John Wesley Fellow serving as SMU Perkins School of Theology Dean
Craig C. Hill is Dean and Professor of New Testament at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, moving from Duke Divinity School in July 2016, where he was Professor of Theological Pedagogy and the founding director of two degree programs.
Prior to that, he was Professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary, where he also held a variety of administrative posts, including directing the Wesley Ministry Network project, which filmed some eighty scholars from eleven countries and produced educational DVDs used for adult instruction in nearly two dozen countries.
While still in seminary, Craig completed a year-long internship working with Michael Green, the brilliant British pastor, evangelist and author, at his church in Oxford. Dean Hill shares that he was already strongly motivated to learn but had no desire prior to that experience to do doctoral work, much less to become a professional academic. Michael’s example, and the example of so many other Christian leaders at Oxford, changed his perspective. Craig greatly valued the way they joined ardent Christian faith with intellectual rigor. He still wanted to be in ministry but knew he would need to stretch himself academically.
It seemed obvious from the first that AFTE shared Dean Hill’s core values and interests. So, three years after graduating from seminary, he returned to Oxford as a doctoral student in New Testament with a John Wesley Fellowship. Craig reflects that one of the most essential aspects of being a Wesleyan Scholar is the head/heart balance. He comments, “Faith is not a dry, passionless intellectual exercise. It requires one’s whole self, one’s deepest commitments. It is not transactional; it is relational. At the same time, it is informed by reason and responsive to new knowledge.”
The relationship with other John Wesley Fellows has repeatedly altered his vocational path. He had no ambition to become a professor, believing that his calling was to local church ministry. It was the example of other Fellows that encouraged Hill to reconsider that position. More senior AFTE Fellows often served as academic references, and more than once were the ones who suggested his name to a search committee. At nearly every school where Craig worked for the past thirty years, he has enjoyed the fellowship of other AFTE scholars, as he does at Perkins. In short, he remarks that his career would not have been the same without this wonderful fellowship.
AFTE seeks scholars to join the Fellowship that are interested in a focus on church renewal. Craig shares what this means to him and how he applies his gifts and talents towards church renewal. He says, “We are all tempted, like Martha, to be distracted by many things, including otherwise good things. The central thing is to be a follower of Jesus. The greatest benefit of my study and teaching is the added clarity it has brought me about Jesus. I see many things now, I love many things now, about Jesus that I did not recognize in the same way years ago. At its most basic, church renewal is about making and keeping the first thing first. If our scholarship helps us to do that, assists us in helping others to do that, then it is truly worth the investment. “
The focus of his own efforts has changed over the years along with his role. When Hill first began, his emphasis was primarily on church renewal via personal evangelism. When Hill moved into the academy full time, that shifted to preparing others for ministry, including but not solely limited to evangelism. Dr. Hill is a New Testament professor and encourages students to think critically about the text, yes, but also about the practice of New Testament criticism itself. He finds a great deal of what passes for historical study, especially at a popular level and especially concerning Jesus, to be remarkably shaky but also remarkably self-certain. Hill says, “Now that I am a theological school dean, my focus is on equipping faculty to do the work of preparing dedicated and well-equipped servant leaders for the Church. “
Craig Hill is a native of Springfield, Illinois, and is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. His publications include Hellenists and Hebrews: Reappraising Division within the Earliest Church, In God’s Time: The Bible and the Future, the Romans portion of The Oxford Bible Commentary, and Servant of All: Status, Ambition, and the Way of Jesus. He is also the President of the Board of Directors of the Wesley Works Project, which was initiated more than thirty years ago by Albert Outler to publish the definitive, scholarly edition of John Wesley’s works.
Craig resides in Dallas with his wife, Robin, who is a Montessori schoolteacher. They have two grown children, Arthur and Victoria.