Perkins Lay School of Theology: "Constructing Character Under Pressure"

Date Posted: 7/27/2011

“The Gospel of Mark: Constructing Character Under Pressure” is the topic for the summer Perkins Lay School of Theology at St. Paul’s UMC, Houston on Saturday, August 13.


The Houston Lay School of Theology is sponsored by SMU's Perkins School of Theology in cooperation with the Center for Congregational excellence of the Texas Annual Conference. The school meets each January and August, offering an opportunity for laity and others to explore issues of spirituality, theology, religion, and church leadership with faculty from Perkins. The program is made possible in part by the Howard-Holbert Endowment at SMU.


The course will be taught by Dr. Abraham Smith, Professor of New Testament at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. An enthusiastic and engaged teacher of New Testament, his teaching interests include Mark, Luke, African American biblical hermeneutics, and cultural studies. An ordained minister of the National Baptist Church USA, he was awarded his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.


Dr. Smith summarizes the course: “The Gospel of Mark has characters (dramatic actors) and builds character (essential values for living). This course will explore how Mark builds the latter through the former. Together we will examine: Mark’s overall plot; Mark’s negative characterization of the disciples; Mark’s positive characterization of Jesus and the ‘little people’; and Mark’s rhetorical goals, including that of building the character of its readers and auditors as they faced the pressures of tyranny in the late sixties and early seventies of the first century CE.”


Suggested Readings are Sowing the Gospel: Mark’s World in Literary-Historical Perspective by Mary Ann Tolbert; and A Costly Freedom: A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel by Brendan Byrne. Students should also read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting and bring to the course a copy of the Gospel, preferably the NRSV.


Gathering and at-the-door registration are from 8:15 to 9 a.m. with the class from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., breaking for lunch. Registration fees range from $49 to $65, varying with mode and timing; all include lunch. Continuing education units are available for an additional $20.  

For additional information or to register, visit or call 214-768-2251.


At 5501 Main, St. Paul’s is modified English Gothic sanctuary on the corner of Main and Binz/Bissonnet, across from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  Free parking is available in two lots behind the church on Fannin Street. For more about St. Paul’s, see