News November 2022 Perspective Online Top Story

Letter from the Dean: “For Lack of Knowledge”

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  (Hosea 4:6)

Years ago I presided at the wedding of two friends, a delightful couple who are both well known in their respective fields. Present in the congregation that day were a number of prominent persons whose names you would almost certainly recognize.

I had been asked to preach a wedding sermon, which is a somewhat unusual request. What surprised me afterward were the comments I received from a number of those eminent attendees. It’s not that they were negative. Quite the opposite: they were overly positive. The sermon was fine, I suppose, but nothing exceptional. It dawned on me that the bar I had needed to clear was set incredibly low. I was saddened to realize how little they expected of a preacher.

I have taught in a great many churches over the past 40+ years. Being human, I appreciate postive feedback when it comes. At times, however, the experience is rather like that described above. I hasten to say that the comments are not about the style of presentation but rather about the content.  I am not talking about anything particularly esoteric, unusual, or controversial. The same information would be offered in a New Testament Introdicton course taught by any of my colleagues at this and previous schools. Eventually, someone will say, “I have been in this church for 20+ years. Why haven’t I heard this before?” Why, indeed?

Based on personal observation, I’d say one explanation is that a good percentage of seminary graduates shy away from teaching.  Among the reasons:

  • It’s somebody else’s job.
  • Not being subject experts, they lack confidence. (Trust me, all teachers at times expose their ignorance. Q&A in particular is a minefield for those of us with a less than stellar memory.)
  • It can take a lot of time to do well.
  • Pastors might suppose that persons in their congregation would be…
    • Incapable of understanding.
    • Challenged and offended if they did understand.
    • Oppositional and divisive from that point on (assuming they don’t just leave).

Too easily, serious theological study becomes the province of an elite, self-protective class, and the church, in reaction and result, becomes increasingly suspicious of academic theology and, forgive me for saying it, increasingly ignorant. As I observed 26 years ago in a sermon at another theological school, “Few Christians are equipped to think Christianly at a very high level. Among other things, this intellectual disengagement has cost the church much of its cultural influence.  Why should society listen to us when the public face of Christianity is so obviously banal, uninformed, and even ridiculous?”

To be clear, I do not expect our congregants to be Aquinas. This is not intellectual snobbery. It is in fact the opposite: it is about respecting the capacity of fellow Christians to think for themselves. In my experience, most people hunger to be taken seriously as adult learners. They do not want condescension; they want substance.

The widespread lack of intellectual engagement is evident in current debates about human sexuality, among other things. The depth and quality of arguments is often exceedingly low, descending to the level of today’s debased political discourse. Issues are grossly oversimplified, most often in the form of dualism, resulting in the ultimate binary: us versus them. Thinking this way is both easy and comfortably self-affirming. It is also incredibly dangerous. Most of the worst ideas ever foisted upon humankind–ideas such as Marxism and Nazism that cost the lives of tens of millions–were binary and self-authenticating.  It takes education, which comes in many forms, to engage the world in its true complexity. It also takes honesty and humility.

Returning for a moment to that theological school sermon:

In chapter four of Hosea, the prophet announces, literally, God’s lawsuit against Israel.

1 Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel;
for the LORD has an indictment against the inhabitants of the land.
There is no faithfulness or loyalty,
and no knowledge of God in the land.

            No knowledge of God in the land.  To what result?

2 Swearing, lying, and murder,
and stealing and adultery break out;
bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Therefore the land mourns,
and all who live in it languish;
together with the wild animals
and the birds of the air,
even the fish of the sea are perishing.

            Whose fault is it?  The corrupt rulers?  The indifferent populace?

4 Yet let no one contend,
and let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, O priest.
5 You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night…
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…

We need to provide our people with tools for solid and faithful, discerning and critical engagement with our tradition. Otherwise, God might well say to us, “With you is my contention, O clergy, O professor, O dean.”

How are people to believe with life-directing conviction if all they know is a vacuous and inarticulate religion? How are they prepared to wrestle with reality in all its messiness if all they have are pat answers? So many have given up on the church precisely because it did not acknowledge and help them to deal with what Karl Barth famously called the “shadow side of creation.” Pictures of roses are lovely, but actual roses have thorns. Again and again, reality proves itself more complicated, more intractable and more surprising than our ideas about it.

I do not mean to sound scolding. Indeed, a fair share of blame can and should be leveled at theological schools for not doing enough to equip and to encourage the ministry of teaching, among their students but also in the wider church. Perkins itself is not an ivory tower, high above, walled off from and oblivious to the church. Yet, for all it does to meet these needs, more must be done.

We don’t need Christians throwing grenades at each other from entrenched positions, unwilling to think beyond simple dualisms, unwilling to wrestle with complexity.  Just as a democracy requires an educated citizenry to survive and thrive, the church needs well-informed Christians, persons who can, as Charles Wesley put it, “unite the two so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.” Each–knowledge and piety, head and heart–is required to instruct and to temper the other. They are the double helix of Christian life.

Does it seem at times as though, to quote Hosea, “There is no…knowledge of God in the land”? By God’s grace, it is within our power to do something about that.

Thank you for all that you are already doing to raise up thoughtful believers, persons for whom all knowledge is in effect theological knowledge, relevant to faith. Permit me here to challenge myself, Perkins School of Theology, and you to consider what more we might do.


News November 2022 Perspective Online

Office of Enrollment Management: Financial Literacy

The Perkins Financial Literacy Program (FLP) works to empower students to make wise financial decisions. Initially funded through the Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Economic Challenge Facing Future Ministers Initiative (ECFFM), FLP provides fully transparent information about the cost of a theological education and connects students to financial resources. Students can then effectively take charge of their own financial path through graduate school and beyond.

This year, the Perkins FLP is focusing on educating students through Saving Grace: A Guide to Financial Well Being, a six-week, faith-based money management curriculum for congregational or clergy groups. Using the expertise of United Methodist leaders across the connection, through videos, a workbook and devotional materials, the curriculum provides the text and tools needed to address the topics of saving, earning, giving, spending and debt.

Over the summer, five Perkins students took part in a small group study, and 15 members of the Fall 2022 incoming class participated in a virtual session. Here’s what some of our students had to say:

“The Saving Grace course was something I didn’t know I needed. It opened conversations that encouraged me, helped me and challenged me regarding how we exist and interact as human beings in the world… I have gained a better mindset when it comes to navigating financial matters in a faithful, sustainable and peace-filled way.”

“Now that I have completed the Saving Grace program, I am confident in my savings and spending. I have become more conscientious about how the Lord leads us in our financial journey. I highly recommend taking this course to better our financial understandings!”

“With the life transition into ministry and seminary, I took the Saving Grace course in the middle of an extreme shift in my financial situation. Perkins offering Saving Grace not only helped me meet the requirements for a very significant scholarship award, but it also gave me the opportunity to intentionally think about my finances during seminary and beyond…We took a grace-filled look at our finances in a safe and affirming space.”

In September, FLP hosted Sharon L. Killion, a Retirement Income Certified Professional. Having worked in the financial services business for more than 20 years, Sharon has a wealth of experience and was recognized by Texas Monthly as a 2022 Five Star Wealth Manager award winner. She provided Perkins students, staff and faculty with retirement and saving techniques, and tools to prepare for the future.

We invite you to join us on Wednesday, November 16 at 11:30 a.m. as FLP sponsors a virtual Perkins Community Worship service. This special service will be led by current students, and a fiscally minded sermon will be provided by the Rev. Shunda Wilkin (M.Div. ’22). Shunda is a Deacon in the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church and a student in the Doctor of Ministry program at Perkins. Click here to join the service on Nov. 16.

FLP remains committed to the goal of the ECFFM initiative. We are grateful for the lessons we’ve learned as we work to strengthen the financial well-being of our students. We continue to research materials that lend support to our students and can be delivered via the newsletter, e-news and Web resource page. Feedback from participants—students, staff, and faculty—supports our steadfast conviction that this work is relevant and significant.

Warmest regards,
Christina Rhodes
Financial Aid and Literacy Coordinator



News November 2022 Perspective Online

Office of Development: News and Notes

We are well into the fall semester.  Let me bring you up to speed on several items that have bubbled to the surface.

Campaign Steering Committee

The Perkins Campaign Steering Committee met in the Benefactors Room in Bridwell Library on October 5, hosted by co-chairs Julie Yarbrough and Joe Hardt.  President R. Gerald Turner, Provost Elizabeth G. Loboa, and Vice President Brad Cheves were in attendance.  I was pleased to report that the Perkins Campaign total has surpassed $27 million!  Stay tuned for future announcements which will significantly add to that total.

The committee had a robust discussion of the priorities that are currently before us in the SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow Campaign:

Priority 1: Student scholarship aid, both annual support and student aid endowments.  This is always our No. 1 priority.

Priority 2: An endowment to cover an archivist in Bridwell Library along with expenses related to the former World Methodist Museum materials.

Priority 3: Continued funding for the Baptist House of Studies with a heavy emphasis on student scholarships. Continued exploration of new related projects such as an endowed faculty member/director for that program.

Priority 4: An endowed chair of evangelism, mission, and church growth and health.

Priority 5: A $150,000 endowment to memorialize Billy Abraham through periodic lectures in his memory.

Priority 6: Commitments for the Perkins Scholars Program: three pledges for the current year, three for next year, and 10 for the 2024-25 year.

Priority 7: Refurbish Kirby Parlor’s lighting, furniture, paint, and window treatments.

I was happy to announce that one of our former priorities, the Caren and Vin Prothro Organ project, has now been fully funded.  The organ will be installed by this time next year.

Perkins Executive Board

Also on October 5, the Perkins Executive Board met in Prothro Great Hall.  The Executive Board is made up of individuals who care deeply about Perkins School of Theology and who serve as an advisory group to the Dean of Perkins.

  • Two new Executive Board members were introduced, the Rev. Matt Tuggle and the Rev. Dr. Paula Dobbs-Wiggins.

The Rev. Matt Tuggle (M.Div. ’10) is the Executive Minister and one of the preaching pastors at Highland Park United Methodist Church. As Executive Minister, he oversees all programs and ministries of the Mockingbird Campus. As part of the new role, he sits on the Senior Leadership Team at HPUMC. He previously served as the Director of Family Ministries at HPUMC for five years. Prior to serving at HPUMC, Matt served churches in Georgia and Virginia. He studied Biology and Religion at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia and seminary at Perkins School of Theology at SMU. He and his wife Amy have been married for 14 years and have three children: 8- and 5-year-old sons and a 3-year-old daughter.

Paula Dobbs-Wiggins, M.D. is a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice and Adjunct Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Care at Perkins.  A native of St. Louis, MO, Dr. Dobbs-Wiggins received her bachelor’s degree in Biology (cum laude) from Harvard College and her medical degree from Harvard Medical School. During her senior year of college, she was licensed and later ordained by Eliot Congregational Church of Roxbury, Mass. Dr. Dobbs-Wiggins is currently a member of St. Luke “Community” UMC in Dallas where she serves as Coordinator of the Mental Health Ministry and Directress of the Angel & Cherub Choir. She also serves as Vice-Chairperson of the Board of Managers of Parkland Health and Hospital System. Dr. Dobbs-Wiggins is married to Kevin B. Wiggins. They are the proud parents of four young adult children, Lauren Nichelle, Kyle Eliot, Paul Wesley and Kevin Jarrett.

  • At the end of the meeting, the Executive Board held a reception in honor of Dean Craig Hill and his wife Robin. This was his last Board meeting as Dean of Perkins.
  • During the meeting incoming interim Dean Bishop Mike McKee expressed enthusiasm about beginning his tenure as Dean on January 1, 2023.

Public Life Personal Faith Scholarship Luncheon

At the Executive Board meeting, it was announced that Dr. Michael Hinojosa, recently retired Superintendant of the Dallas Independent School District, will be the speaker at the Public Life Personal Faith Scholarship Luncheon on March 28.  The proceeds from the luncheon will be applied to the Hispanic Initiative Student Scholarship Fund.

Details will be announced soon!

As always, we are looking for partners to make theological education affordable and accessible for our students in Dallas and in Houston.  Join us in this important work with an online donation to the Perkins School of Theology through this link.

I am always available at or 214.768.2026.

All my best,

John A. Martin
Director of Development

News November 2022 Perspective Online

Distinguished Alumnus/a Award

The Perkins School of Theology Alumni/ae Council has selected Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. (M.Div. ‘97; D.Min. ‘09) as the 2022 recipient of the Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award. Saenz, a native of south Texas and lifelong United Methodist, was elected bishop in 2016 at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and assigned to the Great Plains Conference, based in Topeka, Kansas. In his role as episcopal leader in Kansas and Nebraska, Saenz has worked to unify three former conferences that came together in 2014. In 2022, he was additionally assigned as the Coverage Bishop of the Central Texas Conference, based in Fort Worth, Texas. Read the press release here.

Saenz will be honored at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet on November 14 on the campus of SMU. The banquet will also recognize the 2021 Award recipient, Evelyn Parker, and the 2020 Award recipients, the Rev. Donald W. Underwood and the Rev. Dr. Sidney G. Hall, III. The event takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. in SMU’s Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom (Umphrey Lee Center, 3300 Dyer Street, Dallas, TX 75205). Cost is $55 per person or $550 for a table of 10. Purchase tickets here.

News November 2022 Perspective Online

Advent Worship

Members of the Perkins School of Theology community will gather for an Advent Evening Prayer service on Thursday, December 1 at 6 p.m. in Perkins Chapel on the campus of SMU.

“We’re basing the service on the liturgical framework of evening prayer,” said Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music and Doctor of Pastoral Music programs at SMU.  “We’re following a very simple structure in the United Methodist Hymnal, covering the theme of Advent from different scriptural perspectives.”

Following that structure, four readings are planned for the service: a prophetic passage from the Old Testament (Isaiah 35:1-10); a Psalm (72:1-7, 18-19); a Gospel reading (Matthew 1:18-25) and an Epistle (Romans 13:11–14.)

The service this year will be somewhat bittersweet, Silva Steuernagel says.

“This is the last Advent service that Dean Hill will be with us,” he said. “We’re inviting members of Meadows faculty as well. The prayer, blessings and readings will be done by a combination of Meadows and Perkins people. That reflects the multidisciplinary nature of the MSM program.  No matter what discipline you’re in, what building you’re in, whether you’re on the music or theology faculty — we are all awaiting the coming of the Christ child together.”

The Advent worship service has traditionally featured alumni/ae of the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program. This year’s music lineup includes a Magnificat written by Richard M. Walsh (M.S.M. ’20).

“Dr. Anderson and I are hoping to transform this service into an opportunity for MSM alumni/ae to see each other,” he said. “We’ve sent out a number of invitations. It’s a busy time of year for our alumnæ, but I’m hoping that several will accept our invitation.”

The Advent service was instituted in 1959 by Professors Grady Hardin and Lloyd Pfautsch and is closely tied to the development of Perkins’ Master of Sacred Music Program.  A forerunner to this tradition was established in 1948 when Perkins Professor Fred Gealy led the Seminary Singers, a non-auditioned ensemble of theology and sacred music students, and the Perkins community in a program of Christmas music during the last chapel service of the fall semester.

The service is open to the public. Worshippers should allow ample time for parking.

News November 2022 Perspective Online

William J. Abraham Memorial Lecture Launched Oct. 17

The inaugural William J. Abraham Memorial Lecture took place on October 17 at Perkins Chapel, with Dr. Frederick Aquino delivering the lecture. Bridwell Library (SMU Libraries) and Perkins School of Theology established the annual Memorial Lecture to bring a scholar to the SMU campus each year to engage in a topic related to Abraham’s work of the scholar’s choosing.

At the event, Dean Craig Hill welcomed attendees, and Abraham’s daughter, Siobhan Abraham, offered greetings on behalf of the Abraham family. Bill Millard (B.A. ’78, J.D./MBA ’83) a longtime member of the Sunday school class which Abraham led for years at Highland Park United Methodist Church, also spoke briefly.

Bruce Marshall introduced Aquino, a former student of Dr. Abraham. Aquino is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at the Graduate School of Theology, Abilene Christian University (ACU), and the director of the philosophy minor at ACU. He earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies (with an emphasis in systematic theology) from Southern Methodist University in 2000.

Aquino’s lecture, “William J. Abraham and John Henry Newman on Faith and Reason,” explored parallels in Abraham’s and Newman’s thinking. Newman (1801-1890) was an English theologian, scholar and poet and was an important and controversial figure in the religious history of 19th century England. Newman was canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church in 2019.

Aquino argued that, in the debate over the relationship between faith and reason, Abraham and Newman each sought to offer a third alternative. Aquino argued that neither embraced fideism — the assertion that faith is exempt from or impervious to rational analysis – or hard rationalism, which says a “belief is true if and only if it can be convincing to any reasonable person.”

“Both Newman and Abraham sought to carve out a path between fideism and hard rationalism … a third option, which Billy called ‘soft rationalism,’” he said. “The elements of soft rationalism include the willingness to subject faith to rational analysis, the informal and convergent nature of reasoning and the irreducible role that judgment plays in evaluating evidence and informing arguments.”

View a video recording of the lecture, as well as the Q&A that followed, here.

Dr. Abraham, 73, died suddenly in October 2021. He was the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at Perkins from 1995 until his retirement in May 2021. He joined the Perkins faculty on Sept. 1, 1985, as the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism and the Philosophy of Religion under the leadership of then-Dean James Kirby and Provost Hans Hillerbrand. After retirement, he became Professor Emeritus of Wesley Studies.

News November 2022 Perspective Online

Perkins School of Youth Ministry Coordinator Patrice Greer

Youth ministers from around the U.S. return year after year to the Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM) for inspiration, new ideas and fellowship. They can expect that again at the 36th annual event, scheduled for January 9-12, 2023.

But this year’s gathering will also offer an expanded focus, according to Patrice A. Greer, Perkins’ new Coordinator of Youth & Young Adult Ministry Education. In a conversation with Perkins Perspective, Greer shared plans for the 2023 event as well as her long-term goals for her new position. Here are excerpts.

Tell us about the theme of this year’s PSYM?

It’s “Everyday Adventure.” It came from conversations from several youth pastors who told us, “Goodness, we’ve gone through this pandemic and our adventure has shifted.” What used to be the everyday adventure of youth ministry — going to the schools, connecting with the students, having afterschool programs, being in the brick-and-mortar churches on Sunday, connecting with parents …   that all changed when the pandemic began. As students were having to do school from home, some youth pastors became not only mom and dad, but also the teacher, the lunch lady, all of these things.

Now we’re in a hybrid world. Youth pastors are again learning how to adjust: ministering to young people who connected with them online during the pandemic and at the same time ministering to the young people inside the brick-and-mortar churches.  It’s uncharted territory. So, this year, PSYM will really focus on helping our youth pastors and young adult pastors hone the skills necessary to be able to thrive in this hybrid world.

You mentioned young adult pastors. Does that represent an expansion of your potential audience of PSYM participants?

Yes, it’s little bit of an expansion. We thought it was a good time to connect with young adult pastors, because they too are in that strange predicament of adjusting to the hybrid world. And there are a lot of similarities between youth and young adult programming.

Anything else that’s new at this year’s PSYM?

Our plenary speaker is Andy Root. He’s going to be amazing! He just released a book, The Church after Innovation: Questioning Our Obsession with Work, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (Baker Academic, September 2022.) He will address the state of ministry and what it takes to kind of move the pendulum in an effective yet healthy direction. Our youth and young adult pastors were in the front lines during the pandemic. That was traumatic. Some of them did not get to grieve the loss of their own loved ones. At the same time, they had to minister to the young people and their families. Andy Root is going to help us really deal with post pandemic issues, as well as how to continue in the innovation that occurred during the pandemic.

William Cumby will talk about the Portable Pulpit. That’s how to take what you do and start connecting in the community. That’s another way we are broadening our territory this year, as far as the, the speakers we’re bringing in. Not all of them are known in Methodist ministry. Will is youth pastor of The Fountain of Praise, a nondenominational church in Houston.

Shanterra McBride is leading a workshop on Courageous Discomfort. Shanterra goes around to churches and communities all around the world to create safe places for people to have conversations about race inclusion, so that everybody feels that they have a safe place where they worship.

I think it’s going to be exciting because these speakers are outside of our normal confines of Methodism.

I’m not hearing you talk about things getting “back to normal.”

I think the old normal is gone. I believe the new normal has already begun to take up residence, just as the next generation is coming into young adulthood.  Before the pandemic we talked largely about the millennials. Now we’re into Gen Z. Soon it’ll be the Alpha Generation. These generations have a totally different perspective concerning life ministry. The hybrid world is where they live. It’s been their constant.

Many people return to PSYM again and again, year after year.  What about the program will stay the same?  

PSYM offers a healthy space that’s theologically sound and prides itself on cultivating youth pastors and young adult pastors of this era. That’s been consistent. The other thing is our structure. We’ve developed programming that’s consistent and that focuses on two particular areas: Foundations and the workshops. Foundations is largely set up for those youth pastors who are just starting out; the workshops are developed more for that seasoned youth pastor or young adult pastor who says, “Okay, I’ve been through Foundations, but I need something else.”

I would also say that care at is at the core of what we do here. For the youth pastor who’s coming out of traumatic situations, is there someone for them to be able to talk to? Is there a place where they can download for just a moment if they receive something that speaks right to their spirit in the moment? We’re always concerned about the care of the youth pastor and the young adult pastor.

Many people come to PSYM year after year. What brings them back?

I think it’s the practicality. In youth ministry, you’re constantly looking for the next best programming. You’re constantly looking to find what will speak to the young people you’re serving. When you leave PSYM and go back to your youth ministry, you can use the information you’ve learned right away.

The other piece is the consistent focus on developing healthy, God-led programming. It’s not just developing just programming for youth.  It’s youth ministry, centered around the word of God. People come back year after year because what we offer is theologically sound, it’s practical, and it’s innovative.

Tell us a little bit about yourself — how you came to this position, your background, your goals.

I’m also a youth pastor at the Fort Worth campus of the Potter’s House. I’ve been doing youth ministry now for over 20 years, both in Chicago and in Dallas.  That is what led me to this position. During the pandemic, as a youth pastor, I found myself asking, “Okay, what are we going to do?” I started reaching out via Zoom once a week with other youth pastors, to touch base and to check in. These Zoom gatherings began with just a few youth pastors and ultimately drew youth pastors from all over the country. We called the group “Be Sharp” because we were sharpening each other.

We collaborated once a week.  People could ask questions about their needs. And we started just praying for each other. We found ways for large churches to share sound equipment and lighting equipment and other things with smaller churches that didn’t have those.

Once we became hybrid again, and people started going back into the brick-and-mortar churches, those relationships didn’t stop. From that experience, I realized that that I really love pouring into young adult and youth pastors. I love ministering to the young people, but I also found myself totally enjoying ministering to the youth pastor. I found out about this position at SMU Perkins, and it really spoke to me.

One of my goals is to broaden our sphere, to reach not just our Methodist youth pastors in the U.S. We want to bring in youth pastors all over the globe, who also want theologically sound, innovative information and a safe place to be cared for. Toward that end, we’ve begun to develop a lot of digital content. And when we have events in person, we’ll invite them to come.

Registration is now open for the 2023 Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM), a four-day educational gathering for youth ministers taking place January 9-12, 2023. This year marks the 36th year of PSYM, which will take place at Highland Park United Methodist Church, near the campus of SMU. For more information and to register, click here.

News November 2022 Perspective Online

Meet the Rev. Annette Owen, Perkins’ New Baptist House of Studies Coordinator

Until recently, leaders described Perkins’ Baptist House of Studies as a “spiritual, rather than a physical, house” for students from Baptist and other Free Church traditions at Perkins. But this fall, the Baptist House acquired its own space as well as a new full-time staff person: the Rev. Annette Owen, Coordinator of the Baptist House.

Owen, an ordained American Baptist minister, served in a variety of ministerial contexts before coming to Perkins. Perkins Perspective talked with Owen about her new position. Here are excerpts.

Perspective: What does your position entail?

Owen: I’m still figuring that out! I’ve been organizing social events and looking for ways to create community. I’ll write a newsletter, update the website as needed and travel to conferences to represent the Baptist House. I’m also setting up our new space. We have three rooms on the second floor of Selecman: a student lounge, an office and a conference room. I’m working on making that space inviting. We’ll use it to host events, meetings and Bible studies, but it’ll also just be an open place where students can gather to chill or hang out. You don’t have to be a Baptist to visit!

For those readers who aren’t familiar – give us the elevator speech description of the Baptist House. 

The Baptist House was founded in 2019 to foster community for ministerial students, faculty, and staff who identify with the Baptist and Free Church traditions. The house especially supports and encourages students as they pursue their academic and ecclesial training in an ecumenical and university-based seminary. During their time at Perkins—through the Baptist House of Studies—Baptist students and those from Free Church traditions such as the United Church of Christ, the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ, Mennonite and non-denominational churches, are able to participate in mentoring, internships and fellowships. In addition, students can choose a concentration in Baptist Studies, including Baptist and Free Church history, theology and polity.

What was it about the Baptist House that intrigued you enough to apply and to take the job?

I’d been serving on the Board of the Baptist House, and that’s how I found out they would be hiring.  The timing was right. Over the last few years, my husband, David, was living here in Dallas while I was pastoring Community Baptist Church, a small church outside of Chicago. I was ready for something new and ready for a break from serving a church.

What really excited me about this role was the opportunity to work with students and with the next generation of leaders – helping them discern their call and formulate their vision. I’m excited to see what shape this ministry will have. Also, I have the freedom to do new and interesting things.

The other piece is that this position allows me to help cultivate a different kind of Baptist voice and witness here in Texas. When people hear “Baptist” they often think one thing, and it’s not a very flattering narrative.  I’m interested in how we expand that story and cultivate a different Baptist voice.

Do you have any specific goals or priorities that you’ve set for yourself or for your time in this position?  

We had a dinner for some new Perkins students at the end of September, and they talked about how they came to be at Perkins. When they discovered that Perkins had a Baptist House, it was a pleasant surprise. One goal I have is to see the Baptist House become a reason that people choose to come to Perkins, where the presence of the Baptist House is part of their discernment process in choosing a seminary, rather than just a pleasant surprise!

Can you describe your sense of calling and how and when it came about? 

It’s been a journey, and I like to say, I was the last one to get the memo.

I was raised Assemblies of God, but I think I’ve been Baptist my whole life. There was this moment when turned 16 and got my driver’s license. That suddenly made me realize my own autonomy. Church became this place where I didn’t have to go, that I could choose to go. Similarly, I didn’t want to go to a school that required chapel, so I didn’t go to our Assemblies of God denominational school. It wasn’t until years later, while in my first Baptist polity and history class, that I learned about soul freedom, about the importance of choosing for yourself to have a life of faith and faithful expression.  So I joke that I’ve always been Baptist.

As far as being in ministry, again, I was the last one to get the call. I studied English and religion in undergrad. My religion advisor was an American Baptist minister, and he always would tell me, “You know, the best way to combine English, creative writing and religion is sermon writing.” I would just laugh and say, “Nope, not called to do that.” I did a year of AmeriCorps VISTA service. The executive director had been a Methodist minister.  I thought, running a church is kind of like running a nonprofit. I decided to get an M.Div. and learn how to bring faith and action together. I planned to work in the nonprofit world. I went to divinity school at the University of Chicago, still not feeling called to become a minister. There, for the first time, I saw a woman preach. That got me thinking, “Do I not feel called to ministry because I’m not called to it, or because I never saw a woman do it?” That started me wrestling with the idea of becoming an ordained pastor in the church.

In a full circle, “God has a sense of humor” moment, I attended my first American Baptist biennial, and ran into my undergraduate religion advisor. I said, “Guess what? I’m being ordained. You were right. I’m going to be writing sermons.”

Do you have a specific spiritual practice you’d be willing to share?

I’m a runner.  I especially love walking and running in nature. Back when I was working regularly on sermons, I’d always reach that point where I needed to move and clear my head.  I’m also an extrovert, so I also enjoy just hanging with friends, with other people and other voices and sharing community with other people.

Tell us a little about your family.

My husband, David, and I live in Oak Cliff. David is a physician/scientist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. We have two dogs. We named them Fred and George, after the Weasley twins in Harry Potter, because they are also red headed twins that get into a lot of trouble.

Do you have a Bible verse, quote or wisdom saying that’s your mantra or guiding principle?   

“We’ll figure it out.” I found myself saying that over the past several months, while in the process of moving here, selling an old house, buying a new one, starting a new job. I think it’s a useful phase as we’re coming into a post pandemic world, where we’re considering what the church will look like in the next phase. We don’t know yet, but we’ll figure it out.


News November 2022 Perspective Online

Lilly Grant

Funded by a Lilly Endowment Grant, Perkins School of Theology Partners with Wesley Seminary to Create New Educational Pathways for Ministry

Perkins School of Theology will collaborate with Wesley Theological Seminary in developing new non-degree courses and certificates for pastors, thanks to a $5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

The grant to Wesley, part of the third and final phase of Lilly’s Pathways for Tomorrow Initiative, will enable both schools to develop a business model to better support comprehensive theological education: layered and articulated courses and programs that reach and serve pastors and lay ministers throughout their ministries and across many contexts.

“I am grateful Lilly Endowment has trusted Wesley over the last few years with a series of grants to fund research toward a hopeful future for churches and pastors. The Pathways 3 grant will allow us to integrate what we have learned as we continue to innovate, to seek new markets for theological education, and to offer new products to existing markets,” said the Rev. Dr. David McAllister-Wilson Wesley’s President.  Leading the program will be the Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr., Director of Wesley’s Lewis Center for Church Leadership, who said, “One of our goals is to expand the reach of theological education to those who may have an interest but cannot commit to pursuing a traditional degree. The non-degree and certificate offerings will enable them to deepen their theological knowledge and to gain expertise in practical areas of ministry.”

At the same time, Wesley is committed to partnering with Perkins School of Theology to steward the two seminaries’ collective resources to maintain the highest theological education standards for all called to ministry.

“As Wesley leaders engaged with us at Perkins, we began sharing what each of us had been learning,” said the Rev. Dr. Craig Hill, Perkins’ Dean. “Through these conversations, we discovered a remarkable convergence of both ideas and spirit. Perkins looks forward to partnering with Wesley to make theological education accessible to current and prospective congregational leaders for whom it might otherwise be unavailable.”

This is the third Pathways grant Wesley has received. The first $50,000 planning grant underwrote extensive research as Wesley convened groups of denominational leaders, pastors, and laity across many traditions and contexts to hear what resources were available and needed. Wesley particularly focused on multi-vocational clergy and contexts traditionally under-represented in Wesley’s master’s level student body. With the $1 million Phase Two grant from Lilly Endowment, Wesley is focusing on expanding access to master’s level education, including creating more “on-ramps” for students and strengthening online and hybrid pathways. Wesley’s initiatives are guided by the work of the Religious Workforce Project, also funded by Lilly Endowment, which is identifying an increasingly diverse pastoral workforce that needs more support to not only weather rapid religious and cultural changes but to build and lead.

Like Wesley Theological Seminary, Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University is one of thirteen seminaries related to the United Methodist Church and one of five such schools embedded within a university. The two schools anticipate building on the strengths of each institution to create a business model that is adaptable for more theological education institutions, whether free-standing or university-related, and a platform that can engage more pastors and partners across the country and around the world. Among the strengths Perkins brings to the collaboration is a long history of working with Hispanic populations and has developed innovative certificate programs in practical ministry.

Together, Wesley and Perkins will develop a ministry certificate in English and Spanish that will serve those not able to pursue a traditional degree. The partnership includes working with the Puerto Rico Methodist Church to expand non-degree and certificate offerings to their constituents. As United Methodist seminaries, the two institutions look forward to the ongoing relationships with bishops, conferences, and general agencies in developing appropriate educational opportunities. These partnerships are even more critical as the denomination undergoes a transformation in the next few years. The Pathways 3 grant will allow Wesley and Perkins to strengthen current connections and build new ones throughout the denomination.

Wesley Theological Seminary, in partnership with Perkins School of Theology, is one of 16 theological schools that has received grants to fund large-scale, highly collaborative programs through the Pathways initiative. Lilly Endowment believes these programs have the potential to become models for other schools as they seek to strengthen the way they educate pastors and other congregational leaders.

“Theological schools play an essential role in ensuring that Christian congregations have a steady stream of well-prepared leaders to guide their ministries,” said Christopher L. Coble, the Endowment’s vice president for religion. “Many theological schools believe that their paths to the future depend on their abilities to form strategic partnerships with other schools and church agencies. These grants will help seminaries develop innovative and collaborative approaches to theological education that we believe will strengthen their efforts to prepare and support excellent leaders for Christian communities into the future.”

Lilly Endowment launched the Pathways initiative in January 2021 because of its longstanding interest in supporting efforts to enhance and sustain the vitality of Christian congregations by strengthening the leadership capacities of pastors and congregational lay leaders.

About Lilly Endowment Inc

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of American Christians, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.

About Wesley Theological Seminary

Seated in the nation’s capital and centered in Christian faith, Wesley Theological Seminary annually prepares more than 1,000 students, representing more than 30 denominations, to become exemplary teachers, preachers, and leaders in the world today. Wesley graduates are in ministry in all 50 states and in 20 countries as leaders of churches and service organizations. The mission of Wesley Theological Seminary is to prepare Christians for leadership in the church and the world, to advance theological scholarship, and to model a prophetic voice in the public square.

About The Lewis Center for Church Leadership

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary seeks to advance the understanding of Christian leadership and promote the effective and faithful practice of Christian leadership in the church and the world. The center is building a new vision for church leadership grounded in faith, informed by knowledge and exercised in effective practice. The center seeks a holistic understanding of leadership that brings together theology and management, scholarship and practice, research and application. The Lewis Center serves as a resource for clergy and lay leaders, congregations and denominational leaders. Through teaching, research, publications and resources, the center supports visionary spiritual leaders and addresses key leadership issues crucial to the church’s faithful witness.

About Perkins School of Theology/SMU

Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, Master of Theology, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Pastoral Music as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

SMU is the nationally ranked global research university in the dynamic city of Dallas.  SMU’s alumni, faculty and more than 12,000 students in eight degree-granting schools demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit as they lead change in their professions, communities and the world.





News November 2022 Perspective Online

Student Spotlight: Courtney Mitchell

When he looks back at his path to ministry, Courtney Mitchell thinks of the story of Peter’s call to ministry in Luke 5. While preaching, Jesus asked Peter, a fisherman, to take him out on his boat so that he can better reach the crowd.

“For the longest time, I thought of myself as a devoted layperson,” he said. “Jesus uses Peter’s own profession, and his boat, and changes lives. We’re all called to ministry wherever we are.”

Later, Jesus gifts Peter with a miracle (the nets filled with fish) and a calling to a new life — but still connected to his old profession. As Jesus told Peter, “From now on you will be catching people.” (Luke 5:10, NRSV.)

Now, the story has another meaning for Mitchell, who left a career as an attorney to enter the ministry. As a third-year M.Div. student at Perkins, he’s pursuing ordination as an elder in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“It’s that layering of Peter’s life, that’s how I relate to my story,” Mitchell said. “It helps me understand, in a Biblical context, my own life’s trajectory.”


Mitchell felt the first hints of the call to ministry while growing up in a United Methodist church in Waco, Texas. But he fell away from the church in college. After earning a J.D./M.B.A. degree from Fordham University, he practiced law in the areas of corporate securities and transactions, representing private equity and hedge fund managers, and handling SEC regulatory work.

While living in New York City, along with his wife, Sarah, he joined Christ Church United Methodist.

“I felt I was meeting Jesus and the church again and for the first time,” he said. “This was a church where people lived and practiced Christian faith in their everyday lives. The community was serving each other and serving New York City. They fed the homeless and provided sanctuary to them to sleep under the church’s doors. They’re on Park Avenue, so this was controversial, but they would not let police arrest the homeless people on their property.”

The calling to become a pastor resurfaced. But the time wasn’t right.

“I had just graduated from the MBA/JD program a couple of years before, and I had a lot of student loans,” he said. “It wasn’t the financially sound thing to do.”

Life moved along. The couple’s first child was born. They moved to Texas to be closer to family and joined First United Methodist Church of Dallas in 2014.

“The call on my heart continued,” he said. “Then I got to a place where it would be possible and responsible.” He enrolled at Perkins. His pastor, the Rev. Dr. Andy Stoker (M.Div. ‘01), affirmed his calling and mentored him through the initial steps in the ordination process. Now, he’s interning at FUMC Dallas.

He’s never looked back. He’s more passionate than ever about becoming a church pastor.

“The local church is where everybody grows up in the faith,” he said. “It’s the most exciting and impactful place to do ministry in people’s everyday lives. It’s where discipleship formation is done. It’s where you work, as a church, for the transformation of the world.”

Pastoral Care and Preaching

At Perkins, Mitchell is pursuing a pastoral care concentration under Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner. He’s planning to attend the Health Care, Holy Care course at Methodist Hospital in Houston in January.

“Pastoral care is something that a pastor is going to do everywhere in a local church, and not just in the hospital,” he said. “You provide pastoral care when you meet someone in the neighborhood. It doesn’t even have to be a member of your congregation.  I want to be available as much as I can be to everyone, regardless of their religious background. We all have common ground as children of God.”

His other key area of interest is preaching and homiletics.

“Preaching is an extremely powerful and sacred form of ministry,” he said. “As my professor, Dr. Wesley Allen, says, ‘You do the most teaching, the most pastoral care, the most healing, the most stewardship in that Sunday morning sermon — more than you will do the rest of the week.’ Good preaching is very important to the life of the church.”

Now Mitchell is putting his studies into practice, in an internship at his own church, First United Methodist of Dallas.

“The thing about the internship that has been wonderful for me is that I have reaffirmed that I really do want to be a pastor,” he said. “And I’ve had the chance to serve in a lot of different situations, with every age group in the congregation.”

Recently he created and led a re-engagement event for members who live at C.C. Young Senior Living, a joyous and emotional gathering as many of these members met for the first time since the pandemic. He has also taught Discipleship for the church’s Confirmation class, taught children in Sunday School and led chapel for church’s daycare program. He’s also been involved for the past year in a racial reconciliation effort in partnership with St. Paul United Methodist Church.

“And I absolutely love all of it,” he said.

Mitchell balances his full-time studies and internship with his family life. His wife, Sarah, also an attorney, is a partner with Vincent & Elkins. They have two children, Rose, 8 and Ian, 2.

To stay centered in all this, Mitchell follows a centering spiritual practice that Dr. Stoker taught him: a slow recitation of a passage from Psalm 46, followed by taking a deep breath, then just listening in silence for a few minutes.  He starts by praying, “Be still and know that I am God,” then takes a deep breath and prays, “Be still and know that I am” and again pauses; then “Be still and know,” then “Be still,” then finally, “Be.  Then he quietly senses God’s presence around and within and listens prayerfully for 5-10 minutes.”

“After all that, I say ‘Amen,’ and I’m changed, every day, every time I do this,” he said.