Tooley: Hello this is Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, with the pleasure today of conversing with, hopefully I’ll pronounce your name correctly, Tesia Mallory, the impending new Dean of the Chapel at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. It’s one of United Methodist’s 13 official seminaries. So, Tesia Mallory is a provisional deacon in the United Methodist Church, completing her doctorate at United Seminary. She is part of a clergy couple in the United Methodist Church, and her husband, if I understand correctly, is also finishing his doctorate and is a local preacher. But you can correct me if I misunderstood your situation. So, Tesia, thank you so much for joining this conversation.
Mallory: Hello, thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here. My husband is starting his Doctor of Ministry and he is a pastor. It’s cool, he’s getting in there.
Tooley: So, you’re ahead of him at least academically.
Mallory: I am. But I would never say that I’m smarter than him.
Tooley: Now tell us a little bit about United Theological Seminary. Some of our listeners may be aware that United in recent years has headed in a little bit of a different direction from other United Methodist seminaries in that it has been more open, shall we say, to orthodox Methodism and has had a special calling to provide ministry and training to those in the more charismatic segment of Christianity.
Mallory: Yeah, so, I’ve been involved with United for around 10 years now, and I am United through and through. One of my favorite things about United is our three core commitments. And the first of those is scriptural holiness, the historic faith, and church renewal. So, we are rooted in the orthodox historic faith of the Church, the faith that has been handed down to us by the saints. And we believe that the historic faith teaches us that, through the scriptures and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can be made holy in the image of God. And that the Holy Spirit, through working within us, can bring about the renewal of the church. And through the power of the Holy Spirit, and you talked about charismatic renewal, the miracles and the signs and the wonders. United has been very open to more charismatic Christianity in the past probably seven to eight years or so. And I am one of those people who has been greatly impacted by charismatic Christianity. It has emboldened me and empowered me to preach the Gospel with conviction. And I can talk a little bit more about that going forward, but United overall has equipped me, I’m a graduate of United in the master’s program and now soon to be in the doctoral program, United has equipped me with the knowledge of the historic faith and helped me to understand what it means to be holy, how to connect with God in my discipleship, to be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and then to go out and follow what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world to renew the church. So, yeah, there’s United.
Tooley: Now many may wonder why you, as a traditional Methodist, would come again to the United Methodist Church, which has not often been very friendly to traditional believers and is on the verge of a historic schism. So, lots of upheaval ahead, and yet you feel a calling to remain a United Methodist.
Mallory: Yeah, I’m a lifelong United Methodist. I grew up in a very solid evangelical, I was at an orthodox United Methodist Church, it was thriving. We had probably 6 to 10 candidates for ministry come out, when I was in youth group, for example, come out of that youth group. The church itself, the local church, they understood what it meant, their baptismal vows, to raise me in the orthodox faith. To help me understand what my calling was. To help me hear God’s voice. And so, for me, when I think about the United Methodist Church, I really didn’t even know that there was a mess, for lack of a better word. I didn’t know there were any issues with it until I went to seminary in my early 20s, because I grew up in such a solid church. And so, for me, I identify with the Wesleyan faith through and through. That the faith that was instilled in me by the faithful saints of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Celina, Ohio, which is now Grand Lake United Methodist Church. So, for me there, there is no question, because I didn’t even understand there was a problem. Now coming to seminary and coming into leadership positions, you start to you see the tension there. And it sometimes is painful, but I know that God has called me to be a voice for orthodoxy, to be a voice to say that there is freedom in Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is Lord, and that John Wesley has given us this tradition of justification, proving your grace, justification and sanctification. I agree with all of that. So, for me there’s no question why I wouldn’t go forward, and that’s because I believe that I am a holder of this faith and it is my responsibility to pass it on. So, it’s not a question for me.
Tooley: Now the students whom you will be ministering to as dean of the chapel, these are presumably mostly people in their early 20s. Some of them may be millennials, maybe the younger ones are now Generation Z, which we don’t fully understand yet. So, what are the unique challenges and needs of the students whom you’ll be preaching and ministering to?
Mallory: Yeah, so a lot of our students, I would say the majority of them right now are second career students, but when we talk about, so I’m a millennial, I’m like a millennial through and through. When we talk about these specific things with millennials, we’re such a diverse group of people. There’s this “oh the crisis of not enough millennials in church.” And honestly my answer to the “crisis” is just preach the Gospel. I think we, as a church, we try to come up with so many different gimmicks, right. We have to be entertaining, we have to be, there’s the whole seeker sensitive movement, I’m not sure if that really did anything or not. But for me it’s like no, just preach the Gospel, teach that sin is real and that the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has the answer, has the antidote that Jesus saves. And then, if you put your full trust in Jesus for salvation, you will be saved, you will gain eternal life, you will be transformed. And so, when I think about the younger generation, I know I’m like there are no gimmicks, just teach what the faith has handed down to us, that Jesus is Lord, and that Jesus saves. And you don’t have to remain in bondage to your sin and your anxiety and all the things that plague you in this world. So, that’s kind of my, I don’t know, that’s my answer to the whole millennial fiascos. Let’s not abandon the things that the Church has given us. When we abandon them, that’s when we see the problem. We need real faith to the mess that’s in this world.
Tooley: And these students, whether they’re in their early 20s or whether they’re older second career people, are they specifically committed to Wesleyan beliefs and practices, or are they more typically generic Christians who just want to be in ministry?
Mallory: I would say our student body is extremely diverse. I think we have 30 some denominations represented in our student body. Our Doctor of Ministry program is one of the most diversity in the whole country. I would say that the majority of them are Wesleyan. Because we are such a friendly seminary to evangelicals and charismatics, we have a huge constituency of Wesleyan charismatics at our seminary. And so, yes, I would say yes.
Tooley: And looking out at American society today and American Christianity, why do you think there is a special need and calling for specifically Wesleyan Christianity right now? What do we bring to the table?
Mallory: I think just getting back to the justifying and sanctifying grace of God, going on to Christian perfection. I love our Wesleyan distinctions that we need to be justified, that we need to accept Jesus as our savior, to put our full trust in him for our salvation, but that moving forward, God wants to sanctify us and transform us, both individually and corporately. I love our emphasis on social holiness, but not in the social justice warrior sense. I mean, yes, we do have a call to social action, but the fact that we live out our faith together as a church, the whole understanding of class meetings and band meetings. I know me personally, I’ve been involved in a band meeting for a long time, and it’s changed my life. It saved me from doing many stupid things that my flesh would tell me to do. And so, I think we offer this personal holiness and social holiness aspect to our faith that can transform us personally, then transform us as a church, and then just shine the light of Jesus to the world, to say that you don’t have to live in sin. You don’t have to live in grief. You don’t have to live in depression. You can have purpose in your life. You can have a divine calling. And God is transforming the entire creation. That’s good news. So, those are kind of the Wesleyan distinctives that I love.
Tooley: So much conversation about race in America today, and the United Methodist Church in America is over 90% white, but it’s my understanding that United Seminary is racially the most diverse of United Methodism’s 13 seminaries. Is that the case? And if so, why so?
Mallory: Yeah, the exact statistics evade me right now, but I think that our Doctor of Ministry program is between 70 and 80% African American. And I think overall our entire seminary is 40% African American. And that makes us one of the most diverse at least UM seminaries in the whole country. Our Doctor of Ministry program was founded by Dr. Proctor, and so it has really deep roots in the African American Church. And I know the leaders of United have done an excellent job just continuing to foster that. What I love about United diversity, we’re not really a one size fits all seminary, and I think that it’s beautiful. We are rooted in historic Christian faith, we have all different perspectives, many different races, lots of international students, and it really shows what the Kingdom of God is, in my opinion, where every tongue, every tribe, and every nation will worship together at the throne. So, yeah, I think United has done a really good job creating space and working together to help heal the racial tensions in our nation, and in the church as well. Because it is true that the United Methodist Church is overwhelmingly white. Like let’s be honest, we talk about diversity, but we’re really not diverse. A lot of times those voices, we want diversity, but we don’t want maybe orthodox perspective, because a lot of times those global voices are more orthodox. So, that’s something that I’ve seen. Maybe you talk a big game, you want diversity, but when it comes down to it, if you don’t want orthodoxy, as we see with our Cuban brothers and sisters and other charismatic Christians around the world, very orthodox. You don’t really want that. And I don’t know, I could go on about that for a long time.
Tooley: Well, Tesia Mallory, Dean designate for the Chapel at United Theological Seminary, thank you very much for an encouraging conversation. We look forward to hearing more about your ministry in the future.
Mallory: Thank you so much.