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Latest News from Bridwell Library

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, November – December 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Fall 2021

The thirteenth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; a story about the newly renamed Center for Methodist Studies at Bridwell Library; a tribute to Ian Tyson; a staff profile; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Fall 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, August – October 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Summer 2021

The twelfth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; reports on the library’s reopening, the Dante Festival and the arrival of a new major collection; upcoming online exhibitions; a staff spotlight; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Summer 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, April – July 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Spring 2021

The eleventh issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Spring 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, January – March 2021

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Winter 2021

The tenth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; recent acquisitions and winter gifts to Bridwell; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Winter 2021 Issue of The Bridwell Quarterly.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, July – December 2020

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Fall 2020

The eighth and ninth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Summer / Fall 2020 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quarterly – Spring 2020

The seventh issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Spring 2020 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, February – April 2020

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Winter 2020

The sixth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Winter 2020 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, November – December 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Fall 2019

The fifth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, reflecting on the past few months; passages and experiences of staff; updates on the library’s renovations; upcoming online exhibitions; and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Fall 2019 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, September – October 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, May – August 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Summer 2019

The fourth issue of The Bridwell Quarterly completes the first annual cycle of publishing, and includes a note from Bridwell Library Director, Anthony Elia, passages and experiences of staff, a reflection on the library’s current state of change, and many more topics we hope you’ll enjoy.

Click to read the Summer 2019 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – Latest Note, March & April 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Spring 2019

The third issue of The Bridwell Quarterly features a range of activities and events, not least of which is an old (though now discontinued) tradition, which former Bridwell staff member Charles Baker writes about: Savonarolafest.

Click to read the Spring 2019 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Library – May 2019

The Word Embodied

This fine press catalog, limited to two hundred copies, was designed and printed by Bradley Hutchinson at his letterpress printing office in Austin Texas. Reflecting the style of many of the items featured in the exhibition, the catalog comprises loose folios and sheets housed in a four-flap paper portfolio. The type is Espinosa Nova, designed by Cristóbal Henestrosa and based on the types of Antonio de Espinosa, the first typecutter in the New World, who was active in Mexico City between 1551 and 1576. The paper is Mohawk Superfine and the illustrations were printed by Capital Printing of Austin, Texas. The portfolio was constructed by Santiago Elrod. Images were prepared by Rebecca Howdeshell, Bridwell Library, using an i2S SupraScan Quartz A1 book scanner. 100 pages, folios housed in paper wrappers; color illustrations; 28 x 21 cm. Please visit to purchase your copy.

  • Arvid Nelsen, Curator and Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian

All of Bridwell Library’s publications, including past issues of the Bridwell Quill and Bridwell Quarterly can be found here:

Bridwell Quill – Spring 2019

Read the update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Library – February 2019

Bridwell Library announces an exhibition of some of the earliest and most important publications printed in Greek, which runs through May 20, 2019. The selection offers a glimpse into the richness and significance of materials accessible for study and appreciation at Bridwell Library Special Collections. For more information, visit our website.

From the January 2019 Issue of Perspective Online

Bridwell Quill – January 2019

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

Bridwell Quarterly – Winter 2018

The second issue of The Bridwell Quarterly explores hidden aspects of the library’s collections, plus some remarkable encounters with people who have visited the library in recent months.

Click to read the Winter 2018 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

From the December 2018 Issue of Perspective Online

Bridwell Quill – December 2018

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.


From the November 2018 Issue of Perspective Online

Introducing Bridwell Quarterly, a new seasonal publication from Bridwell Library.

“In these pages and those of future publications, we hope to speak as a fellowship of colleagues, who support our patrons, neighbors, and friends. We welcome you all to Bridwell Library and hope that you will enjoy reading about the many events, projects, and activities that are happening in our community.” – Anthony Elia, Bridwell Library Director 

Click to read the Fall 2018 Issue of the Bridwell Quarterly

Bridwell Quill – November 2018

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.


From the October 2018 Issue of Perspective Online

Perkins Names Anthony Elia New Director of Bridwell Library

Anthony Elia has been named J.S. Bridwell Foundation Endowed Librarian and Director of Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, effective June 1. He succeeds retiring Director Roberta Schaafsma, who served in that role since April 2007. Read the full release here.

Bridwell Quill – October 2018

Read the monthly update from Bridwell Library Director Anthony Elia.

March 2020 News Perspective Online

A Message from Dean Hill: Giving Mark His Due

As I write this, we are preparing this year’s print edition of Perspective, which will focus on the Bible. In one capacity or another, I have been a student of Scripture since I was a teenager. It is a subject of which I never tire and about which I always have something new and important to learn. Lately, I have been focusing on the Gospel of Mark, which leads me to share a few thoughts about this wonderful and yet enigmatic Gospel.

I can say with some justification that biblical scholarship giveth, and biblical scholarship taketh away. It is a largely unintended but still inevitable consequence of modern study that some books of the Bible have been elevated and others diminished in prominence.

Perhaps no biblical text has received more from the hand of scholarship than the Gospel of Mark.  Once regarded as a mere condensation, a Reader’s Digest version, of Matthew, Mark is now credited by most as being the first Gospel, duplicated in form and copied in substance by both Matthew and Luke. Indeed, the author of Mark is thought by many to have conceived the idea of gospel writing, which has various Jewish and Greco-Roman precedents but no true parallels. Not surprisingly, modern interest in the “historical Jesus” has led scholars to favor Mark above all for its value as historical evidence. It’s not the earliest written source containing information about Jesus – that honor goes to Paul’s letters – but it is the earliest narrative account of Jesus’ ministry.

This change in fortune reverses Mark’s historically bad press. As theology, the Gospel often was regarded as derivative, indistinct and unimpressive. It contains less of Jesus’ teaching than the other Gospels, which seemed to make it a comparatively unprofitable read. As literature, the Gospel of Mark was considered narratively crude and grammatically uncouth, its choppy Greek and awkward style evidencing to sophisticated readers its author’s lack of refinement.

Recent studies of Mark have altered such judgments dramatically, its author now regarded as a more subtle thinker and storyteller than earlier critics had supposed. Markan theology is remarkably lucid and powerful. Of particular note is Mark’s sensitivity to the meaning of the cross and to the implications of Jesus’ crucifixion for Christian discipleship. Likewise, Mark’s literary art is revealed as surprisingly complex. For instance, Mark occasionally splits a story in two, inserting a second piece of narrative to interpret the first (e.g., the cursing of the fig tree “sandwiches” the temple cleansing in 11:12-26 and the denial of Peter and the confession of Jesus in 14:53-72).

Mark thus has become a favorite of both historical and literary critics – no small distinction in the fragmented world of professional biblical studies. Nevertheless, for all the strides that interpreters have made in understanding this fascinating text, it is fair to assume that its mastery will always elude scholarship’s grasp. Even more, its high spiritual demands will exceed the reach of all but the truest of saints. So, in matters both interpretive and devotional, Mark challenges our best efforts and our fullest commitments.

Mark’s narrative centers on the question of Jesus’ identity and, with it, on the nature of true messiahship. Already in chapter one, verse one, Mark informs us that Jesus is the “Christ [messiah], the Son of God.” What we readers know from the first, others throughout the narrative will come to – or, more commonly, will fail to – understand. That 1:1 represents Jesus’ identity truthfully is verified in the verses that immediately follow. The biblical prophets understood that such a one would come (vv. 2-3), as did the contemporary prophet John the Baptist (vv. 7-8). Finally, and conclusively, God declares that Jesus is the beloved Son, the one “in whom I am well pleased” (v. 11). We are left with no excuse for participating in the incomprehension that will characterize the human response to Jesus in the narrative to follow, demonstrated forcefully – almost comically – in the example of the disciples.

It is worth noting that God’s declaration that Jesus is the “beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” echoes the kingship passage Psalm 2:7 as well as the servant passages Isaiah 42:1 and 44:1. This juxtaposition of kingship and servanthood is at the heart of the Markan “mystery” (4:11), the very thing that the disciples could not or were unwilling to grasp. Jesus is a king who is also a servant. It is fitting that the only official acknowledgment of Jesus’ identity is a sign that reads “The King of the Jews” (Mark 15:26), displayed at his crucifixion.

Jesus’ proclamation in v. 15 that “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” would not have fallen on deaf ears. Anticipation that God would act to fulfill God’s promises to Israel was intense; hope that a messiah (literally, an “anointed one”) would come to redeem Israel from its misfortune was widespread (cf. Luke 24:21).

Jesus’ announcement of the impending reign of God therefore elicited a powerful and predictable response; however, despite all that he may have held in common with popular expectation, even in understanding himself as the agent through whom God’s purposes would be fulfilled, Jesus appears to have had very different ideas about the nature of God’s “reign” and the method by which it would be brought into existence. In Mark, Jesus goes to extreme lengths to avoid identifying himself with the anticipated conquering messiah.

He was not the anointed victor, but the Son of Humanity who serves and suffers on behalf of all.  This is a messiahship not easily or widely foreseen, and it is an identity that even his closest followers fail – even more, decline – repeatedly to understand, lest by understanding they come under the hard requirement of Christ’s own example.

It is important to understand that religion in much of the ancient world was essentially a barter system by which one cut a deal with the universe to get what one wanted. Fertile crops? All it costs is the life of a sheep – or a child. Religion set the price of life’s benefits and then mediated the sale. The Jewish idea that one’s relationship with God is irreducibly moral was (and remains) highly unusual and inexpressibly important. The Jews made animal sacrifices, of course, but the temple cult provided a system of atonement, not of bribery (Psalm 40:6; 51:16-17). The notion that religion might require one to abandon – or at least to defer indefinitely – one’s own good is all the more counterintuitive to the popular mind, both then and now.

It may be that the threat of persecution revealed for the first time the costliness of the original readers’ discipleship. It must have seemed to many a bad bargain. Mark establishes that genuine discipleship mirrors the genuine but seemingly paradoxical messiahship of Jesus; like Jesus, greatness comes through service and gain through sacrifice.

It is this great reversal, this inversion of perspectives, that occupies so much of Mark’s attention.  In God’s economy, the poor are rich, the least are great and the dishonored are celebrated. In truth, the gospel is an invitation to, not an inversion of, reality. It is the way things really are, perceived and received by faith.

To be a true disciple, Mark appears to be saying, we have to follow in the footsteps of the true messiah, which means living within the reality in which Jesus himself lived, the only reality in which his words make sense, in which the things that he requires seem reasonable.

Mark is a short but hardly an easy or comfortable read. Indeed, to read Mark carefully is, in a sense, to be read by it. Perhaps more than any other book in the New Testament, it exposes the shallowness of our discipleship and calls us to a deeper life, to a deeper experience of God. If we had only Mark to go on, the challenge would still be enough for a lifetime.

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: Introducing the Newest Student Class

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

Dear Perkins Friends,

I’m happy and proud to introduce to you the incoming Spring 2020 class (pictured above)! These 11 students in Dallas and 14 students in Houston are part of Perkins’ story of continued growth and diversity.

The Houston-Galveston Hybrid Extension program continues to grow, and we’re counting on you to help in promoting this incredibly accessible program to your churches and mentees. The most prominent feature of these two profiles is the increase in students of color, and we are grateful. Sixty-four percent of our new students represent African, African American, Latino/a and two or more races. 

DALLAS PROFILE—11 new students

Two international students have enrolled in the Master of Theological Studies program at the Dallas campus location and are from Kenya. We are grateful to our current Kenyan students who inspire and invite their friends to consider Perkins for theological study and to all of you involved in Kenya missions.



*MDIV=Master of Divinity; MAM=Master of Arts in Ministry; MTS=Master of Theological Studies

Enrollment Comparison 

Please keep all Perkins recruitment and admission efforts in prayer. Be assured that our team will remain faithful in its work to seek and invite prospective students to join the Perkins community, where a diversity of theological perspectives and cultures respectfully interact.

In the peace of Christ,

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

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Office of Development: Recent Events and News

With the spring semester in full swing, the Development Office is as busy as ever. We have several items of interest to report this month:

  • On February 5, Perkins’ annual Bolin Family Scholarship Luncheon filled The Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom to capacity. New York Times columnist and best-selling author David Brooks was the featured speaker. Funds raised from table sponsorships and individual ticket sales went into the Perkins Student Scholarship Fund.



  • Jane Bolin, a member of the Perkins Executive Board, and her husband, Pat, are naming sponsors at this event each year. We are extremely grateful for their support!




  • The next time you are on campus, stop by the refurbished Perkins Chapel. The last restoration was done 21 years ago, in 1999. The recent renewal was funded by a bequest from the estate of Dr. Mark Lemmon, a pioneering plastic surgeon of great renown. Dr. Lemmon was the son of architect Mark Lemmon, the man who designed the Perkins Quadrangle in 1945. As a result of this bequest, Perkins Chapel is more beautiful than ever. The work included refreshed paint, updated lighting, refinished pews and floors, and a new sound system, including audiovisual capabilities to make live-streaming events from the Chapel possible.


  • We are currently raising funds for a refurbished historic organ for Perkins Chapel. A 1927 E. M. Skinner organ has been purchased and is in storage waiting to be renewed. Stay tuned in the near future for some exciting developments on that effort.


  • In November, Lee Henry joined the Perkins Development team as Advancement Associate. Lee is a native of the Dallas area and a graduate of the University of Texas, and worked in advertising technology for Facebook for several years. He excels in writing, editing and computer skills. We are pleased to have him on our team. Welcome, Lee.



  • Did you know that you can set up recurring online gifts to Perkins? Visit and follow the prompts. Using your credit or debit card, you can set up monthly, quarterly or annual gifts of whatever amount you select. More and more of our SMU/Perkins donors are using the online option. It is convenient and helps you fulfill your charitable intent to give. Donate just $83 a month and you’ll give a total of $1,000 a year to support one of the worthy projects at Perkins. Choose from one or more of the special funds listed in the drop-down menu.


  • We are grateful for continued gifts and support from our faithful donors and friends at this important time in the history of Perkins School of Theology. As always, I can be reached at Our mailing address is Perkins Development, PO Box 750133, Dallas, TX 75275-0133. Please feel free to contact me at any time. Your gifts are extremely important.


With thanks,

John A. Martin
Director of Development

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Seminary in a Hospital

Pastors heal souls. Hospitals heal bodies. Given those natural connections, it’s not surprising that a United Methodist seminary’s hospital setting is creating unique learning opportunities for students as well as for hospital staff.

Since the fall of 2018, students in Perkins School of Theology’s Houston-Galveston Extension Program have reported to Houston Methodist Hospital to attend many of their classes. The hospital provides classroom space, along with tech support and meals, for the two one-week sessions in which students gather in person every semester. Perkins and Houston Methodist are both affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

“As far as we know, we are the only seminary in a hospital, anywhere,” said Hugo Magallanes, director of the Houston-Galveston Extension Program and Perkins’ Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. “It’s an incredible benefit for our students, to have access to a world-class research hospital.”

The partnership was shepherded by the Rev. Charles R. Millikan, an ordained United Methodist clergy and the hospital’s Vice President for Spiritual Care and Values Integration.

“Perkins shares a similar culture and sense of mission as Houston Methodist, which is a faith-based hospital system,” said Millikan. “It is a great training ground for anyone who aspires to go into ministry, and especially for those with an interest in the chaplaincy.”

The partnership has sparked some unique collaborative courses, including an elective course called Health Care Holy Care, usually offered during the January term. Taking advantage of the hospital setting, students “shadow” chaplains at Houston Methodist and attend lectures on pastoral listening skills, bereavement, spiritual care, confidentiality, compassion fatigue and topics such as suffering and God’s will, or how to deal with patients who pray for miracles, or those whose religious beliefs may lead to harm. This course is open to all Perkins students regardless of their campus location but tends to attract students who have a particular interest in the chaplaincy.

The Houston-Galveston Extension Program also occasionally offers an elective in Bioethics, team-taught by Dallas Gingles, associate director of the Houston-Galveston Extension Program, and Baylor University’s Janet Malek, who is also director of the Houston Methodist Biomedical Ethics Program.

Some of the benefit boils down to the simple fact that students study in a place where birth, death and healing are taking place round the clock.

“The hospital setting provides an opportunity to do theological reflection in really interesting ways,” said Gingles. “At the beginning of the year, I give a lecture in my Systematic Theology class, and I talk about how the theologian Karl Barth taught in a bombed-out building at the end of World War II. I tell the students, ‘We’re going to spend the next year talking about God, and we’re doing that in the midst of people who are literally dying and being born.’”

Millikan expects additional courses and seminars will be added down the road for physicians and other hospital staff with an interest in spirituality and medicine. Houston Methodist is part of Texas Medical Center; the complex is home to 50 different medical agencies – hospitals, clinics, medical and nursing schools – and employs 100,000 people.

“People who work in the hospital setting love to learn,” he said. “We have many MDs and PhDs along with a variety of hospital clinicians, nurses and administrators who are interested in exploring their spiritual side. Perkins can offer opportunities to talk about culture, purpose, mission and philosophy in a high-quality academic education.”

In addition to the dedicated courses, many of the courses taught at Perkins have bioethics, health care or chaplaincy components. In the long-term, leaders of the Houston-Galveston program hope to offer a concentration for those students interested in hospital chaplaincy.

Millikan believes training in hospital chaplaincy can open up additional job opportunities to Perkins grads.

“Many churches are no longer hiring ordained persons,” he said. “Graduates need to find places where their ministries can flourish.”

Relaunch in 2018

Perkins School of Theology’s Houston-Galveston Extension Program has been thriving since the 2018 launch of the hybrid format, combining in-person and online coursework. The program allows students to earn the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) in three years, or Master of Arts in Ministry (M.A.M.) degree in two years, without having to take courses at the Dallas campus. The program is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). Today, enrollment in the M.Div. and M.A.M. programs at Houston-Galveston is about equal to that of the Dallas campus.

“Our numbers continue to increase,” said Magallanes. “Many of our students are working in full-time ministry or in secular jobs. They find our program accessible and attractive.” While some online seminary programs rely largely on part-time faculty, he added, Houston-Galveston students take courses with many of the same professors as those students based at the Dallas campus.

“This is a program that is accessible but doesn’t water down the academic, rigorous aspects of the program,” he said.

Houston Methodist is one of four partner sites that host classes, along with Moody Methodist Church in Galveston, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and St. John’s United Methodist in downtown Houston.

Magallanes added that much credit is due to Millikan, who played a key role in the birth of the Houston-Galveston program in 1994. Then senior pastor at Moody, Millikan noted the lack of an ATS-accredited seminary in the Houston area, and discussed the possibility of an extension campus with Robin Lovin, then dean at Perkins. An Inside Perkins event was held in Houston at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church to gauge interest. Organizers expected a dozen or so potential students; more than 150 turned up and 64 enrolled. Moody donated $400,000 to help launch the program, and St. Luke’s provided office space. The Houston-Galveston campus was born. Among the members of that first class were United Methodist Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey and BJ Hightower, now a senior chaplain in the Houston Methodist system.

More recently, Millikan was involved in re-invigorating the program with the 2018 relaunch offering the hybrid program.

“Houston Methodist is unapologetically Methodist,” Magallanes said. “They treat patients holistically, with an eye toward spiritual values as well as physical care. This is a great partnership for us.”

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Perkins Scholarship Luncheon 2020

David Brooks does a lot of public speaking, and most everywhere he goes he talks up the need for building community, practicing compassion and discovering what he calls “moral joy.”

It is no surprise, then, that he was glad to visit Perkins School of Theology.

“People in places like this, this is their business, and they really know the vineyards I’m trying to enter,” he said.

Brooks – New York Times columnist, best-selling author and regular commentator for the PBS NewsHour and NPR’s “All Things Considered” – gave the address for the 2020 Bolin Family Perkins Scholarship Luncheon, held February 5. The luncheon, named for sponsors Jane Bolin, a member of the Perkins Executive Board, and her husband, Pat, raised funds for the Perkins Student Scholarship Fund.

Brooks also spoke that morning to Perkins’ faculty and students.

The night before, Brooks dined at Café Momentum, a Dallas restaurant that employs at-risk youth, giving them skills, discipline and confidence. The dinner was hosted by Executive Board member Katherine Glaze Lyle and included several scholarship donors.

Whenever he can on road trips, Brooks makes time to visit nonprofits that are finding innovative, effective ways to serve.

“That’s a lot more nourishing than just hearing myself talk,” he said.

Both Perkins audiences seemed eager to hear him, and many brought copies of his latest book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life (Random House, 2019) to have him sign.

Brooks is known as a conservative-leaning but impossible-to-pigeonhole political commentator who also writes often about culture and values. He’s shared too about the faith journey he’s been on in recent years.

At Perkins, Brooks spoke about growing up Jewish in New York City, but getting exposed to mainline Protestantism through an Episcopal school and summer camp he attended. At the latter, he met counselors who taught him by the way they lived the concept of agape love.

He would go on to the University of Chicago, which he credits with exposing him to great books and ideas that he didn’t fully grasp then but have helped sustain him over the decades. After college came a long climb up the ladder of journalism, with stints as a reporter, critic, editor and foreign correspondent. Fame came gradually through the Times column, the broadcast jobs and the popular books he’s written, including The Road to Character (Random House, 2016), a bestseller.

These days, Brooks’ big theme is that individual success is overrated, and the emphasis on it in American life rather disastrous. It comes, he says, at the expense of community and compassion, and rarely leads to moral joy.

Brooks shared at Perkins that even as his career flourished, he descended into a personal valley several years back, having gone through a divorce and ended up living alone in an apartment, with nothing but Post-it notes and stationery in his kitchen drawers.

He missed his children, and he came to understand that workaholism and neglect of friendships had cost him.

Brooks’ way back eventually included marriage to his former research assistant, Anne Snyder, a committed Christian. The question of whether Brooks has become a Christian has been the subject of long articles in The Washington Post and New Yorker magazine.

Speaking at Perkins, Brooks made clear that he’s no longer an atheist. He quoted Christian authors who are important to him – St. Augustine, Frederick Buechner, Henri Nouwen – but also noted that he sees Jesus through a Jewish lens and in his own gradual move toward Christianity somehow feels more Jewish than ever.

In a brief interview between talks, Brooks elaborated a little.

“I say I feel more Jewish than ever, but I also feel Christian,” he said. “And my Jewish friends say, ‘You can’t be both, so you’re Christian.’ There’s a legitimate argument there.”

Brooks used part of his podium time to decry what he sees as a decades-long trend in the U.S. toward individualistic values, at steep personal and civic costs. He described how his work with the Aspen Institute, where he leads Weave: The Social Fabric Project, gives him a chance to highlight individuals and nonprofits that offer a counter example.

At the luncheon, Brooks touted Church Under the Bridge, a Waco, Texas, ministry to the homeless. That brought a smile to audience member Sean McDonald, a Perkins student who was recently part of a Perkins immersion course in homelessness that focused on the work of Church Under the Bridge.

“It was very cool to see that format for ministry is known beyond Waco,” McDonald said.

As for Perkins, Brooks told the luncheon crowd it’s well positioned to put students on a path to intellectual depth while also modeling the importance of a spiritual life and communitarian values.

He noted that the U.S. is becoming an increasingly multicultural society, making the need for schools like Perkins, with its emphasis on servant leadership, ever greater.

“We’re trying to do something really hard,” Brooks said of making civic life work as diversity accelerates. “It requires institutions like this one.”

Among those listening carefully in the morning session was first-year Perkins student Laura Sandstedt.

She acknowledged afterward that she had never read Brooks’ columns or books.

“But now I will. I was really impressed.”

March 2020 News Perspective Online

SMU Hosts Conference on Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in extraordinary times – the darkest days of Nazi Germany. Most of us, however, spend our lives in largely ordinary circumstances.

But ordinary life may be the realm in which Bonhoeffer has the most to teach us, according to speakers at a short conference at Perkins and SMU. Titled “In the Face of Barbarism: Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Culture, Humanity and the Importance of the Ordinary Life,” the conference took place February 13-14.

Most scholarly and popular portrayals of Bonhoeffer focus on the exceptional circumstances of his life in Nazi Germany; this conference focused instead on the importance of everyday life in Bonhoeffer’s theology and ethics.

The conference kicked off with a keynote by Victoria Barnett, a well-known scholar of Bonhoeffer, the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany and the history of religious groups during the Holocaust. She talked about the influence of his childhood and life with family and friends.

“Bonhoeffer’s family believed that every book, every friend, every discipline undertaken, shapes our character,” Barnett said. “When we neglect habits, they fall into disrepair. When we tolerate cruelty, we are diminished.”

Opening the second day of the conference, Natalie Carnes presented “Why Waste? Defending Art in a World of Poverty,” with responses from Natalia Marandiuc, assistant professor of Christian theology, and Dallas Gingles, associate director of the Houston-Galveston extension program and conference organizer.

Carnes, associate professor of theology at Baylor University, contrasted the story of Matthew 25, in which Jesus talks of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, and says, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me,”  and Matthew 26, where Jesus defends the woman who anointed him with expensive oil. Carnes noted that in 2019 $1 billion was raised within two days after fire nearly destroyed Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, raising questions about whether that kind of spending is justifiable when so many children go hungry every day.

“This tension has reverberated throughout Christian history, between spending money on big lavish buildings versus projects to help the poor,” she said.

Yet art was a prominent part of Bonhoeffer’s life, as reflected in his writings. John LaNoue, an attendee at the conference, said the Carnes presentation brought back memories of a church trip he led to Bonhoeffer’s spartan living quarters in Berlin, where he lived just before his arrest and execution.

“His room was very sparse – just some books, a desk, a lamp, a bed,” he said. “But there was also art. He had an alpine landscape and a detail of Albrecht Dürer’s The Four Apostles on the wall. In prison, he made a cross with some string. Art was important to him.”

The third speaker, Michael DeJonge, spoke on “Before Resistance: Bonhoeffer and the Cultivation of Ordinary Life,” with former Perkins dean Robin Lovin and Rebekah Miles, Perkins professor of ethics and practical theology, responding.

DeJonge, professor of religious studies at the University of South Florida, recounted a news media reference to Bonhoeffer. After a critic referred to what he characterized as Donald Trump’s “fascist tendencies,” the interviewer took issue.

“If you really believed he was a fascist dictator, you’d take up arms and fight him,” the anchor retorted, citing Bonhoeffer’s participation in a plot to assassinate Hitler.

That’s the wrong way to read Bonhoeffer’s writings, DeJonge said.

“I want to resist the association between Bonhoeffer and violent overthrow,” he said. “His example does not teach us to take up arms at the first whiff of tyranny. That truncates his witness and hides the multitude of ways that his political thought and action were in service of ordinary life.

“There have been so many attempts along both ends of the political spectrum to apply Bonhoeffer’s situation directly to their side of the political argument,” said David Krause, an attendee and board member of the International Bonhoeffer Society’s English language section.

“That isn’t fair to Bonhoeffer. I always ask the question, ‘How can we use the life and teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer to inform our own faithfulness to Jesus Christ?’ The answer is Christocentric, not political.”

“Bonhoeffer was a passionate defender of what we might call everyday ethics,” Gingles said. “It’s a shame that he’s appropriated almost exclusively in the service of extreme choices within exceptional circumstances.” Gingles added that this is a perspective he’s offering his students – and requiring them to wrestle with – as part of the course he is teaching at Perkins this semester on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Continuing the emphasis on art, the program concluded with “A View from the Underside: The Legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” a one-person play performed by Al Staggs and presented in conjunction with the Meadows School of the Arts.

Gingles estimates that about half of the 65 or so people in attendance, like LaNoue and Krause, came from outside of Perkins. Helping boost attendance was his op-ed column published in The Dallas Morning News on February 9.

When the op-ed ran, four of LaNoue’s friends sent him text alerts, all within 20 minutes. A pediatric surgeon and a self-described “Bonhoeffer nut,” LaNoue immediately signed up and attended the conference. It was a fortunate coincidence, given that he was on vacation that week and was preparing to lead an intensive on “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: His Life and Formation,” at his church, Valley Ranch Baptist in Coppell, on March 1.

“I really enjoyed getting to meet people who share that interest in Bonhoeffer,” he said. “We had a fascinating conversation around the lunch table.”

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning: A Q&A with Will Willimon

What’s ahead for the United Methodist Church?

Will Willimon will attempt to tackle that question in a half-day course at the Perkins Summit for Faith and Learning (formerly the Perkins Theological School for the Laity) on March 26-28 on the Perkins campus at SMU. It’s the headline course for the three-day, multicourse event, themed “Boundless Learning, Bountiful Living.” The program is open to laypeople as well as clergy; online registration is available through March 21.

Perkins Perspective interviewed Willimon, a former United Methodist Bishop and Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School, for a preview of his course. Here are excerpts of his remarks.


1. Who should attend this course?

Willimon: If people are looking to my workshop for encouragement and support and aid in division, then I hope to disappoint them. My course will be a plea: “Let’s stay together at the table. Let’s keep arguing.”

I’m from South Carolina. I thank God that when my church, South Carolina Methodism, resisted racial integration, and participated in segregation, other Methodists didn’t force us out, but kept talking to us and witnessing to us. I think a lot of good was done because of that. That’s the perspective from which I look at the present conflict.

A lot of the talk I hear now is saying, “We’ve argued about this enough. We’re losing so much energy in these unproductive arguments. Let’s just split so we can move on.” My word is, there is no moving on. No matter how you split things up, the church will continue to grapple with these questions. I don’t think separation among Christians is ever the answer to anything.


2. Is the present moment a time of disillusion or a time of opportunity? Many people feel completely frustrated.

Willimon: Some are saying, “It’s time to leave the United Methodist Church.” Others are saying not so much to leave the church but to reform it. The debate now is, “Is separation and declension inevitable? And if it happens, how can we manage that in such a way that it happens with as little damage to the body of Christ?”

I think in times of crisis, whether in church or in life, Christians can see this as an opportunity to turn toward Christ. This time of crisis, which has so many sad components to it, can also be an opportunity to ask ourselves questions like “What would Jesus do? What might Christ want for us in the present moment? How can I conduct myself, and my church, so that we are Christlike in our disagreements and divisions?”

When you’re a Christian, part of the challenge is, when you come to a crisis in life and you think, “Am I standing at something like Good Friday, or am I standing somewhere like Easter? Is this a time of death or a time of resurrection? A time of ending or a time of beginning?” I don’t know the answer. But I do know that those are appropriate questions to ask in the present moment. I think it’s good for us as United Methodists to say, “What good might God work out of our divisions and separations? On the other hand, in what way are our divisions and separations God’s judgements of our unfaithfulness as a church?” We can dare to ask those questions.


3. Are church members who aren’t involved in General Conference or in church polity likely to benefit from this course?

Willimon: I think one could argue that we’re at this juncture because of General Conference. The mismanagement of General Conference, the dysfunction of General Conference, has caused discomfort for United Methodists in the local church that they shouldn’t be having to go through. Maybe this is an opportunity to say, maybe General Conference as a mode of governing the church is now outmoded. Can we find a better way to have arguments, to make decisions, to move forward in the name of Christ, than General Conference?

The response to the dysfunction of General Conference ought not to be, “Wow, we can’t agree, we’re splitting apart, so let’s divide.” I think the response is that General Conference is part of the brokenness of our church.

I want to say, “Stay focused on the mission of Jesus Christ in your local church. Stay focused upon the presence and the work of Christ. Maybe the way forward is a way that puts General Conference and its decisions in perspective.


4. How can local United Methodist congregations stay focused on the most important work of the church today?

Willimon: That is the challenge – not to get distracted by General Conference. Don’t give General Conference inappropriate authority over the mission and ministries that Jesus Christ gives our local churches. We’re to preach, to teach, to heal, to serve, to be part of Jesus Christ’s mission in the world.

Part of the particular sadness of the present moment is that it feels like we’re allowing what are, biblically speaking and theologically speaking, relatively minor matters to become major reasons for the disintegration of the church. I’m glad to argue that position.

This is an opportunity to get back to basics, for us to say, “What does the Lord require?” Does the Lord require agreement of everybody in our church? Well, that’s not going to happen. Much of the New Testament is dealing with the issue of what you do with a divided church, when there are deep differences of beliefs and opinions. And one thing you do is, you keep being the church. You keep arguing, you keep talking, you keep having communion. That’s what I hope to encourage people to do.

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Nick McRae

Nick McRae felt the first stirrings of a call to ministry in childhood, but for a number of reasons, he didn’t take it seriously. Instead, he pursued a career as an English professor, earning an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. and publishing a couple of books of poetry.

But one day in 2014, while teaching freshman composition at the University of North Texas, he said, “I had this overwhelming sense. I didn’t want to be telling these students about introductory paragraphs; I wanted to tell them about Jesus.”

As McRae completed his Ph.D. program, he applied to Perkins, where he is now an M.Div. student.

“As a graduate student, I had gotten really involved in a United Methodist church, and it was changing my life,” he said. “I felt right at home, and realized it was time to answer the call.”

Perkins initially appealed to McRae for practical reasons – his wife, Annie, an audiologist, had already established her career in the North Texas area, and Perkins offered an excellent financial aid package.

“I’m lucky because I didn’t have to go into debt, and Perkins just happened to be an excellent seminary that most of the clergy in North Texas come out of,” he said. “I got plugged into the Perkins social network. It’s the best of both possible worlds.”

McRae’s areas of academic interest include Hebrew, the Old Testament and Wesleyan theology. He comes to Perkins with an already full academic CV. He was a Fulbright fellow in the Slovak Republic, where he taught English and American literature; a member of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference staff; a University Fellow at The Ohio State University, where he earned his M.F.A. in creative writing; and a Robert B. Toulouse Fellow at the University of North Texas, where he earned his Ph.D. in English. He is the author of The Name Museum (C&R Press, 2014) – winner of the De Novo Poetry Prize – and Mountain Redemption (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), which won the Fall 2011 Black River chapbook competition.

But while his career path has had a few twists and turns, McRae is convinced that God doesn’t waste anything. His past academic work may not seem directly connected to his current studies, but he sees connections.

“Studying poetry helped me to rethink my approach to Scripture,” he said. “In poetry, you can mean more than one thing at a time. It helped shatter that idea that all of these words in Scripture have one specific, direct meaning. You can get something different from Scripture every time you read it, and that’s OK.”

Now, he’s juggling graduate studies with his day job as associate pastor of First United Methodist Church of Sachse. Grounding him through his busy schedule is a regular practice of prayer.

“My main practice is praying the Daily Office,” he said. “For the past year, I’ve been going to an Episcopal Church near my home for morning prayer from the Book of Common Prayer with a small group. I find that, even without trying, I slowly begin to memorize and internalize the prayers. Having a form gives you a lot of resources and language to use … on how to praise God, how to confess to God in prayer, how to pray for others every day.”

At Perkins, he often leads prayer for the Order of Saint Luke, an ecumenical religious order dedicated to sacramental and liturgical scholarship, education and practice. “We pray for the students of Perkins and we pray for the world,” he said. “Once a semester we have a chapel service where we offer prayers for healing.”

The touchstone he returns to often is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Being a graduate student and in ministry, at times you look around and realize joy and peace are missing in your life,” he said. “Joy and peace are things we can easily end up overlooking. These words are like a prayer: fill me with joy and peace and help me believe.”

March 2020 News Perspective Online

Faculty Profile: Jim Lee

If you had to sum up James Lee’s professional passions in one word, that word might be “ecumenical.” He’s helping to build bridges across divisions and denominational lines through his scholarly work and teaching.

A Roman Catholic teaching in a United Methodist seminary, Lee leads classes for adults at Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopal churches in the Dallas area. His books and research on the history of early Christianity offer insights that he believes can foster Christian unity today. Last March, he spearheaded a conference at SMU, “Paths to Unity: Christian Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue Today,” garnering a Perkins Scholarly Outreach Award for that effort.

Underlying his work is an instinct that he sums up with a favorite Bible passage: “My heart says to Thee, ‘Thy face, LORD, do I seek.’” (Psalm 27:8)

“The idea of seeking the face of God is very moving to me,” he said. “It also captures nicely how early Christian theologians sought to understand God. They were constantly seeking the face of God. That’s what I try to do in my teaching and my spiritual life.”

Lee’s latest book, just published in February, is The Church in the Latin Fathers: Unity in Charity (Lexington Books/Fortress Academic). It’s about ecclesiology – early Christian understandings of the church – particularly among theologians who wrote in Latin: Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Leo the Great and others.

“For these early Latin theologians, the church is a mystery with visible and invisible aspects,” he said. “The church is a visible, communal body and an invisible society united in charity. My hope is to understand how early Christian theologians sought unity in the midst of diversity so that we might consider how to pursue unity in the church today.”

His next project is a book on the spirituality of St. Augustine, with the working title Praise Without Ceasing: The Spirituality of St. Augustine. He also writes about the Korean American church; in 2017, he received another Perkins Scholarly Outreach Award for his symposium and manuscript, Reconciling Cultures and Generations among Korean American Catholics.  

Lee also serves as director of the Doctor of Ministry program, a position he has held since 2018. The new curriculum, which was revised in 2017, is designed for full-time ministers who are seeking to develop leadership skills and to find new strategies for community building. “Our aim is to bridge the gap between the academy and the church,” Lee explained. “The Doctor of Ministry program enables our students to use the latest research in the fields of theology, adaptive leadership and social entrepreneurship in order to address practical problems in contemporary Christian ministry.”

Out and About

On Sunday mornings, you’re likely to find Lee teaching at a church in the North Texas area. He’s taught classes for adults being confirmed in the Catholic Church, called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), including a recent RCIA class at Holy Trinity Catholic Church on “The Mystery of the Holy Trinity.” He has also spoken to young adults at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church on topics such as The Sacred Liturgy and Mary and the Saints, and at Church of the Incarnation, an Anglican congregation.

At UT Southwestern Medical School, he’s spoken about St. Augustine and the Christian understanding of the whole person to medical students in the St. Basil Society, a group interested in connections between science and faith. He has also taught classes for adults at Highland Park United Methodist Church on topics such as Christian Art and Faith, and A History of Christian Controversies, with an eye toward divisions currently roiling the United Methodist Church.

“The church has been grappling with controversies for 2,000 years,” he said. “I don’t mean to suggest there are any easy solutions or that we can simply retrieve answers from the past. But the more we learn about history, the better equipped we are to face the challenge we have today.”

Books on his Nightstand

Edmund Campion: A Life by Evelyn Waugh, From Plato to Platonism by Lloyd Gerson, Atonement by Eleonore Stump. And yes, those are all books that relate to his day job. “I can’t really help myself,” Lee said with a laugh. “I constantly read theology.” However, he is reading a novel, The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.


Wife, Anna, a registered nurse, and daughter, Mary Margaret, age 2-1/2. 


Lee loves to dance – swing, salsa and country – and also enjoys music (especially jazz), fitness activities (like kayaking and hiking) and sports (ice hockey, basketball, soccer and football).

Favorite Travel Destination

Rome. Along with Bruce Marshall, he’s taking a group on an immersion trip to Rome in March during Spring Break, focusing on the history of the church as well as what Christianity looks like there today.

Something Else Most People Don’t Know About Him

Lee worked as a personal trainer in graduate school.

Something Dlse People Don’t Know About Him

He plays jazz saxophone, and he can moonwalk!

Signature Dish

Bulgogi (Korean barbecue) or lemon pasta

Personal Spiritual Practices

Lee prays the Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary regularly, and also meditates on mysteries of the faith with his collection of icons. Favorites include Rublev’s Trinity, the Anastasis, the Holy Family and the Holy Face of Jesus.