Dear Gammon Alum and Friends,
I hope you are doing well.
I write this letter to you with a heavy heart for two primary reasons:
Reason 1: I am saddened to announce the death on February 20, 2019 of Minister Dwight Helton, a first year Master of Divinity Gammon Theological Seminary Student. I participated in his funeral service at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in McDonough, Georgia on Saturday, March 2, 2019. Minister Helton left us too soon, he was only 33 years old. I first met Minister Helton before the beginning of Fall Semester 2018 in my office to discuss his future and the wonderful possibilities within theological education. Minister Helton informed me he grew up and received the call to ministry in Wesley Chapel UMC, a church community where many of his pastors were distinguished graduates of Gammon Theological Seminary. After he graduated from Morehouse College, he worked for a few years as a teacher for Teach For America in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was during that season he realized his life experiences had prepared him to pursue graduate theological education, and he chose Gammon Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center to pursue his dream. Dwight was young, gifted, and extremely talented. I ask for your prayers for the communities impacted by Dwight’s sudden physical death. As Christians, we believe loss, however painful the loss, can ultimately lead to resurrection. It is trust in the resurrection that gives us comfort we will see Minister Helton again. May Dwight rest in peace.
Reason 2: As part of the Gammon Theological Seminary delegation, I attended the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. During the recent Special General Conference, it became clear people from all sides feel a combination of confusion, frustration, and anger in relation to the topic of full inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community into The United Methodist Church. Allow me to be clear, since 1883, Gammon Theological Seminary has been a leader within the Methodist tradition of including historically marginalized and underserved communities as full participants. I am glad to write the tradition of radical inclusion continues today, especially now during this season. I am fully aware of the diversity of beliefs within the Gammon community. I would offer to each of us, Jesus makes room at the table for everyone. Gammon Theological Seminary will continue to make room for all of God’s people.
Conclusion: The Season of Lent draws closely upon us with revelations of various forms of sacrifice, fasting, and self-denial. As Christians, we sometimes reluctantly learn we cannot/ should not/ and will not receive everything we want. I am convinced there is not a perfect religious community today, nor will there ever be on planet Earth. My hope is people from all sides of the LGBTQIA+ topic will prayerfully work together within The United Methodist Church. Remember the following: All of our days are numbered, and life is short. Love much, forgive often, and try to see sacredness in all of God’s creation.
Grace and Peace,
Ken J. Walden, PhD
Gammon Theological Seminary
Rev. Ken Walden President-Dean, Gammon Theological Seminary