FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Five Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professors retired from the Fort Worth, Texas, school, at the end of the spring semester with the intention of remaining actively involved in ministry.
Retiring are Old Testament professor Dan Kent, voice professor Sue King, preaching professor Jimmy Nelson, Christian ethics and missions professor Ebbie Smith and New Testament professor Tom Urrey.
Kent has made creative teaching techniques — like “Old Testament in the news” — his trademark. At the beginning of each class period, he shared examples of Old Testament references in art, literature, movies, radio, television and periodicals. Students years later still search for the Old Testament in the news, and some send him examples.
Enter Kent’s Old Testament survey class and find students divided into the 12 tribes of Israel, all bearing a coat of arms they created according to descriptions in Scripture. Visit his class during a study of a prophet like Amos or Jeremiah and see a student holding a flag with directions to wave it the first time the prophet gave any inkling of hope.
Kent served for 13 years in the full-time pastorate and more in part-time ministry. At Wayland Baptist University, Plainview, Texas, he was a “general practitioner” teaching Old Testament theology and church history. At Southwestern for 19 years, he specialized in Old Testament and Hebrew.
“I thought a lot about how to teach as well as what to teach,” Kent said. He has edited the Southwestern Journal of Theology, served as acting chairman of the Old Testament department and served as associate dean of the doctor of philosophy degree. He also has written numerous commentaries.
Kent plans to continue teaching adjunctively, write articles and pursue a book idea concerning spiritual gifts and their relation to women.
King, for 34 years, combined her teaching and vocal gifts to help students discover and develop theirs.
King earned her master’s degree from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth in the summer of 1965. After then-Southwestern music dean James McKinney and professor Charles Williamson heard her sing, they asked her to teach at the seminary when a position opened that fall.
She summed up her philosophy of teaching by saying, “God intends for us to use the one voice he gave us to the very best of our ability. I think we sin if we don’t do that.”
King has also proclaimed the gospel by performing in numerous oratorios, including the “Messiah” before King Hussein in Amman, Jordan, in 1972.
Robert Burton, distinguished professor emeritus of conducting, said King was “always note perfect” and “performance prepared” from the first rehearsal.
“Her projection of the meaning of the music was superb in diction, phrasing, color and beauty of tone so that no one missed its purpose,” Burton said.
Retirement doesn’t mean slowing down for King. She intends to spend time with her grandchildren, develop her sewing business, travel, learn cake decorating, do flower arranging, work in her yard, get involved in “intense Bible study,” volunteer at arts organizations and, on occasion, stay home with a good book.
Nelson, after 26 years of service, is retiring from his roles as preaching professor and associate dean for the doctor of ministry degree.
While a student, he served as pastor of Lovelace Baptist Church in Hill County from 1949-50 and Oak Grove Baptist Church in Fort Worth from 1950-54. His pastorates include churches in the Netherlands, West Germany and Switzerland. Nelson has taught and preached in Romania, Russia, the Ivory Coast and Spain and has been an interim pastor for 25 churches. His pastoral gifts have not gone unused at Southwestern.
“In many ways Dr. Nelson was an unofficial pastor for the faculty and all those he taught,” said Tommy Lea, dean of the school of theology. “He never failed to be available in times of crisis for faculty and students. He trained students to use Scripture as a foundation for their preaching and to come to the pulpit with a passion to communicate it to others.”
Nelson will continue to teach at the seminary as an adjunct professor.
Throughout his teaching ministry, Nelson began class every semester by reminding his students of what is most important: “God’s primary purpose for your life is not that you become the greatest preacher in the world or the most effective missionary. His purpose is not that you become pastor of a mega-church. His primary purpose for your life is that you become Christlike.”
Smith, in his 24 years at Southwestern and even before, was instrumental in making Southwestern’s classes more flexible and accessible for students.
Smith worked with Seminary Extension prior to coming to Southwestern and shared with Houston Baptists the Seminary Extension concept, which led to the opening of the first off-campus center in 1975. Smith taught the first of what came to be known as I-terms, 30 hours of course work for a two-credit course taken in one week. Smith also encouraged Southwestern to offer weekend classes and taught 7 a.m. classes to help accommodate students’ busy schedules.
Smith was the catalyst behind Southwestern’s “distance learning,” which allows students to work independently while maintaining regular contact with a professor by video or e-mail.
A former missionary to Indonesia, Smith also served as interim pastor of 11 churches. Combining his passion for teaching and for the local church, he has served as associate director of the Scarborough Institute for Church Growth and led Praxis, Southwestern’s yearly 10-week church-planting effort.
Inside the classroom, Smith was known for stirring up controversy.
“Every ethics class ought to have one good fistfight,” he often jokingly told his classes, encouraging students to discuss their viewpoints instead of simply accepting or rejecting his.
He often utilized his missions experience to teach students. Whether jabbering Indonesian phrases or displaying shrunken heads, Smith shared his deep love for God’s global mission.
His retirement aspirations include gardening, traveling in a pop-up camper and serving as pastor of Fort Worth’s Garden Acres Baptist Church “until doctors say I can’t.”
For Urrey, teaching New Testament and Greek has always been a parallel ministry to pastoring in the local church.
“I have always had a heart for the churches and for the pastoral ministry,” said the Huber L. Drumwright professor of New Testament.
Urrey, who pastored four churches during college and seminary, has served as interim pastor in more than 40 churches since he began teaching at Southwestern four decades ago.
“The Lord has directed me toward interim relationships in churches that were in different kinds of trouble and to help them work through that and help them call the right pastor,” he said.
Urrey began teaching at Southwestern in 1959 and joined the faculty in 1961, and his influence has been felt by students and faculty alike.
Harry Hunt Jr., professor of Old Testament, remembered Urrey’s powerful classroom presence in his first year as a Southwestern student 30 years ago.
“I was very impressed with his knowledge of the Greek language and his love for the Bible and God’s Word,” Hunt said. “I learned to love the languages through him.”
Immediately after retirement, Urrey plans to pastor on a more full-time basis the church he currently serves as interim pastor.
“I intend to help that church find their walking legs again and come to call a pastor,” he said. “I figure that a large part of my ministry for the rest of my life will be in an interim relationship.”
Cindy Kerr, Cory J. Hailey & Robyn Little contributed to this article.