Glenn F. Chesnut: seminary at Southern Methodist University 1961-1965. For a complete search of the internet, it is also necessary to look for the common misspellings and variants of his name: Glenn Chesnut / Glen F. Chesnut / Glen Chesnut / Glenn F. Chestnut / Glenn Chestnut / Glen F. Chestnut / Glen Chestnut / Glenn C., South Bend

Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University

  In 1961, Glenn F. Chesnut began studying for the Methodist ministry at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

The basic Protestant seminary degree in those days was called the B.D. or Bachelor of Divinity. Students had to complete a four-year undergraduate degree before entering the seminary program, which took an additional three years. There were around a hundred students in each entering class at Perkins, for a total of around three hundred students.

SMU campus, School of Theology

  Another of the Perkins School of Theology buildings, which were set out by themselves over on one corner of the Southern Methodist University campus.

A Methodist from south Georgia named Albert C. Outler had been Dwight Professor of Theology at Yale University. He then decided however, out of loyalty to the Methodists, to come to Perkins and work on turning it into a good seminary. Largely due to him, it had by the 1960's become one of the ten best graduate theological schools in the United States.

Glenn Chesnut a.k.a. Glen Chestnut a.k.a. Glenn Chestnut a.k.a. Glenn F. Chestnut

  A photo of Glenn F. Chesnut taken on his graduation from the University of Louisville in June 1960, shortly before he turned twenty-one. His undergraduate degree had been in chemistry, with a strong emphasis on atomic and nuclear physics and the effects of radioactivity on chemical reactions.  


  This photo shows a beam of radiation from a particle accelerator called a synchrotron, which Glenn worked with at Iowa State University. Before entering seminary, he spent a year at Iowa State studying in their doctoral program in chemistry and atomic and nuclear physics, and doing research in the Ames Laboratory of the U.S.government's Atomic Energy Commission.  

Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, Texas

  The chapel at Perkins, with its tall spire. There was a stark simplicity to its beauty. The inside in those days was painted pure white, with white shutters and clear glass instead of stained glass windows. Except for the dark brown wood of the pews, the only other color in the chapel came from the red banner with a gold cross embroidered on it which hung behind the white wooden altar.

In those days, the Southern Methodist communion service was basically just an English translation of the medieval Roman Catholic mass, sung to ancient chants which had been modified so that they could be sung in four-part harmony. I still love the words of the Gloria in Excelsis as they sang it in those days:
Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace,
       good will toward men.
We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee,
we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee
       for thy great glory:
O Lord God, heavenly King; God the Father Almighty.
O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father:
That takest away the sins of the world,
       have mercy upon us.
Thou that takest away the sins of the world,
       receive our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father,
       have mercy upon us.
For thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord;
thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost,
art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Glenn Chesnut standing in front of the chapel at Perkins School of Theology

  Glenn F. Chesnut standing in front of the chapel, in a photo taken around 1963 or 1964, when he was about 23 or 24 years old.

Glenn Chesnut was mentored by Albert C. Outler, who had made his reputation as a patristics scholar when he was teaching at Yale (patristics is the study of early Christianity during the first five to seven centuries). This was to be Glenn's specialty when he went to Oxford University to work on his doctorate.

After coming to Perkins, Outler had moved into a new field of research. He and several other Methodist scholars began the serious study of the theology of John Wesley, the eighteenth-century Anglican priest who taught at Oxford University and was one of the key founders of the modern evangelical movement. The Methodists, as Wesley's followers were called, formed their own independent church in America after the American Revolution was over, to avoid being thought of as Tories and sympathizers with the English king.

As a result, Glenn F. Chesnut began developing his interest in John Wesley at the very beginning of his theological career, and taught some graduate courses on Wesley many years later to Methodist students at a Protestant seminary not too far away from the Indiana University campus where he was professor.

Hebrew book in Perkins School of Theology rare book collection

  The Perkins School of Theology library was already busy creating its present marvelous collection of rare books and manuscripts at the time Glenn began his studies there. This one is in Hebrew.

Glenn learned to read biblical Hebrew while he was at the seminary, and also learned enough Aramaic and Syriac to write a paper which won a national prize, on the Syriac writings of the sixth century monophysite theologian Severus of Antioch.

In addition, he learned (and later also taught) New Testament Greek at the seminary.

After he got to Oxford University, he continued his Greek studies by learning to read the ancient classical Greek of Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus, and Thucydides, as well at the later patristic Greek of authors like Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Eusebius of Caesarea.

Coptic manuscript of the Gospel of Mark

  A page, found in the sands of Egypt, from a Coptic version of the gospel of Mark, in the Perkins School of Theology collection. Dechard Turner was the librarian at the seminary library who was busy assembling an important part of this extraordinary treasure trove of ancient books during those years. Glenn got to take a course from him on early printed books produced during the half century or so after the invention of the printing press.  

Illuminated manuscript

  An illuminated Latin manuscript from the Perkins library's collection of rare books. Glenn got to brush up on his Latin by translating an early printed book written by the fifteenth century figure Antonino of Florence, to help one of the seminary professors who was doing research in that area.

This was Frederick Carney, who was an expert on Christian ethics. Like almost everyone in ethics during that period, Carney was strongly influenced of course by Reinhold Niebuhr (best known to the general public as the author of the Serenity Prayer). Carney nevertheless thought of himself as being primarily interested in the natural law tradition.
When people in the twelve step program suggest to newcomers that they might begin by thinking of their higher power as Good Orderly Direction (G.O.D.), this means "natural law," a concept which has an ancient and honorable position in the history of Christian ethics, going back into not only the medieval but also the patristic period (the first five or six centuries of Christian history).
Glenn also took a graduate course from Carney on St. Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval philosophical theologian whose teachings were regarded later on (especially in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) as the basis for all Roman Catholic theology. He did a term paper comparing the concept of perfection in Aquinas' Summa Theologica with the doctrine of Christian perfection in the teachings of John Wesley.
Glenn was asked to read this paper to a gathering of the entire seminary, including all the faculty and all the students. This was an extraordinary honor. The seminary brought in great scholars from all over the world on a regular basis, and on occasion asked a member of the Perkins faculty to speak, but no student had ever been asked to give such a lecture before.
Other Perkins faculty who influenced him were Schubert Ogden and Van A. Harvey, who introduced him to the existentialist theologian Rudolf Bultmann and the existentialist philosophy of Martin Heidegger (Being and Time). Glenn also helped William R. Farmer in his New Testament research, and learned from him a love for the parables of Jesus. He learned Hebrew from Prof. Power, who taught him the joy of story telling and the rich depth of meaning which can be found in ancient myths, symbols, and imagery.

Albert Outler had been a leader in getting American Protestant seminaries to realize the need for teaching their students about modern pyschiatry and psychotherapy, so he made sure that the Perkins theology students were also given courses by competent and well-trained psychotherapists on how to do counseling. This was where Glenn first began developing his interest in psychiatric theories and psychotherapeutic methods.
In addition to the theology faculty at Perkins, Glenn was influenced during these years by the writings of the existentialist theologian Paul Tillich, whom he got to hear lecture when Tillich came to Dallas to speak. He was also influenced by the ideas of the process philosopher Charles Hartshorne, whom he was also privileged to hear speak.
These were four really great years. Perkins was not only widely recognized as one of the ten best graduate theology schools in the United States, it was at that point in the 1960's probably the most exciting place to study theology in the entire country.

Glenn Chesnut on a cattle ranch in Texas

  Glenn F. Chesnut is over on the right hand side. This photo was taken during Thanksgiving Vacation on a cattle ranch in northern Texas, in the barren region known as the Llano Estacado or Staked Plains.  

Glenn F. Chesnut being ordained as a Methodist minister

  This photo was taken when Glenn Chesnut returned to Kentucky in the summer of 1964 to be ordained as a Methodist minister by the Bishop of Louisville and the Bishop of Philadelphia. Glenn is in the front, second from the right.

The Methodist Bishop of Louisville during a large part of this period (the bishop to whom Glenn reported) was a man who had been the second person to serve as editor of The Upper Room, the little meditational pamphlet which the Southern Methodists had begun publishing in Nashville in April of 1934. After the early A.A. movement split from the Oxford Group (Bill W. broke with them in 1937), the Methodist theology of The Upper Room was the strongest influence on A.A. spirituality all the way down to 1948.

I would have to check the documents from that period, but I am almost certain that this was the bishop who ordained me in 1964.

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