Commencement season is upon us. Here at SMU, and across the country, family and friends will celebrate the accomplishments of graduates, while graduates anticipate opportunities for future achievement.
However, the Perkins ceremony is different in one essential respect: it is a worship service. In it, we also celebrate God’s calling and pray for God’s continuing work in the life of each graduate. Their future ministry is their life’s work, to be sure, but work prompted, encouraged, and enabled by God.
I wrote last month about paradoxes of Christian faith. Another is the tension between God’s initiative and our own. Where does the one leave off and the other begin? Are we mere puppets, or, on the other hand, do we act entirely alone?
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul makes striking use of words built on the Greek root εργ, “work” (as in the English energy), most notably in the following two verses:
“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6).
“[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling;for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for God’s good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12b-13).
John Wesley’s conception of “prevenient grace” likewise includes both the belief that God is the first actor, at work in us before we realize it, and that we ourselves are responsible actors. At one level, this is an expression of the mystery of free will. At another, it is an expression of the mystery of God’s active presence in human life. Wesley would hold the two together, but many of his opponents would not, collapsing one side or the other of this paradox. What the latter gains is simplicity and clarity. What it loses is correspondence to the lived experience of believers who sense both that God is at work in them and also that they are at work for God.
Day-to-day awareness of this partnership is vital. Ministry at times takes us to the limits of our abilities and to the farthest edge of our resolve. It matters that this is not simply our work. It matters that God, not we ourselves, “will bring it to completion.” These realizations are simultaneously humbling and empowering. It is not about us, but neither are we alone. We have the privilege of making a unique and meaningful contribution to a work very much larger than ourselves. And we do this in partnership not only with God, but with countless others before, alongside, and after us.
God’s work in us neither commences nor concludes at commencement. Still, at that moment much indeed is brought to completion, which is both a marker and a signal as well as a cause for celebration.
Paul wrote his letter to the entire church at Philippi. These points are true for us all, lay as well as clergy. Similarly, Wesley said without any such distinction, “Best of all, God is with us.”
We continue to review applications for both the Dallas and Houston-Galveston Hybrid degree programs. Scholarship dollars are still available! We also offer flexibility. For those students who are not yet ready to apply to a degree program, there are options to choose a non-degree or an exploratory option.
Please share this information with prospective students in your churches and places of work. Provide them with a copy of the virtual events planned for this summer, listed below. Our contact information is located at the bottom of this page. A member of the team will be happy to assist with information about all programs and the application process.
Grace and peace to you all,
Thursday, June 2, Noon, CONNECT Perkins Hybrid Program Accepting Applications-Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Ministry-from Your Own Home!
The Houston-Galveston Hybrid Extension is one of Perkins’ most popular offerings! Students from all over the country choose the hybrid format since it requires no relocation, you can continue working in your current employment and there is no need to leave your family. Bar none, it is the most well-developed community-building hybrid program in the nation. Join us to learn more!
Wednesday, June 22, Noon, CONNECT Have Questions About Perkins? Get Your Questions Answered!
Any lingering questions about Perkins? We’re here to answer and clarify any question you may have. We hope to put your mind at ease and clear any last-minute inquiry. We’re bringing along a current student so that you can hear first-hand about the Perkins brand and experience! Come and let us get to know you and you us. Hope to see you there!
Tuesday, July 19, Noon, Dean’s Vision for Perkins School of Theology What is the Role of Perkins in These Times of Transition?
Times are tough for organized religion. The polarization of mainline denominations only compounds the challenge. Join Dean Hill as he expresses the role of Perkins in these changing times for theological education and engage with him for a time of Q&A. “When prospective students come to Perkins for a visit and I have a chance to explain [the Perkins community], I can see the weight falling from their shoulders because I’m not requiring them to sequester in some worldview silo where they must remain until they graduate.” -Dean Craig Hill
We are coming to the end of the first full year of the public phase of SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, SMU’s $1.5 billion capital campaign. As the Development Director for Perkins, I am pleased with our progress in this effort.
I am especially gratified that the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation has graced us with a three-year $2.7 million grant, funding Perkins’ Baptist House of Studies. This is the third grant which Perkins has received from this generous foundation, totaling more than $3 million. The new grant will allow us to fully fund 11 students in various Perkins degree programs. The stipulation for funding is that the prospective student must be headed to Baptist ministry, involved in a Baptist church and be recognized for both academic and ministerial abilities. Advice to all prospective students who fit these criteria: Get your application in early!
The Bolin Family Perkins Scholarship Luncheon, held on March 17, was a great success. The luncheon honored revered pastor and educator, the Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes, who watched the proceedings from his home in California. (Watch the video honoring him here.) Luncheon Videos
The Rev. Richie Butler, SMU Trustee, Perkins Executive Board member and Pastor of St. Luke “Community” UMC, was the featured speaker. The proceeds all went to the Black/Africana Church Studies Program scholarship fund.
Financial aid is essential as we seek to educate persons called to ministry. It is hardly surprising that financial aid is the key. Many prospective students explain that, after accruing a large amount of debt in undergraduate studies, the prospect of significantly adding to that debt-load in order to go into ministry (not a lucrative career!) feels extremely daunting. One recent prospective student with a very high grade-point-average (GPA) was reluctant to apply to Perkins due to the stress and difficulties he endured because of accumulated undergraduate debt. Financial stress is keeping extremely qualified people out of ministry! We want to remedy that problem.
Caleb Palmer, one of our admissions officers, noted: “From my experience connecting with students, the primary concern and number one question is: ‘How will I pay for theological education?’ Contemplating the call to ministry is challenging enough for undergrads to grasp, and the financial comparisons for degrees like engineering or business can cause trepidation for anyone. Prospective students are not looking to accumulate wealth, but the least they hope for is to avoid taking on debt in pursuing a ministry calling.”
Every dollar helps! We need your support for “Perkins School Student Financial Aid.” Please, right now, take a minute and click on https://giving.smu.edu/schools-areas/perkins/ to make sure that qualified students can come to Perkins and complete their studies. A gift of any amount is important!
As always, gifts can be made online or sent by check. If by mail, the address is:
John A. Martin
PO Box 750133
Dallas, TX 75275-0133
Finally, I want to introduce you to Perkins’ new Advancement Associate, Mrs. Rose Burns. Rose joined me several weeks ago and has “hit the ground running.” Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and her phone number is 214-768-3688. She and I look forward to serving you as we advance the cause of Perkins School of Theology.
May is a bittersweet month – when the Perkins community says farewell to graduates as they embark on new beginnings. Perkins School of Theology will honor graduating seniors with a variety of events this year, culminating on Saturday, May 14 with the university-wide Commencement Convocation and Perkins’ Celebration of Degrees and Academic Achievements.
Ninety-five students are scheduled to receive their SMU diplomas from Perkins, including eight December graduates, 77 May graduates and 10 summer graduates.
The series of graduation events begins with a Sending Forth Service on Thursday, May 5 at 11:30 a.m. in Perkins Chapel. Preaching at this Service of Word and Table will be Dr. Abraham Smith, Professor of New Testament at Perkins. With the sending forth ritual – an extended benediction at the end of the service– participants will mark the variety of passages that regularly occur at the end of the spring term: graduation, the beginning of internship, retirement, and others. This service will be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ax5ZG_LGtG8. Community lunch “on the grounds” will be served after worship has concluded. All are welcome.
On Friday, May 13, there will be two events for graduating seniors and their guests: the Senior Class Worship at 5 p.m., in Perkins Chapel, and the Senior Class Dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Highland Park UMC’s Tolleson Family Activity Center at 5817 Hillcrest, Dallas, Texas. Reservations are required.
Graduation Day is Saturday, May 14, with the 107th University-wide Commencement Convocation taking place at 9 a.m. at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Commencement speaker is Grant Moise, publisher and president of The Dallas Morning News. The event, which will be livestreamed at smu.edu/live, will assemble degree candidates from all of SMU’s schools and professional programs. Commencement speakers will offer their congratulations to the newest class of graduates and SMU President R. Gerald Turner will confer degrees. Guests do not need tickets for commencement, but all candidates must have an entry ticket to participate in the morning ceremony. Seating is general admission and first come, first served. For more details, visit Request Commencement Tickets.
Following the commencement, Come & Go Box Lunches will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Refectory in Prothro Hall. This event is open to Perkins graduates, families, students, faculty, and staff. Reservations are required.
A Senior Class Photo will be taken at 12:45 p.m. on the steps of Perkins Chapel.
The Celebration of Degrees and Academic Achievements takes place at 2 p.m. in Highland Park UMC’s sanctuary. Dr. David McAllister-Wilson, president of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., will preach.
Note that the sanctuary is typically very crowded for this program; doors open at 1 p.m. There is no limit on the number of guests that graduates may invite. This program will be livestreamed via webcast at https://online.brushfire.com/hpumc/events
Immediately following the presentation of diplomas during the Celebration of Degrees and Academic Achievements, a reception for Perkins graduates will take place at 3:30 p.m. in Arden Forest outside Prothro Hall. The reception is free for graduates and their guests, as well as Perkins faculty, staff and students. In case of rain, the reception will be in the Great Hall.
Click here for more information about SMU Commencement. For a map of the SMU campus, visit smu.edu/maps.
This year’s United Methodist Annual Conferences in Texas and beyond will be in-person reunions. Nearly all such sessions met online the past two years because of pandemic concerns. Perkins faculty, staff and alumni will be present as in-person sessions get underway, re-connecting with alumni and friends, reaching out to prospective students and doing some of the preaching at services.
Sending Perkins faculty and staff to the gatherings helps nurture Perkins’ ongoing partnership with the Annual Conferences in theological education. In addition, Perkins hosts display tables and alumni events at many of the Annual Conferences. For the first time in recent years, Perkins will send representatives to the Florida Annual Conference in Lakeland, Florida.
“Annual Conferences present an opportunity for us to share what’s new at Perkins and to tell our story,” said Dean Craig C. Hill. “At the same time, it gives us a chance to hear the story of each annual conference: to hear about their most dynamic and effective ministries and to understand the kind of leadership needed now and in the future.”
This is a time of uncertainty for The United Methodist Church. Local church disaffiliation and even the potential of Annual Conferences leaving The United Methodist Church will likely be part of the discussion as United Methodist clergy and laity gather for the more usual business of worship, ordination services, memorial services, ministry reports, budget approval and the reading of appointments.
Some plans are still in flux, but here is the current list of Annual Conferences and Perkins community members who plan to attend. Names in italics are tentative. Check this web page for updates.
The Oklahoma Annual Conferencemeets May 23 – 26 at Oklahoma City University’s Freede Center in Oklahoma City. Attending from Perkins: Andy Keck. A lunchtime event for Perkins alumni is planned for May 25 at St. Luke’s UMC.
The Texas Annual Conference meets May 29 through June 1 at the Hilton Hotel Americas in Houston. Participating from Perkins: Dean Hill, Connie Nelson, Hugo Magallanes, Dallas Gingles. Stephen Bagby. An alumni event is planned for May 31 at 12 p.m.
The Arkansas Annual Conference meets June 1 – 4 at Hot Springs Convention Center in Hot Springs, Ark. Matt Jacob and Bart Patton plan to attend. An alumni event is scheduled for June 1 at 6:30 p.m. at Rolando’s Restaurante, 210 Central Ave, Hot Springs National Park, AR.
The North Texas Annual Conferencemeets June 5 – 7 at First United Methodist Church Richardson. Dean Hill, Stephen Bagby, Connie Nelson, Hugo Magallanes, John Martin, Matt Jacob, and Rachel Holmes plan to attend. A Perkins alumni gathering will take place June 7 at 7 a.m. at First UMC Richardson.
The Rio Texas Annual Conference runs June 8 – 11 at the McAllen Convention Center, 700 Convention Center Blvd, McAllen, TX. Dean Hill and Caleb Palmer plan to attend. An alumni event takes place June 9 at 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. in Room 103AB at McAllen Convention Center.
The Great Plains Annual Conference runs June 8 – 11 at the LaVista Conference Center, 12520 Westport Pkwy, La Vista, NE. From Perkins, Andy Keck will attend.
TheFlorida Annual Conference meets June 9 – 11 at Florida Southern College’s Branscomb Auditorium in Lakeland, FL. Dean Hill, Hugo Magallanes and Matt Jacob plan to attend. An alumni event is planned for June 10; details TBD.
The Missouri Annual Conference runs June 11 – 12, with an optional June 10 Learning Day, at Branson Convention Center, 200 S Sycamore Street, Branson, MO. Heather Gottas Moore will represent Perkins.
The Northwest Texas Annual Conferencewill gather June 16 – 17 at Overton Hotel & Conference Center, 2322 Mac Davis Lane in Lubbock, TX 79401. Connie Nelson will attend.
The Central Texas Annual Conference runs June 12 – 14 at First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, 800 W 5th St, Fort Worth, TX. John Martin and Connie Nelson will attend. Details are being finalized for the alumni event.
TheLouisiana Annual Conference will gather June 14 – 17 at River Center, 527 North Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA. Heather Gottas Moore and others (TBD) will attend from Perkins. An alumni event is planned for June 15 at 11:30 a.m. at FUMC Baton Rouge, Room 117, Adult Building.
TheNew Mexico Annual Conference meets June 14 – 16 at Las Cruces Convention Center, 680 E University Ave., Las Cruces, NM. Connie Nelson will attend.
Applications opened May 1 for congregations interested in joining the second cohort of Perkins School of Theology’s Testimony HQ grant-funded initiative. Ten churches will be selected for the second cohort, which launches January 1, 2023. Churches of any denomination within a 350-mile radius of Dallas are eligible to apply. Applications will be accepted through June 20, 2022. Two Zoom informational sessions are scheduled for May 20 and June 9 for those interested in learning more. The program, supported by a $999,975 grant made through Lilly Endowment’s nationwide Thriving Congregations Initiative, aims to increase the practice of testimony as community engagement both inside and outside the church. The Rev. Dr. Priscilla Pope-Levison and Bart Patton are the co-principal investigators.
It’s almost a cliché: the preacher starts with a corny joke or two and then moves on to the rest of the sermon. But SMU faculty members Alyce McKenzie and Owen Lynch want preachers to take humor more seriously.
McKenzie and Lynch led “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Pulpit: Preaching and Humor,” a daylong workshop that took place at Perkins on April 25. Some 35 pastors from the Dallas-Fort Worth area as well as a number of Perkins students were on hand for the event. This workshop was sponsored by the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence.
The conference is part of an ongoing collaboration between the two professors: Lynch, an expert in humor, and McKenzie, an expert in preaching. Both have been honored by SMU as Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professors.
“Wherever two or three people are gathered, there is also humor,” said Lynch, who is Associate Professor of Corporate Communication at Meadows School of the Arts and an expert in humor studies at SMU. “Humor has always been with us – it’s part of what it is to be human.”
“This conference is not designed to make you funnier, but it will help you appreciate humor more, why it works and how it works,” said McKenzie, who is Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins and Director of the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence at SMU.
Recent research in the field of positive psychology highlights the benefits of humor. Humor can promote empathy, reduce stress and help people deal with the challenges of everyday life. Yet humor has been trivialized, even demonized, at times in the Christian tradition.
“In my research, I’ve been really surprised at how ruthlessly humor has been suppressed through the centuries,” McKenzie said. She thinks that’s changing; at the same time humor studies began gaining respect in the last quarter of the 20th century, preaching turned more participatory. Just as a joke requires an audience to land, participatory preaching requires more active involvement of the listeners in the pew.
Lynch, who studies the use of humor in organizations, added that humor is an important tool for human connection.
“When someone makes a joke and someone else laughs, it shows they are sharing the same meaning,” he said. “Humor gives us a way to look at other people’s lives.”
The pair’s work exploring the use of humor in sermons aims to do more than helping preachers be funny and entertaining, McKenzie noted. Instead, she hopes the power of humor can be harnessed to “offer our congregations deeper, more challenging, and more delightful engagement of God’s good news with their lives and the wider world.”
In establishing a definition of humor, McKenzie paraphrased E.B. White: “Defining humor is like dissecting a frog. You may understand it better, but the frog is dead.”
“Like any gift from God,” she said, “humor is a double-edged sword. It can heal as well as hurt.” Sessions during the conference focused on topics such as Humor as a Gift from God, Humor as Part of our Humanity, The Three Uses of Humor (Superiority, Relief and Incongruity) and What Humor Can Do For Your Sermons. Participants broke into several groups and did an exercise that involved finding humor in Scripture.
One of the attendees, the Rev. Paul Bussert (M.Div. ’21), associate pastor of First UMC of Bixby in Oklahoma, said the workshop will help him navigate potentially treacherous territory more confidently when he preaches.
“There is a time and place for humor, and you’ve got to be careful what kind of humor you use,” he said. “Humor can effectively convey the message or your sermon if used well, or tear it down and destroy your credibility.”
He found the presentation on the comic and tragic frameworks for storytelling especially helpful.
“I have never thought about biblical texts through the comic and tragic lenses,” he said. “This gives me another way to look at the forms of scripture and enables me to pull another layer of meaning from the text.”
The conference had a secondary purpose: a chance for Lynch and McKenzie to try out their material. Ultimately, they will co-author a book on the subject, the second in the “Preaching and …” book series, the result of a partnership between the Perkins Center for Preaching Excellence and Westminster John Knox Press. Each book in the series pairs a homiletics expert with an expert in a non-theological discipline. The first book in the series, by the Rev. O. Wesley Allen Jr. of Perkins and Carrie La Ferle, an SMU advertising professor, was the recently published Preaching and the Thirty-Second Commercial: Lessons from Advertising for the Pulpit.
At Perkins’ graduation ceremonies in 2016, the Rev. Dr. Lael Melville (M.Div. ’16) was recognized twice: with the Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Flinn Senior Award, for the graduating class member best exemplifying the aims of the school and the church for its ministry, and the Harry Hosier Spirit Award, for the student exemplifying Hosier’s spirit in his “elocution of faith: I sing by faith, preach by faith, pray by faith, and do everything by faith.”
Six years later, Melville is still exemplifying those aims. Having just completed another degree from Perkins – a D.Min., in 2021 – she’s now devoting herself to her position as CEO of the Melville Family Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband, Randy, in 2018. The Foundation is dedicated to serving children in the southern sector of Dallas.
Lael Melville’s Perkins education guides her in this work. Her D.Min. thesis examined disparities affecting Black and brown children in Dallas’ southern sector.
“Dallas is one of the biggest cities with the least connectivity,” she said. “Many kids in the neighborhoods we serve don’t have WiFi. They disproportionately lack access along racial lines. With my thesis, I explored the question: If we are lovers of Christ and we believe God talks about justice, where and how do we promote that justice where there are considerable disparities?”
Lael Melville says the Foundation was partly inspired by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, who writes, “It’s actually in proximity to the poor that we hear things that we won’t otherwise hear, that we’ll see things we won’t otherwise see.”
She says, “This is imperative to respond to the underserved families we serve as the Melville Family Foundation. Many nonprofits are doing good work. But Christians get to do this with the love of God.”
A Family Endeavor
Lael and Randy Melville met at Princeton University, where they both earned their undergraduate degrees, and have been married 38 years. They have three adult sons, all of them active in the Foundation. Sterling is a graduate of Colgate University and serves as President; Tyler is a graduate of Dartmouth College and is Vice President of Marketing and Communication; Myles is a graduate of Northeastern University and is Director of Operations.
“As the parents of Black sons in a racialized America, we knew that getting our sons through college was a success,” she said. “But to be significant, we had to engage others who may not have had the opportunities our family had regarding access to an education that is not defined by ZIP code. Through conversations, research and exploration, we determined that a Foundation could begin to respond to disparities that exist in impoverished communities.”
The Foundation works in three key areas – food security, economic stability and academic excellence – with many of its efforts focused on Black and brown children.
The pandemic made food security the most immediate priority in recent years. The Foundation has been partnering with the North Texas Food Bank and another nonprofit called Mentor, Inspire Nurture and Train (M.I.N.T.)
“Unfortunately, in our partnership with M.I.N.T., we’re setting records in the amount of food we are giving out on the first and third Saturdays of each month, compared to pre-pandemic distribution,” she said. “People start lining up at 5:45 a.m. every day for our distribution at 9 a.m.”
To improve economic stability, the Foundation leverages its corporate experience and partners with corporations in the North Texas area, providing internships and scholarships to deserving students in south Dallas. The Foundation also has partnered with telecommunications company Ericsson to donate more than 1,500 Chromebooks to Uplift scholars to aid in their virtual learning environment. The Foundation also offers an elevated literacy program for students at White Rock Elementary School in Dallas.
The Foundation also partnered with Uplift Education Schools (located in largely under-served communities) to “… to empower students to reach their highest potential …” Uplift’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program encourages personal and academic achievement in a way that enhances personal growth and encourages a mindset to achieve beyond the classroom. Partners include Uplift Education, Ericsson, Toyota, PepsiCo, North Texas Food Bank, M.I.N.T., Preface, Propac, LEAD and the Girl Scouts of America.
Melville added that nonprofits can help in one of two ways: “You can decide what to do, or you can go to the community and say, ‘What kind of help do you need?’ It’s a good thing we asked. Information and instruction from those serving in these spaces longer and with tremendous success do not always intersect with what you think will be helpful.”
Sustaining her through her work are two key passages: her favorite Bible passage, Romans 8:28 (“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose”) and the words of theologian Henri Nouwen.
“He wrote about using our wounds as a source of healing for others,” she said. “These wounds are originally a source of shame and defeat. But we can use our wounds to become a source of a healing for others. It’s about Christ. As the Bible says, ‘By His wounds we are healed.’ ”
To stay grounded through all this, Melville starts each day in prayer with her husband. “We want God to be the first person we talk to,” she said. “I am looking for God all day long. I’m looking to hear or see or feel Him in a different kind of way. When you look for Him, you find Him.”
A Life’s Calling
Serving in ministry is a dream that Lael Melville has nurtured since childhood. She grew up in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion denomination, with an inspiring female role model: her mother, who returned to school and became an ordained AME minister.
Today, she’s a member of Grace Church in Plano, a nondenominational, multicultural congregation. After working for years in the field of psychology – she had a concentration in psychology at Princeton and earned a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degree from Rutgers University — she began to consider going back to school and attending seminary.
“My pastor, Gerald Brooks, told me, ‘You should go to Perkins; That’s where you need to go,’” she recalled. “And that’s where I went!”
She took to Perkins immediately, serving as president of her class, president of the Perkins Student Association and as a member of the Student Senate.
“At Perkins, I’d sit in these classes with these amazing professors who were giving me permission to think deeply about God,” she said. “After class, I could barely leave. Just, wow.”
While pursuing an M.Div. at Perkins, Melville came to two realizations: first, that she was called to serve in the community, rather than in a church setting; and second, that she didn’t want to leave Perkins because “it became abundantly clear that knowing God is a lifelong journey to be pursued with those you both love and respect.”
She continued her studies in the D.Min. program and finished in December 2021.
“I love that Perkins led the way in integrating SMU, and rightly so, as lovers of God,” she said. “I love how the Perkins community filled me up and how I get to live out of the overflow.”
Wes Allen was featured in a recent UM News article, “What preachers can learn from Lean Cuisine” by Sam Hodges. “Preachers need to know the Bible and how to offer pastoral care, and it helps if they can read a budget and drive a church van,” Hodges wrote. “They would also do well to become students of advertising. That’s the case made by the Rev. O. Wesley Allen Jr. and Carrie La Ferle, faculty members at Southern Methodist University, in their recently published book Preaching and the Thirty-Second Commercial: Lessons from Advertising for the Pulpit.” Read the story here.
Gingles Column in The Dallas Morning News
A column by Dallas Gingles, “What Bonhoeffer Can Teach Us About Courage, Faithfulness and Ukraine,” appeared in the op-ed section of TheDallas Morning News on Sunday, May 1. Reflecting on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian executed in Nazi Germany in 1945, he wrote, “Martyrs are vivid reminders to us that we are creatures whose lives have meaning beyond death, and thus that how we live on our way to death has real meaning as well. The exceptional faith of the martyrs informs the everyday moral lives we lead.” In light of the crisis in Ukraine, Gingles wrote, “It isn’t easy to see how these challenges will be resolved, much less how this threat will be defeated. But, in our own little way, we can think with Bonhoeffer about how to take responsibility for our time, and perhaps even join him in praying for a miracle.” The column previewed the upcoming 21st Annual Bonhoeffer Lectures in Public Ethics, which take place on the Perkins campus in Dallas May 19-21. Gingles is Site Director of the Houston-Galveston Extension Program. Dallas Morning News subscribers may read the column here.
Priscilla Pope-Levison is Featured Speaker
Priscilla Pope-Levison was the featured speaker at the 2022 Wesleyan-Pentecostal Symposium: Women in the Holiness and Pentecostal Traditions, held on April 26 at Tyndale University in Toronto. She will also be the featured speaker at the Fellowship Community 2022 National Gathering, May 17-19 at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The event’s theme is “Reclaim/Proclaim: Evangelism 2022.”
An opinion piece by Pope-Levison, “Challenges and opportunities for evangelism today,” appeared on the Baptist News Global website on April 26. She writes, “Evangelism … evokes the image of selling God like vinyl siding. It isn’t easy to be enthusiastic about evangelism today, given the wide range of challenges mitigating against it. At the same time, golden opportunities exist as well.” Read the article here.
Pope-Levison is professor of practical theology at Perkins, author of seven books and a United Methodist pastor. Her 2020 book, Models of Evangelism (Baker Academic) was recently released in a Spanish language version, Models de Evangelismo, by Wesley Heritage Foundation.
The Rev. Henry Masters (M.Th. ’71, D.Min. ‘90) produced his own full-length musical about Simon of Cyrene in April at Hamilton Park UMC in Dallas. The Biblical figure is a long-time fascination for Masters — about 20 years ago, he wrote and published a book about Simon, the African man summoned from the crowd to carry Jesus’ cross to Calvary. Now, at age 76 and retired as a United Methodist pastor, Masters made his debut as a theatrical director with “Simon of Cyrene: The Musical.” The project was the subject of a UM News article by Sam Hodges. “Others might write Simon off as a bit-part Biblical character, briefly mentioned by three of the gospels,” Hodges wrote. “Masters finds him fascinating — and highly relevant in a 21st-century America still struggling with race relations.” Read the story here.
Posthumous Honor for Jack Singleton
At its 138th Commencement on May 14, Hendrix College will award posthumously the honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree to alumnus and civil rights activist Jack Singleton, who died in 2019. The degree was to be presented in Spring 2020, but COVID-19 forced a postponement.
After graduating from Hendrix College in 1963, Singleton earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1966 from Perkins, where he became involved in the civil rights movement. He marched in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and hosted King on a visit to the SMU campus. Later in his life, he was instrumental in starting Arkansas’ first Habitat for Humanity affiliate and served on the Board of Our House Shelter.
Singleton also was a graduate of Little Rock Central High School. According to a Hendrix release, “His sadness over the division and anger of the community surrounding integrating the school inspired his life-long passion for justice. Through his service to the College and to humanity, and his efforts in working for justice, Jack Singleton inspired fellow members of the Hendrix community, modeling what it means to live a life of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” Read the release here.
Scholarship Fund Named for Alum
A scholarship fund has been named after Perkins alum the Rev. Bryant X. Phelps (D.Min. ‘17). The Bryant X. Phelps Endowed Scholarship with the United Negro College Fund is currently open and will support Black students from Texas attending a four-year college/university, with preference given to those attending Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Huston-Tillotson University, Prairie View A&M University and Texas Tech University. “While this fund bears my name, it is dedicated to my cloud of witnesses,” Bryant said in a Facebook announcement. “I pray that whoever receives this award this year, and in the years to come, realizes that they too stand upon the shoulders of women and men who dared to dream.” Phelps is senior pastor of the Church of the Disciple in DeSoto, Texas. Read more here.
Shane Pair Named to Chaplain Post
The Rev. Shane Pair (M.Div. ’03) has been selected as the National Guard Bureau’s Chaplains Chief of Readiness and Resources, located at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. “I am thankful, humble and nervous all at the same time,” Pair said in a Facebook announcement. “I am honored that the Air National Guard leadership has chosen me to serve. I ask for your prayers that I will have the wisdom of God to lead in every area called upon. I ask you pray for my family as my wife will continue to pastor in Arkansas. Pray for our Airmen who give tirelessly of themselves to ensure this Great Nation remains strong.” Pair is an ordained elder in the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church and is assigned to the military as an extension ministry. His wife, Sara Cole Pair, a Duke Divinity alum, is the senior pastor at Sequoyah UMC in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Paige Alvarez Hanks to Austin
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Austin, Texas, has announced that the Rev. Paige Alvarez Hanks (M.Div. ’18) is the church’s next Priest for Pastoral Care. Hanks currently is serving as a clergy associate at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City; she will begin her ministry at Good Shepherd at the end of May. “The search advisory committee and I found Paige’s personality to be very warm and engaging,” said the Rev. Channing Smith, Good Shepherd’s rector, in the announcement. “I believe Paige is the right person to help us create new possibilities for this ministry. She is a self-starter and a joyful presence of God’s love.” Read more here.
Obit: Rev. Dr. Victor E. Green
The Rev. Dr. Victor E. Green (M.Th. ’60) passed away April 16. He served as a pastor in the United Methodist Church for more than 50 years, mostly in The Arkansas Conference, including appointments as senior pastor in Batesville, Tyronza, Fort Smith (Wesley), McCrory, Pocahontas, Beebe, and Stuttgart (Grand Avenue). After retiring, he served as Pastor Emeritus at First United Methodist in Benton, Ark., where he and his late wife, Mary, were very active in the life of the church. Services were held April 23 at the First UMC in Benton. Read his obit here.
Obit: Rev. Robert Younts
The Rev. Robert W. (Bob) Younts (M.Th. ’56) died at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens, Georgia on March 28. He began The Wesley Foundation in Winston Salem, North Carolina, and served as director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Missouri in Columbia. In 1965, he joined the Northern Illinois Conference (Rock River) as pastor of Wellington Park UMC in Chicago. During his time in this conference, he served as local pastor for the following congregations: Mount Carroll, Lake Villa, Freeport and Park Forest. After 29 years in the Northern Illinois Conference, he moved back to the South to lead the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta for three years. He is survived by his wife, Carolyn P. Younts, a retired Methodist minister. A funeral was held on April 4 at the Winder First UMC. Read his obit here.