After the unexpected passing of Dr. William J. Abraham, the founding director of the newly launched Wesley House of Studies at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, the seminary announced a leadership transition and the establishment of the William J. Abraham Endowed Chair.
Dr. Kevin M. Watson has been named as Acting Director of the Wesley House. Well known among United Methodists, Watson is a sought-after speaker and author of numerous books including The Class Meeting, Pursuing Social Holiness, Old or New School Methodism?, and Perfect Love. Until recently, he served as Associate Professor of Wesley and Methodist Studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
“I am honored and humbled to step in as Acting Director of the Wesley House of Studies at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary,” Watson told Good News. “William (Billy) J. Abraham, who served as the founding Director of the Wesley House, brought tremendous leadership and vision to the Wesley House prior to his unexpected death. In its inaugural year, the Wesley House attracted gifted and Spirit-filled students. We also received extraordinary hospitality from the faculty, staff, and administration at Truett. We will continue our work to form and equip Christ-centered, Spirit-led students to serve churches and other institutions in the Wesleyan tradition.”
As a sign of deep respect for the late scholar, an anonymous gift of $1.5 million was given through a matching gift program to establish the Abraham endowment. An additional gift of $1 million was given by a Baylor alumni couple – Jeff and Debbie Wooley, members of the First Methodist Church in Waco – to financially support the program’s students.
“The establishment of the William J. Abraham Chair in Wesleyan Studies at Baylor’s Truett Seminary not only lavishly honors the life and legacy of our recently deceased friend and colleague, but it also further establishes our school’s Wesley House of Studies as a viable and desirable place to pursue ministerial training in the Wesleyan tradition,” said Truett Seminary Dean Todd D. Still.
“When I was called to ministry in Irish Methodism, I was already a student and I wanted to be a teacher,” Dr. Abraham said when first learning of the honor before his death. “With the call to preach, I thought I would have to give up teaching. In my mind and heart, I did so. And then God gave it all back without rescinding the call to preach. So here I am now, honored beyond words with the naming of this chair. I sense a deep assurance that I discerned correctly. I know the chair will uphold the deep connections between scholarship and preaching that has given me endless joy. What an amazing gift for the Gospel and the future of Methodism.”
The endowment was developed at a Wesley House Weekend in partnership with the Rev. Ryan Barnett and First Methodist Church of Waco, where Barnett serves as the lead pastor. The event’s purpose was to generate support from the Baylor and Methodist communities for scholarship and programmatic resourcing for the Wesley House of Studies.
“Our founding director, Billy Abraham, has left his indelible mark on this project. His legacy will flourish at Truett Seminary,” said Barnett. “Truett’s Wesley House, embedded at Baylor University, is well placed to become one of the most significant training centers for future Methodist ministers.”
–Good News. Photo of Dr. Watson is courtesy of Truett Seminary.