Bishop Whitfield Appointed Director of Center for Religious Leadership

Dallas, Texas – Southern Methodist University Provost Paul Ludden has appointed Bishop D. Max Whitfield as director of the Center for Religious Leadership at Perkins School of Theology. The Provost made the appointment upon receiving the nomination of Bishop Whitfield from Perkins School of Theology Dean William B. Lawrence. In addition to his work with the Center for Religious Leadership, Bishop Whitfield will continue serving as Bishop in Residence at Perkins.
 Bishop D. Max Whitfield, Director of the Center for Religious Leadership and Bishop in Residence at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University SMU
 Bishop D. Max Whitfield, Director of 
the Center for Religious Leadership
and Bishop in Residence
at Perkins School of Theology

“Bishop Whitfield’s considerable experience and longstanding interest in leadership will enhance the work of the Center for Religious Leadership here at Perkins,” Dean Lawrence said. “We are excited about his willingness to share his gifts in this important role.”

Bishop Whitfield believes Perkins School of Theology has much to contribute in the field of religious leadership. “The resources at Perkins specifically, as well as its context as a leading school of theology related to Southern Methodist University, position us well to help develop leaders – both clergy and laity – through spiritual growth and personal development,” Whitfield said. “Leadership can too easily be separated from our biblical, theological, cultural fields of study, as though leadership is somehow ‘different’ from the real work of the church,” he added. “Part of what I hope to facilitate is an exploration of ways to strengthen these connections.”

Prior to coming to Perkins as Bishop in Residence in 2012, Whitfield served as Bishop of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conferences for 12 years. Before his election to the episcopacy, he served as Superintendent of the Batesville and Fayetteville Districts in the Arkansas Conference UMC, after serving as senior pastor in various United Methodist congregations in Arkansas for more than 30 years. Whitfield’s distinguished ministry with the church and the larger community also has included serving on the Board of Trustees, Hendrix College; Conference Board of Ordained Ministry; Board of Directors, General Board of Global Ministries; Board of Directors, General Commission on Religion and Race; and numerous other positions. He served as a General Conference delegate for three quadrennia and a South Central Jurisdictional delegate for four quadrennia.

Whitfield was ordained deacon (1967) and elder (1970) in the North Arkansas Conference. An alumnus of Perkins, he earned a B.S.A. from Arkansas State University (1966), M.Div. from Perkins School of Theology (1969), and D.Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary (1983).

The Center for Religious Leadership of Perkins School of Theology provides training in the theology of leadership and practical skills for leadership. This training is based in an understanding of leadership as a spiritual vocation cultivated, strengthened, and lived out within communities of faith and the other contexts in which the church exists – including legal, business, political, social and cultural contexts. The Center draws on the skills of the SMU faculty from Perkins School of Theology, Cox School of Business, and Dedman School of Law along with church leaders (both lay and clergy), and business and non-profit leaders.


Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Ministry, and Doctor of Ministry, as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with The Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.