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Hood seminary graduation set Saturday


Dr. Michael Gehring

Bishop Paul Leeland

SALISBURY — Hood Theological Seminary will celebrate its 18th commencement at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Varick Auditorium at Livingstone College.

Hood President Vergel Lattimore said Bishop Paul Leeland, resident bishop of the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, will deliver the address.

Leeland is from North Carolina and is a graduate of North Carolina Wesleyan University, Duke Divinity School and North Carolina State University. He was elected to the episcopacy in 2008 and was assigned to the Alabama-West Florida Conference.

Before his election in 2008, Leeland worked in the North Carolina Conference for 33 years after a stint as director of family counseling in Atlanta. He previously was superintendent for the Goldsboro District in the North Carolina Conference.

He was ordained by Bishop Robert Blackburn in 1976. As a member of the North Carolina Conference, Leeland served small, medium and large membership churches and was superintendent of the Goldsboro District. He was appointed assistant to the bishop and director of ministerial relations, serving under two bishops for a total of eight years.

Leeland was elected as a delegate to jurisdictional conference beginning in 1988 and consecutive years through 2008. He was elected as a delegate to general Cconference in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

In 2007, he received the Red Shoe Award, presented by clergywomen of the North Carolina Conference for “encouragement and support of women in ministry through advocacy, appointment, mentoring and friendship.”

Leading up to graduation, the 15th annual Bishop James Walker Hood Donor and Scholar Recognition Dinner will be held Thursday. A traditional part of the dinner is the presentation of the Bishop’s Award, which honors individuals, couples or organizations who have made significant contributions to Hood, the community and humankind.

The Senior Barbecue will be held on Friday afternoon to honor graduates, including those from the Greenville, Alabama, campus, and their families.

Also on Friday, the Honors Awards and Closing Convocation will begin at 7 p.m. in Varick Auditorium. This program will begin with an academic procession of graduates and faculty. Master’s degree recipients will be hooded in preparation for their graduation the following morning, and honors and awards will be presented to students.

Michael Gehring, adjunct professor of pastoral theology, will be the speaker for the program. Gehring is senior pastor of Main Street United Methodist Church in Kernersville. He is also a senior fellow of the Polycarp Community, Center for Evangelism and Missional Church Studies, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.

He is the author of “The Oxbridge Evangelist: Motivations, Practices and Legacy of C.S. Lewis.” The book has also been released in Cambridge, England. In 2018, Gehring published a spiritual autobiography, “As the Broken White Lines Become One,” and co-edited “The Logic of Evangelism Revisited” in 2019.

Gehring graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary with a master’s of divinity; Duke University with a master’s in pastoral psychology; Southern Methodist University with a doctorate in evangelism; and the University of Manchester with a doctorate in theology.



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