“What is your vision for the school?”
I was asked that question when interviewing for the deanship in early 2016. The answer I gave remains the same today: Perkins should be “an academy for the whole church in the whole world.” Both parts of that answer are equally important.
By “whole church,” I mean that Perkins should strive to be an academic resource for laity as well as clergy, and across denominational and other arbitrary boundaries. We have a duty to equip both clergy and laity for servant leadership in every arena, and that’s as central and essential as the task of granting formal degrees to prospective ministers and Christian leaders.
Perkins has a long tradition of reaching out beyond the walls of the academy. Two notable examples are the Perkins Theological School for the Laity held annually in both Dallas and Houston, and the annual Fall Convocation (formerly Ministers Week), which last November featured speaker Anne Lamott and this year (November 12-13, 2018) will feature Brian McLaren and Sandra Maria Van Opstal. Read more about the 2018 Fall Convocation.
Other non-degree programs seek to equip leaders in, among other things, youth ministry and spiritual formation. The periodic Faith and Business lunches and the annual Bolin Family Public Life Personal Faith Luncheon equip persons who wish to integrate their faith with their work outside the church. Read about the 2019 Bolin Family Public Life Personal Faith Luncheon with PBS News Hour anchor Judy Woodruff.
By “whole world,” I mean that Perkins should be globally engaged so that the school impacts the world and the world impacts Perkins. Almost every faculty member at Perkins has taught, lectured, studied, and/or taken student immersion groups abroad. A recent faculty conversation named contacts in more than twenty-five countries, and numerous faculty books have been translated into other languages. Many of these existing connections continue to deepen, and we are actively creating others.
Current students are encouraged to take advantage of immersion courses that place them in both U.S. and non-U.S. contexts for an intensive time of learning while immersed in another culture. Similarly, our Th.M. in Spanish has brought several students from Latin America to study at Perkins. A record number of international students enrich all of us on the Dallas campus, offering fresh understandings of the Gospel that are both challenging and inspiring. Perkins alumni themselves are well represented in leadership positions around the world, often inviting opportunities for further engagement with our school.
Perkins is indeed “an academy for the whole church in the whole world,” and it will continue to grow into that vision in coming years.