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April 10, 2002


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DALLAS (SMU) -- William B. Lawrence has been named the new dean of Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, effective August 1.

Lawrence, 55, currently serves as associate dean for development and church relations at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. He succeeds Robin W. Lovin, who was named SMU's Cary M. Maguire University Professor of Ethics in May 2001.

Bringing more than three decades of experience in local church leadership and theological scholarship, Lawrence is known throughout The United Methodist Church for his writing and research in homiletics and the history and doctrine of The United Methodist Church. His recent work includes study of the episcopacy and ordination.

"William Lawrence brings a remarkable breadth of experience combining research, teaching, community service, ministry, and leadership within the United Methodist Church," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "He will build upon the strengths of Perkins as he works with the faculty to ensure that today's theological education meets the needs of those called to serve as well as those who will be served."

Lawrence earned a bachelor's degree with distinction from Duke University in 1968, his Master of Divinity cum laude from Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1971, and his Ph.D. with distinction in homiletics and historical theology from Drew University in 1984.

After participating in a five-year study of United Methodism and American Culture, funded by the Lilly Endowment, Lawrence co-edited for Abingdon Press the volumes Connectionalism: Ecclesiology, Mission and Identity (1997), The People(s) Called Methodist: Forms and Reforms of Their Life (1998), Doctrines and Discipline (1999) and Questions for the Twenty-First Century Church (1999). His book, Sundays in New York: Pulpit Theology at the Crest of the Protestant Mainstream, 1930-1955, was published by Scarecrow Press in 1996.

Articles he has written include "The History of Preaching in America" in the Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience (1988) and "The Theology of the Ordained Ministry in The United Methodist Church" in Quarterly Review (Spring 1998). The Lilly Endowment also funded his research on "The District Superintendency in The United Methodist Church," which he delivered in June 2000.

"Bill Lawrence's experience at Emory and Duke, together with his ministerial background and close ties to the United Methodist Church, make him the perfect match for Perkins and SMU at this juncture," said SMU Provost Ross C Murfin.

Lawrence served as senior minister at Washington D.C.'s Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church, the national church of United Methodism, from 1998 to 2001, and was a Wesley Distinguished Faculty in the Theology and Practice of Ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary for 2000-2001. He taught from 1993 to 1998 at Duke Divinity School where he was the professor of the practice of Christian ministry and the associate director of the J.M. Ormond Center for Research, Planning and Development.

Lawrence served from1990 to1993 as district superintendent of the Wyoming Annual (regional) Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is located in southern New York and northeastern Pennsylvania. Lawrence served the previous 21 years as a pastor in United Methodist churches in New York and Pennsylvania.

Lawrence is currently the chair of the Conference Committee on the Episcopacy at the Baltimore Washington Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church. He has served twice as a delegate to the quadrennial General Conference of the United Methodist Church. From 1992 to 1996, he served as director of the church's General Commission on Religion and Race.

From 1988 to 1993, Lawrence served as a trustee of Pennsylvania's Wyoming Seminary and in 1990 began a five-year term as trustee of Syracuse University. In the late 1980s, Lawrence directed communications for the Tioga County Habitat for Humanity in Owego, New York, and in the mid 1970s, produced and hosted his own radio programs, "Dimensions of Faith" and "The Word and Music" in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Lawrence and his wife, Naomi, have two grown sons.

Perkins School of Theology was founded in 1911 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South, now The United Methodist Church, as one of the original schools of Southern Methodist University. Perkins is one of five university-related United Methodist theological schools in the nation. Besides its programs at the main campus in Dallas, Perkins offers programs in Houston-Galveston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City.