News Perspective Online Summer 2020

Fall 2020 Alumni/ae Updates

Mother, Preacher, Dreamer, Soldier

The Rev. Mary Miriti (M. Div. ‘11) was recently featured in a column in the Dallas Morning News, entitled “Mother, preacher, dreamer and soldier: As her African church turns 6, Dallas chaplain heads to Iraq.” Miriti arrived in Dallas from Nairobi, Kenya, in 2003, attended Perkins, and has served as senior pastor of Oasis Global United Methodist Church in East Dallas. A chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserves, Miriti will be deployed to Iraq in September. Miriti was inspired to enlist as a chaplain in part due to her research into longtime Lovers Lane pastor Tom Shipp (M.Th. ’44), who counseled World War II veterans dealing with alcohol and related issues. “He embraced those military people … at a time most churches did not,” Miriti told the Dallas Morning News. “He took care of the soldiers, and I thought, ‘Hmm, I can do the same.’”


Book of None

Rachel Roberts (M.T.S. ’15) has published a new book, Confessions of an American None: A Credo of Sorts, available on Amazon via Kindle.  Described as “part memoir, part credo, and part romp in pop culture, spotlighting the largest, fastest-growing spiritual demographic in our country– the religiously unaffiliated, aka Nones,” the book shares personal tales of growing up in a cult, battling “an adult relationship with Christianity, and finding relief in becoming a None.”  Roberts founded the organization American None,™ the first organization of its kind to serve the fastest-growing (non)religious demographic in our country.


Sally Dobbie, left, and Chris Dowdy, vice president of academic affairs at Paul Quinn College, outside the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History and Culture in downtown Dallas. Photo by Dallas Morning News.

Graduate Program in Religious Studies (GPRS) Alum Works for Lynching Memorial

GPRS alum Christopher J. Dowdy (Ph.D. ’13) is part of an effort to memorialize Allen Brooks, the last known lynching victim in Dallas. Dowdy, vice president of academic affairs at Paul Quinn College, is asking the state to place a historical marker to remember Brooks, who died in 1910.  Along with Sally Dobbie, a lifelong Dallas-area resident, he petitioned the Texas Historical Commission this month to place a historical marker at the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture, noting Brooks’ life and the atrocity surrounding his death. Read the story here.


New Appointment

Andrew Nelson (M.Div. ’20) is moving back to Kansas City to serve as Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church of Blue Springs. His fiancé, Tara, will join him there after their wedding in September. “I know that I would not be prepared to take this next step without all the lessons I learned at The Grove and Perkins,” he said. “It also wouldn’t be possible without all the great mentors who have pushed me to strive for excellence both here in Dallas and in Kansas City!”


Still the Same

Rev. Dr. Shazetta Thompson-Hill (D. Min. ’19) recently published a photo book, Still the Same. The book features images from her archives of photos from protests in Ferguson, Missouri; Waller County, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland and more. “It has been particularly challenging for me to make the choice not to be present in the protest spaces this go round,” she said. “With the reality of COVID-19, my husband and I decided to watch and support from a distance, rather than taking to the streets. As my own way of contributing to the movement, I went back into my photo archives to curate a collection of photographs from 2014-2017.  I was stunned by just how much the photos resemble those from the present day… or from the 1960’s for that matter.” The book is self-published as a 12” x12” steel-bound photo book and is available for purchase at


Phil Hodson for Kansas

The Rev. Phil Hodson (M. Div. ‘14) is running for a seat representing District 99 in the Kansas House of Representatives. He is the pastor of Wichita United Church of Christ, husband, father of 3, and serves on the site council at Robert Martin Elementary in Andover. Hodson was unopposed in the August 6 Democratic primary; the election takes place November 3, 2020.


Anthony Everett on Panel

Perkins alum Anthony Everett (also a former Executive Board member) served as a panelist for a national online event on June 30 for the new documentary “Suppressed: The Fight to Vote.” The discussion included reflections from the film director Robert Greenwald, faith leaders from Ohio and Florida, and a call to action.


Donte Ford Named Wheaton Program Director

Donté Ford (M.S.M. ’16, M.Div. ’18) will direct Wheaton College’s new Certificate in Worship Arts, a program designed to equip students for worship ministry roles at churches. Ford joins the Wheaton faculty as an Assistant Professor of Music and the first-ever Associate Chaplain of Worship Arts. The new Certificate in Worship Arts program launches in the 2020-2021 academic year. Read the news release here.


Anna Bundy at FUMC Dallas

Anna Bundy (M. Div. ’20) started July 1 as Director of Connecting Ministries at First United Methodist of Dallas.  In addition to maintaining the church’s standards of hospitality and welcoming newcomers, Connecting Ministries includes helping newcomers and current members build community and connections. Anna is a native of North Carolina and a candidate for ordination as an elder.


Allen Ordained June 11

Lainie Allen (M.Div. ’15) was one of four women ordained to the Episcopal priesthood by Bishop Scott Mayer on Thursday, June 11, at St. Luke’s in the Meadow in Fort Worth. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the services were live streamed only. Allen earned a BA in both psychology and sociology, with a minor in music from Lee University (Cleveland, TN); and MA in Education from Point Loma University (San Diego) and an M.Div from Perkins School of Theology at SMU (Dallas).  She will be serving at St. Elisabeth/Christ the King.


Houston Virtual Choir

Coronavirus can’t stop choirs. When the pandemic required social distancing in March, it seemed choir rehearsal would become impossible, especially when the recommended gathering size dropped below 10 and then shelter-in-place became the standard. However, Rev. Suzi Byrd (M.T.S. ’11), Pastor of Music and Worship at St. Stephen’s UMC in Houston, was determined to keep the music going. She collaborated with colleagues to form the Houston Virtual Choir, connecting various congregations and individuals through song. Read the story on the Texas Annual Conference website here.


ATLA Access for Alumni

Bridwell provides all Perkins and GPRS alums with free access to ATLA for Alumni, an online collection of more than 100 major religion and theology journals. Fill out this form to receive the password. Those who are local can also obtain an Alumni borrower card to check out print materials.


News Perspective Online Summer 2020

Fall 2020 Alumni/ae Obituaries

Rev. Dr. Daniel Rodriguez

The Rev. Dr. Daniel Z. Rodriguez (M. Th. ‘57) passed away on July 19 at the age of 88.

Daniel accepted the call to ministry in the Rio Grande Conference of the United Methodist Church and served more than 50 years in church appointments across South Texas. Rodriguez attended Southwestern University, SMU Perkins School of Theology and received an Honorary Doctor Degree from Southwestern University. He also served in San Antonio as Northern District Superintendent, Conference Council Director and Director of MARCHA. His final appointment was as pastor of La Trinidad United Methodist Church, where he served for 19 years. A memorial service was held on August 9. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations to La Trinidad UMC, 300 San Fernando, San Antonio, Texas. Read his obit here.


Rev. Donald Horton

The Rev. Donald Horton (M.Th. ’55) died on August 4 at the age of 91.  After his high school graduation, he served as a “Seagoing Cowboy” through the United Brethren Church, joining the European reconstruction efforts working on ships that transported cattle and horses to Poland and Greece. He served in the Army as a medic during the Korean War and then attended Perkins, going on to serve in United Methodist churches in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. He is survived by his wife, Sarah Jane Pugh, whom he married in 1954.  Horton was very active in the Volunteers in Mission and had the opportunity to serve in Alaska, Louisiana, Texas, Rio Bravo, Mexico and other places. Condolences may be made to the family at Memorial contributions may be made to Oklahoma United Methodist Volunteers in Missions or to Epworth United Methodist Church Endowment Fund. View his full obit here.


Rev. Reginald Nelson

The Rev. Reginald Nelson, (M.Div. ’18) a deacon with the Central Texas Annual Conference, passed away on July 21. Nelson was CEO at Thunder Soul Orchestra, President/Owner at Nelson Studios Houston and Assistant Pastor & Worship Leader/Musician at Prairie View United Methodist Church. A funeral service was held on July 31 at Klein United Methodist Church in Spring, Texas.  View his obit here.


Rev. Van Lazaroff 

Leaders in the North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church ask for continued prayers for the family of Rev. Van Lazaroff (M. Div. ’97) who died  June 14 surrounded by his wife Pat and two daughters. He is the former Senior Minister of Paris First United Methodist Church in Paris, Texas. A celebration of life will be held sometime in the future when family and friends can safely gather to share in the joy of Van’s life and be comforted by the grace of God. Pat is very grateful for the outpouring of love and encouragement from former church members and pastors.

Cards can be sent to:
Mrs. Pat Lazaroff
1335 Preston
Denison, TX 75020


Rev. Ansel Jarratt Major

The Rev. Ansel Jarratt Major (M.Th. ’58) died July 15 in Tyler, Texas at the age of 87.  Major was assigned to circuits at Rusk, Hooks and Hughes Springs and then the church at Big Sandy. He became a campus minister at the former East Texas State in Commerce and then the University of North Texas in Denton, where he spearheaded the building of a new student center. He trained at the Pastoral Counseling Center in Dallas and joined the staff. In 1992, along with his wife Linda, Major began a ministry at Wildwood Sanctuary. He continued as a counselor in the area, with offices in Tyler and Mineola. He was involved in the Walk to Emmaus in East Texas and taught the course of study for United Methodist pastors in Jacksonville. A memorial service will take place later. Donations are requested for the Samaritan Counseling Center of East Texas or the Alzheimer’s Alliance of East Texas.

Rev. Dr. Ella McDonald

The Rev. Dr. Ella Mae McDonald (M.Div. ’08 and D.Min. ’14), a former member of the Perkins Executive Board, passed away on June 17. A resident of Denton, Texas, and a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, she was the first woman to be named a presiding elder in the North Texas Conference. Read a news story about here passing here.


Rev. Charles Frye

The Rev. Charles Harrison Frye (M. T. S. ‘58) died July 9 at Vitalia Senior Residences in Westlake, Ohio at the age of 88.  Frye graduated from Kent State University (BA) and Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas with a Masters of Theological Studies. The Reverend Frye, an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church for more than 40 years, served churches throughout the East Ohio Conference, including Hope Wesley (Cleveland), Leroy (Westfield Center), Homer, West Salem, Crawford Corners, Associate Pastor at Mt. Vernon Gay Street and Associate Pastor of Bay Village. He was particularly passionate about urban ministry and ministry to the poor and disenfranchised and was a founding member of the West Side Ecumenical Ministry. Read his obituary here.


Rev. Dr. Michael Deaton

The Rev. Dr. Michael Deaton (M. Div. ’01), 74, known by all as “Dr. Mike,” passed away on June 30 in Webster, Texas. Dr. Mike served in the Navy during the Vietnam War on the USS Forrestal and was on board during the tragic 1967 fire when he lost 134 shipmates.  In the early years of his marriage, he decided to follow his wife’s footsteps by attending and graduating from the University of Texas School of Nursing with a BSN. After 25 years in nursing, he earned a Master of Divinity Degree from Perkins, and later a doctorate from Carolina University of Theology. Dr. Mike spent over 20 years serving churches in the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He was the Pastor of Caring Ministries at Clear Lake United Methodist Church at the time of his passing. He is survived by his wife Nancy Deaton; son Ross “Tony” Deaton and wife Melissa; sister Debbie Staniford and husband Norman; and numerous extended family members and friends. Donations may be made to the Methodist Children’s Home at, the Memorial Fund at Clear Lake United Methodist Church, or the charity of your choice. Read his obit here.


Rev. Justus H. Edmondson

The Rev. Justus H. Edmondson (M.Th. ’52) died June 27. He received a Bachelor’s degree in dairy husbandry from the University of Arkansas and went on to earn his Master’s degree at Missouri University. After attending Perkins School of Theology, Rev. Edmondson served United Methodist Churches in Oklahoma for 37 years. He held the position of President of the Board of Pensions in the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church for ten years. He and his wife, Sibyl Ann Thompson, were married for 63 years. In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations be made to Restore Hope Ministries. Read his obit here.