William B. Lawrence is Dean and Professor of American Church History at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.
He assumed that position on August 1, 2002, and was renewed for a third consecutive five-year term as Dean of Perkins in 2012. Dr. Lawrence came to Perkins from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, where he was Associate Dean for Development and Church Relations. Previously he taught at Duke Divinity School and at Wesley Theological Seminary. An ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, he has held a number of pastoral assignments, most recently at Metropolitan Memorial United Methodist Church (the National United Methodist Church) in Washington, DC.
Dr. Lawrence serves as SMU’s University Liaison to The United Methodist Church. He has served as a delegate to both jurisdictional and general conferences. In 2008, he was elected by the General Conference to serve as one of nine members of the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council, the highest judicial body within the denomination. In 2012, members of the Judicial Council elected Lawrence to a four-year term as President. Lawrence also was elected by members of the Association of United Methodist Theological Schools (AUMTS) for a two-year term (2012-2014) as AUMTS President.
Dean Lawrence is a native of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Duke University, with distinction. He holds the Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York, and received his Ph. D. in homiletics and historical theology, with distinction, from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. He is the author and editor of several books and numerous articles. One recent publication is Methodism in Recovery: Renewing Mission, Reclaiming History, Restoring Health (Abingdon Press, 2008). His newest book, Ordained Ministry in The United Methodist Church, was released in fall 2011. He currently is President of the Board of Directors for the Wesley Works Project, which was initiated by Albert Outler and others more than 30 years ago to publish the definitive, scholarly edition of John Wesley’s works.
He and his wife Naomi have two children and four grandchildren. Their son Todd and his wife Rachel live in Bynum, North Carolina. They have a daughter, Cara Irene. Their son Jonathan and his wife Aimee live in Atlanta, Georgia. They are the parents of Alexandra Elizabeth, Wesley Ryan, and Chappell Frank.