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Collegiate Ministry Institute planned for New Orleans Seminary

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary approved a college ministry training institute, authorized the administration to begin planning for a new library, expanded educational efforts in prisons, established an endowment in honor of seminary President Chuck Kelley and elected new faculty members during their annual fall meeting Oct. 11.

While hurricane recovery plans have dominated trustee meetings during the past year, the most recent meeting was different because trustees approved a number of new initiatives focused on the seminary’s future.

In his report to the trustees, Kelley gave an update on the restoration process from Hurricane Katrina but devoted most of his time to NOBTS’ future and God’s continuing provision.

“As I traveled the country in the aftermath of this worst natural disaster in the history of our nation, more than one person wondered if anything so badly damaged could ever recover,” Kelley said. “A year has passed and the answer to that question is now clear. Yes! New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is fully operational again.”

Kelley acknowledged the sacrificial gifts made by individual Southern Baptists as well as churches, associations, state conventions and SBC entities, and he again expressed his deep gratitude for the gifts.

The seminary recently received the largest one-time scholarship in the school’s history, Kelley said — a $200,000 gift from the Alabama Baptist Convention to provide scholarships for students affected by Hurricane Katrina.

“God’s Word warns us in advance that His children will suffer for the sake of the spreading of the Gospel and advancing His Kingdom,” Kelley said. “When obedience to God leads us to difficult circumstances, we can be sure that the Lord will not waste that obedient suffering. He will redeem it and use it.”

Kelley said the seeds of the Gospel are being sown in neighborhoods throughout New Orleans, and he believes area churches will see a harvest in the coming years. The seminary, Kelley said, has a key role to play in helping re-establish many of the hurting churches in the area.

After Kelley’s report, trustees voted to establish a Collegiate Ministry Institute at New Orleans Seminary to enhance the existing program that includes a master of divinity specialization, a concentration in the master of arts in Christian ministry program and specializations in the doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry programs.

Patterned after the school’s Youth Ministry Institute, CMI combines weekend classes with on-the-job training opportunities. The program will utilize qualified specialists in the collegiate ministry field to teach many of the courses.

Rick Morton, assistant professor of Christian education, will serve as the CMI director. In addition to advising students and directing the program, Morton will work with an advisory board of five to seven collegiate ministry experts. The board will include state Baptist Campus Ministry directors, campus-based BCM directors and church-based collegiate ministers.

Another key role of CMI is to assist students in the on-field “praxis” portion of their training. Morton will develop an ongoing internship partnership with vibrant collegiate ministry programs, and students will have the opportunity to “learn by doing” in real ministry settings.

“Collegiate Ministry Institute will allow us to heighten our focus on training collegiate ministers,” Steve Lemke, the seminary’s provost, said. “CMI will enable our students to network with the most effective Baptist Campus Ministry directors and church collegiate ministers and profit from their experience.”

In another future-focused move, trustees authorized Kelley and his administration to begin planning for a new library. While construction is years away and requires additional board approval, the initial planning can begin.

Last year trustees authorized a feasibility study to determine whether expansion of the current library or construction of a new library would be the best approach. Architects determined that expansion is possible, but they recommended the construction of a new facility. They said a new state-of-the-art facility could be constructed for about the same cost as an addition.

The John T. Christian Library at the seminary has one of the largest collections of theological works in the Southeast. Kelley said a new building is needed not only to house the large collection but to provide additional study space. He said the administration will work with architects to develop a 70,000-square-foot building.

The new library will be built on the west side of Leavell Chapel, which is the only suitable spot in the academic quad. The current library is still in good condition and will be used for classrooms and office space in the future.

Trustees also approved a plan to expand the undergraduate prison educational work of the seminary to include sites in Florida and Georgia. New Orleans Seminary has offered undergraduate credit at Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana since 1995, and the prison experienced an immediate drop in violence after the program started. The seminary recently began a similar ministry at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman, Miss.

Due in part to the national media attention the program at Angola has received, other states have asked the seminary to begin programs in their prisons. Trustees approved training programs at Raiford State Prison in Stark, Fla., and Phillips State Prison in Buford, Ga.

To honor Kelley’s commitment to evangelism, missions and ministry in New Orleans, the board voted to begin an endowment to perpetuate the seminary’s MissionLab program. MissionLab offers youth, college students and senior adults the opportunity to experience urban missions in New Orleans, bringing thousands of Southern Baptists to the city each year.

Trustees elected one new ministry-based faculty member, while two new instructors will be serving under presidential appointment. Mark Stephens was elected assistant professor of preaching and pastoral ministry. He serves as director of the seminary’s extension center in Orlando and as director of theological education and distance learning for the Florida Baptist Convention. Kelley also appointed Stephens to serve as regional associate dean for Florida.

“Mark Stephens is a great teacher and practitioner of expository preaching,” Lemke said. “He is helping us take theological education to a new level in Florida.”

Stephens holds a doctor of ministry from New Orleans Seminary and a master of divinity from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tenn. Stephens also earned a bachelor’s degree in music education at the University of Florida. He has more than 10 years of ministry experience in the classroom, and before joining the Florida Baptist Convention staff, he pastored for six years in Arkansas and Florida.

Jeremy Evans will serve a one-year appointment as instructor of philosophy and ethics, and Wade Howell will serve a two-year appointment as instructor of theology — both in the seminary’s division of theological and historical studies.

Evans is in the dissertation stage of the doctor of philosophy program at Texas A&M University. He served as a lecturer and teaching assistant at Texas A&M and a part-time faculty member at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas. He earned a master of divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and a bachelor of arts degree in speech communication at Texas A&M.

“Jeremy Evans strengthens our focus on apologetics,” Lemke said. “His training at a secular institution equips him to train students to defend their faith in a secular setting.”

Howell, currently enrolled in the seminary’s doctor of philosophy program, holds a master of divinity from New Orleans Seminary and a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Howell also served in the U.S. Navy for six years.

“Wade Howell has demonstrated great promise as a doctoral student in theology,” Lemke said. “He brings real-world experience in the military and in the church to the classroom.”

The following appointments also were announced during the meeting:

— Scott Drumm as associate dean of Leavell College.

— Steve Echols as regional associate dean for Georgia and Alabama.

— Norris Grubbs as regional associate dean for Louisiana and Mississippi

— Jeff Griffin as dean of libraries.

— Jerry Garrard as vice president for institutional advancement and associate professor of evangelism and church growth.

— David Platt as assistant professor of preaching.