A theologian for a breakaway group of conservative Methodists has been named professor of Christian theology and the first person to hold a new chair in Wesleyan studies at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary.
The new academic chair is named in memory of William J. Abraham, a Truett Seminary faculty member and founding director of the Wesley House of Studies. Abraham died Oct. 8, 2021. The Wesley House of Studies at Truett, a Baptist seminary, was created in 2020.
Truett Dean Todd Still announced last week that Jason Vickers will lead the Wesley House at Baylor. Vickers currently serves as a theological adviser to the Global Methodist Church, created by the conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association as a home for Methodists who oppose LGBTQ inclusion and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy.
“We are thrilled that the chair of the Wesleyan Catechism Task Force for the newly formed Global Methodist Church will be spearheading educational efforts among Methodists (and other Wesleyans) at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary,” said Leah Hidde-Gregory, president of the Mid-Texas Annual Conference of the Global Methodist Church. “Jason Vickers is a winsome teacher and respected thought leader.”
She added: “Global Methodist Church leadership looks forward to working with Dr. Vickers in the years ahead as we prepare pastors for the local church.”
Vickers earned a Ph.D. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he studied under Abraham. Vickers is a popular teacher, author and ordained elder among Methodists. He comes to Baylor from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., where he has been a professor of theology. He also has taught at Austin College in Sherman, Texas; Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, N.C.; and United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.
Baylor’s foray into educating Methodist pastors comes at a time when the United Methodist Church faces schism largely over the issue of LGBTQ inclusion and ordination.
Baylor itself faces pressure from both sides of the LGBTQ debate and has so far staked out a welcoming but not affirming position.
Last year the university board of regents adopted a statement that affirms:
- “The dignity and worth of all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, as we strive to fulfill our Christian commitment of a caring community.”
- “The biblical understanding that sexual relations of any kind outside of marriage between a man and a woman are not in keeping with the teaching of Scripture, as summarized in the University’s Statement on Human Sexuality.”
- “Our commitment to providing a welcoming, supportive educational environment based on civility and respect for all.”
For its part, Truett Seminary will not post students in inclusive congregations for field placement credit.
Asbury Seminary, where Vickers comes from, falls on the more conservative side of the Methodist divide. Last fall, it joined with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in a lawsuit to avoid vaccine mandates, using a noted anti-LGBTQ legal group.
“The Wesley House of Studies at Truett Seminary is one of the most exciting ministries of the Next Methodism,” said Ryan Barnett, lead pastor at First Methodist Waco and chair of Truett Seminary’s Wesley House board. Barnett and his congregation recently disaffiliated from the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and have affiliated with the Global Methodist Church.
“The Spirit’s anointing on the work has been clear from the beginning, drawing in students, scholarship support and the best and brightest in Wesleyan academia,” he said. “The selection of Dr. Jason Vickers as The William J. Abraham Chair of Wesleyan Studies is yet another example of God’s divine blessing. Jason will be a tremendous asset in equipping and preparing the next generation of Methodist church pastors.”
Vickers is the author or editor of 10 books: A Wesleyan Theology of the Eucharist (2016), the Cambridge Companion to American Methodism (2013), The Sermons of John Wesley (2013), Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (2011), the Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (2009), Wesley: A Guide for the Perplexed (2009), and Invocation and Assent: The Making and Remaking of Trinitarian Theology (2008).
Vickers is listed as an elder in full connection with the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.