Help Light the Way: The Luminary Scholarship Effort
Bishop Marcus Matthews to Graduates:
"Give according to the way you have been blessed by your time at Wesley. Knowing where Wesley is today and where it needs to go, how can you be a part of that? Because we know the world needs the Church now more than ever."
Bishop Marcus Matthews, Wesley’s current Bishop in Residence and
Wesley alumnus, fell in love with the “majesty of the monuments” in Washington, D.C., during a field trip in fifth grade. Upon returning home to South Carolina, he told his parents he would live in D.C. one day. That day arrived when he relocated to study at Wesley in the 1970s.
Bishop Matthews began feeling called to ministry in junior high, but did not mention his call to anyone until he was in college at South Carolina State College. While studying sociology during his undergrad years, Bishop Matthews learned from the college chaplain what a seminary was and how a theological education could expand his notion of what a pastor could do within a local church. He wanted to explore how he could integrate his background in sociology with his work as a pastor, he said.
In addition to a location in the nation’s capital, Wesley’s core values drew Bishop Matthews to study at the seminary in the 1970s.
“My understanding was that Wesley was very proactive in reaching a diverse community and struggling with trying to be an inclusive community, not only for faculty and staff but for students,” Bishop Matthews said. “I was very impressed with how Wesley was struggling also to bring in diversity among the faculty.”
At Wesley, Bishop Matthews received a full tuition scholarship from the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. During his studies, the bishop was an officer in Student Council and the organization chair of what is now the Association of Black Seminarians.
Perhaps the experiences with greatest influence during his time at Wesley were the bishop’s participation in the Urban Ministry program and position as a student intern of Douglas United Methodist Church, he said. As a young man, Bishop Matthews served at both Douglas UMC and as an assistant pastor at Asbury UMC.
“That was a great experience because I was able to apply a lot of what I was learning in my classes to those ministry settings, particularly at Douglas,” Bishop Matthews said. “It was at Douglas that I really had a change of heart about what a local pastor could do through the local church. At Douglas, I began to see that the local church was a really good place to be. Had I not participated in the Urban Ministry program, I’m not sure I would have understood that.”
As his career continued and he took on new ministry roles in The United Methodist Church, Bishop Matthews maintained a relationship with Wesley and now serves as the Bishop in Residence. That relationship was a constant connection during his years as a district superintendent and bishop of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.
The bishop’s strong connection to Wesley is what motivates him to keep giving back to the school he attended years ago. Bishop Matthews learned the discipline of financial giving in Sunday School as a child when his teacher required the children to give back a tenth of whatever money they came to class with. Giving back to a cause became part of his DNA, he said.
“One of the things that really has amazed me is what one can do on what is not a big salary,” Bishop Matthews said. “I’m sure the majority of our clergy alumni are not making a six-figure salary. But it doesn’t have to be a lot — sometimes I think we underestimate what small contributions can do when they add up. No gift can ever be considered too small.”
Bishop Matthews offers this challenge to fellow Wesley graduates considering joining him as he gives back to Wesley: “Give according to the way you have been blessed by your time at Wesley. Knowing where Wesley is today and where it needs to go, how can you be a part of that? Because we know the world needs the Church now more than ever.”