Document Type

Finding Aid

Publication Date


Inclusive Dates--Span


Inclusive Dates--Bulk


Scope and Content Note

These papers document Paul Layton Waton’s life and ministry through sermon notes, syllabi, lectures, and other print and A/V materials.

Biographical Note

Biographical note provided by Paul Watson:

“I was born on April 8, 1939, in Houston, Texas. My first name is my father’s middle name. My middle name—Layton—is my maternal grandfather’s name. I have one younger sister, Patricia, who lives in Denton, Texas, with her husband Don Beck.

My father was Polish, the last of ten children born to Polish immigrants who came to America c. 1900. Grandfather legally changed the family name—Zewadski—to Watson in consideration of his Anglo-Saxon contemporaries who could not deal with more than two consecutive consonants in a word. My father was a nominal Catholic, in keeping with the family tradition.

My mother came from the Branson/Hollister Missouri area, the second-youngest of seven children. Her family were of Scotch-Irish descent and were nominal Presbyterians. Before moving to Houston, my mother became a “Campbellite” of deep conviction. My father was baptized years after their marriage—when I was twelve, in fact—and eventually became an elder in the Lawndale Church of Christ in Houston, where he and my mother remained active long after I left home.

The Lawndale church was a loving congregation that—together with my parents—nurtured me in the Christian faith. My first public speaking experience was standing on a bench before the congregation reciting the Beatitudes. My first “preaching Bible”—a pocket-size New Testament with Psalms—was given to me by Max T. Neal, the preacher who baptized me. I will forever be grateful to this, my home congregation, for the support and encouragement given me by the members there.

After graduating from Stephen F. Austin High School in Houston, I attended Abilene Christian College (not yet “University”) from 1957 to 1961. I majored in Greek, Bible, and English, with the intention of going on to graduate school and preparing to teach at the university level. My mentors there were Dr. Lemoine Lewis (in church history), Dr. J. W. Roberts (in Bible and Greek), and Dr. James Culp (in English). Each of these men—quite different in their own right—deepened my love for learning, my commitment to service, and my love for Christ and the church.

In the summer following my sophomore year in college, I married Mary Ann Henderson, with whom I had gone to high school. Over the years we had four children—Mark, Susan, Elizabeth, and Meg. Ann died in an automobile accident about three years after we moved to Durham, North Carolina. I subsequently met—in our church lobby, no less—Virginia Kay Roberts, a nativeof Durham and herself a widow. We married in 1988 and formed a “blended” family, with my four children and Kay’s three children (Ramell, Stanley, and Richard). And we have seven grandchildren, ranging in age from eighteen to twenty-two. Sadly, Kay passed away last August. We had been married thirty-two years. Kay was truly my partner in ministry, and I miss her every day.

After graduating from ACC, I moved to New Haven CT to pursue an M.Div. at Yale Divinity School and, subsequently, a Ph.D. at Yale University. Erhard Gerstenberger, a young visiting professor from Germany, taught me introductory Hebrew and ‘turned me on’ to Old Testament studies. My mentors in Old Testament were Sibley Towner, Marvin Pope (dissertation advisor), and, above all, Brevard Childs, with whom I had seminars in Exodus and Isaiah while Professor Childs was writing his two magisterial commentaries on these books.

During my divinity school years I also preached for the Whitney Avenue Church of Christ and continued to worship there until leaving New Haven in 1968 to take my first teaching job at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina. While at Erskine, I attended, and occasionally preached for, the church of Christ in Clemson SC.

After four years at Erskine, I moved to Pepperdine for a year where I worked on the faculty team that planned a new curriculum for the new Seaver College of Pepperdine being built in Malibu. It was not a good fit for me, however, so after a year I returned to Erskine for a couple of years and eventually came to Austin and the Institute for Christian Studies (as it was then called). I was welcomed by Michael Weed, Alan McNicol, Tony Ash, and James Thompson, and I thoroughly enjoyed my four years of teaching at ICS. I likewise enjoyed, and was nurtured by, the University Avenue congregation where I worshipped (when I was not doing substitute preaching).

One obvious thread running through this account is my love for both preaching and teaching. (I like to say that I kept one foot in the classroom, the other foot in the pulpit.) So, in 1981, when Lanny Henniger (then pulpit minister at University Avenue) put me in touch with the Cole Mill Road congregation in Durham, North Carolina, I decided to make the move and put both feet in the pulpit. By my reckoning it was a good decision, as I remained the pulpit minister for Cole Mill road for the next 24 years. And for 22 of those years I also served as an elder of the church. Cole Mill Road served both Durham and Chapel Hill and drew a number of its members from students, faculty, and staff at Duke University and the University of North Carolina. Interaction with these members helped keep me sharp intellectually, while interaction with our other members helped keep me grounded, not letting my head stay in the clouds for too long at a time. Not only did the congregation allow me to make presentations at lectureships and sermon seminars, and to write articles both scholarly and popular; it positively encouraged me to do so. The congregation also allowed and encouraged me to teach a course or two occasionally as an adjunct professor. And each year for five years the congregation sent me to St Petersburg, Russia, to teach classes in the Institute for Theology and Christian Ministry there. Both the congregation and I considered these “outside engagements” to be our joint ministry to the “Brotherhood” and to the world.

Over the course of my twenty-four years with Cole Mill Road we had the usual ebb and flow of membership. Together we went through two major building projects, and two “splits.” The latter “split” occurred over our elder-led, congregational decision to become gender-inclusive in our worship. We came to this decision after much study and much discussion—first, among the elders; subsequently, with the entire church—and much prayer. (Study materials that I prepared for our elders and congregation have been used and are being used by many other congregations as well.) I believed that this was a good and faithful decision when we made it, and I am even more convinced of that today.

The most profound pastoral problem with which I had to deal over my tenure at Cole Mill Road was that of the sexual abuse of a number of our children and young people by one of our elders. It was a horrifying experience through which the elders—with many struggles and much prayer—led the congregation to some semblance of wholeness and wellness. (A brief rehearsal of those events can be found in my “Ministering to a Church Traumatized by Sexual Abuse,” in Good Shepherds: More Guidelines for the Gentle Art of Pastoring, ed. David Fleer and Charles Siburt.)

About three years after I “retired” from the pulpit I returned for a year as interim minister. I also served as mentor for a young Duke Divinity School student, Patrick Messer, during a yearlong internship with us. Patrick subsequently became our pulpit minister and served for five years until he and his family moved to Nebraska. (Despite what all the textbooks in ministry advise, and my own offer to move my church membership elsewhere, Patrick insisted that Kay and I stay, which we did; and I remain his biggest fan.)

In the fall of 2004, I began teaching on a regular,, part-time basis for Southern Christian University (now Amridge University) in Montgomery, Alabama. After retiring from full-time preaching at Cole Mill Road, I began teaching full time at Amridge and continued doing so until the fall of 2019. My work with the school-which has for a long time been a distance-learning school-has been primarily with men and women in the Master of Divinity program. My latest publication – “Sharing Scripture” (an essay on how to preach a biblical text, using Psalm 1 as an example) – appeared last year in a collection of essays published by Amridge.

I am also trying to “stay busy” with my writing and other presentations. An article on “The spirits and the Spirit in the Old Testament” has just appeared in the journal LEAVEN, and a review of Philip Camp’s book on Deuteronomy is forthcoming. And I am looking forward to moderating a panel discussion on “Living at the Crossroads of Ministry and Theology” at next summer’s Christian Scholars Conference. In many ways that session summarizes what I have tried to be about all these years—seeking to keep congregational ministry and academic study not only in touch with each other but positively enriching and stimulating one another. Throughout my ‘careers’ as both minister and teacher I have also published extensively and have made a number of conference presentations; see my Curriculum Vitae for the details. And I continue to participate fully in the life of my ‘home’ congregation, the Cole Mill Road Church of Christ. I have been blessed beyond measure by all those persons who have been a part of my life—my wife and family, teachers, congregations, colleagues, friends—and I thank God for them all. And I continue to look forward to whatever the future may hold for me. In all things, to God be the glory.”

Donor Note

Paul Layton Watson


Using arrangement provided by Dr. Paul Watson, the materials have been arranged into four series:
Series I: Academic presentations
Series II: Church-related presentations
Series III: Cole Mill Road Church of Christ materials
Series IV: Course syllabi

Content List

See PDF finding aid for inventory.



Extent of Collection

35 linear feet (28 boxes)

Manuscript Number

Center for Restoration Studies Manuscripts #528

Physical Location

Center for Restoration Studies

Use Restrictions

Open to researchers. Contact Abilene Christian University Special Collections and Archives to make an appointment.

Processing Status


Finding Aid created by

Amanda Dietz ands Mac Ice


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