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Benjamin Harlan among 4 added to NOBTS faculty


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Four new faculty members have been appointed to the faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary by President Chuck Kelley.

Kelley reported the appointments to the executive board of the seminary’s trustees on June 7. The president also named the new associate dean for the professional doctorate program and activated a new chair of leadership.

Benjamin Harlan, who served on the NOBTS faculty from 1989-95, was appointed as professor of church music. A respected composer/arranger and experienced music minister, Harlan has taught church music and served as the dean of the school of church music at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, since 1995. Before he began his teaching career at NOBTS in 1989, he spent six years as a church minister serving two Louisiana churches, and he has been an interim music minister at many of the largest churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. His choral, keyboard and handbell works have been released by several major music publishers.

“Adding Dr. Harlan enhances what we believe is one of the best church music programs in the country,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said. “He is one of the most prolific composers in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a respected musician under whom students from all over the nation will want to come and study.”

Lemke said Harlan’s extensive church experience meshes well with the strong connection that the existing faculty members have with local church music ministry, most of whom also serve on church staffs as ministers of music.

Adding Harlan to the faculty is a significant step in expanding the seminary’s focus on church music, Lemke said. He noted that the seminary’s church-minister relations office –- a resume referral service for students and alumni -– already has more church music position requests than it can fill.


“We are praying that the Lord will call out people to study music ministry at NOBTS to meet the needs of local churches,” Lemke said. In addition to the traditional master of music in church music and doctor of musical arts degrees, the seminary has added several new degrees to train worship leaders, including a master of worship ministries and master of divinity specializations in music and worship leadership.

A native of Louisiana, Harlan earned a bachelor of music and master of music at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He went on to earn the doctor of musical arts degree at Southwestern Seminary.

Trustees also approved the appointment of extension center directors, David Lema Jr., John Robson and Johnny Bley to the ministry-based faculty at Leavell College. Each will hold the title of associate professor of Christian ministry –- ministry-based faculty.

The ministry-based faculty category is designed for instructors who serve in other ministries to bring their practical experience into the classroom. These trustee-elected non-tenure track professors provide instruction for focused disciplines or delivery systems.

“Dr. Robson and Dr. Bley have served selflessly teaching in our nationally acclaimed undergraduate programs at Angola and Parchman prisons. These students deeply appreciate the sacrificial commitment of these men to teach them,” Lemke said. “Dr. Lema is an experienced church planter in Miami who has done a spectacular job in directing our South Florida extension center in Miami. Called the Center for the Americas, this effort in concert with the Florida Baptist Convention reaches not only South Florida but also South and Central America.”

Lema, a Cuban-born, third-generation minister, serves as the director of the Center for the Americas. His fluency in both Spanish and English is a must at the seminary’s most diverse extension center.

After living for a while in Spain, Lema’s family moved to New Orleans. He earned a bachelor of arts degree at the University of New Orleans and master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees at NOBTS.

Robson, Baton Rouge extension center director for a number of years, also serves as a chaplain and director of the seminary’s undergraduate program at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

Robson has 34 years of Christian ministry experience. For 27 years he pastored churches in Kentucky, Georgia and Louisiana.

A Louisiana native, Robson earned his undergraduate degree at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, La. He received a master of divinity degree at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a doctor of ministry degree from NOBTS.

Bley, a former adjunct professor with the Angola Prison education program, is working to create a program like the one at Angola in the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Bley also serves as pastor at Cherry Street Baptist Church in Clarksdale, Miss.

Bley, who earned master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from NOBTS, has 16 years of pastoral experience serving churches in Mississippi and Louisiana. From 1995-2003 he served as an adjunct professor at Angola.

Trustees approved the appointment of Steve Echols to the Nelson Price Chair of Leadership at the North Georgia campus. Echols also will move to the seminary’s North Georgia Campus to serve as the center’s first fulltime director. Previously, he served as associate dean of professional doctoral programs.

Trustees also approved the appointment of Reggie Ogea as associate dean of professional doctoral programs. Ogea also services as the director of the doctor of ministry program at NOBTS.

The board also heard a report from Kelley on the continued enrollment growth at NOBTS. After a record-setting year in 2003-04, Kelley reported that this year’s enrollment has already surpassed last year’s.