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The Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean Receives the 2014 Society of John Wesley Award of Merit

May 07 2014

May 7, 2014, Washington, D.C. – At the Wesley Theological Seminary commencement on Monday, May 12, Wesley President David McAllister-Wilson will present the 2014 Society of John Wesley Award of Merit. This year’s recipient is the Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, the Mary D. Synnott Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. This award recognizes a Wesley graduate who, through sacrificial leadership, exemplifies a high standard of commitment and devotion to God, the church and Wesley Theological Seminary. Recipients are nominated and selected by fellow graduates. Recipients are selected after the Alumni Council consults with key constituencies and receives numerous nominations, forwarding one to the president.

“Ultimately this award is a recognition of an alum who, having embraced God’s call and claim in their life, lives unselfish service inspiring others,” said the Rev. Dr. Timothy Baer (M.Div. ‘80, D.Min. ‘93), who chairs the Wesley Alumni Council. “Over the years, many recipients of the award have been, and continue to be, transformational leaders with vision who challenge others to be transformational as well. In the spirit of John Wesley, this award represents a continuing challenge to each and every graduate to unyieldingly offer his or her best in service to God.”

McAllister-Wilson said, "Dr. Dean is one of the few theologians today who are known and read across denominations. Her work is ground-breaking and refreshing and has helped all of us focus on what it will take for the church to be both faithful and relevant. We are proud of Kenda as one of our most distinguished alums."

Dean earned her Master of Divinity summa cum laude at Wesley Theological Seminary in 1988. She is an ordained elder in the Baltimore-Washington Conference of The United Methodist Church. Following her graduation from Wesley, she served as a pastor in churches in Virginia and Maryland, and as a campus minister at the University of Maryland.

In 1997, Dean earned her Doctor of Philosophy at Princeton Theological Seminary and joined its faculty the same year. She works closely with Princeton Seminary’s Institute for Youth Ministry. She also serves as the coordinating pastor of Kingston United Methodist Church. She is co-founder of Ministry Incubators, an accelerator program that helps turn missional ideas into sustainable ministries. She teaches and writes extensively about the globalization of youth ministries and the theological and pastoral considerations of ministering to young adults. Additionally, she serves on several local and national boards ranging from campus ministries to juvenile offenders.

Dean has served The United Methodist Church for more than two decades. Six years ago, Kingston United Methodist Church had a small congregation with a weekly attendance of 10-15 members, no mission activities, and little hope. Ttoday its weekly attendance is around 80, with two students serving as pastors most recently. Under her stewardship, seven seminarians volunteer to run missions within Kingston UMC and participate in the spiritual leadership of the congregation from the pulpit.

Dean’s additional contributions to the church flow from the body of teaching, study, and writing she has done. At Princeton Theological Seminary, she has developed Ph.D. seminars and masters-level courses that focus on educational issues, communicating the Gospel to adolescents and children, and the role of the church in an evolving culture. She has served as director or primary investigator on major studies delving into educational practices of youth and young-adult ministries. She has written, edited and co-authored nine books; contributed numerous chapters to books by others; and written articles for the academic and popular press, television and podcasts. She has lectured across the world, including Pretoria, Moscow, Amsterdam, Cambridge, New South Wales, Oxford, and Oslo.

Over the past 25 years, Dean has remained an active, loyal alumna of Wesley. She has guest lectured to Wesley classes, served as keynote speaker at a Wesley convocation on youth ministry and partner churches, and delivered the commencement address for the seminary in May 2011. Additionally, she has served as an advisor and consultant to Wesley’s president in recent years.

Wesley alumna Deborah C. Westbrook (M.Div. ’05) and member of the seminary’s Alumni Council nominated Dean. “I wanted to recognize Kenda’s work because of the critical importance of the faithful young to the vitality, indeed survivability, of the future church,” said Westbrook. “Kenda is an activist Christian, choosing to combine the advanced academic study of religion with an energetic, participatory application of Christian principles in community with others. Her career choice is to practical theology – to advancing the relevance of Christ to adolescents besotted by myriad cultural and personal distractions. She has engaged in this crusade for 25 years.”

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