Dr. David Whitford Spotlight


Professor of the History of Christianity; Director of Assessment

faculty bio


My wife has a hobby that takes us to small towns and large cities all across the Midwest. One of the things that I have noticed in all these travels is that in every single town and city you will find a United Methodist Church. Sure there you will find other churches in each town, but the only church that we find in every town is a United Methodist one. For almost 150 years, United has been sending pastors out to those churches. As we drive by these churches (and sometimes stop), the church historian part of me wonders about all the lives that those churches have touched, all the pastoral calls that have been made, all the marriages that began there, the baptisms celebrated, and the lives offered back to God. I love teaching at United because our students yearn to help write the next chapter in those churches' histories. They come to us to help prepare them for the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ in the world. To be able to help people get ready for that task is an awesome and wonderful responsibility and gift. That is why I am here at United and why I love teaching here.

When I came to United in 2005, I had an idea for a book project. I wanted to know how the bible, with its stunning story of God hearing the cry of slaves in Egypt came to be one of the most important tools for justifying slavery in the American South. I work mostly on the Reformation, which is also the same time that the Transatlantic Slave Trade was beginning. With the support of United, I was able to bring that book idea into reality as The Curse of Ham in the Early Modern Era: The Bible and Justifications for Slavery.

My three years of seminary were, without question, the three best years of my education. Yes, seminary was overwhelming at times, but it was also magnificent. I had the opportunity to probe my own faith, investigate what I believed and why, and deepen my relationship to God. Take the time in seminary to reflect, to probe, and to ask all the questions you've been dying to ask. There is no better time nor any better community in which to do it!