richard_p_heitzenraterMy doctoral advisor Richard P. Heitzenrater will be honored this weekend with a symposium at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University entitled, “Grace Works: Reflections on Divine Grace, Human Works, and John Wesley—Celebrating the Scholarly Contributions of Richard P. Heitzenrater.” I’ve been invited to serve as a panelist in the symposium, along with Ted Campbell, Sharon Grant, and Tamara Lewis. Perkins will bestow a Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Dr. Heitzenrater in recognition of his scholarly achievements.

Working under Dr. Heitzenrater during my time in the ThD program at Duke Divinity School was a singular experience—deeply formative for me in my understanding of the disciplines of church history and historical theology, in developing scholarly habits of mind and research, and in coming to understand the virtues wrapped up in submitting oneself to a tradition (in my case, the Wesleyan tradition). He is an historian of the first rank, and the scholarly work that has made up his career has advanced our understanding of John Wesley and early Methodism in ways difficult to exaggerate.

One of the ways I have most appreciated Dr. Heitzenrater’s abilities as an historian is also one of the ways that people who have never met him can appreciate him as well—through his writing. Academic writing is as varied as are academics themselves, and it is true that some scholars have a difficult time translating the fruits of their research and reflection into prose that is accessible to broad audiences. Not all scholarly writing needs to be accessible to a wide readership, of course. But when a scholar who does top-level work can also present it in a way that non-specialists can really understand it, then you have the mark of a truly supple and creative intellect. If you want an example of what I’m talking about, pick up a copy of Wesley and the People Called Methodists. It is the most widely read text book history of early Methodism—a book written so well the reader will forget he’s reading scholarly history and just be drawn in by the compelling story being told.

For those in the Dallas area, I hope you’ll consider attending the symposium on Friday. Here is the press release from SMU:


 

Perkins School of Theology Hosts Symposium and Bridwell Library Exhibition on Works of Wesley Scholar Richard P. Heitzenrater

 Dallas, Texas – Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University will host a symposium on the works of Richard P. Heitzenrater, an eminent scholar on the works of John Wesley, May 16, 2014, at 3:00 pm. Dr. Heitzenrater, a former faculty member of Perkins School of Theology and William Kellon Quick Professor Emeritus of Church History and Wesley Studies at Duke Divinity School, is renowned for his research and writing in the area of Wesleyan studies, and has the distinction of being the person who broke the shorthand code of John Wesley’s diaries.

In conjunction with the symposium, Bridwell Library at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University will host an exhibition honoring the works of Dr. Heitzenrater, May 16 through August 22. Dr. Heitzenrater has utilized rare books and manuscripts held by Bridwell Library throughout his distinguished career. Pairing works written by Dr. Heitzenrater with items from Bridwell Library Special Collections, the exhibition highlights the long-term relationship between researcher and library.

The Symposium, “Grace Works: Reflections on Divine Grace, Human Works, and John Wesley – Celebrating the Scholarly Contributions of Richard P. Heitzenrater,” will include remarks by Perkins School of Theology Dean William B. Lawrence and will feature four panelists:

  • Ted A. Campbell, associate professor of Church History, Perkins School of Theology, and an ordained United Methodist minister and clergy member of the Texas Annual Conference
  • Sharon Grant, adjunct faculty in the Religion and Philosophy Department at University of the Incarnate Word, San Antonio, and an ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Tamara Lewis, instructor in Church History, Perkins School of Theology, and an ordained United Methodist minister and clergy member of the Tennessee Annual Conference
  • Andrew C. Thompson, assistant professor of Historical Theology & Wesleyan Studies at Memphis Theological Seminary and an ordained United Methodist minister and clergy member of the Arkansas Annual Conference.

Dr. Heitzenrater will bring a response to the panel.

The symposium, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Great Hall of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall, 5901 Bishop Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75205. The exhibition will be held in the Entry Hall of Bridwell Library, 6005 Bishop Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75205. For a map of the SMU campus, visit www.smu.edu/maps.

For more information about the symposium, contact Dr. Campbell, tedc@smu.edu, 214.768.4885. For more information about the exhibition, contact Brittany Morgan at Bridwell Library, bemorgan@smu.edu, 214.768.3483.