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February 7, 2001

DIRECTOR OF RUSSIA INITIATIVE NAMED PERKINS DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS

DALLAS (SMU) -- The Rev. R. Bruce Weaver, director of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries' Russia Initiative, is the recipient of Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology Distinguished Alumnus Award for 2001.

Weaver received the award, which recognizes outstanding achievement for contributions to Perkins and the Church, during formal ceremonies Tuesday, Feb. 6 at SMU as part of the school's Ministers Week activities.

Weaver, who earned a bachelor of divinity degree from Perkins in 1947, was lauded for his work ministering to the people of Russia and promoting the acceptance of Methodism in Russia after Methodism was banished in 1928 under Communism.

Weaver developed the Russia Initiative concept during an 18-month tenure as interim director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) as he invited United Methodist churches across the nation to prepare and send boxes of food to help feed the children and elderly in Moscow during the winter of 1991-92. The relief effort collected more than four million pounds of food that was shipped during a six-month period, with 22 tons collected in the Dallas area.

In June 1992 he accepted a new position to coordinate the Russia Initiative, enabling UM pastors and laity to participate in hands-on ministries. It generated support for new and existing United Methodist churches in Russia through partnerships with United Methodist churches in the United States. Soon Weaver was partnering with churches in 38 cities in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and an equal number of U.S. churches, Episcopal areas, districts and clusters of churches. Most of these partnerships developed new United Methodist congregations in the former Soviet Union.

Nearly 90 new churches have been organized, enabling Methodism to re-emerge in Russia. More than 4,800 Americans have traveled to the former Soviet Union to work in partnership with non-government organizations, the Russian Orthodox church and the new United Methodist congregations.

Due in part to Weaver's work, eight annual Russia Initiative Consultations have been held at various sites in the United States; an extensive program involving Volunteers in Mission has been developed in Russia; and a building has been purchased and a seminary established in Russia. Weaver has traveled to Russia more than 30 times and also has represented UMCOR at disaster sites around the world.

Weaver has served as senior pastor in both the North and Central Texas Conferences of the United Methodist Church at churches that include: First United Methodist Church in Graham, Meadowbrook UMC in Fort Worth, Kessler Park UMC in Dallas, First UMC in Wichita Falls and Spring Valley UMC in Dallas. He was superintendent of the Dallas-Denton District in North Texas and Waxahachie District in Central Texas. His first appointment was the Levita Circuit in Central Texas.

Elected a delegate to seven South Central Jurisdiction Conferences, he was twice elected to General Conference from the North Texas Conference and once from Central Texas.

Weaver served as head of the association of Perkins alumni, an early group that later became known as the Perkins Alumni Council.

Perkins School of Theology, one of Southern Methodist University's three original schools, trains students from all religious denominations, and offers advanced degrees in theological studies, sacred music, religious education and ministry. For more information, call 1-888-THEOLOGY or visit the website at www.smu.edu/~theology.


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