June 2020 News Perspective Online

A Message from Dean Hill: June 2020

I have watched and re-watched a video produced for our graduates this year, especially the testimonies from our graduating students concerning what their study and formation at Perkins have meant to them (more on this below). A time of crisis can reveal nascent values, commitments and capacities. In the midst of the profound tragedies and unexpected challenges of COVID-19, we at Perkins School of Theology have held tightly to our mission to teach, study and prepare students for faithful leadership. We have learned to adapt and innovate while teaching, celebrating the graduating Class of 2020 and preparing for summer courses – all online.

Like thousands of other schools, we shifted abruptly to teaching entirely online in March. Virtual study halls were created for students to be in community and conversation as they concluded the semester. A new Perkins Virtual Community Facebook group was created to share joys, opportunities, events, recipes, art, poetry and even parody songs. Faculty and staff were invited to share lunches over Zoom and enjoy “happy hour” fellowship, including trivia night. The governance work continued with weekly meetings of administrators and regular online faculty meetings. The Office of External Programs added new digital offerings, including a series for youth workers during COVID-19 and a webinar series with Prof. Jack Levison.

With commencement ceremonies postponed until August, we looked for creative ways to celebrate the achievements of the Class of 2020. The Graduating Seniors Worship Service is a long-standing tradition at Perkins, but in 2020 it was wholly conducted over Zoom. In addition, we also had an end-of-the-year virtual gathering of the community in which we recognized retirees, presented awards to students and premiered the aforementioned video with words from some of our graduates and blessings from our faculty and staff. This year, each graduate also received a special gift in the mail as a tangible reminder of their time at Perkins.

Naturally, all courses were shifted to online for the summer, including Dallas-based classes, Houston-Galveston classes and the Course of Study. The creative hybrid design of the Houston-Galveston program has provided a significant foundation for our online teaching. I deeply appreciate the integrity and effort demonstrated by both faculty and students that have allowed us to continue our educational mission safely during this challenging season.

Perkins School of Theology covets your prayers as we continue to join together for teaching and learning, worship and song, study and celebration. We remain joyful in and grateful for our connections – whether virtual or face-to-face.



June 2020 News

Office of Enrollment Management: Ready for Applications Fall and Spring

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

Much is uncertain these days. But Perkins’ Office of Enrollment Management stands ready to receive applications for the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. Please take every advantage to share this information with your constituencies.

As we navigate the concerns relating to COVID-19, we have shifted to a Zoom meeting format. We’re committed to ensuring that prospective students receive the information they need as they discern their calls to ministry and make important decisions about their theological education. Members of the Perkins community – alumni, faculty and students – have been helpful in sending us referrals. Rest assured that your referrals are handled promptly and thoroughly by our able and professional staff.

Note the opportunities below:

Caleb Palmer

Virtual Experience with Perkins Dean Hill
Thursday, June 18, Noon – 12:40 p.m.
Hosted by Associate Dean Margot Perez-Greene

Experience the cultural community of Perkins by Presentation and Q&A with the dean

Ministry Discernment Conversation
Wednesday, July 1, Noon – 1 p.m.
Hosted by Perkins Ministry Discernment Associates Caleb Palmer and Sam Stewart

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or bring your lunch while we discuss “calls to ministry” with current Perkins students

Samantha Stewart

Houston-Galveston Virtual Experience
Wednesday, July 1, 7 – 8 p.m.
Hosted by Perkins Ministry Discernment Associates Caleb Palmer and Sam Stewart

Settle-in to learn more about the great opportunities available in this popular hybrid format offering both the Master of Arts in Ministry and Master of Divinity graduate degrees that do not require relocating

Prospective students can register here for these events:

Thank you for your continued prayers for the future of Perkins. We appreciate all that you are doing to be of encouragement during these very unusual times for higher education and for seminaries in particular.


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

June 2020 News

Office of Development: End-of-the-Year Endeavors

This has been the most unusual academic year! Who would have thought that we would be “locked down” from March 16 to the end of the semester?

In spite of the difficulties, our faculty pivoted quickly and began to teach online. Students adapted to a new educational reality. Staff members worked remotely and were able to accomplish their tasks. Like you, we carried on in new and uncharted ways.

Undoubtedly, your world changed as much as ours did. We all accomplished things that we never had before, and that we never imagined we would ever do.

Because of the necessity to meet in virtual spaces, major modifications were quickly put in place. Let me mention just a few:

  • Margot Perez-Greene, and her outstanding team of enrollment personnel, quickly adapted to an online format for the popular program for prospective students, called Inside Perkins. The change allowed even more prospective students to join the gatherings.
  • Assistant Dean Tracy Anne Allred organized a series of chat sessions with graduating students. The Class of 2020 has been deprived of normal graduation activities, and those sessions allowed our graduates an opportunity to share their frustrations and triumphs during this unique time.
  • Perkins organized an online senior worship service for graduates and families. Another session was arranged for announcing the special awards, which are normally presented during graduation.
  • Currently, commencement activities for Perkins and the University are scheduled for the weekend of August 14 and 15.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put a severe financial strain on Perkins School of Theology. Most of the extra expenses revolve around helping students in more ways than we might in normal times. We have students, and spouses of students, who have been laid off from their jobs. Some of those jobs will disappear permanently. Our student emergency fund is stretched to the limit. Current scholarship funds available for next year won’t cover all of the needs of our students.

Our fiscal year has just begun. I am asking all of our alumni and friends to help us begin the year with a strong start. Please be involved with this effort.

Donations for the SMU Fund for Perkins and the Student Scholarship Fund can be made on the Perkins giving page at Those two funds are the top designations in the drop-down menu. It is those funds that we need to fill.

If donating by check, it should be made payable to “SMU” with the fund designation on the notation line. Our mailing address is:

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

Please join in helping students during this extraordinary time of need. Future leaders, who are being trained at Perkins, need your help.

Thank you in advance.

John A. Martin
Director of Development

June 2020 News

Perkins Responds

Members of the Perkins community are actively joining the nationwide conversation about racial justice, following the news of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis on Monday and the resulting protests.

Several alumni participated in an afternoon prayer vigil May 31 in front of the Dallas Police Station, including the Rev. Paul Rasmussen (M.Div. ’04), who offered the prayer and invited all present to kneel. Rasmussen is Senior Minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas.

The Rev. George Mason, Senior Pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas and lead advisor of the Perkins Baptist House of Studies, offered the prayer at the close of Saturday’s online “Conversation with Community Leaders and Local Law Enforcement” sponsored by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

“Today I stopped distracting myself,” said current student Julian Hobdy in a statement via Facebook. “Today I cried.” Hobdy is Justice in Action chairperson for the Perkins Student Association.

Perkins alumnus R. DeAndre Johnson (M.S.M. ’08), pastor of music and worship life at Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, Texas, offered his own protest hymn, “It Is Enough!” His performance of his text and minor key melody quickly attracted 19,000 Facebook views and hundreds of Facebook shares. Other churches did their own versions on Pentecost Sunday. Read the UMNS article here.

SMU’s President, R. Gerald Turner, also issued a statement on the unfolding events.

“Our SMU community grieves with the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor,” he said. For many in our University, these deaths are intensely personal and salt to ancient wounds.” Read the full statement here.

Dean Craig C. Hill offered these words via email to Perkins faculty and staff, reminding them of Perkins’ historic commitment to racial justice as well as the work that still needs to be done.

Dear Perkins community,

I have been filled with so many emotions–disgust, indignation, discouragement, and shame–following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Of course, this is on top of the recent and equally senseless murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, and consistent with the deplorable history of discrimination and violence toward people of color in America.

If the Covid-19 pandemic should have taught us anything, it is how fully interconnected we all are. I already had in mind Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 12:26: “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it.” How much more true that seems now. None of us is walled off from and unblemished by this country’s many and profound failures to live up to its ideal of equality and justice for all.

In this moment, we who are members of Perkins School of Theology are torchbearers of the legacy of those who were pioneers for social justice, including racial equality.  Almost 68 years ago, in 1952, it was Perkins that led the way for transformation and desegregation of Southern Methodist University with the admission of the first five African Americans into the University.  The voices for justice for George Floyd in Dallas this weekend included a number of Perkins alumni/ae, both in prayer vigils in front of the Dallas Police Station and via Zoom gatherings with city leaders Saturday night.  Across the country, we know that this is echoed in the voices and actions of many Perkins alums.

It should go without saying that the Gospel and racism are antithetical. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20)  There is no better test of genuine spirituality than one’s capacity to reach out to, to serve, to love, those different from oneself.  Surely, everyone associated with Perkins knows this, but it cannot hurt to remind ourselves at such a time of our core commitments.

Let us continue to stand up for what is true and, especially, to stand with the members of our community who are most hurt, most threatened, and most grieved at this time. We need to support them in any way we can.

Grace and peace,
Dean Craig C. Hill


June 2020 News

Program Pioneer: First Doctor of Pastoral Music Graduate

Five years ago, Kevin Turner was looking to further his education while continuing in his position as pastor of Worship and Music at Davidson United Methodist Church in Davidson, North Carolina. Ideally, he wanted a doctoral program that would blend study in his two interests, theology and music. A friend at Discipleship Ministries urged him to call Michael Hawn at Perkins. The rest is history.

On May 16, 2020, Turner became the first student to earn a Doctor of Pastoral Music (D.P.M.) from Perkins, or from anywhere else, for that matter. When he enrolled in 2016, Turner joined the first cohort of Perkins’ brand-new D.P.M., the only degree program of its kind.

“The intersection of theology and music in Perkins’ D.P.M. program worked well for me,” Turner said. “I needed help synthesizing and merging them together.”

The D.P.M. is a professional, nonresidential doctorate for the church musician and follows a schedule similar to that of Perkins’ Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program. Students travel to the Dallas campus twice a year, in January and in June, for one or two weeks of residential study. The remaining coursework is completed online.

Hawn is director of the Doctor of Pastoral Music program – and its founder.

“Given the rapidly changing vocation of music and arts ministry, the D.P.M. takes a missional approach,” said Hawn, who is also University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music. “The focus is getting out of the building and into the community. Folks are not clamoring to come to our special programs inside the church building like they once did.”

The Best Option

Turner had weighed other options, including a D.Min., Doctor of Sacred Music (D.S.M.) and Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.). Having just finished the ordination process to become a deacon, and with a master’s degree under his belt, the D.P.M. offered the right mix of theology and music. Plus, Turner has a young family in North Carolina, so the twice-a-year residential schedule worked well.

“I felt there was great value in the study I’d done toward ordination, and my church wanted me to keep learning,” he said.

Turner also appreciates the connections with students in Perkins’ D.Min. program, which shares four common courses with D.P.M. students.

“This is a unique opportunity – for musicians and pastors to be in the same classes talking about vocation on an equal footing,” said Hawn.

Turner forged friendships in the early days of the program with Tommy Shapard, who expects to complete a D.P.M. by 2021, and Celia Halfacre (M.Div. ‘09, D.Min. ‘19), who completed her studies last year. The value of those friendships became poignantly evident recently, when Shapard contracted COVID-19. He sent a recorded video with words of love and farewell to Turner and Halfacre, after doctors informed him he’d be put in a medically induced coma and on a ventilator within the hour. (As it turned out, he was moved to the ICU and treated with a cocktail of drugs instead of the ventilator.)

“Thankfully, Tommy is now recovering,” Turner said. “But I know I’ll treasure these relationships for years to come.”

Turner completed a thesis, “The World Is About to Turn: Imagining a New Ecclesiology for Emerging Adults through Missional Music Ministry.” His academic study was spurred by his experience in creating a ministry to engage young adults in 2008, after many in his congregation had returned home after college due to the economic downturn.

“At first, I did what I always did, which was to invite them to join a choir and come to rehearsal,” he said. “It wasn’t working. These were people who were trying to figure out their faith as adults. They taught me a new way to be a leader, and how to allow others to be leaders. My thesis looked at ways to apply these lessons in other ways in broader music ministry.”

Hawn says that that kind of future-oriented academic research is what he’s encouraging D.P.M. students to pursue. Students’ theses will be posted on the D.P.M. website as a repository that he hopes will generate further research and innovative thinking.

“This is not a program for people who just want to add a ‘Dr.’ in front of their name,” he said. “I want the D.P.M. to develop a cadre of professional church musicians in the next 10 years that have given serious thought about what it takes to renew the vocation.”

About the Doctor of Pastoral Music Degree

The degree program was the brainchild of Hawn.

“I wanted something that fell in the niche between what everyone else was doing,” he said. “It couldn’t be a residential program demanding four or five years away from the job for a practicing church musician.”

At a time when some seminaries’ music programs are shutting down, launching a program for a brand-new degree was not easy. Hawn spent nearly 10 years, and three tries, before finally winning accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in 2015. John Martin, Perkins’ Director of Development, had worked with ATS for years and provided helpful assistance.

Hawn adds that he works closely in partnership with Jim Lee, Associate Professor of the History of Early Christianity and Director of the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program.

“Providentially, as I established the D.P.M., it turned out that the D.Min. program was heading in a direction that was extremely complementary, becoming more focused on missional ministry – engaging the community outside of the building,” Hawn said. “A key question I’m constantly asking our D.P.M. students: ‘What would music and arts ministry look like in your situation if 50 percent of it took place outside the building?’”

Christopher Anderson, Associate Professor of Sacred Music, and Marcell Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music Program, also teach and bring additional gifts and experience to the D.P.M. curriculum in music history, composition, ethnomusicology and congregational song.

To apply for the D.P.M., prospective students must have a Master of Sacred Music (M.S.M.) (48 hours) or equivalent. Those with only a Master of Music (36 hours) must complete additional work in biblical, theological, liturgical and hymnological studies to qualify.

“Unlike a Ph.D. or Doctor of Musical Arts, the program does not require languages or comprehensive exams and involves different thesis requirements,” said Hawn.

The D.P.M. requires five years between the time when the applicant earns his or her master’s degree, ensuring that students bring a depth of knowledge and practical experience.

“That enlivens the conversation and ensures that the courses are interactive,” Hawn said. “There’s more of a balance between what I teach them directly and what they learn in conversation with one another. The students find a lot of commonality in their vocation.”

The students in the program come from a range of backgrounds – geographically, culturally and denominationally. (Meet the students here.) Three current students fly in from Asia. With the addition of the incoming 2020 cohort of seven students, the student body will include Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic and Methodist students.

“It’s a diverse group, but they’re all trying to reinvent what this vocation of church music and arts and worship in the life of the church and its ministry looks like,” Hawn said. “It needs to reinvent, not only for economic survival but also to be more effective.”

The recent experience with the pandemic, which forced churches to move worship and other gatherings online, has only emphasized the profession’s need for innovation.

“It raised questions of, ‘What does it mean to be gathered?’” Hawn said. “Among the students in the program, they’ve adapted with tremendous ingenuity and pastoral sensitivity. I don’t think church will ever go back entirely to what it once was. The question becomes, how do we incorporate what we’ve learned from the pandemic, without just adding new stuff to our church programming?”

To learn more, visit the D.P.M. website:

For more information about the application process, visit:

June 2020 News

Off the Beaten Path: Nontraditional Ministries

Many students gravitate to Perkins as a path to parish ministry. But these three students are pursuing alternative ways to serve – and, they say, they’ve found a supportive environment at Perkins that’s helping them along the way.

Collin Yarbrough: Full Circle Bakery

Collin Yarbrough’s innovative ministry is based on a delicious concept: bake cookies and help others. Since 2012, he has been doing just that with a “for purpose” business called Full Circle Bakery. The bakery sources ingredients from Texas, as much as possible, to make cookies.
Proceeds from the sales of snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies (to name a few) go “full circle” back into nonprofit organizations in Texas.

“Supporting local businesses and local nonprofits gives us a sense of pride in our cookies, knowing not only do they taste good, they ultimately serve organizations providing crucial community services for those in need,” Yarbrough said.

After graduating in 2011 from Clarkson University with a dual degree in engineering, Yarbrough initially had little luck finding a job.

“I was frustrated because I had checked all the boxes, done all the right things and still couldn’t find a job,” he said. After praying for direction, “this very clear voice said to me, ‘I want you to start a nonprofit bakery.’” He teamed up with his mother, and soon, Full Circle Bakery was born. The bakery operated out of his family’s home until 2018, when Full Circle began renting commercial kitchen space at Gaston Christian Center in East Dallas.

Along the way, Collin got involved in Citysquare, an urban ministry in Dallas, and “I really fell in love with the way they approached fighting the root causes of poverty here in the city.”
That led to a partnership in 2016 with Citysquare, teaching baking skills to participants in Citysquare’s Culinary Workpaths program.

“They’re providing opportunities for people to get skills that will get them jobs with a trajectory,” he said. “When they jump into a kitchen, they have the ability to earn a living wage and really make some changes in their lives.”

Yarbrough did work as a pipeline engineer after graduation until April 2019, when he turned his full-time focus on the bakery and his part-time studies in Perkins’ M.T.S. program.

“The flexibility of the program was very attractive to me,” he said. “As a bakery owner and nonprofit owner, there are a lot of other skills I need outside of my theological training. What we’re really trying to do is to enhance how the bakery operates as a ministry to the least of these in Dallas.”

Thanks to that flexibility, he was able to take a course on Context and Impact of Design, offered through SMU’s Master of Arts in Design and Innovation (MADI) program.

“There’s no shortage of options at Perkins to engage in a broad range of ministry options,” Yarbrough said. “There are a lot of students who are studying to become pastors, but there’s also a ton of us who are doing what feels like wild and crazy things. That’s really exciting to me.”

Justin Barringer: Diapers Etc.

Diapers Etc. works like a food pantry – but instead of food, it provides disposable diapers and other hygiene items to low-income families in East Dallas.

Barringer, a student in the graduate program in Religious Studies, leads this ministry at White Rock United Methodist Church’s missional campus, Owenwood Farm and Neighbor Space. Families visit the last Saturday each month to pick up diapers, feminine hygiene products, creams, wipes and other sanitary items.

Barringer and his wife, Rachel, discovered the idea while living in Kentucky. After seeing a news story about a diaper pantry that had been robbed, they started their own small diaper ministry there.

“We became passionate about the idea,” he said. “There aren’t government programs that provide diapers. If you don’t have disposable diapers, you can’t get your kids into subsidized daycare. If you can’t get daycare, you can’t work. There’s a whole constellation of problems that you help solve just by giving people diapers and hygiene products.”

The couple brought the idea to Dallas when they moved here for SMU. During the pandemic, the program is operating on a “drive-through” basis, but during normal times, families coming to pick up diapers can also take advantage of other services: health services, library services and assistance in signing up for food stamps, health insurance and other government benefits. McDonald’s has provided free breakfasts, and the North Texas Food Bank’s mobile food pantry, with fresh produce, has participated in the Saturday events. In December, there was a toy giveaway. The diaper pantry also creates opportunities for building community, Barringer adds.

“People from all over the place in our immediate area are coming and getting to know one another,” he said. “We started this about 2-1/2 years ago, and now we distribute about 20,000 diapers to about 200 families every month.”

Barringer says he has no ambitions to become ordained but is fascinated with the idea of unconventional ministry. He and Rachel also co-host Rogue Ministry Podcast, which interviews creative ministry leaders from around the world to help listeners create and sustain faithful ministries. (The May 27 episode, COVID and Being a Good Neighbor, featured the Rev. Kristina Roth-Klinck (M.Div. ’20) and her husband, Ryan Roth-Klinck (M.Div. ’18), on the topic of what it means to be a good neighbor in a time of social distancing.) At SMU, Barringer said, he feels supported on that path.

He cites the flexibility of Perkins’ internship program as another source of creative inspiration.

“Perkins interns who have come here to WRUMC and Owenwood are given a lot of leeway,” he said. “They’re not just expected to shadow a pastor. Instead, the program’s approach is, ‘What would you like to try? We’ll do our best to back you.’”

Barringer adds that the presence of many second-career students at Perkins and SMU helps foster innovation.

“Students bring knowledge of business, social work, law, whatever it is they came from,” he said. “It’s a really good incubator for folks of different backgrounds and skills to come together.”

Cheryl Roseborough: Self Esteem Elevated

Cheryl Roseborough’s purpose in life is to help people live life on purpose with purpose – as God intended. That’s the mission of Self Esteem Elevated (SEE), a nonprofit ministry dedicated to spiritual education, empowerment and prayer that began 14 years ago.

“SEE empowers women and men, from a faith-based perspective, to walk in the purpose that God has intended for them,” she said. “It’s about knowing your worth, knowing you’re not invisible and knowing that God sees you, and really getting to the core of what issues you’re having with your self-esteem so you can push past them.”

Roseborough initially focused on ministering to women, but in the last few years has involved men who’ve expressed an interest in the prayer calls and other events she offers. She now has a weekly podcast, called Elevated Life: Wisdom That Transforms, which can be heard on all podcast outlets. She has hosted a quarterly event, called Naomi Speaks, which gathers female entrepreneurs and corporate executives for prayer breakfasts and mutual encouragement. With the pandemic putting a pause on all live events, the platform moved to their live-streaming channel,, which officially launches on July 15.

“This has been an amazing platform for women in business to share insight and wisdom on living life with purpose,” she said. “These women are open, honest and transparent in sharing their stories of redemption.”

Roseborough completed her M.A.M., with an emphasis on Spiritual Direction, in May. She came to Perkins to get a solid academic grounding for her ministry.

“Perkins helped me to go deeper into the Word, contextually and systematically. I now look at Scripture through a different lens,” she said.

Roseborough’s journey to this ministry began in 1999, when she suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of her third child. She turned to her home church in Tulsa, OK, for support and healing. With that support, she found the courage to come back to Dallas and eventually launch her own advertising agency in 2000. Blyss Agency creates brand experiences for influential, culturally diverse consumers among luxury clients such as BBVA, Park Place Lexus, Hendricks Gin and others. Having her own business, in turn, gave her the flexibility to devote time to Self Esteem Elevated.

“I started this in 2006 in my home with 22 women who were encouraging me, and many of them still support me to this day,” she said. “We believe everyone has the ability to walk in healing and wholeness.”

Roseborough’s passion for helping women extends beyond Self Esteem Elevated. For the past 11 years, she has hosted an annual dinner, called Launch A Legacy, benefiting families of Brighter Tomorrows, a shelter for women affected by domestic abuse. For that, she was honored in 2018 as Brighter Tomorrows’ Volunteer of the Year.

Roseborough says struggles in her own life have given her a passion to help others who find themselves in periods of difficulty.

“People are looking for hope,” she said. “God has allowed SEE to be the hope for those who have and may have never stepped into the four walls of the church. I want to encourage everyone and make sure people have that connection to God daily so they live a life of wholeness. That is the heart of what we do.”

June 2020 News

End of Year Gathering

It wasn’t held at Highland Park United Methodist Church, as in past years, but the End of the Year Gathering for the graduating Class of 2020 had its own unique and memorable moments. More than 150 faculty, students, friends and family members assembled virtually on Thursday, May 14, via Zoom to honor Perkins’ graduating seniors and outstanding current students.

Organized by Perkins’ Office of Student Life and Community Engagement, the End of the Year Gathering was a new event this year, replacing the Celebration of Degrees and Academic Achievement service normally held at HPUMC on the same day as the university-wide commencement.

“We wanted to hold a gathering celebrated with the seniors and current students before they move on to their places of ministry,” said Tracy Anne Allred, Assistant Dean of Student Life.

The program also presented recognitions to outstanding staff and faculty and bid farewell to two retiring members of the Perkins community: Sally Hoover, Interlibrary Loan and Reserves Assistant in Perkins’ Bridwell Library, and D. Max Whitfield, Perkins’ Bishop in Residence since 2012, who retires in August. Dean Craig Hill compared Bishop Whitfield to the Paraclete described in the Gospel of John.

“The Paraclete is the one called alongside to stand with you as a comforter and counselor,” he said. “Bishop Whitfield has done all these things for me. He is a wonderfully kind, generous, giving individual, and no one will miss him more than I will.”

Perkins faculty presented the following honors to selected students:

The Dr. and Mrs. J. P. Bray Award in Hebrew, given to the student who ranks highest in Hebrew scholarship: Nicholas (Nick) McRae

The Charles C. Selecman Award in New Testament Greek, given to the student who ranks highest in New Testament Greek scholarship: Weston Combs and Tim Clifford

The Charley T. and Jesse James Bible Awards, awarded to students on the basis of academic achievement in biblical courses and overall scholastic performance. Ranked recipients were 1) Stephen Lashley; 2) Kaylea Fleming Van Wettering; and 3) Kristina Roth-Klinck

The W.B.J. Martin Award in Homiletics, given in recognition of the most outstanding student in the introductory preaching classes: Paul Bussert and Jennifer Gros

The Paul W. Quillian Award in Homiletics, given to students who have presented the best-written sermon: Kaylee Vida

The William K. McElvaney Preaching Award, given to a student who has presented the best written sermon on a public issue, which includes a social crisis, a controversial issue or a chronic social problem: Jennifer Kilpatrick

The Robert Weatherford Prize for Internship Preaching, established to honor the distinguished service of Robert Weatherford to the United Methodist Foundation and given to Master of Divinity students for excellence in preaching during internships:Nerissa Grigsby and Jeremiah Johns

The Bert Affleck Award, given to a student for Creativity in Ministry during internship: Elizabeth Gallardo

The Jerry W. Hobbs Award in Worship, established in memory of United Methodist layman Jerry Hobbs and awarded to a student who has demonstrated academic excellence in worship combined with personal commitment to the worship life of the Perkins community during his or her time here: Garth Baker-Fletcher

The Fellowship Seminarian Award, established by The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts and given to a graduating seminary student who displays outstanding leadership in music and/or worship arts, including but not limited to dance, drama, fabric art and liturgical writing: Madison Garcia

The Jane Marshall Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Leadership in Christian Worship, funded by a gift from Jane and Elbert Marshall and given to a Master of Divinity or Master of Theological Studies student who has demonstrated excellence in the study and practice of Christian liturgy and worship: Victoria (Vicki) Wood

The Hoyt Hickman Award for Outstanding Liturgical Scholarship and Practice, awarded by The Order of St. Luke to the student who has demonstrated quality scholarship in the study of liturgy and proven an effective leader of Christian worship: Nicholas (Nick) McRae

The Master of Sacred Music Award, given to senior M.S.M. students who rank highest in scholarship and service to the community: Sarah Bilaye-Benibo

The Roger Deschner Prize in Sacred Music, established in memory of Roger Deschner, longtime professor of sacred music at Perkins. The prize is given to continuing M.S.M. students who excel in academic work, musical abilities and overall achievement in the M.S.M. program: Allison Shutt

The Albert C. Outler Award in Theology, awarded to the student contributing the most outstanding essays in theology during the academic year: Dukwhan David Kim

The Phillip Schaff Prize in Church History, named after the founder of the American Society of Church History, established by Klaus Penzel and awarded to students who have demonstrated excellence in the historical study of Christianity while participating in courses in church history: Weston Combs

The Karis Stahl Fadely Award, presented to students who exhibit the qualities which were exemplified by Karis Fadely: commitment to Jesus Christ and to the total ministry and mission of the church; responsibility in assigned tasks; ability to excel in a wide range of ministerial functions; and use and management of time: Anna Bundy, Katie Eichler, Nerissa Grigsby, Paul Meiller, Dayimi Pimentel

The B’nai B’rith Award in Social Ethics, given by the Harold M. Kaufman Memorial Foundation to students on the basis of scholarly competence in the field of Social Ethics and personal commitment as shown in voluntary activity in support of worthy social causes: Shandon Klein, Zachary Hughes

The Harry Hosier Spirit Award, established by Perkins alumnus the Rev. Dr. Henry Masters, and given to a graduating student who best exemplifies the spirit of Harry Hosier expressed in what is described as his “elocution of faith: I sing by faith, preach by faith, pray by faith and do everything by faith”: Kathy Hines

The Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Flinn Senior Award, given to that member of the graduating class who, in the judgment of the faculty, best exemplifies the aims of the school and the church for its ministry: Kristina Roth-Klinck

Other student awards presented included:

Bishop Hardt Award. The Bishop John Wesley Hardt Award, established by the Perkins Student Association in 1998 in honor of the Bishop in Residence, John Wesley Hardt, and given to students who are involved at Perkins in community life, worship and student government, in the local church and in their community: Rosedanny Ortiz and Carlene Barbeau

The Elsa Cook Award was presented to Kathy Hines. Established by the students of Perkins School of Theology upon Elsa Cook’s retirement, the award is given each year to the senior student recognized by fellow students to have actively participated in a variety of Perkins Community activities during his or her academic stay at Perkins and to have made a significant contribution to the building of community life and spirit of the campus. The award is made in recognition of the outstanding contribution to student and community life by Elsa Cook during the many years she was secretary to the Counselor to Students.

Two staff members were also recognized. Laura Figura, Coordinator of Student Life, received the Warrene Nettles Award, given to a staff member for significant contribution to community life at Perkins. The Faculty Senate Outstanding Staff Award was presented to Connie Nelson.

Special degree recognition was given to Sabina Hulem, who completed a Master of Education in Student Development and Leadership in Higher Education, as well as a graduate-level Academic Advising Certificate from Angelo State University. Hulem is the administrative assistant to  Alyce McKenzie in the Center for Preaching Excellence.

One of the highlights of the event was the premiere of a video featuring brief reflections from graduating seniors as well as words of wisdom from faculty. Many expressed appreciation for the support they’ve received and the faculty that nurtured, challenged and inspired them. Kathy Hines recalled a “three-hour class that felt like 15 minutes” taught by Hal Recinos. Frederick Mensah expressed appreciation for last-minute financial assistance that allowed him to complete his degree. Macie Liptoi (M.Div. ‘20) showed off a tattoo acquired in Bethlehem during an immersion trip to the Holy Land.

Faculty and staff also offered words of wisdom and farewell. Andy Keck shared a brief clip of “Jesus Loves Me” sung by his three grandchildren who call him “G-man.” Wearing his robes and holding a pitcher and bowl, Mark Stamm invited students to “Remember your baptism and be thankful.” Ruben Habito reminded students that “You are beloved. Just love in return, for a whole lifetime.” Dean Craig Hill concluded the video in cap and gown, inviting graduating students to picture themselves on the floor of Moody Coliseum, where Commencement normally takes place, and then formally “presented” the graduates to a photo of President R. Gerald Turner.

“Something I’ve learned at Perkins is that there’s always more to learn,” said graduating senior Kaylea Fleming Van Wettering in the video. “You don’t have to have everything figured out right away. But keep your mind and your heart open to the next thing that God’s going to be teaching you and to the next place that he’ll take you.

Watch the video here.

June 2020 News

Graduate Worship Service

“This is not how we expected today to go,” said Madison Garcia, “yet here we are.”

With those words, Garcia opened the Perkins Graduate Worship Service, held May 15 via Zoom, with Prof. Alyce McKenzie preaching. Nearly 100 students, faculty, family and friends were in attendance for the virtual worship service.

The program was organized by members of the Senior Class worship committee, which included Kathy Hines, Joyce Vanderlip, Sumesh Jacob, Cheryl Roseborough, Nick McRae, Ellen Chimowa, Macie Liptoi and Kristina Roth-Klinck.

Chris Anderson led the opening hymn, “The Summons,” followed by the Call to Worship by Nick McRae. Sumesh Jacob offered an opening prayer, saying, “Bless all who have answered your call and are now graduating into your sacred service,” followed by a spoken hymn, “A Charge to Keep I Have,” led by Kathy Hines.

McKenzie’s sermon, “Somebody’s Calling,” was based on Proverbs 8:1-11 (The Call of Wisdom) and Matthew 16:13-28 (Peter’s declaration of Jesus as Messiah and Jesus’ saying about losing one’s life to find it). It was inspired by an interview she did a few weeks before with Robin Lovin, Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics Emeritus at SMU, as part of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence at SMU’s video series, “What’s a Preacher to Do?”

She encouraged graduates to think deeply about the meaning of calling. She shared the story of a new Perkins student, who dismissed his previous career as a music teacher and band director as insignificant and unimportant. By contrast, she talked about Jerry, a cashier who works in her local grocery store. After she thanked him for coming to work in the midst of the pandemic, Jerry replied, “I have always known that I am an essential worker. And now the whole world knows!”

Jerry had it right, McKenzie said.

“All Christians have a vocation or calling … not just clergy or monastics,” she said. “A job done in service of God and others can be an important source of meaning in our lives.”

Recent attention to frontline workers – from grocery cashiers to nurses working in COVID-19 wards in hospitals – leads us to reconsider notions about calling, and what’s important.

“Vocations or callings have different functions,” she said. “But they all make a contribution. Each involves a summons, makes a contribution and carries with it a cross.”

McKenzie urged graduating students to remember that as they leave Perkins.

“You are at a crossroads – just graduating,” she said. “I can picture your minds bursting with all that you’ve learned. Here you are with all this knowledge. But nobody counted on COVID-19 … Yet we can be empowered to lead even as we have a moment of existential consternation” like Peter’s when, after confessing his faith in Jesus, he was confronted with the reality that discipleship entails sacrifice.

An important calling of all Christians, she added, is to shine a light on areas where the callings of others are not honored, due to racism, homophobia and vocational elitism. This is an important part of our work toward the healing of the world.

“Your vocation is to honor the vocation of others,” she said.

The service concluded with a prayer by Jimmy Calvert, special music by Sarah Bilaye-Benibo and Prayers of the People led by Kristina Roth-Klinck. Marcell Steuernagel closed the service with a rendition of the hymn “Here I Am, Lord!”

June 2020 News

Summer Online Learning

Summer is a great time for expanding knowledge and sharpening skills. Three Perkins departments – Alumni, Admissions and the Office of External Programs – are teaming up to offer a wide range of summer opportunities for lifelong learning.

Four continuing education webinars and three informal “Monday Musings” will be offered beginning in June, with tentative plans underway to add more later in the summer. Alumni, current and prospective students, and anyone with an interest are all invited to participate via the OEP Facebook page here.

Perkins Summer Webinar Series

Thursdays 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.

These webinars will give lifelong learners a variety of choices for continuing education and to earn CEUs. Cost is $15 per class; participants may register for one or more classes.

The Office of External Programs will also follow the webinars to gauge interest in the subject areas for later development of additional courses and possibly certificate programs.

“As members of the extended Perkins community are transitioning back into the in-person jobs, we’re hoping these webinars will fit their schedules and needs,” said Heather L. Gottas Moore, Program Coordinator for Perkins’ Office of External Programs.

CEUs are available (.10 per webinar) at $15 per person. CEUs will be awarded at the end of the series in September. For more information and to register for one or more webinars, visit

Webinar Schedule:

UM Studies:
“A Day in the Life of John Wesley: April 2, 1739” with Ted A. Campbell
June 4, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. CT

Interfaith Conversations:
“Social Responsibility of Faith Communities: Abrahamic Traditions” with Nancy Kasten and Azhar Azeez
June 11, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. CT

“Reframing the E-Word” with Priscilla Pope-Levison
June 18, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. CT

Disability Theology and Ministry:
“Welcoming Difference: An Introduction to Disability Theology and Ministry” with Justin Forbes
June 25, 2020, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. CT


The Perkins School of Youth Ministry will also offer a webinar, “Restarting Youth Ministry with Renewed Purpose,” with Shanterra McBride on Thursday, June 4, from 12:30 to 1:40 p.m. CT. Space is limited. Register at

Monday Musings: Ask a Prof
Mondays at 8 p.m., June 15 – July 27

What have you always wanted to ask a theology professor but didn’t have the chance? Join these informal, fun conversations and ask your questions about each discussion topic in a relaxed setting. These events will be live streamed via Facebook Live at 8 p.m. Free.

  • June 15: Digital Church Issues with Robert Hunt and Marcell Silva Steuernagel
  • June 22: Sports and Spirituality – Mark Stamm and (tentative) Hugo Magallanes
  • June 29: Cinema and Religion – Jim Lee and Bart Patton
June 2020 News

Faculty Profile: Sze-kar Wan

Sze-kar Wan didn’t meet his grandfather until he immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong at age 15. Yet the extraordinary story of his grandfather’s life, in China and the U.S., has influenced Wan’s own life immeasurably.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant,” he said. “My grandfather’s life story became a part of me.”

At the age of 8, Wan’s grandfather, Bing-gyue Hom (“Bing” to all who knew him) was kidnapped along with his younger brother. The brothers were separated, and Bing was sold to a family.

“There were no adoption agencies in China then, so if you wanted a boy, you bought one,” Wan said.

When his adoptive family’s father died in the U.S., Bing was forced to travel – “literally, on a slow boat from China” – to work in the U.S. as the family’s provider. When he disembarked in Seattle, he had lost his eyesight. He eventually made his way to Baltimore, where he washed dishes in a Chinese restaurant and taught himself English as well as braille. He ultimately found work with the Maryland Workshop for the Blind making handicrafts. He remained blind until his death in 1995.

“Here was a Chinese boy, with no education, no language and no eyesight, who somehow made a life for himself,” said Wan. “He never complained and was always very optimistic and extremely kind.”

Bing later returned to China to marry, but went back to the U.S. to work again, leaving his wife and daughters in China. The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited women, even family members, from entering the U.S. During the Japanese occupation of China in WWII, his wife and daughters frequently hid in the cemetery to escape marauders.

Bing’s story is just one of many stories in the Wan family tree that are wrapped up with world events of the past century: the Chinese Exclusion Act, WWII, the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. Wan says that heritage informs his faith, his scholarship and his politics.

“I think I’ve always felt that I had more of an emotional investment in world events as a result,” he said. The hardships and prejudice his family encountered connect him deeply to his favorite Bible passage, Galatians 3:28: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (nrsv).

“That verse represents what I think Christianity is or at least should be,” he said. “It’s true, the verse may not be as innocent as we think. But it represents who I am and what drives my scholarship and my theological convictions.”

Wan says he identifies as a Chinese American Christian – and all three identifiers are equally essential. While his Chinese heritage is important to him, he is thoroughly American.

“To me, America is not an ethnicity,” he said. “America is a concept, a principle, maybe even a prototype of people of different ethnicities and religions living together.”

Research Leave in Taiwan

Currently, Wan is on research leave at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, where he continues work on his long-term project, a commentary on 2 Corinthians, to be published in the Illuminations series by William B. Eerdmans. Recently, he finished a book on Romans, to be published by Bloomsbury of London. Both works include examinations of ancient and modern political theology.

The stay in Taiwan has given Wan and his family an up-close view of how the island country has managed the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools delayed reopening in February by two weeks, and large gatherings were canceled. Otherwise, businesses remained open and life went on almost as normal. A few of Wan’s speaking engagements in Taiwan were also curtailed, but most went on as scheduled.

As of May 28, Taiwan, a country of 24 million, had chalked up 45 consecutive days with no local infections and only seven total deaths from COVID-19. Non-citizens have been barred from entering the country since mid-March, and returning citizens are required to quarantine for 14 days. Luggage and all articles of clothing are thoroughly disinfected at the airport as one passes through immigration. In public, everyone wears facemasks and practices social distancing.

“Taiwanese don’t have this irresponsible notion of freedom as some do in the U.S.,” he said. “As a result, so far, the country has managed the virus very well.”

From his temporary home base of Taiwan, Wan has been watching with grave concern as the Chinese Communist Party recently unveiled plans to assert greater control of Hong Kong with a new national security law. Last October, he organized a symposium, “Hong Kong Protests: A Messianic Movement?”, that featured Dr. Lap Yan Kung, professor of Theology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong Divinity School. That triggered fierce objections from Chinese students at SMU that left Wan wary for the safety of himself and his family.

Wan is also keeping a close eye on the rise of Christian nationalism in the U.S., especially among white Evangelicals. Wan grew up in an Evangelical church himself, attended an Evangelical seminary and spent two summers doing evangelistic work in Boston’s Chinatown.

“I was going around the neighborhood … making public announcements in English, Cantonese and my native Hoisanese,” he said in a March sermon via Zoom to First Baptist Church of Newton, Mass. “I am still very proud of that work. But the capitulation of American white Evangelicals to rightwing politics has produced a frightening form of nationalism that is partly based on racism and partly based on Christianity.”

He’s particularly alarmed by images of angry people “armed with guns and God, threatening violence on anyone who advocate isolation and face masks on account of the coronavirus.”

Wan believes Christians today must confront this question: “What is it about Christianity that makes it possible, even acceptable, to threaten the existence of others – even those who profess the same faith and worship the same God, let alone those who do not call themselves Christians?”

Teaching Specialties

Paul, Romans, postcolonial studies, second Temple Judaism

Research Interests

Paul and empire, postcolonial studies of the New Testament, Philo and Hellenistic Judaism, Neo-Confucianism

Book on His Nightstand

Wan is rereading Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. “What I find interesting is that Germany in the 1920s was one of the most democratic, socially and scientifically most advanced countries in the world, and yet someone like Hitler could take power using democratic means,” he said.

Fantasy Dinner Party

Wan would invite C.S. Lewis, George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. “I think that Lewis, the Christian apologist, in conversation with Huxley, a humanistic mystic, would make for a very interesting conversation,” he said. “And I’d ask Orwell what gave him the insight about the future. He wrote his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in 1949, yet he had wonderful insights on how autocrats might use democratic instruments to build an authoritarian regime, as we’re seeing in China and maybe in the U.S.”


Wan and his wife, an architect, have twin girls, age 4. One impetus for the sojourn to Taiwan, he said, was for his daughters to learn Mandarin – which they seem to be doing very quickly.

Signature Dish

Wan has been making linguine with clams often lately. “The girls love clams, and they’re very good and cheap in Taiwan,” he said.