Dr. L. Elbert Wethington is the 2010 recipient of Duke Divinity School’s Distinguished Alumni Award. The honor, presented at the annual alumni homecoming luncheon on October 11, recognizes outstanding leadership and service.
Wethington completed his undergraduate work at Wake Forest University before coming to Duke to earn his bachelor of divinity degree in 1946 and Ph.D. in 1949.
From 1954 to 1963 he served with his wife as a Methodist Missionary in the Philippines under the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church. During his time there he taught Theology at Union Theological Seminary in Manila and assisted with the formation of a new congregation. He also taught at Duke Divinity School in the late 1950’s and was involved in the establishment of Methodist College (now Methodist University) in Fayetteville, N.C.
As a result of Wethington’s devotion and influence, many of his students were inspired to continue their education. Many became teachers in seminary; some have become bishops in the church.
After returning to the United States in 1963, Wethington taught in and chaired the department of religion at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Penn., until his retirement in 1983.
Wethington spent the next 25 years in Durham, N.C., guiding the Wesley Heritage Foundation in the execution of the Wesley Heritage Project – the translation, publication and distribution of the works of John Wesley into Spanish. This 14-volume work, known as Obras de Wesley, has been distributed to pastors throughout Latin America and the United States. He retired from this work in 2005 as the first president of the Wesley Heritage Foundation.
While introducing Wethington, Rev. Scott M. Rimer, chair of the award selection committee, quoted Dr. Mortimer Arias, whose keynote address at the Global Consultation on the Impact of Obras de Wesley underscored the importance of this work:
“The translation and publication of Las Obras de Wesley is a key that, potentially, may open the Wesleyan heritage to any candidate among the more than 300 million Spanish-speaking people in the Americas and in other places of the world…Because of this major undertaking, the 18th century evangelist of England, John Wesley, is not confined to the land of his birth or to the English-speaking nations; Wesley is right now speaking and preaching in Spanish of the 21st century, and in many parts of the world.”
Wethington and his wife, Lois, have three adult children, Olin, Joyce, and Mark.