ‘Why don’t y’all help him?’” he recalled. “It turned out they were waiting for the ambulance from the Black funeral home. I looked into the eyes of those two white policemen. I could tell they were bothered by what was happening. But they were bound by the racism that was going on at the time.”

While the four white responders stood by, the man died.

“I was driven by that event, and I will be challenged by it for the rest of my life,” said Holmes.

Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes Jr.

Holmes is known as an activist and community leader as much as he is a pastor. He served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1968-1972 and played a pivotal role in the desegregation of the Dallas Independent School District. As an associate professor of preaching at Perkins for 24 years, he has mentored many students and ministers. One of those was Rev. Dr. Sheron Patterson (M.T.S. ’83, M.Div. ’89, D.Min. ’96). In the video, she recalled the first time she heard Holmes preach.  “I walked into the church and saw this majestic man preaching, and it was over,” she said. “I had never heard preaching like that. He had charisma, energy, passion, knowledge of the Bible, interwoven with culture and history. I had never seen anything like that.”

Attendees were also treated to a video presentation on the BACS program. Launched in Fall 2021, the program critically explores Black theology, Black Biblical studies and interpretation, history, pastoral theology, preaching, worship, religious education, ethics and other practices in conjunction with African American, African and other African Diasporic churches, non-profit organizations, and social justice ministries through programs designed primarily to enrich the educational, cultural, and communal experiences of Black School of Theology, Doctor of Ministry and GPRS students as well as the broader SMU community.

Appearing in the video, Dean Craig C. Hill called the program “one of the most important initiatives launched during my time as dean at Perkins. It’s engaging Black students, faculty, alumni and church leaders for the purpose of strengthening innovative and impactful leadership.”

Dr. Abraham Smith, Professor of New Testament, noted the many challenges facing the Black community, including voter disenfranchisement and mass incarceration. “This is a program that is going to welcome everybody, and that is designed to help those marginalized voices have a place where their voices can be heard,” he said.

“We have a rich legacy at Perkins and a rich connection to black Methodism in this geographic area,” said Dr. Tamara Lewis, Director of BACS, “I feel the sky is the limit for BACS and we have wonderful days ahead.”

Rev. Richie Butler

Butler, who is senior pastor of St. Luke “Community” UMC, spoke on the importance of the Black church.  He cited instances in which the Black church has been foundational in moving the United States to be a more welcoming and just society.

A 1993 graduate of SMU, Butler serves on the Perkins and Dedman College Executive Board, the SMU Board of Trustees, the Communities Foundation of Texas board of trustees, the Dallas Assembly and the Real Estate Executive Council. He is founder of Project Unity, a collaborative effort to promote racial reconciliation in Dallas.

“The Bolin Family Perkins Scholarship Luncheon is a highlight of the Perkins’ calendar every year, and this year was no exception,” said John Martin, Director of Development for Perkins. 

In other fundraising news, on March 22, Perkins alumni/ae and supporters had the chance to participate in SMU Giving Day, a once-a-year, 24-hour philanthropic blitz that rallies Mustangs everywhere for one big day of fundraising for the entire university. Donors direct their donations to specific projects or programs within the university. This year’s event attracted almost 3,500 donations totaling more than $8 million for SMU. Donors who wanted to support Perkins had the opportunity to support four important Perkins initiatives on March 22: the Black/Africana Church Studies program, the General Student Financial Aid Fund, the Global Theological Education project, which raised funds to purchase equipment for the new Digitally Mediated Ministries Lab; and the Student Life Office of Perkins.

April 2022 News Perspective Online

Tate-Wilson Lecture

Many diversity initiatives in universities fail — because they strive for more equitable representation, but not justice, according to Jonathan Tran.

“University diversity efforts at best make racial capitalism more diverse,” said Tran. “This grants the appearance of justice but as we should know by now the appearance of justice often means injustice.”

With that provocative assertion, Tran opened the 2022 Tate-Wilson Lecture, titled “Why University Diversity Initiatives Fail and Some Less Than Modest Proposals for How They Might Succeed: A Racial Capitalist Analysis.”

Tran is associate professor of philosophy and George W. Baines Chair of Religion at Baylor University and author of Asian Americans and the Spirit of Racial Capitalism (Oxford University Press, 2022) and the forthcoming Christianity and the Promise of Politics (with Stanley Hauerwas) in the series, Encountering Traditions (Stanford University Press.)

He spoke on March 9 at a gathering in Kirby Hall on the campus of SMU, with Perkins faculty members Sze-kar Wan and Tamara Lewis responding.

“ ‘Diversity’ within university diversity initiatives names two things: having more non-white-male folks around and feeling good about having them around,” he said.

While diversity trainings are “all the rage” in American institutions — in Fortune 500 companies as well as universities — there’s little critical inquiry as to whether they’re effective.

“Considering how much and how long we have been doing this, at least since the 1960s, we haven’t done much to study how well they work,” he said. “When we have, the results have been decidedly mixed.”

DEI diversity efforts focus on correcting bias, controlling people and punishing nonconformity, he said, and they “don’t work for reasons anyone who studies institutional behavior and social psychology could predict.” Telling people they are racist or sexist “doesn’t tend to get them out of their racism or sexism. It starts off on the wrong foot. Threatening people with punishment doesn’t work for long … yet we keep doubling down on our trifold tactics of correcting, controlling and punishing,” he said.

Voluntary mentoring programs that match senior white males with early career women and people of color tend to be more effective.

Similarly, protocols for transparency in areas such as hiring and promotion can also be effective because decision-makers will hold themselves accountable when they’re aware that others are watching.

“Instead of mandating from the top down, let people volunteer, which gives them agency and makes them feel like they have chosen diversity,” he said. “Start there and you will find that those who didn’t start off seeing the problem for what it is gravitate toward doing so.”

A bigger problem, Tran says, is DEI ignores the goals of reparative justice and liberation. Early Black politics and Black Power movements aimed for systemic changes that transcended race and identity politics. Instead, DEI diversity settles for equitable representation among the ranks of the privileged, with no efforts toward justice that repairs damage done by racial capitalism.

DEI diversity efforts, he said, tend “to flatten deep problems into superficial ones, where the social, institutional, structural and systemic would become personal, attitudinal, and psychological, where matters of racial capitalism would boil down to racial identity, where justice would be bought off with white guilt, and where representation and inclusion would replace redistribution and abolition.”

Lewis and Wan Respond

Responding to the talk, Dr. Tamara Lewis, Professor of the Practice of Historical Theology, called Tran’s work “groundbreaking.”

“He brings works and arguments often treated separately — capitalism, race theory, neoliberalism, along with Christianity and its theodicy and its soteriology, in a critique of anti-racist efforts,” she said. Such creative thinking is important, she said, citing Audrey Lorde’s words, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”

Said Lewis: “In order to effectively challenge racism, one must address racism materially by deconstructing the material conditions that give white institutions their power.”

Lewis added that a perennial question that has vexed historians is, “Which came first: the chicken of racism or the egg of race?”

Tran’s work, she said, points to the “chicken” of racism.

“Race was constructed in an answer to a need – the racism of capitalism,” she said. “This position underscores the problem of anti-racist work by holding on to the identity politics of race.

“Despite historic failures of the church to realize the practical vision of equality, we have examples in which Christian believers have striven to do and to act. Their example inspires us to become the ones we have been waiting for.”

In his response, Dr. Sze-kar Wan, Professor of New Testament, praised Tran’s analysis for revealing “the productive potentials of the concept of racial capitalism.”

“We have always known that capitalism and the slave trade were bound up together in convoluted fashion, but stating it in such stark terms is extremely helpful,” said Wan. “It helps us see racism [which is bad and is rejected at least formally] is an inextricable part of our current political economy under the caption of capitalism [whose virtue is reflexively unquestioned].”

Wan also wondered if racial capitalism might be understood more broadly in terms of tribalism.  Surveying ancient history, he disputed common assumptions that, unlike modern slavery, Greco-Roman slavery was not based on ‘race.’

“They might be right if they define ‘race’ in the narrow sense as it was used in old junk science,” he said. “But I don’t believe there is a difference between race and ethnicity, and the ancient Greeks and Romans most certainly differentiated between ethnic groups, usually on the basis of language, culture, religion, and, in the case of the Greeks toward the Macedonians, accents.  Or more accurately, tribalism — what distinguished us from them.”

“Isn’t tribalism a broader, more encompassing category, and therefore more accurate description, than racism?” he asked.

April 2022 News Perspective Online

Video Message from the Dean, Part 4

In this video message, Craig C. Hill, Dean of Perkins School of Theology, talks about an essential component of preparation for ministry: faith — “the faith that grounds us, the faith that prioritizes our life, the faith that tells us who we are at our core.” He recalls the words of Jesus: If you want to find your life, you need to lose it for the Gospel. “That’s what Christian ministry is all about,” he said. “Giving yourself to something larger.” This is the fourth in Dean Hill’s four-part video series looking at the four elements of an excellent theological education that prepare students for ministry: knowledge, skills, character and faith.

April 2022 News Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Ally Stokes

When Ally Stokes came to Perkins, she said, “I didn’t have the faintest idea what I was going to do.” She’s still not certain what’s next, but the Master of Theological Studies degree has been the right place for this season of exploration.

“That’s the joy of the M.T.S. — it’s the ‘choose your own adventure’ of degrees,” she said. “There are lots of opportunities to explore things that are intriguing to you.”

Stokes, who is originally from England, spent 20 years working in humanitarian aid, serving missions in refugee camps in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, then turned her attention to raising her two boys, now 16 and 18. After three visits to campus for Inside Perkins events — the first in 2016 to hear N.T. Wright, another to hear Anne Lamott — she began to consider graduate theological education. The 2020 election, her disenchantment with the evangelical Christianity, the fact that her boys were starting to drive and some serious nudging from Margot Perez-Greene all conspired to finally convince her to enroll in 2020.

“I was looking for the next part of my life,” she said. “I was in the process of re-evaluating everything, including how I approached Scripture and the misogyny I’d seen in the evangelical church, where I’d spent most of my life. My access to the evangelical world I thought I would always be in was almost entirely shut off. It was like the frog slowly boiled in water. You think the whole church is like that. You don’t know otherwise until you pop out and realize there’s this lovely cool refreshing water that other people are swimming in.”

Now in her second year, Stokes says Biblical studies at Perkins have been healing: “I loved having access to good exegesis and the freedom that afforded me. It gave me the ability to factually, exegetically rebut the arguments that are fired at women in the evangelical world by men with no education at all. The ability to open the Greek New Testament, and read it myself, and have access to scholarly research — that will continue to be particularly powerful for me.”

One question she’s intrigued by now, reflecting on her mission work: “Is it ethical to tie our aid to some kind of religious observance or practice?” She recalled instances in the field where missionaries offered Bibles, prayer tents and worship resources to refugees who actually needed clothes, food, water and assistance with their visa applications.

“The idea of having a gate through which people have to pass to access basic human needs, it’s disgusting,” she said. “Who do we think we are, when we show up in a war zone promoting our particular brand of faith to people fleeing for their lives? It’s idolatry.”

As an example, she cited a church-based English language class in Dallas for Afghan refugees, which includes a mandatory Bible reading in the middle of the class.  Most of the attendees are Muslims.

“For me, this is anti-scriptural,” she said. “If we’re serving out of love of God, we shouldn’t need to force them to listen to scripture to make our donors happy.”

On the other hand, she said, people in crisis situations do need spiritual resources — something secular aid agencies often ignore.

“There are two kinds of aid workers: faith-based missionaries, and people who work for government agencies or secular non-profits,” she said. “The two groups rarely have the same aims in regard to spiritual matters.”

Watching the situation in Ukraine and Europe, she said, “People are praying. On top of their immediate physical needs, their souls are struggling. They’ve lost their sense of place, home and identity.”

Stokes would like to do research on how to bring the secular and faith-based sides of humanitarian aid together, to help ensure that spiritual needs are met, whatever the faith background of people in need. She’d like to look at questions such as, “How do we provide food, shelter and also space for soul growth? How do we help our secular colleagues to not neglect that area of life?”

When she’s not studying, she’s enjoying time with her husband, gardening (“I come from a long line of gardeners,” she said) or rock climbing with her boys, who compete in the sport. Stokes has also been active in Perkins extracurriculars. She’s a regular at the community lunch and serves as social life chair for the Perkins Student Association and a student representative on the Community Life Committee.

“We’ve been resurrecting community, which has always a central part of the Perkins experience,” she said.

What’s next for Stokes? She’s considering further research or academic study after graduation. There are more intriguing questions she’d like to pursue. In other words, she’s still exploring.

“When I talk to people in the church, there are a lot of us that are in that space,” she said. “The old realities, the old comfortable answers, they don’t work anymore. My reaction has been to ask God, ‘What does it look like for the next season? How can we more lovingly reflect Jesus in the world, without asking people to be something they’re not?’ ”

April 2022 News Perspective Online

Alumna Profile: Dodee Crockett

Dodee Crockett: Serving the kingdom by helping clients steward their money faithfully

Dodee Frost Crockett (M.T.S. ‘03) was a financial advisor when she began her Perkins education. Today, she’s still a financial advisor, serving as Managing Director at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Dallas — and more certain than ever that she chose the right path.

“One of the unexpected blessings of being a theology student was reaffirming that being a wealth advisor was a calling for me, and a valuable calling in the kingdom,” she said.

There’s no question that Crockett is good at what she does. She was recently named to Forbes’ “America’s Top Women Wealth Advisors Best-In-State List.”  For 11 consecutive years, she made Barron’s annual list of the Top 100 Women Financial Advisors in America and, for eight consecutive years, Barron’s “Top 1,200 Advisors State-by-State.

“As a wealth advisor, my job is to work with clients to plan,” she said, “to affirm the future for them and find ways to meet their goals and express their values in stewardship of their assets.”

But it was her time at Perkins, she said, that deepened her sense of service in her career.

One clue came just a few days after September 11, 2001.   She was on campus that day with many of her fellow students who gathered in the chapel.  When she returned to the office a few days later, “People were so frightened. A couple of my team members came to me and said, ‘Could you explain the difference between Muslim and Islam?’ I realized how little people really know about other faith traditions, what their teachings are and how to regard them and respect them.”  She credits her study in the Perkins class on World Religions and the deep engagement offered by her professors as most helpful in her understanding.

She added that, while she is a committed Christian, some of her clients profess other faith traditions. Thanks to her Perkins education, “Being able to have an interfaith voice in this conversation is powerful. My clients are not fearful to bring their own faith traditions to our meetings and to what we are doing. Because of my seminary education, I’m better able to help them put language on their own vision of the future.”

Crockett’s financial savvy also has enabled her to give back to Perkins, too, through volunteer service in governance and fundraising and with her own philanthropic contributions. She joined the Perkins Executive Board just days after graduation in May 2003 and has served on the Board ever since. Currently, she’s co-vice-chair. She also served as a co-chair of the Perkins Centennial Campaign for SMU, co-chair for the current SMU Ignited fundraising campaign, and as the Perkins chair for the Pony Power fundraising campaign.

As a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy, fundraising comes naturally.

“I enjoy connecting people to their passions and encouraging them in their giving,” she said. “I’m a believer in the idea that you should not wait until you’ve passed away to give your money away.  Give some of it now, so you can see its impact. You can be part of affirming the future today.”

Crockett has also made significant monetary contributions to Perkins. She and her husband, William B. “Billy” Crockett, Jr.  (SMU, M.L.S. ’05) funded the Ruben L.F. Habito Labyrinth on the campus of Perkins. The labyrinth, which honors Perkins faculty member Habito, professor of World Religions and Spirituality, was dedicated September 11, 2009.

All of these accomplishments are pretty impressive for someone who originally enrolled at Perkins simply for personal enrichment — a path Crockett thinks any committed Christian should consider.

“I encourage people who are faithful laity to embrace a more robust understanding of their theology and their own place in the world,” she said. “I believe that a strong laity is one of the greatest assets of the church, in being able to support our clergy from a place of knowledge and with an understanding of their challenges.”

While at Perkins, she admits, she did at times feel like a “fish out of water,” but also recalls clearly a moment in Dr. Paula Dobbs-Wiggins’ Pastoral Care class where that changed. After Dr. Dobbs-Wiggins praised her work on a project designing a premarital counseling program for clergy, Crockett said, “It really brought home to me that you don’t have to be a pastor to have these kinds of relationships with people, or to be this kind of resource. There is a calling in every profession to lead from that deep place of service. That was a moment of reaffirmation for me.”

Professionally, Crockett’s work is based in Dallas but spends about half her time in the Texas Hill Country with her husband, an acoustic singer-songwriter who performed for decades as a contemporary Christian artist. Billy just completed a new recording, scheduled for release in April, with cellist Dirje Childs: “Simple Gifts,” a recording of 13 traditional hymns. Proceeds will benefit arts and humanitarian organizations. (

The project originally began as a gift for Billy’s mother, who was orchestra conductor at First Baptist Church in Richardson for more than 30 years. “Even though she has fairly severe dementia right now, she still knows those hymns,” Dodee said. The couple is also looking forward to serving as honorary chairs of the National Day of Prayer gathering at the Meyerson in Dallas in May.

When she looks back on her years at Perkins, Crockett often recalls a lecture given by the late Billy Abraham. In the first half of the lecture, he argued his view of Scripture from a very conservative viewpoint. Then he took a deep breath, and for the second half of the class, argued with equal passion from a very liberal point of view.

“Both were equally compelling,” she said. “He told us, ‘Whether you end up being more liberal or more conservative, I just want you to be a good one. I want you to be able to express deeply and truthfully from whatever vantage point you look at the Scripture.’

“To me, that was the most powerful message of Perkins. Be good at what you do. And be authentic.”