December 2022 News Perspective Online Top Story

Letter from the Dean

For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not fleshly and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not all too human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  (1 Corinthians 3:3b-6)

In this well-known passage, Paul warns the Corinthians not to form factions based on allegiance to specific leaders. To do so is “fleshy and behaving according to human inclinations.” The my-apostle-is-better-than-your-apostle argument is just one example of the countless ways people find identity and status by aligning with what they perceive to be a superior group. It is a sign of human insecurity and vulnerability as much today as it was then. It has always been divisive and is quite frequently perilous, sometimes catastrophically so.

Thankfully, Corinthian-level identification with leaders is not an issue at Perkins. That’s not to say that this or that former leader is not regarded with particular appreciation. That is as it should be. It becomes a problem only when such admiration exists to the exclusion of and in competition with appreciation for the gifts and achievements of others. In that case, the true focus in not on the leader but on us.

When I read this text, my attention is drawn instead to verse 6: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”

Unquestionably, I knew this lesson to be true on an intellectual level before becoming Dean. Still, it is easy to begin a leadership position with the unconsidered and largely unconscious conviction that one’s job is to solve every problem and, in due time, to hand off the school to the next Dean in all but perfect order.

Over the years, several things become much more front-of-mind thanks to lived experience. Among them are the following:

  1. Whatever you achieve, there will always be new opportunities and new problems. Who saw COVID coming with its myriad long-term effects? What new technologies will emerge in the next decade or two that will disrupt (and improve, one hopes) current models of education?
  2. Where significant advances are made, it will be because others bought into a shared vision, whatever its origin, and worked to see it come to pass. There is only so much you can do alone. It follows that, over the years, your appreciation for your colleagues will deepen. It also follows that you see retirement not as the occasion for leaving colleagues in the past, but rather as a chance to continue to know them, though now wholly as friends.
  3. Likewise, the more time goes by, the more admiration you will have for your predecessors—in my case, Deans Lawrence, Lovin, and Kirby in particular—and the more appreciation you will have for their accomplishments. (Thank God for the things they did that freed me to focus my attention elsewhere!) The same goes for the members of the Perkins Executive Board and other benefactors whose generosity made possible those advances.
  4. The borderland between continuity and change has always existed in the church (consider, for example, the controversy over Gentile inclusion in the 1st century church), and it will always be hotly contested territory. This tension can be avoided to some extent through the adoption of self-contained, circular positions that promise ongoing and comfortable certainty, but that certainty eventually will be challenged by the threat of some new change.
  5. Perhaps the most insidious change is that which is not even recognized as change. My children grew up with computers, social media, streaming content, and so on. The enormous cultural shifts brought by such technologies are largely unknown to them as change. Similarly, a great deal of what passes for normal, acceptable Christian life in America today would have been unrecognizable to St. Paul or even to John Wesley.
  6. You see this dynamic of continuity and change playing out over the decades at Perkins, recognize it in our own time, and anticipate it in the future. You hope that vital continuity will remain, but also that necessary change will occur every year, just as it has in each of the years of my own deanship.

Perhaps you’ve heard recited “The Oscar Romero Prayer.”  It was composed by Bishop Ken Untener for inclusion in a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in 1979 at a celebration of departed priests.  It is often prayed at services commemorating the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, but also on other occasions of transition. It sums up perfectly my own thoughts as I am about to move into a new phase of life.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Amen, indeed.

Let me close by expressing my heartfelt thanks to all of the many wonderful people associated with Perkins School of Theology and SMU. I trust that you will continue to support our cherished school and its leadership for years to come. I shall always remember you with profound gratitude.

Grace and peace,


December 2022 News Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: Six Splendid Years of Service

Grace to you and peace from God…and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3-7).

It is with great sentiment and affection that I write to inform you of my resignation from my position as Associate Dean of Enrollment Management. Clearly, serving Perkins has been the pinnacle of 48 years of professional service. My joy in this position was made complete by the hundreds of students I’ve met and the call stories they shared. Reading students’ essays, filled with pure, heartfelt yearning to serve God, and following their diverse journeys and ministries, brought meaning to every hour of my job.  To meet them in-person, along with their spouses, fiancées, best friends, mentors, and parents, was an even greater joy.  To witness their gifts and graces in worship at Perkins or in various ministry locations made my work even more meaningful. We have had applicants who were biologists, lawyers, doctors, dentists, IT personnel, politicians, educators, nurses, veterans, community organizers and experienced pastors when they sought out Perkins. We have a rich community of students and Perkins will continue to attract and extend hospitality and grace to all seeking graduate theological preparation for ministry.

Perkins served me as a seminary student, in my ministries after graduation and ordination, and in my years as an administrator at Perkins. Perkins has served countless others and will continue to do so. Here are just a few characteristics that set us apart among theological schools. These are the reasons students shared about what brought them to Perkins:

  1. Perkins bridges the academy to the church and the church to the academy
  2. Perkins honors one’s call from God
  3. Perkins embraces difference, whatever it may be, and values the traditions, person, perspective and voice
  4. Perkins recognizes that this is “your time” and that there is “no one like you”
  5. Perkins does not treat you like a number in the recruitment/admission process
  6. Perkins moves swiftly in the recruitment/admission process because we know how important it is for you to have a decision about admission and scholarship award

Indeed, the Perkins vision and values were the core that kept me persevering after the death of my beloved husband, Ken. I still turn to them regularly. Many of you are aware that Ken and I owned a home in Austin and leased a condo in Dallas. Without Ken, it has been difficult for me to take care of the condo in Dallas and travel intermittently to maintain the home in Austin.  That led to my decision to resign.

I could not be more pleased that Andy Keck, Chief of Staff, will serve as interim beginning January 3, 2023, while a successor is chosen. Christina Rhodes will continue to serve as Financial Aid and Financial Literacy Coordinator. Stephen Bagby, Director, Admissions Operations, will take the lead with virtual events, individual visits, and Inside Perkins events. Emilie Williams is our new Ministry Discernment Associate and handles recruiting on the road, and Caleb Palmer will continue to recruit, take the lead in communications from OEM, assist with virtual events and serve as liaison between the Office of Enrollment Management and Public Affairs. Prospective student referrals can be forwarded to Caleb (

Thank you for many kindnesses and cooperation in the work we have accomplished together. I will never forget how much you and the Perkins community mean to me—in good times and in the bad that we have all experienced together. I am especially grateful to my team and Dean Hill for support beyond measure.

Lastly, at a recent small dinner party with a handful of faculty and staff, we sat around the dinner table and posed the question, “What has been your best job?” Perkins was the unanimous answer. Personally, I have had many great jobs. Perkins is the winner, hands down. Truly, it never felt like a job to me. Thanks be to God.

He will strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1: 8-9).

Very sincerely,

The Rev. Margot Perez-Greene, PhD

P.S. I have just read yet another essay from an applicant whose story has brought me to tears…yes God is still calling wonderful people who have hearts for ministry, amazing lives and leadership potential.

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Development Update: A Time of Transition

As you are aware, Perkins School of Theology is in a time of transition. Dean Craig Hill is retiring from the deanship at the end of 2022. Bishop Mike McKee is taking up the mantle of leadership as Interim Dean. I am confident that Perkins will continue to offer outstanding education for pastors, leaders and others involved in various forms of service.

Transition reminds me of one of my favorite Old Testament books, Ecclesiastes. After noting that a common destiny of death awaits us all, the erudite Sage wrote in Ecclesiastes chapter 9:

“Go, eat your food with gladness, drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.”

Meaning, of course, that we are alive now, despite being destined for death, and while alive, as much as we can, we should enjoy the life that God has given us.

In much of the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, the word often translated “meaningless” would be better rendered “vaporous.” That term comes from the Hebrew word “to breathe.” As we think about life, we realize that our lives certainly are vaporous, breathy, foggy—the years fly by, and just when we think we have everything under control, we realize that we can’t grasp life at all. Life is unpredictable!

In December nineteen years ago, I was forced to understand that life is unpredictable. While Christmas shopping on Wednesday, December 10, 2003, and carrying packages from the mall to our van, I began having chest pains. Although the pain went away, it returned later that night. To summarize, I had a quadruple bypass surgery the following day. Each year I celebrate “my surgery day” on December 11, remembering with a joyful heart (see above!) that I have been able to enjoy life.

That experience, now so long ago, reminds me that we have an important responsibility to live godly lives, do acts of kindness, and raise up the next generation who will serve the Church and the world. Part of that next generation is studying right now at Perkins School of Theology.

During this time of transition, it is important that we evaluate our financial strategies and continue to be wise stewards of the resources with which we have been entrusted. As people of faith, we give to causes that are dear to us. At the end of this calendar year, I urge you to be generous.

I am glad to help as you think about a year-end gift or a gift that may come to Perkins as the sage in Ecclesiastes notes, “when our vaporous days are over.”

For cash gifts you can go to this link and follow the instructions. Many are using this tool for recurring gifts. The site will instruct you on how to set that up.

Checks should be made out to “SMU” with a memo note: “SMU Fund for Perkins” and mailed to:

John A. Martin
Perkins Development
PO Box 750133
Dallas, TX 75275-0133

During this period transition, enjoy the year-end celebrations—our life may be vaporous, but God has given life to us to enjoy.

With a vaporous but thankful heart,

John A. Martin
Director of Development

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Ecological Colloquium

Scientists know what steps are needed to address climate change – but faith groups could hold the key to mobilizing people around the globe to address the looming crisis.

With that in mind, representatives of four faith traditions – Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim – along with a scientist, shared their perspectives at “Confronting Our Global Ecological Crisis: Religion, Spirituality, and Science in Conversation,” a colloquium held November 1 in person at the Perkins campus, with participants joining via Zoom from Taiwan, the Dallas area and other parts of the United States.

The event was co-sponsored by Perkins School of Theology, the Museum of World Religions in Taipei, Taiwan, Faith Commons and the Global Family for Love & Peace.

Attendees were welcomed by the event’s convenor, Dr. Maris Reis Habito, who is International Program Director for the Museum of World Religions. She introduced the first speaker, Dharma Master Hsin Tao, who founded the Museum of World Religions in November 2001, with support from the Ling Jiou Mountain Buddhist Foundation. He is also abbot of Wu Sheng Monastery in Taiwan.

Speaking through a translator, the Dharma Master noted that the environment is encountering unprecedented threats.  “Religions must be united to guard this ecological system,” he said. “Religions must bear this responsibility, and we should not have excuses not to take this responsibility.”

Buddhists view the entire ecological system as an interconnected body shared by all sentient beings.

“Spirituality is ecology, and ecology is spirituality; there is no opposition,” he said. “Religion can offer a vision toward a solution to try to resolve the ecological crisis. We hope to connect the power of all religions to guide people to return to their spirituality — to stop warfare, to reduce the desire of consumerism, and to stop the damage to the earth, allowing this earth to be peaceful and the ecology to be sustainable.”

Dr. Robert Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education and Perkins Professor of Christian Mission and Interreligious Relations, introduced the four panelists representing the perspectives of the Abrahamic traditions — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Hunt noted, “All the world’s religions have worked on eco-theology or climate friendly theology for 30 or 40 years. It’s not a new topic at all, but it is a complicated topic. Science and religion have not always had an easy time getting along with each other. The intention this evening is to at least begin to talk about these in concert.”

Rev. Dr. George Mason, President of Faith Commons and Senior Pastor Emeritus of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, noted that science and the Christian church haven’t always coexisted easily. But Christianity has always relied on wisdom — revelations that arise from nature and reality itself — as well as the Word.

Citing the story of Adam, the first human, formed with dust and animated by the spirit of God, he said, “The story is humankind is not and cannot be told apart from the natural world. We are spirit and ‘stuff,’ never one without the other. Our human future must also be tied to the future of the non-human world.”

In the Bible, Mason added, God’s judgment is often reflected in natural disasters, such as floods or brimstone. At the same time, “Nature proclaims the glory of God.”

Quoting theologian and bishop Lesslie Newbigin, Mason said, “Christianity provides the necessary groundwork for science … Nature is dependable and understandable in principle, and it is free and open.”

That opens the door to productive conversation and partnership between Christianity and science in addressing the world’s ills, such as climate change.

“Religion can and should give confidence to people to trust that truth is truth wherever and however it is found,” he said. “Science works by observation of creation. It is not a natural enemy of religion; it is a partner to it.”

Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Chief Relationship Officer of Faith Commons, spoke on Jewish teachings about humanity’s relationship to nature. She cited a modern midrash of the third chapter of Genesis. In this retelling, Adam and Eve choose to leave the Garden of Eden to care for a struggling, shriveled tomato plant just outside of the garden. All the tomato plants inside the garden were tall and thriving. God told them the tomato plant was dead. They became angry with God and demanded to leave the Garden to take care of the tomato plant. God said they could never return if they did so. They left, watered the plant, and in a few days, the plant was full and green and laden with tomatoes. They were not sorry that they could not return.

In this retelling, Kasten said, “Adam and Eve pursue meaning and purpose as God’s partners in maintaining and sustaining creation, instead of seeing the responsibility for tending for the earth as punishment for human curiosity.”

Humans’ role is to be earthly partners in healing and repairing the world, not masters of the universe, and that work is focused on the present.

“In Judaism we are told over and over again not to wait for God to save us,” she said. “We have to tend to our jobs in the here and now, in the time we are given on earth, and to do the best we can to help our world and to refrain from harming it.”

Kasten closed with a teaching of the ancient sages: “If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone should say to you, ‘The messiah has come,’ stay and complete the planting, and then go greet the Messiah.

“There’s nothing more important for Jews to do than to do what we can to save our planet … to be God’s partners in the continuing of work of creation.”

Imam Dr. Bilal Sert, who serves as a chaplain at SMU, was originally scheduled to present the Muslim perspective but was unable to attend due to health concerns. Hunt, who has studied Islam, shared one example of several statements related to climate change from Muslim groups.

Hunt read excerpts from the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, developed at the 2015 Islamic International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul. Ultimately the declaration was endorsed by Grand Muftis of several Islamic nations and by many prominent Islamic scholars. Islamic leaders called on Muslims to play an active role in combatting climate change and urged governments to work together.

“Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalīfah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost. As we humans are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savor. But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change. Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans. But our attitude to these gifts has been short-sighted, and we have abused them. What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy? How will we face our Lord and Creator?”

Dr. Eva Szalkai Csaky, Executive Director of Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, provided a scientific perspective. She noted that the evidence about the reality of the environmental and climate crisis is convincing and overwhelming, and that science also offers a growing body of solutions. As an example, Csaky described research at SMU and – coincidentally, given Kasten’s story — tested on tomato plants for resilience against drought conditions.

“These kinds of innovations do exist, but are not yet widely applied and social sciences offer some important insights,” Csaky  said.

She shared a story she had come across in her research: A freeze was forecast threatening the crops of many small farmers. Learning of the threat, the community’s priest intervened and successfully mobilized the entire community for an emergency harvest.

“The point is … that faith-based organizations uniquely have something that nobody else has,” she said. “They have an extensive network with nodes able to take timely action and mobilize people and resources: buildings, land, vehicles.”  The same network can also be utilized to distribute knowledge and other resources.

“In addition, faith groups have established trust, which is important for both behavior change and collective action,” she said. “These attributes position faith groups to play an important role in tackling climate change.”

In responding to the panel discussion, Dharma Master Hsin Tao noted that war damages the earth, and the recent rising threat of nuclear warfare threatens disaster. Consumerism wastes resources. Cultivating a more loving and inclusive spirituality could help reverse those.

“We need to make the connections between the religions,” he said. “Otherwise, we cannot survive.”

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Awards Banquet

Recipients of the Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards for the past three years were honored on November 14 at the Awards Banquet held on the campus of Perkins. The recipients were chosen by the Perkins School of Theology Alumni/ae Council.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. (M.Div. ‘97; D.Min. ‘09) was honored as the 2022 recipient. Beginning Jan. 1, Saenz, Jr. will be assigned to the North Texas and Central Texas Annual Conferences, serving the Dallas and Fort Worth episcopal areas. The 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient was Evelyn L. Parker (M.R.E. ’91), who is both an alumna of Perkins as well as a member emerita of the Perkins faculty. Until her retirement in May 2021, she was the Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology at Perkins. Two recipients were honored in 2020 with Distinguished Alumni Awards: the Rev. Donald W. Underwood (M.Th., ‘73) and the Rev. Dr. Sidney G. Hall III (M.Th. ’84, D.Min. ’88). Underwood is Pastor Emeritus – Director of Donor Relations at Christ United Methodist Church in Plano. During his 37-year tenure as pastor, Christ United experienced rapid growth, with worship and Sunday school attendance doubling.  Hall is Pastor Emeritus of Trinity Church in Austin. He served as Trinity’s lead minister for 33 years, from 1988 to 2021.

From left: Dean Craig C. Hill, Rev. Dr. Sidney G. Hall III, Rev. Donald W. Underwood, SMU Provost Elizabeth G. Loboa


From left: Dean Craig C. Hill, Evelyn L. Parker, SMU Provost Elizabeth G. Loboa


From left: Dean Craig C. Hill, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., SMU Provost Elizabeth G. Loboa


Rev. Connie L. Nelson delivers the benediction at the Distinguished Alumni/ae Awards Banquet.





December 2022 News Perspective Online

Fall Convocation

Kathy Roberts co-chairs the food pantry at her church, Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. When she learned that “Food and Faith” was the theme of this year’s Fall Convocation at Perkins, she saw an opportunity to think more deeply about her church’s ministry with food.

Roberts was one of 80 people from six states who gathered on the SMU campus November 14-15 for the annual Fall Convocation. The program featured authors and speakers who work at the intersection of spirituality, faith and food.

The event kicked off on Monday evening, Nov. 14, with a food-themed exhibit and reception at Bridwell Library, followed by an opening lecture by Aarti Sequeira, a chef, author, producer and Food Network personality.

“Breaking bread has a way of breaking down barriers,” Sequeira said. “God communicates to us over and over again through food. We cannot go without food, and we cannot go with Him either.”

Sequeira shared that cooking saved her life. After finishing her education in journalism, she moved to Los Angeles, but couldn’t find a job.

“My parents had saved their entire lives to put me through school, and here I was on my butt watching soap operas,” she said. “I felt useless. But every day I found a recipe and I would make it.  It gave me a sense of peace and a sense of purpose.  Cooking is precious to me on multiple levels.”

Sequeira wants Americans to rediscover the joy of food preparation and of savoring, rather than rushing through, shared meals.

“A nasty virus has swept through our kitchens,” she said. “Dinner must be made in 30 minutes and consumed in even less time. At the same time, we feel more disconnected from ourselves, our loved ones and even God.  Cooking makes the mundane holy. It consecrates.”

Sequeira began praying as she cooked and began to cultivate the spiritual side of cooking. That ultimately led to her creation of a journal, My Family Recipe Journal: With Prayers & Scriptures (DaySpring, November 27, 2021.)

“Jesus cooked,” she said. “In his resurrected body, he made his disciples breakfast. He came down, stoked the coals, scaled the fish. His friends’ hearts were broken at that point. The first thing he did was he cooked for them.

Sequeira’s talk concluded with a Q&A with Pastor Ray Jordan (M.T.S. ’08).

“Food healed my heart,” she said. “There is something so intimate about cooking and food and feeding someone. It is powerful when we cook for people. It is such a privilege to cook. It is a magical portal to touch the sacred.”

Sequeira’s presentation was a highlight for Roberts.

“The essence of her message was seeking the sacred in the kitchen,” she said. “Her words, ‘Food is god’s love made nutritious and delicious,’ really put what we do at the food pantry in perspective.”

Breaking Bread, Breaking Borders

Tuesday’s program began with opening worship and another session led by Sequeira, followed by a book signing.

Lunch on Tuesday was provided by Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB), a social enterprise empowering refugee women. Before the meal, attendees heard from a panel of four women who participate in the program, led by founder Jin-Ya Huang.

Huang shared how her own family escaped from Communist China to Taiwan. Once in the U.S., they pinched pennies for years to buy a Chinese restaurant franchise.

“My mother hired other immigrants and refugees, trained them, and then sent them on to other opportunities,” she said. “That’s what we do today with BBBB. It’s been super tough but also an incredible and rewarding journey.”

Sharing stories and deep conversations is also a key element of the BBBB program.  Each of the women in the panel shared her story.

Claude, one of the panelists, was a teacher in Syria before emigrating to the U.S. by way of Jordan. She talked about trying to keep the kids in her care safe and calm while battles raged nearby.

“I decided I didn’t want my kids to go through all this,” she said. With help from a sister in Jordan, she escaped to Jordan, stayed there for 5 years, then came to the U.S. Recently, Claude became a citizen.

“I had a lot of fear when we were coming here,” she said. “We heard the people would not like us. I also thought I would see some cowboys and horses!”

Claude’s daughter Manar is now a student at the University of Texas at Dallas. She’s majoring in psychology because she hopes to help people in the future.

“It’s so hard for kids who come here,” Manar said. “The parents’ first priority is physical health, but kids are not happy just because they’re in a safe place physically. I want to help in that situation.”

Food has been a source of connection in a strange land, she added.

“When you feel lost and you don’t feel like you belong anywhere … eating the food makes me feel I’m regaining the connection I lost,” Manar said. Syrian cuisine for her, she said, “is the taste of family,”

Shahla, who came here from Afghanistan, talked about cooking welcome meals for Afghani refugees who arrived in the resettlement center in Dallas.

“Having the food from home often brings up tears,” she said.

The panel discussion was a highlight of the Convocation for the Rev. Alex Joyner (M.Div. ’91), an attendee who traveled from Charlottesville, Va.

“The interplay of personal and national stories, with a shared meal following, made for a powerful experience,” he said.

Lunch was a cross-cultural, buffet-style feast prepared by the women of BBBB, and included Middle Eastern favorites like baba ghanoush, hummus and an assortment of sweets.

“We tend to have preconceived ideas, but when we hear someone’s story and break bread with them, it changes everything,” Roberts said. “That was an important message for me to hear personally.

Tuesday Workshops

On Tuesday afternoon, attendees selected from a slate of workshops, including one led by organizers of Project Unity’s Together We Dine program, founded by Perkins Executive Board Member and SMU alum Pastor Ritchie Butler.

“I appreciated being able to talk about race openly and to do it while having fun,” said attendee Maurica Dooley, a lay member of First United Methodist Church in Forest City, Ark. “I’m part of a similar interracial, interdenominational group here in Arkansas. That workshop is going to help me to bring fresh ideas to our group.”

Another workshop, called The Pickling Parson, was led by the Rev. Stan Copeland, pastor of Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, who wrote a book by the same name.

“I appreciated Stan’s joining together of family history, theology, and ministry,” said Joyner. “It made for an inspiring model of putting your whole self into ministry.”

The Rev. Michelle Morris (M.Div. ’09, Ph.D. ’14) led a workshop on “Filming and Food.” Morris is pastor of First United Methodist Church of Bentonville, Ark. Along with parishioner Diane Morrison, she started a cooking show on YouTube called “Food and Faith with Diane.”

Morrison demonstrated how to prepare a charcuterie board and shared tips for inclusive hospitality, while Morris offered tips on the technical side of taping and editing a cooking program.

Spirituality and Eating

The Tuesday afternoon session on Spirituality and Eating was led by Norman Wirzba, a Duke University professor who writes about food and theology. He noted that many cultures and faith traditions offer grace or some sort of meditation before meals.

“What are we doing when we are eating?” he said. “It is a very important thing to think about. If you don’t eat, you die.”

Wirzba noted that this is the first generation in the history of the world in which people did not need to think of fishing or foraging or growing their own food.

“We need to recognize how new this situation is,” he said. “We have trained ourselves to think about food as a commodity … measured by metrics of convenience and price.”

Wirzba described the ways food plays a key role in the Christian faith. Christians have a meal at the heart of their liturgical practice.  Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

“Food is about bodies,” he said. “There’s no room here for dualistic faith or gnostic faith. Jesus shows us that bodies are important, which is why he is constantly among them, touching them.

Wirzba urged attendees to reflect gratefully and thoughtfully on where our food comes from.

“Food isn’t just stuff,” he said. “It isn’t just fuel. It’s the love of God at work. Which is why God is so upset when there are hungry people in the world and when the world is abused.”

Repeat Attenders

This year’s Fall Convocation drew attendees from six different states: Arkansas, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Texas. Funding for the event came in part from the Paul Elliott and Mildred Fryar Martin Lectureship in Practical Theology, the Jackson Lectureship in Bible, the Claudia and Taylor Robinson Lectureship and the W.W. Fondren Lectureship.  Fifteen attendees traveled from the Arkansas Conference to attend, thanks to funding from The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas, which covers tuition. (The Foundation also supports attendees to other Perkins external programs, including the Perkins School of Youth Ministry, the Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning, and Perkins’ Certificate for Spiritual Direction program.)

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the program every year,” said Dooley. “It’s an awesome, inspiring event to go and learn new things.  It’s just so uplifting and you meet the nicest people.”

Joyner has been attending Fall Convocations since graduating from Perkins in 1991.  A former instructor in Perkins’ Course of Study School (COSS) from 1996 to 2015, he’s currently serving two UMC congregations (First UMC and Hinton Ave. UMC) that together are known as the Charlottesville City Cooperative Parish.

“Perkins was such a formative experience for me that I have made it a point to come back as often as I could,” he said. “The opportunity to learn from top-notch presenters and to reconnect with the school are important to me.”

Bart Patton, Director of the Office of External Programs, which hosted the event, said that this year’s theme seemed to resonate with many attendees.

“The experience of sharing food together is a sacred one, and it’s a central part of communities of faith,” he said. “We were thrilled to offer this type of immersive transformational experience to our community of lifelong learners. It really doesn’t get more practical—or more theological—than examining something so fundamental as our eating.”

For Kathy Roberts, the two-day event delivered the inspiration and insights she’d hoped for.

“I felt so full and energized,” she said. “I smiled for two days.”

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Kristin Steed

Kristin Steed jokes that, the older she gets, the more pages it will take to chronicle the story of her call to ministry. The journey has been a bit circuitous, but she’s certain she’s on the right path.

Steed, 39, was raised in a non-denominational church but converted to Catholicism by the time she got to high school. After meeting her Southern Baptist husband in college, and marrying in 2009, they began attending Christ United Methodist Church in Plano.

“The Methodist church was good in-the-middle ground,” she said. “I liked the traditions; we both loved the sermons around grace.”

Steed earned an M.B.A. at the University of Texas at Dallas and worked in corporate marketing, handling social media for the Container Store. Her goal was to eventually work her way up to Chief Marketing Officer for a large company. Christ United was her after-hours passion; she and her husband joined an adult Sunday School class,

“That became our second family and our community,” she said.

Then her first child was born. Juggling work and family became too much. To have a more flexible schedule, Steed started freelancing, handling social media for small businesses. Soon the church asked her for help with social media posting. In 2018, she became the church’s Communications Director, and a few years later, Adult Ministry Coordinator.

“None of this was planned, at least not by our own admission,” she said. “But once I was on staff, I really embraced and loved it.”

A Clear Call

Steed remembers the date – September 8, 2019 – when she felt the first clear call to pastoral ministry. That was the day the church hosted a big event, called Belong, to engage members of the community in small groups. Steed volunteered to share her testimony and spoke during the service that day.

“Right after I sat down, sitting on the chancel, I heard a voice say, ‘You should do this,’” she recalled. “My initial response was, ‘Do what? You’re crazy.’”

She wasn’t ready to make a big change. She felt she could minister to others in other ways, by leading small groups or Bible studies.

“This call was in my heart, but I kept pushing it down — until the pandemic happened,” she said. “Once the outside world got quiet – I could not deny the call anymore.”

She confided these stirrings with her husband and her mom, but otherwise kept them to herself. But others sensed it. One day, she led a devotional at a staff meeting. Afterward, her pastor, the Rev. Chris Dowd (M.Div. ‘07) told her, “I keep wondering when you’re going to ask me about becoming a pastor.”

“That’s when I knew it was time to take the call seriously,” Steed said. “I talked to Perkins that following Friday.”

Courage over Comfort

Steed has a mantra, words from the author Brené Brown: “Choose courage over comfort. Choose whole hearts over armor. And choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid. At the exact same time.”

She embraced the new adventure and answered the call to ministry. Today, Steed is a second-year M.Div. student and a certified candidate as an elder in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

She feels a strong desire to preach and teach, but also believes her corporate background enriches her ministry. She’s especially passionate about the administrative and strategic pieces of church ministry.

Perkins was a clear choice, given its proximity to her home in Plano.

“Chris Dowd talked a lot about Dr. Roy Heller and Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles, and I’ve been intentional about taking their classes, which were incredible,” she said. “I’ve been in other master’s programs; at Perkins, I’m just amazed by the kindness and the humility of the faculty. That allows students to bring their curiosity and their vulnerabilities to this serious business we’re in.”

Family, work at the church and her studies fill Steed’s days. She and her husband, Trent, have been married 15 years, and have two children, Lyla and Nora.

“My daughters have both been extremely important in this process, as I’m studying,” she said. “They like to quiz me.”

Being a mom and a full-time student hasn’t been easy, but Steed has found support from a group of fellow students she met during orientation at Perkins. They’re all moms, and they’ve nicknamed themselves the “Seminary Sisters.” The women frequently share texts, photos and words of encouragement. They’ve even taken a day retreat together.

“These classmates have helped me get through seminary as a mom,” she said.

To recharge herself spiritually, Steed enjoys taking long walks with the family’s rescue dog, Lucy. “I try to do it without podcasts or music,” she said. “I just walk around the neighborhood and spend time with God.”

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Alumnus Profile: Brian Hehn

While he was a Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) student at Perkins, Brian Hehn helped the Hymn Society envision the organization’s work in its second century. Now, he’s working to make that vision a reality, as Director of the Hymn Society’s Center for Congregational Song.

Hehn (M.S.M. ‘12) served on the Hymn Society’s board in 2010-2012 as it grappled with a discernment process in anticipation of the organization’s 100th anniversary in 2022.

“I was kind of the token young person on the board,” he jokes. “Members of the board considered what the Hymn Society needed to do to thrive as an organization in its second century of existence, at a time when the church is in turmoil. We came up with a lot of great ideas on how to live out the mission going forward.”

Board members soon realized that the Hymn Society needed to expand its staff and ramp up programming to accomplish those goals, and to do that, money was needed. That led to the launch of an endowment campaign, which the Rev. John Thornburg (M.Div. ‘81) helped spearhead. (Thornburg was also named an honorary alumnus of the M.S.M. program in 2019.) That led to the creation of the Center for Congregational Song, and in 2015, Hehn was hired for serve as its first Director.

“The Center is the apostolic arm of the Hymn Society,” he said. “My job is basically to go out and make new friends. Find out who is doing good work in our field and connect them to the Hymn Society and also to help the Hymn Society learn from those folks. And doing all this while acknowledging that we are only a part of the church’s song and being as invitational and humble as possible as we go about that work.”

The job requires Hehn to work ecumenically. He interfaces regularly with church musicians, music directors, pastors and others in more than 50 traditions represented in the Hymn Society’s membership.

“One day I might find myself corresponding with an individual church and supporting them by connecting them to resources,” he said. “The next day I could find myself in a meeting at the denominational level. At a Hymn Society dinner, I might be at a table with someone who publishes congregational song, a hymnal editor, a hymn writer, a church musician or a pastor, all from different traditions: Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Mennonite or Brethren.

“Every day is different. But all the people I encounter love and understand the importance of the church’s song.”

Hehn frequently crosses paths with fellow Perkins M.S.M. graduates in his work, including the Rev. Dr. Cynthia A. Wilson, (M.S.M. ‘86) who leads the Junius B. Dotson Institute for Music and Worship in the Black Church and Beyond at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; and Diana Sanchez-Bushong (M.S.M. ‘86), who is Executive Director, Worship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries.

“I do a lot of denominational level stuff, and that field is chock full of Perkins MSM grads,” he said.

Resourcing is a big part of his job. If someone is looking for a resource that doesn’t exist, Hehn might help create one to fill the gap. As an example, he recently received a call from a pastor who was looking for a way for his congregation to pay royalties, as a means of reparations, whenever his church sings Negro spirituals. That led to the creation of the Hymn Society’s Reparations Royalties pilot project, a series of guidelines and other resources available online. The project was featured in January in a news report on NPR.

Working Ecumenically

Hehn loves the ecumenical aspect of his job. Ecumenism is a passion of his, inspired by an experience from his college days. As an undergraduate, he spent a summer in the Iona Community on the island of Iona in Scotland, “an international, ecumenical Christian movement working for justice and peace, the rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship,” according to the organization’s website.

“What I saw there was this vision and understanding of the church that was broader and more joyful than anything I’d experienced before,” he said. “It was then that I realized that I was being called to lead the church’s song, whatever that meant, and to understand and embrace how broad and diverse the church is. That’s what I’ve been pursuing for the 15 years since.”

Today, Hehn jokes that he’s “denominationally promiscuous.” He grew up in a Presbyterian church, attended a United Methodist seminary, and as his second job, serves as Director of Adult Discipleship and Liturgical Worship at a Lutheran (ELCA) church in the Baltimore area.

Anchoring him through his busy schedule is his family: wife Eve, 8-year-old son Jakob and 1-year old daughter Clara.  In fact, Hehn considers coaching Jakob’s soccer team as one of his primary spiritual disciplines.

“I run around on a field with little kids,” he said. “It reminds me that a lot of things are more important in life than whatever I’m stressed about.”

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Faculty News

New Book by Bill Lawrence  

Wipf & Stock Publishers recently released When the Church Woke, a new book by William B. Lawrence, professor of American Church History and former dean of Perkins. The book examines “the combination of racism and white supremacy that has been woven into the fabric of the church to the degree that one cannot discuss the church in America apart from this sin,” in particular, in American Methodism and The United Methodist Church. “When the Church Woke is critical but not cynical,” writes Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the UMC’s General Board of Church and Society. “In this extraordinary theological and historical critique of the United Methodist Church in the U.S., Lawrence presents a church that stands at the crossroads of a deeply rooted racist past and a future with the possibility of exercising judgment and forgiveness to overcome the racial crisis that the church has too long ignored.”

George Mason Op-Ed

The Dallas Morning News recently published an essay titled “Religion and science must come together to fight climate challenges,” written by the Rev. George A. Mason. He’s adjunct professor at Perkins and senior pastor emeritus of Wilshire Baptist Church. The op-ed highlighted the global ecological crisis as an existential threat that calls for all sectors of society to work together, including religious leaders and scientists. “The global ecological clock is ticking, and we are running out of time to reverse the devastating effects of human behavior on the planet,” Mason wrote. “Every religion must draw upon its own spiritual teachings to contribute to this effort to bend the curve of opinion toward ecological conservation.” The op-ed was published in conjunction with the Nov. 1 event at Perkins that gathered faith leaders for a symposium, “Confronting Our Global Ecological Crisis,” sponsored by the Museum of World Religions. Dallas Morning News subscribers may read the column online here.

David Wilson Elected Bishop

Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.

The Rev. David Wilson was elected as bishop in The United Methodist Church’s South Central Jurisdictional Conference on Nov. 2, becoming the denomination’s first Native American bishop.

Wilson has been the assistant to the bishop for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference (OIMC) since 2021, following 19 years as a conference superintendent. He was lead coordinator for the North Oklahoma City Native American Ministry for eight years, following eight years as a pastor of a church in Norman, Oklahoma. He served seven years as director of promotions/interpretations for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, after serving as pastor of a church in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and campus minister for the Native American Campus Ministry program at Northeastern State University. Wilson has served as a long-time instructor with Perkins’ Course of Study School (COSS) at the conference.  Read the story here.

Hunt on International Zoom

The Rev. Dr. Robert Hunt, Director of Global Theological Education, was part of an international Zoom on “Indigenous Christian Art: Building Bridges Between Gospel and Culture,” held November 26. The program was co-sponsored the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges, and Universities (IAMSCU) and the Asia Pacific Association of Methodist Educational Institutions (APAMEI.)

December 2022 News Perspective Online

Alumni/ae Updates: December 2022

Space at the Table

Photo by Sam Hodges, UM News.

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

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

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

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

Owen Ross in Africa

Photo courtesy of the Africa University Public Affairs Office.

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

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

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

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

Read the UM News story here.

Interim Pastor Profiled

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

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

Bishop Saenz to North Texas

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

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

Schwerin Elected Bishop

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

Vickers Named to Abraham Chair

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

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

Obituary: The Rev. Isabel Gomez III

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

Obituary: The Rev. Nancy Drake

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

Obituary: The Rev. Ramon Womack 

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

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