The Loise Henderson Wessendorff Center for Christian Ministry and Vocation at Seminary of the Southwest (the Center) announces the appointment of two new faculty, Marlon Johnson and Dr. Maria Spellings, and a new director, Dr. Gena Minnix, assistant professor of counselor education at Southwest, who takes the place of retiring director the Rev. Dave Scheider, DMin.
This summer’s change in leadership and expansion of the counseling faculty come at a time of significant growth for the Center, which offers master’s degrees in counseling and spiritual formation and graduated 23 students this year. Under Scheider’s direction, since 2013, it has grown from a small program to a robust, well-endowed, CACREP-accredited, integral component of Southwest’s mission to form leaders for healing Christian ministry in a fractured world.
“Marlon and Maria will be gifts to our counseling program,” said Dr. Scott Bader-Saye, academic dean. “Their attention to counseling and spirituality matches beautifully with the distinctiveness of the program we are forming at Southwest. These new hires reflect the seminary’s ongoing commitment to recruiting diverse faculty members who are committed to the mission and vision of this place.
Marlon Johnson is completing his PhD in counselor education at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and is a licensed professional counselor with a focus on narrative and child-centered play therapy techniques. Johnson serves as a doctoral fellow for the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship Program and as the Tennessee Counseling Association’s NBCC Liaison. His research centers on understanding the experiences of recruitment of African American men into counseling programs, the intersectionality of LGBTQ identity and faith orientation, continuing multicultural counselor education, and college and career readiness in rural Appalachia.
“We are pleased to welcome Marlon Johnson this fall to our counseling faculty,” Minnix said. “Marlon brings clinical experience in narrative and child-centered play therapy and frequently works at the intersection of LGBTQ identity and faith orientation. Students will find Marlon’s energetic style engaging both in and out of the classroom.”
Dr. Maria Spellings is a licensed professional counselor supervisor (LPC-S) in Texas. After completing her master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, she gained significant clinical experience in a local inpatient psychiatric unit working with complex PTSD and trauma-related disorders. She went on to complete her PhD at the University of North Texas, where she received advanced training in play therapy, attachment, and filial therapy. She comes to Southwest from a position as full-time senior lecturer in the UNT Counseling Program, where she teaches didactic courses and provides clinical supervision for master’s counseling students in multiple stages of clinical development.
“We are also excited to welcome Dr. Maria Spellings to our counseling faculty,” Minnix said. “Maria brings a wealth of clinical experience working in inpatient psychiatric and outpatient settings, and has advanced training in play and filial therapy. Maria’s integration of faith and spirituality with her counseling expertise make her a wonderful asset to the program.”
Incoming Center director Dr. Gena Minnix is a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist and has trained in systemic therapies, EMDR, play therapy, relational cultural theory, the Enneagram, and spirituality. After interning at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Minnix completed her licenses and then served as clinical director for community mental-health agencies before receiving her PhD in counselor education and supervision from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. Gena has published and presented at national and international conferences on topics such as the reconciliation of LGBT affirmation with Christian beliefs, family therapy, attachment, and trauma. In 2013, Gena helped co-found The Human Empathy Project, a nonprofit in Austin that exists to foster empathic connection with members of faith and LGBT communities.
The Loise Henderson Wessendorff Center for Christian Ministry and Vocation at Seminary of the Southwest is founded on the principle that God calls all Christians to the service of the Gospel. For both lay and ordained persons using the gifts and skills God has given us, ministry is part of the fruitfulness of baptism. The mission of the Center, which became fully endowed in spring 2013 through a $2.5-million gift from the Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation, is to support Christians in discerning what it means to respond faithfully to God’s call in their particular lives and circumstances. Through its programs and degrees, the Center provides educational opportunities for men and women from any denomination (or from a non-denominational community) to strengthen their knowledge of theology, scripture, and ethics and pursue more specific training in chaplaincy, counseling, and spiritual formation.