Dean Jan Love has announced that Professor Emeritus in the Practice of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies Rex D. Matthews will serve as the inaugural Russell E. Richey and Merle Umstead Richey Visiting Professor in Methodist and Wesleyan Studies for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Russell E. Richey—who served as dean of Candler from 2000 to 2006 and a member of the faculty until his retirement in 2011—and his wife, Merle, established the professorship in 2018 to benefit the growth of Methodist Studies at the school. Candler is one of 13 seminaries of The United Methodist Church.
“Merle and I could not be more delighted that Rex Matthews has been selected to be the inaugural holder of the Richey professorship in Methodist and Wesleyan Studies,” Richey says. “We had hoped, in beginning the funding for this chair, that Candler would bring to campus the most outstanding scholars, teachers, and researchers in the field. Just such a stunning selection Dean Jan Love and colleagues have made.”
Matthews taught at Candler from 2004 to 2018, earning numerous accolades from both students and the institution alike. These included the On Eagle’s Wings Excellence in Teaching Award, selected by Candler’s senior class, in 2010 and 2016; the Exemplary Teaching Award from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of The United Methodist Church in 2012; and the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award, the most prestigious award for teaching given by Emory University, in 2011.
In this new role as Richey Visiting Professor, he will teach courses on Methodist doctrine and history, as well as upper-level electives in Wesleyan studies—and finds it fitting that this particular opportunity draws him back to the classroom.
“Russ Richey is a longtime friend and colleague; our professional careers have been intertwined in many ways through the years,” Matthews says. “So, it is a great honor and personal privilege for me to become the first person to hold the Richey professorship, and I am looking forward to being an active member of the Candler faculty again.”
He notes that during his time as senior editor of academic books at Abingdon Press, he persuaded Richey, Ken Rowe, and Jean Miller Schmidt to begin work on what would become the pioneering multi-volume work The Methodist Experience in America. In 2004, during Richey’s tenure as dean of Candler, he appointed Matthews to the faculty as a visiting professor. And in 2011, Matthews organized a conference honoring Richey upon his retirement from the Candler faculty, serving as editor of the resulting Festschrift, The Renewal of United Methodism: Mission, Ministry and Connectionalism: Essays in Honor of Russell E. Richey (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2012).
“In diverse ways, Rex has put his own stamp on Methodist studies, and without calling attention to his shaping roles,” Richey says. “By pulling Abingdon Press into publishing in the field; in guiding ATS/SBL in several scholarly realms; through planning, overseeing, and managing periodic conferences refreshing teaching in history, doctrine, polity, worship, and other practical fields; in his own teaching of Methodism courses; by launching and administering the online Methodist Review; and, despite all the above demands, in finding time to publish ground-breaking books and articles.”