June 4, 1998

Contact: Elizabeth Latt, 615-322-2706




Theologian Douglas Meeks named to Wesley studies chair at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Noted Methodist theologian M. Douglas Meeks will serve as the first holder of the Cal Turner Chancellor's Chair in Wesley Studies and Theology at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

Meeks, dean and professor of systematic theology at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., will join the Vanderbilt faculty Sept. 1.

His appointment is the culmination of efforts by Dollar General CEO Turner, the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church and Vanderbilt Divinity School to provide for the formation of strong pastoral and lay leadership for the United Methodist Church.

Turner, a Vanderbilt alumnus, member of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust, chair of the Divinity School's donor society and a United Methodist, announced plans last year to provide funds for leadership formation at the University and in the United Methodist Church, saying he believes "it is important to foster excellence of leadership in both places."

In addition to holding the Divinity School chair, Meeks will serve as a theological consultant to the Pastoral Formation Office of the Nashville Area of the United Methodist Church.

Meeks said he was attracted to the position because it represents a new model for "the formation and re-formation" of pastors and lay leaders. "This is enormously exciting not only for the United Methodist Church but also for the ecumenical church. It widens the scope of what a theology school can do."

Praising the partnership's "bold vision," he said it will help shape "the church's relationship to society."

Calling the selection of Meeks "the best appointment we could have made for this position," Divinity School Dean Joseph C. Hough Jr. said Meeks is "recognized by the leadership of the United Methodist Church as one of the church's most important theologians whose work is on the cutting edge of Christian theological thinking." Wesley studies involves the historical and theological traditions of the United Methodist Church, founded by Englishman John Wesley in the early 1700s.

As chair of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies in Oxford, England, for the past 15 years, Meeks has gained broad experience in Wesley studies, Hough said. Meeks also has significant administrative experience and an excellent reputation as a teacher.

"His coming represents an affirmation of Vanderbilt's important role in the education of United Methodist ministers in our region," Hough said.

Kenneth L. Carder, bishop of the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences of the United Methodist Church agreed. Meeks' appointment "will enhance Vanderbilt's efforts to play a key role in the lifelong formation of pastoral leadership in the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences."

Meeks' "strong scholarship, his years of experience in the forming of church leadership and his strong commitment to the church uniquely equip him to serve as a theological consultant to the Nashville Area Office of Pastoral Formation," Carder said.

"He brings to the position solid academic theological grounding and a clear vision of the leadership needs of the church. His worldwide reputation as one of United Methodism's premier theologians adds visibility and credibility to both Vanderbilt's and the United Methodist Church's commitment to provide theologically shaped leadership to the church."

A native of Memphis, Meeks spent his freshman year at Vanderbilt before transferring to Southwestern College at Memphis, now Rhodes College. He graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of divinity from Duke University and received his Ph.D. from Duke University in cooperation with Tbingen University.

From 1966 to 1968 he was an instructor at the Duke University Divinity School. He later served on the faculties at Tbingen University, Huntingdon College and Eden Theological Seminary. While at Tbingen, he was named a Fulbright Fellow. He has held his current appointments at Wesley Theological Seminary since 1990. He has been a visiting professor at Boston University School of Theology and Garrett-Evangelical Theological School and an adjunct faculty member at Christ Seminary and Washington University Medical School.

Meeks is author of "Origins of the Theology of Hope" (Fortress, 1974) and "God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and Political Economy" (Fortress Press, 1989) and three books published by Abingdon Press, "The Future of the Methodist Theological Traditions" (1985), "What Should Methodists Teach: Wesleyan Tradition and Modern Diversity" (1990) and "The Portion of the Poor: Good News to the Poor in the Wesleyan Tradition" (1995). He is co-author of "Christian Social Ethics in a Global Era" (1995) and "Love: The Foundation of Hope" (1988). He is editor and translator of three collections of essays by Jrgen Moltmann published under the titles of "The Experiment Hope," "The Passion for Life: A Messianic Lifestyle" and "On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics" published by Fortress Press in 1975, 1978, and 1984. He has published articles in various journals such as Christianity and Crisis, Evangelische Theologie, Interpretation, Theology Today, Journal of Religious Thought, Religious Studies Review, Quarterly Review and Berlin Theologische Zeitschrift.

An ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, he has pastoral experience in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.

He is the current program chairperson of the American Theological Society, a member of the Board of Directors of The Churches Center for Public Policy and Fellow of the Society for Values in Higher Education. His other professional and church responsibilities include service on numerous committees and boards.



Vanderbilt University is a private research university of approximately 5,900 undergraduates and 4,300 graduate and professional students. Founded in 1873, the University comprises 10 schools, a public policy institute, a distinguished medical center and The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center. Vanderbilt offers undergraduate programs in the liberal arts and sciences, education and human development, engineering and music, and a full range of graduate and professional degrees.

For more news about Vanderbilt, visit the News and Public Affairs home page on the Internet at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/News.

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Document updated June 1, 1998.