Faculty Stories

Perkins School of Theology Names Visiting Professor Dr. Evelyn Parker as 2021 Distinguished Alumna

Dr. Evelyn Parker
Dr. Evelyn Parker

Article Originally Published by Perkins School of Theology

The Perkins School of Theology Alumni/ae Council has selected Evelyn L. Parker as the 2021 recipient of the Perkins Distinguished Alumnus/a Award. Parker (G-ETS and Northwestern 1996) is currently serving as distinguished visiting professor for the 2021-22 academic year at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The Award recognizes Perkins graduates who have demonstrated effectiveness and integrity in service to the church, continuing support for the goals of Perkins and Southern Methodist University, outstanding service to the community, and exemplary character.

Parker is both an alumna of Perkins as well as a member emerita of the Perkins faculty. Until her retirement in May 2021, she was the Susanna Wesley Centennial Professor of Practical Theology at Perkins.

“Dr. Parker was loved by her students and esteemed by her colleagues at Perkins,” said Craig C. Hill, Dean of Perkins School of Theology. “But her influence stretched well beyond our campus. She is globally recognized as an ecumenical leader and as one of the preeminent theological scholars of her generation in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.”

Parker also served as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Perkins. As a J. William Fulbright Scholar, Parker spent 2019-2020 in Cape Town, South Africa, focusing on the role of religious leaders in preventing and intervening in teen dating violence.

In a letter affirming Parker’s nomination for the award, Bishop Lawrence Reddick of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church praised Parker’s dedication to scholarship, to Perkins, to ecumenical causes, and to her local congregation. “Having joined the Perkins faculty in 1998, she has inspired countless others into scholarship,” he said. He added that his daughter Iris visited the campus at Parker’s urging and later completed an M.Div. and Th.M. at Perkins.

The Rev. Brian Lightner (M.Div., 2018), senior pastor of St. James CME Church in Tyler, Texas, remembered his first impressions upon meeting Parker the first time (“Wow! She is really smart.”) during a campus visit. “Dr. Parker’s love for Christian education resonates in the countless students she taught, mentored and challenged to develop a critical theological consciousness,” he said.

Parker’s career began in 1983 as a research scientist in the department of Human Biological Chemistry and Genetics at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. After completing a certificate course in Christian Education at Perkins, she came to Perkins as a full-time student in the fall of 1989. She earned a master’s in Religious Education at Perkins and a Ph.D. in the Religious and Theological Studies Joint Program at Garrett-Evangelical School of Theology and Northwestern University in 1996. She returned to Perkins in 1998 to join the faculty.

A faithful lifelong member of Kirkwood Temple CME Church in Dallas, Parker has served as the church’s Christian Education Coordinator. The church’s pastor, Dr. Jerry L. Christian, Sr., who has known her for more than a half-century, wrote in his letter of nomination: “As her pastor for the past 15-plus years, I have observed her to be an outstanding woman of impeccable character who possesses phenomenal leadership skills and who exhibits genuine knowledge of the Word of God.”

Parker has represented the CME denomination at the World Council of Churches (WCC) and helped guide the planning for the Tenth Assembly of the WCC in Busan, South Korea in 2013 as a member of its Central Committee.

Parker is the author of Between Sisters: Emancipatory Hope Out of Tragic Relationships, (Cascade Books, 2017) and Trouble Don’t Last Always: Emancipatory Hope Among African American Adolescents (Pilgrim Press, 2003) and editor of The Sacred Selves of Adolescent Girls: Hard Stories of Race, Class, and Gender (Pilgrim Press, 2006). She has also published several chapters and journal articles on adolescent spirituality, including “Divine Fortitude: A Reflection on God’s goodness in black female child soldiers,” in Female Child Soldiering: Gender Violence and Feminist Theologies (Susan Willhauck, ed., Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2019.)

“Her scholarship is exceptionally distinguished because she has devoted herself deeply to listening to young people – primarily young women and girls – about their spirituality, sexuality, cultural identity and personal individuality,” said William Lawrence, Professor Emeritus and former Perkins dean, in a letter affirming Parker’s nomination. “She has heard the silenced voices of Black, gay and trans youth.”

Parker will be honored next fall, along with the 2020 and 2022 Award recipient(s), at the Distinguished Alumni Awards Banquet in November 2022 on the campus of Southern Methodist University. The 2020 Award recipients were the Rev. Donald W. Underwood and the Rev. Dr. Sidney G. Hall, III.

Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a graduate school of theology related to The United Methodist Church, was founded in 1853. Located on the campus of Northwestern University, the seminary serves more than 450 students from various denominations and cultural backgrounds, fostering an atmosphere of ecumenical interaction. Garrett-Evangelical creates bold leaders through master of divinity, master of arts, master of theological studies, doctor of philosophy, and doctor of ministry degrees. Its 4,500 living alumni serve church and society around the world.