Revelation From A Seminary Professor In The Middle Of An Annual Conference

I spent a couple of days last week at the Western North Carolina Annual Conference meeting in scenic Lake Junaluska, NC.

While there, I reconnected with preacher friends, saw congregants from Mt. Carmel UMC in Monroe (where I served from 1990-1999), and helped lead a breakfast meeting of the Western North Carolina Evangelical Movement.

And received a moment of revelation from a seminary professor.

That professor is Elaine Heath who teaches at SMU’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas.  As a lot of you know, my dad also taught at SMU, though in the law school and not in the seminary. 

Since Professor Heath now teaching in the same neighborhood where I grew up, I was intrigued with the possibilities when she stood to lead the Annual Conference in bible study. 

But I was completely unprepared for the power, simplicity, and poignancy of what she had to say and how she said it. 

She spoke openly and honestly of her childhood, her trauma, her journey, and her redemption. 

She used words like “testimony” and “mentor.” She talked about loving God and being loved by God. 

Do you have any idea how rare it is for a seminary professor to share so much of themselves in public?  To talk about loving God? To use old-fashioned, Southern Gospel-y words like “testimony”?  To bring me to tears with the clarity of her content and the wonder of her delivery?

If you don’t, now you do: it’s extremely rare.  As in unprecedented.

Here are some of the best lines from her talk:

Christ tracked me down and found me.

I have memories of God calling me before I had language for God.

Did you know that God calls children from alcoholic pagan families?

I am a trophy of God’s healing grace.

Don’t promote yourself; God will send you a John the Baptist whenever you need it.

Jesus had callouses, splinters, and he smelled like sweat and he launched his church with 120 similarly unauthorized people.

Those gems sound like they come more from the mouth of a revival preacher than a seminary professor.

I guess Elaine Heath shows you can be both.