Bullock announces retirement from B. H. Carroll
Retirement begins a “new chapter” for well-respected scholar
IRVING, Texas (August 2, 2023)—Dr. Karen Bullock, Distinguished Professor of Christian History and Director of the Doctor of Philosophy degree program at B. H. Carroll Theological Seminary, has announced her plans to retire, effective Oct. 1.
Bullock, who will celebrate a “milestone birthday” in September, informed colleagues and students of her decision in an email July 31. “I want to say quickly that there is nothing wrong, nor am I ill, but I am officially retiring,” the email said. She also said her husband, John, is retiring in August.
“We think now is the best time for us to slip away and begin a new chapter,” Bullock wrote in the email.
Bullock joined B. H. Carroll in August 2007 and formalized its PhD program, shepherding it through its development and accreditation by both the Association of Theological Schools and the Association of Biblical Higher Education. But her work at Carroll was not her first foray into PhD studies. She was Associate Dean of the PhD program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 2001-2004, and built the PhD in Christian Leadership program at Dallas Baptist University from the ground up from 2004-2007. That program was accredited in a single academic year.
“To say Karen Bullock has immense experience in crafting stellar academic programs is an understatement,” B. H. Carroll President Dr. Gene Wilkes said. “Dr. Bullock is an artful historian and an articulate spokesperson for the values of Christian higher education. She believes seminary education is more than just about obtaining knowledge; for her it is about a holistic spiritual formation of the disciples of Christ, who will then be able to lead the church with dignity and grace, even in the midst of very difficult circumstances. I might add, we have seen her model that same dignity and grace on a daily basis, and there really is no one in our current orbit from whom we’ve learned more about being a solid academic institution.”
Bullock’s reach is international. In addition to teaching at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, she has served as a guest professor at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary in Ogbomoso and Uganda Baptist Seminary. She has also served on various committees of the Baptist World Alliance, and is now Chair of the Commission Council. From 2015-2020, she served as Vice Chair of the Heritage and Identity Commission, and from 2010-2015 she was Chair of the Religious Freedom Commission and Secretary of the Freedom and Justice Advisory Committee. She has led numerous students on international study tours to Oxford University and to sites significant to the Protestant Reformation.
Wilkes said Bullock’s literary and guild contributions should also be recognized. She has produced seven books about local churches, nine book chapters on Baptist leaders, dozens of commissioned pieces, peer-reviewed encyclopedia and journal articles, Bible studies, historical studies, more than two dozen papers for academic conferences, and even a few magazine articles.
“The number of writings she has produced is tremendous. In each one of those, she has applied her discerning eye to the problems in Baptist History and in the church to provide historical insight which has benefitted us all,” Wilkes said. “I should also point out that she has also spoken to more than 100 Baptist churches, conferences, and denominational gatherings.”
Leadership of the PhD program at B. H. Carroll will now fall to Dr. Greg Tomlin, who has a close connection with Bullock. He was her teaching assistant at Southwestern Seminary for six years while he completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in Christian History. Tomlin, who joined Carroll in 2019, said he has had the rare opportunity to know, study under, and work closely with one of the best known church historians for 28 years.
“Every scholar in the academy compiles a resume called a ‘curriculum vitae’—Latin for ‘course of life.’ It is a document which lists all of his or her degrees, classes taught, publications, conferences attended, places traveled, and those sorts of things. Not on the list—but perhaps the most important—are the names of the students which the professor helped form academically and spiritually. For Dr. Bullock, that figure easily numbers in the thousands, from Texas to the heart of Africa. I would be grateful to be one of the names on that list, should it ever be printed,” Tomlin said.
While Bullock will step away from her office at B. H. Carroll, she said she “will not be sitting idly at home.”
“I will continue to supervise my three Carroll PhD students, teach when opportunities arise, and work quite a bit more with the Baptist Center for Global Concerns, the non-profit with which I have been associated since its beginning in 2007,” she said in the email announcing her retirement.
Bullock said she also looks forward to spending more time with her family, which includes her two married children and six grandchildren.
In 2020, Baptist History & Heritage, the journal of the Baptist History & Heritage Society, published a Festschrift—a collection of writings by a scholar’s former students and colleagues—in honor of Bullock. Tomlin, along with Dr. Stephen M. Stookey, a former colleague at Southwestern Seminary and DBU and the current Director of Theological Education for Texas Baptists, contributed to the volume.