MaryAnn Hawkins grew up in the Church of God and has been serving as an intercultural studies professor at AU for the last 10 years. In July, she stepped into the position of Dean of the School of Theology.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself.
A: I was born and raised in the Church of God. My grandmother was the first cousin of John A. Morrison [AU’s first president].
I did my first two and a half years of college at Gulf Coast Bible College and ultimately graduated from Bartlesville Wesleyan. I met and married my husband during college, which was fairly normal during those years.
We served as pastors and then missionaries in Kenya, and we were very involved in the beginnings of Kima International School of Theology (KIST). I was the first academic dean there. Then we returned to the states and my husband returned to pastoral ministry while I went to teach at Hope International University. I finished my PhD at Fuller.
My husband and I have two children. They are both married and both have children, so I am a grandmother, which has been a very interesting stage of life.
I think the Lord has had me on a journey that has ultimately prepared me to be a part of this.
Q: What kind of responsibilities does this job give you?
A: I serve to provide oversight for faculty in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry. We have degree programs that run from bachelor programs to doctoral programs, so the breadth of students and faculty and curriculum development and assessments, all of those pieces are a part of this. I serve with the other deans and directors of programs on the academic cabinet.
The things that I’m working on right now have to do with accreditation; we have a report due to the Association of Theological Schools so I’m responsible for writing that. We’re working on some curriculum pieces where classes that are similar between the undergraduate and graduate programs can be cross-listed. This means that undergraduate students may choose to take a graduate level class, so they get credit for their class in undergrad but should they determine that they want to come to seminary, they won’t have to take it again. I think these kinds of things will be significant down the road.
Q: How do you feel about the merger of the Department of Christian Ministries and the School of Theology?
A: I am really excited about the possibilities. I think bringing us together will help get rid of any overlap because we will actually know what the other is doing. So if there’s any overlap, it will be deliberate.
Particularly with the three new faculty members coming in, combined with the folks we already have, has provided a new energy and excitement. I think it’s gonna be good overall for faculty and students.
Q: You will impact countless students’ lives during your time at AU. How have students impacted your life so far?
A: They keep me learning. When I leave space for students to come up with a textbook of their own, what they find in the field works to keep me current. I find providing students with a little bit of freedom actually educates me and influences how I do things.
Q: Can you tell me about your time at KIST in Kenya?
A: It was a pastoral training school that offered an accredited bachelor’s degree in theology. We were there for eight years. We actually went at a time when there was a small Bible college there and we were able to close it and provide a rebirth as KIST.
Part of my heart is there. I have students that are working all over Africa and that’s exciting; it’s nice to see the fruit of your labor. Many of the people who are in leadership positions particularly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were my students. I see them now leading the church across their country and it’s pretty exciting.
Q: What has been an especially meaningful experience during your time at AU?
A: There are too many! I think the most meaningful pieces have been when I as a faculty member am invited to participate in ordination services or other things, where there are students I’ve had significant enough relationships with that I get invited to participate in some of their meaningful experiences. I think those times would constitute as my most memorable experiences.
Q: What led you to pursue mission work in Africa?
A: It was a God thing. My husband and I were pastoring in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the time and we came to Anderson for a convention one year. In the midst of that, God used a verse in the song “Broken and Spilled Out” that says “may the fragrance of total commitment be the only defense that I need.” So the question going through my mind was, “I’m involved in a number of things that are serving to grow the church but am I really totally committed?” There was no reason to do missionary work except that God needed what we had to offer at the time.
It was a period of time that had to do with taking this small Bible college in Kenya and giving birth to KIST. It took the gifts that my husband and I had to make that happen. Looking back on it we can see why, and we both just understood that we needed to do it.
Q: Tell me about the books that you have edited or made contributions to.
A: The newest one is the second edition of Called to Minister, Empowered to Serve. That one came out in 2014. I was the general editor but it has many chapters written by well-known Church of God women and it addresses the women in ministry question. Before that I did A Thread of Hope, which is a book about missionary women, and it tells some of the life stories of those women across the years and across the continents.
Women have been involved in the ministry in the Church of God since the very beginning of the church, as ministers and evangelists and missionaries. There are a lot of people who don’t understand the history of the Church of God and think that this is a new thing and it’s not. This is where we’ve been.
Q: So it sounds like you are a big proponent of women in ministry?
A: I am. I am an ordained woman and I have been a champion for women clergy, but also women in general. I am an egalitarian, which means I believe in equality and I believe that that’s true for marriage relationships, in understanding working relationships and ministry in the church. Even in my general leadership I am much more of an egalitarian. I want to hear people’s opinions before making a decision, so I can feel that we’ve made the decision as a group.