Congratulations, Shirley Mullen!

Shirley MullenCongratulations to Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College (the first woman to hold that office), for being named one of the “50 Women You Should Know” by Christianity Today in its October 2012 issue.

In that article (not yet online just posted by CT), fellow historian Mark Noll writes of Shirley that, “In evangelical higher education, she is distinctive for the depth of her academic preparation, the insight of her institutional leadership, and the breadth of her Christian concerns”; he also praises the “balanced seriousness” that marks her work as an intellectual historian.

All of those qualities were evident three years ago when Shirley delivered one of the plenary addresses at our conference on The Pietist Impulse in Christianity — a homecoming of sorts, as she had taught classes at Bethel while she was a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. Her address on “The ‘Strangely Warmed’ Mind: John Wesley, Piety, and Higher Education” was then reproduced as part of our 2011 Pietist Impulse book.

Given my own research on Pietism and Christian higher education, I was especially glad to have Shirley explore Wesley’s thoughts on the relationship between Christian piety and learning. What she wrote about the Wesleyan tradition that shapes Houghton could as easily describe the Baptist Pietist tradition that shapes Bethel:

While I am very grateful for the riches of [the Reformed and Roman Catholic] traditions, I began to puzzle about the fact that a tradition so associated in the public mind with “enthusiasm” and “revivalism” should also be a tradition that has given great attention from the very beginning to the work of education—even if not to the theological rationale for such work. (p. 163)

You can read a more extensive summary of Shirley’s and the other Wesleyan chapters in this post (or just buy the book itself). An exploration of the Wesleyan tradition also informs Shirley’s essay on “Faith, Learning, and the Teaching of History,” in Teaching as an Act of Faith: Theory and Practice in Church Related Higher Education, ed. Arlin Migliazzo.


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