Society of John Wesley Award of Merit
"To unite the pair so long disjoined - knowledge and vital piety."
These words penned by Charles Wesley are etched on the cornerstone of Wesley’s library and capture the supreme task of religious institutions. This is especially the task of Wesley Theological Seminary and it is accomplished to some degree in every graduate. On occasion, the Holy Spirit empowers certain persons to embody these qualities in a unique way. Through sacrificial leadership in ministry, these persons exemplify a high standard of involvement in the ministry and mission of the church and in the life of the Wesley community. For those who have meant so much to Wesley and the church, the Society of John Wesley was founded and we honor these most deserving graduates with the Society of John Wesley Award of Merit. Each year, the Society of John Wesley Award of Merit is given to Wesley graduates who exemplify a high standard of commitment and devotion to God, to the church and to Wesley Theological Seminary.
Take a look at previous award recipients or nominate a graduate.
Who Exemplifies The Spirit of John Wesley In Their Ministry?
Consider nominating a graduate for the Society of John Wesley Award of Merit.
Jane Deland Named Society of John Wesley Award Winner at 2019 Commencement
Alumna Elsa Jeannette “Jane” Slocum Deland’s commitment to Wesley was honored at the 2019 Commencement ceremony as this year’s Society of John Wesley award winner. Deland (MTS, 1996) devoted many years of service to the Wesley community, often behind the scenes. After graduation, Deland served as a member of the Office of Development staff for more than 15 years and held a variety of positions, including chief development officer and special assistant to President David McAllister-Wilson.
“When I reviewed the list of very distinguished graduates who have received the Society of John Wesley award, I was deeply humbled because I have known or know many of them personally – as my professors, members of the Board of Governors, administrators, and staff members – all people who have made extraordinary contributions to this seminary and to the wider faith communities they serve,” Deland said. “I never expected to join their company.”
The Society of John Wesley award recognizes and honors the significant contributions of alumni and alumnae through sacrificial leadership to God, the church and Wesley Theological Seminary. Award winners are nominated by fellow Wesley graduates.
“Everyone who knows Jane Deland thinks of her in a special category,” President David McAllister-Wilson said. “So it is with the extended Wesley community. First as a student, then an alumna, then as a member of the Board of Governors, we have all come to know Jane as an extraordinary woman for whom family, faith, friendships, her country and vulnerable people everywhere are her concern. We talk about ‘servant leadership’ here a lot. Jane is the model. She helps people do better and makes us want to be better.”
Deland originally came to Washington, D.C., when her husband Mike was appointed to the George H.W. Bush administration. An art historian by training, she was drawn to learn more about her faith after a particularly powerful Good Friday worship service. Deland asked the rector of her church at the time, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., where she could gain a deeper understanding of the Bible. He recommended Wesley.
Deland graduated with a Master of Theological Studies in 1996 and became a member of the Board of Governors in 1997. As a student, Deland valued the Wesley faculty and small class sizes that allowed for in-depth discussions, she said.
“I believe the heart and hallmark of Wesley Theological Seminary is its celebration of the diversity of the body of Christ,” Deland said. “This belief is lived out in its inclusive admissions practices, which welcome persons of different cultures, ethnicities, denominations, generations, socio-economic backgrounds, and different sexual orientations.” Diversity at Wesley goes beyond who is admitted to the school, as well.
“This belief is lived out in the classroom, where each voice is heard and valued; in chapel, where different forms of worship are lifted up; in the visual arts, drama and music, where students are encouraged to express their individual talents,” Deland said. “In these ways and more, diversity in community is cherished and celebrated, and knowledge and vital piety are joined together in a common quest to build God’s beloved community.”
Since retiring from Wesley in 2015, Deland relocated to Boston and continues to work as a layperson to better her community, volunteering at Trinity Church in outreach and social justice ministries along with work in two public schools.
Rev. Karen Bunnell inducted into Society of John Wesley at 2018 Commencement
The Rev. Karen Frances Bunnell received the 2018 Society of John Wesley Award at the seminary’s 136th Commencement on May 7. Wesley President Rev. Dr. David McAllister-Wilson presented the award during the ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.
The Society of John Wesley Award recognizes and honors the significant contributions of alumni and alumnae through sacrificial leadership to God, the church and Wesley Theological Seminary.
An ordained elder in the Pennsylvania-Delaware Conference of The United Methodist Church, Bunnell was the first woman to serve as Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry. She has also served as a General and Jurisdictional Conference delegate, co-chaired the Philadelphia Area Episcopacy Committee and chaired the Wilmington District Superintendency Committee.
But the heart of Bunnell’s 31 years in ministry is focused on the local church, where she has served as pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Wilmington, Del., and Elkton United Methodist Church in Elkton, Del.
Bunnell grew up in the church, yet entering the ministry never crossed her mind. She had never met a clergywoman, she said. That all changed when her senior pastor took her to lunch one day.
“He asked me if I thought God might be calling me to ordained ministry,” Bunnell said. “He said, ‘everything you are doing in the church is fruitful.’ The more he talked, helping me to see how God was working in my life, and the more I prayed after our lunch, the more I realized he was right – and thus the journey began!”
Another conversation — with Wesley graduate, the Rev. Dr. Edwin Lasbury — led her to Wesley.
“My years at Wesley were three of the best years of my life and helped to make me who I am today,” Bunnell said. “The experience transformed my life and that is why I keep encouraging people to attend Wesley.”
Bunnell has now mentored numerous candidates for ministry, three of whom are Wesley graduates.
“I encourage candidates to go to Wesley,” she said. “There’s no other choice. If you're United Methodist, Wesley is where you need to go.”
Bunnell feels Wesley prepared her well for the call to serve the local church, especially the teaching role of a pastor.
“I served as Student Pastor at Forest Memorial UMC,” she said. “They were a wonderful congregation who taught me so much.”
Bunnell was appointed in 2000 as senior pastor at Elkton UMC. That appointment continues to bear fruit: a major building project and overall renovation of the church, and doubling the church’s mission giving.
She was shocked to receive the call from President McAlister-Wilson informing her she would be inducted into the Society of John Wesley, she said.
“I just feel like I come to work, I do my job and do the best I can for the Lord and that's all I've done for my whole career,” she said. “To be recognized like this… it’s overwhelming.”
For more information on the Society of John Wesley Award, visit https://wesleyseminary.edu/Alumni/society-of-john-wesley/.