The Journey Continues for Bishop WhitfieldWritten by Karla Abernethy-Thetford Monday, 20 February 2012 14:25
Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas recently announced the appointment of Bishop D. Max Whitfield as Bishop in Residence.
Whitfield will retire as an active Bishop after 12 years of service in the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conferences. Though he could accept a four year episcopacy appointment in another area, Whitfield and wife, Valerie, chose to retire.
“It just wasn’t something we wanted to do personally nor would the church benefit for us to do so,” Whitfield said. “We were excited to retire and intended to stay in Albuquerque…Then, we were approached and asked to consider the Bishop in Residence position.”
The Bishop said though he felt it was time to step away as an active Bishop, he really wasn’t ready to stop working.
“I could not see myself just stopping,” he said. “I did not want the pace and responsibility I’ve had for the past 12 years. I enjoyed the position but it is very demanding. I wanted to slow the pace. But, I still want to make a contribution to the church in a meaningful way.”
Bishop in Residence is a four-year appointment typically offered to persons retiring from active service. The position exists in a variety of institutions.
At Perkins, Whitfield will occupy an office designated for the Bishop in Residence. He will serve as part of the faculty staff but without vote and will teach courses on Methodist polity.
“When we are seeking a Bishop in Residence, we look for a set of gifts that the individual will bring to the school that will enhance the education of the students and life of the faculty, staff and students,” said Dr. William B. Lawrence, Dean of Perkins School of Theology. “Bishop Whitfield has a gift and interest in leadership. He will focus some of his energy in that area including working in the recently established leadership institution.”
Whitfield also will take on the role of pastoral care.
“The Bishop in Residence is the one person that faculty, staff and students can go talk to about anything. It is a safe place for people to share concerns, thoughts and have conversations they may not feel as comfortable having with someone else,” Whitfield said.
Providing that pastoral care and expertise in relation to the church are invaluable to the school, Lawrence said.
“We are excited Bishop Whitfield is coming. He has an eagerness to be here and fulfill the roles that make extraordinary contributions to the life of the school,” Lawrence said.
As a Perkins alum, Whitfield said he looks forward to serving the school and being part of the growth of future church leaders. He and Valerie have purchased a home in Richardson. He will complete his duties for the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conferences Aug. 31 and begin as Bishop in Residence Sept. 1.
Perkins School of Theology is one of the 13 seminaries of The United Methodist Church and one of five university-related United Methodist theological schools.
According to its website, www.smu.edu/Perkins, “the faculty and staff of Perkins are committed to our mission of preparing women and men for faithful leadership in Christian ministry.” The school features a graduate degree and certificate studies programs as well as internships and the Bridwell Library. Faculty and practicing clergy also work to offer continuing education for clergy and laity, as well as other programs such as the United Methodist Church's Course of Study school for local pastors.