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$18.3M budget for NOBTS, new M.Div. track approved by trustees

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved the largest budget in seminary history, created a philosophy and ethics specialization in the master of divinity program and endorsed two new graduate certificates during their April 13 meeting.

The board approved a budget of $18.3 million, a $1.3 million increase over the current year. Due to the establishment of two endowed faculty chairs last year, trustees were able to raise the budget with only slight increases in tuition and fees.

“Once again the Cooperative Program will contribute almost 50 percent of the funds for the operating budget of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” President Chuck Kelley said. “Every dollar that comes to us from the Cooperative Program and from donors who think the training of ministers and missionaries is important is a dollar our students do not have to pay in fees.

“We can never say thank you enough to God for His provision and to Southern Baptist churches from whom so much of God’s provision comes,” Kelley said.

After voting on the budget increase, trustees paused to pray for the students, faculty and staff at NOBTS. The board prayed that God would continue to provide for students and their families during their time in seminary.

Trustees approved a new 95-hour master of divinity specialization in philosophy and ethics. The new specialization includes many of the same ministerial competency components required in the other master of divinity degrees, encompassing classical theology disciplines such as introductory and advanced courses in biblical languages, historical studies and theology.

The philosophy and ethics component makes up 22 hours of the degree. Students must complete 18 hours of core philosophy and ethics courses as well as four hours of philosophy and ethics electives.

The philosophy and ethics specialization is designed for those who will serve as youth ministers, collegiate ministers, pastor-teachers and those who will pursue advanced degrees to teach on a college or seminary level.

“The addition of this new philosophy and ethics specialization to our master of divinity specializations in Christian apologetics and in Christian thought further strengthens our curriculum in this important area of philosophy and worldviews,” said Steve Lemke, seminary provost. “Those who minister to students understand how crucial having a grasp of contemporary worldviews is in ministering to today’s college students.”

During the meeting, trustees also approved two new graduate certificates –- one in church planting and one in evangelistic church growth — to provide a systematic approach for students seeking to fulfill International Mission Board seminary requirements.

The IMB currently requires 20 hours of seminary training for those who will serve as strategy coordinators. Instead of 20 unrelated hours of seminary training, students in these certificate programs will receive 25-26 hours of focused ministry education. During stateside assignments, these hours may be used toward a master’s degree program. In June 2004, trustees launched a similar graduate certificate in missions.

“These certificates allow students who are eager to deploy to the field internationally or in North America the opportunity to complete a course of study, rather than just have a collection of hours that do not build toward a degree,” Lemke said.

Both of the new certificates include 13 hours of training in core biblical and historical studies. The church planting certificate requires two key church planting courses and two additional church planting electives.

In addition to the 13 hours of biblical and historical training, students in the evangelistic church growth certificate program must complete two core evangelism courses and two evangelism or church growth electives.

Students in both certificates have one additional designated elective course, to be chosen from a list of nine electives to enhance the student’s ministry skills. The electives easily integrate with the seminary master’s program and may be used for credit toward further studies.

The meeting marked the end of Tommy French’s two-year service as trustee chairman. French thanked the board and the NOBTS administration for their work during the past two years, saying it had been a pleasure to serve the convention in this way.

“I have known few men who approach the leadership abilities of Louisiana pastor Tommy French,” Kelley said. “His wisdom, his Baptist convictions and his immense denominational experience made him a great chairman of the board, and an important personal mentor for me. That his fellow trustees would elect him chairman during his first term of service speaks volumes about the respect that follows him wherever he goes.”

The board unanimously elected L. Ray Moncrief, executive vice president of an investment firm in London, Ky., to serve as the trustee chairman for the 2005-06 school year. Craig Campbell, an insurance agent from Russellville, Ark., was elected as vice chairman and Phil Hanberry, a business owner from Hattiesburg, Miss., was selected to service another term as secretary/treasurer. After electing the new officers, board members prayed for the men who will lead the trustees over the coming year.

In other action, trustees:

— heard and approved the annual independent audit report prepared by Mathis, West, Huffines and Co. from Wichita Falls, Texas. The auditors found the seminary financially and fiscally sound.

— passed a resolution commending Endel Lee, assistant professor of preaching and pastoral ministry in Leavell College, for his active duty service as a Navy chaplain. Lee currently is serving as a chaplain to U.S. Marines in the Middle East. The trustees pledged their prayer support for Lee while he is overseas and also commended him on his teaching ministry at NOBTS.

— recommended that the administration begin to prepare for the next phase of the New Horizons Campaign. This preparation would include identifying projects and contacting architects.

— voted to name the second floor of the new William Carey Building at NOBTS the “Corvin Broadcast Center” to honor Clay Corvin, vice president for business affairs and a 25-year seminary staff member. The building houses the seminary’s radio station and MissionLab, an initiative designed to bring youth, college and senior adult mission volunteers to New Orleans.

— approved a project to replace the skylight in the Hardin Student Center. The NOBTS Foundation board will fund much of the replacement cost. At their annual meeting, foundation members voted to give $95,000 to the project.