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Rev. William A. Lawson honored at 30th Anniversary Celebration of Houston Graduate School of Theology

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Rev. William A. Lawson honored at 30th Anniversary Celebration of Houston Graduate School of Theology from Houston Church News on Vimeo.

HOUSTON – On November 19th, several hundred well-wishers, friends, family and faculty of the Houston Graduate School of Theology (HGST) gathered at the Royal Sonesta Hotel to celebrate the seminary’s 30th Anniversary and to honor one of Houston’s iconic figures.

The seminary traces its roots back to 1976 in the Friends Institute of Religious Studies which offered continuing education courses for students and pastors in the Evangelical Friends Church (Quaker). Back then there was no full Protestant seminary degree program located in Houston.

In 1983 Friends pastor Dr. Delbert P. Vaughn and his wife, Dr. Carol C. Vaughn, amended the Articles of Incorporation for the institute and changed the name of the school to the Houston Graduate School of Theology and offered Master of Divinity courses.

The Honoree, Dr. Rev. William A. Lawson’s roots in Houston go back a bit further.

Lawson is the founding pastor of Houston's Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. Although retired, he remains an active and visible Houston icon.

Twenty-one years before HGST would officially come into existence Rev. Lawson established Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in the home of he and his wife, Audrey. That was in June, 1962.

Under the charismatic reverend's leadership and tutelage the congregation has grown from 13 members to over 5,000 members, with many outreach programs, and is much respected in the community. Since the church was born and lived its infant years during the Civil Rights Movement, Lawson has been deeply involved in advocacy activities for African Americans, for Hispanics, for women, and for the poor.

In 1996 the Houston community honored Dr. Lawson with the creation of a non-profit advocacy agency called WALIPP, the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity. That agency has gone before public officials and bodies on behalf of the underclasses, and now has established a middle school for boys, chartered it as a public school with the Houston Independent School District so it would be accessible to low-income families, and this year has risen to the second highest ranking among public secondary schools.

WALIPP has also constructed 50 units of apartments for seniors in Houston’s Third Ward. Finally, the agency is pulling together community development groups, churches, civic clubs, and local governments to redevelop the Third Ward so that aggressive real estate development will not expel all who need affordable housing.

As part of its 30th Anniversary celebration, HGST selected Rev. Lawson to receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.

Like Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, HGST started with 13 enrolled students. That number doubled the following session and reached an enrollment of one hundred forty-two students by 1987. In 1992 the school began offering the Doctor of Ministry degree.

HGST has come a long way in a short period of time. Today they offer six degree programs - Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Arts in Counseling, Master of Arts in Missional Leadership, Master of Arts in Spiritual Direction, and the Doctor of Ministry. Relationships with the Association of Theological Schools were established and the school was granted Associate Membership in 1988 and became a candidate for Accreditation in 1994. The school achieved initial accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools in 2001.

Click here for more information about Dr. Rev. Williams A. Lawson. To learn more about Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church visit their website at http://www.wheeleravebc.org. Visit www.hgst.edu to learn more about the Houston Graduate School of Theology.


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