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Ed Thiele announces retirement as Seminary Extension director

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–William Edward “Ed” Thiele has announced his retirement as director of Seminary Extension, effective June 30.

For Thiele, it will be his second retirement. He came to Seminary Extension on Jan. 1, 1997, after retiring from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he had been professor of discipleship and director of field education since 1983.

“It has been my great joy to lead Seminary Extension for the past four and a half years,” Thiele said. “I knew when I began this assignment it would be short in duration, and I would have to hit the ground running. I am grateful to have had a part in thrusting this ministry into the 21st century.”

Seminary Extension, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., is a ministry of the Council of Seminary Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and president of the seminary presidents council, said, “Dr. Ed Thiele has guided Seminary Extension through one of its most historic periods of ministry. He has provided excellent leadership and sensitive guidance as the program was merged into the new structure of the Council of Seminary Presidents.

“Dr. Thiele is a wonderful and gracious man of God. Thousands of lives have been blessed by his ministry at Seminary Extension, and he will be sorely missed. We wish for the Thieles a most rewarding and happy retirement,” Mohler said of Thiele and his wife, Catherine.

Many advancements happened during Thiele’s tenure as director of Seminary Extension. Course enrollments are expected to top 12,000 this year. For the first time the number of Extension Centers, where students can take courses in a classroom setting, topped 500.

Thiele came to Seminary Extension during a time of extensive curriculum change. Some courses were no longer available because their supporting textbooks were out of print. Others were deemed ready for revision or replacement. Securing writers to produce the new or revised courses was a key responsibility. Thiele wrote one course himself, “Disciplines of Discipleship,” using his book “Fruitful Discipleship” as the text.

Also under his leadership the first two courses in Spanish at the diploma level were developed. Nine new courses were evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE) and recommended for college credit, bringing the total number of ACE recommended courses to a new high, 32.

In 1997, Thiele held an organizational meeting for the undergraduate deans of the six SBC seminaries with the aim of developing better strategies of cooperation between the schools. A second meeting was held in 2000.

In recent months Thiele has guided Seminary Extension in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of its founding, working with staff members to plan and prepare special exhibits and meetings.

A major renovation of Seminary Extension’s office space in the SBC Building in Nashville was undertaken in 2000, giving the facilities a “new look” just in time for the 50th anniversary.

A Seminary Extension staff member said, “It is difficult to measure the impact Dr. Ed Thiele had on Seminary Extension during his four and a half years as director. Statistics can measure the number of students who took courses, the number of teachers who taught, the number of Extension Centers that were in operation. But how do you count the number of friends he made for Seminary Extension with his smile, his gracious manner, his genuine interest in every person he came in contact with — teachers, students, the highly educated, those just beginning to study.”

When asked about Seminary Extension’s future, Thiele replied, “Seminary Extension enters its 51st year with prospects for expanding usefulness. The curriculum is in good shape with many new and revised courses. More course offerings online are planned. Excellent courses can be provided to anyone, at anytime, at any place. Church leaders and members can ‘go to seminary’ without leaving home and can study at their own pace. Our six SBC seminaries are supportive of this undergraduate extension of their institutions.”

As for his own plans, Thiele said he will “serving the Lord who saved me and called me to be his servant. From that calling I am not retiring. Life for me is an adventure with God. I expect to be happily surprised by our Lord by what comes next, and I am confident it will be good.”

Thiele earned a Th.D. degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1968 and a master of theology degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, in 1955. Before joining New Orleans Seminary’s faculty, he had been pastor of churches in Baytown and Beaumont, Texas, and Brookhaven, Miss.

The Thieles have four grown sons and a daughter and six grandchildren.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ED THIELE.

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  • Leonard Hill