NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary established the Cooperative Program Chair for SBC Studies and approved a required graduate course to promote CP awareness during their April 14 meeting in New Orleans.
“The ‘lifeblood’ of Southern Baptists at every level and in every ministry is the Cooperative Program,” said Chuck Kelley, president of NOBTS. “The genius of the Southern Baptist Convention is that we have learned we can do things together that none of us could do individually.”
Kelley said by giving to the Cooperative Program, SBC churches of all sizes are able to participate in Kingdom ministries that touch all areas of the world. He said he hopes the seminary will instill an attitude of cooperation and SBC support in each of its graduates.
“The Cooperative Program forms 50 percent of our budget,” Kelley told trustees. “It is the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches that keeps our doors open. The best way to support NOBTS and SBC missions and ministries is to encourage churches to support the Cooperative Program.”
The new faculty chair to study and promote the Cooperative Program at NOBTS will be funded by CP income, grants and endowment gifts of interested Southern Baptists. In establishing the chair, trustees expressed the desire to acknowledge the SBC’s role of founding, owning and financially supporting NOBTS in a tangible way.
Stan Norman, associate professor of theology, was selected to occupy the CP faculty chair. The author of “More Than Just a Name: Preserving Our Baptist Identity” and director of the seminary’s Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, Norman is a recognized expert in the area of Baptist distinctives.
Norman will coordinate the seminary’s academic instruction about the Cooperative Program including a mandatory course approved by the board. Every graduate student at NOBTS will be required to take the one-hour course about the Cooperative Program. The course, “An Introduction to NOBTS, the SBC and the Cooperative Program,” will be designed to give future pastors and ministers the training needed to explain and promote the Cooperative Program in their churches. Exit exams will gauge each student’s knowledge of the Cooperative Program just before graduation. These results will be used to improve the CP training students receive.
During the course, each student will receive CP training materials including a CD of classroom presentations. Students will be encouraged to use the CD and other resources to educate the churches they lead about the importance of CP giving.
“We believe that it is very important for our churches to see the needs of their community and the needs of the world…. [T]hey need to keep both in the focus,” Kelley said. “We want to use this course as a tool to expand the vision of the local church.”
Trustees also approved a new special event course designed to encourage student attendance at the SBC annual meeting and to increase CP awareness. The course, “Pastoral Ministries Workshop: The Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Program in Operation and Relationship,” will be offered during the 2004 convention, June 15-16 in Indianapolis.
Students who register for the course will attend SBC annual meeting sessions as well as classes June 13-16. Representatives from the SBC Executive Committee, the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board will be invited to share during class times. Additional assignments, before and after the convention, will be required.
“We put together each of these elements -– the creation of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, the appointment of Dr. Stan Norman to the newly created Cooperative Program Chair of Southern Baptist Convention Studies, the creation of a new required course on the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Program, and the creation of a new course taught at the SBC convention site — in a concerted effort to give our students a richer appreciation for the Cooperative Program and a greater commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Steve Lemke, provost at NOBTS.
“Many current-day seminary students did not grow up in missions organizations such as RAs or GAs and thus do not understand fully the genius of the Cooperative Program and the amazing spiritual impact of the work of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Lemke continued. “We hope to instill that appreciation in them during their seminary training at NOBTS.”
The Cooperative Program chair will be activated on Aug. 1. All first-year graduate students who begin seminary in the fall will be automatically enrolled in the CP course.