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EDUCATION DIGEST: Midwestern taps Duesing as provost; SBTS names Islamic studies director; former Ga. gov. addresses TMC grads

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Jason G. Duesing will join Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s administration as provost beginning Aug. 1, MBTS President Jason Allen announced July 2. Duesing will also bring his scholarship in church history and theology to Midwestern’s faculty.

Allen said the addition of Duesing to Midwestern’s leadership team and faculty is a clear sign of God’s blessing on the seminary and will be instrumental as it pursues its mission of existing for the local church.

“Dr. Duesing is well known throughout Southern Baptist life — and the broader evangelical world — as a man with sterling character, as an accomplished theologian and church historian, and as one deeply committed to the local church and the Great Commission,” Allen said. “Moreover, he rightly understands the role of theological education is to serve to the local church. He comes as one who understands that Midwestern Seminary exists for the church and is eager to extend that vision.”

Allen said the provost position carries significant internal and external responsibilities including oversight of the institution’s four deans, Robin Hadaway as dean of students; John Mark Yeats as undergraduate dean; Thor Madsen as graduate dean; and Rodney Harrison as dean of doctoral and online studies.

“Operationally, the creation of the provost position at Midwestern Seminary unifies our academic division under one head … and it is the next step for us to take as a growing and maturing institution,” Allen said.

Allen also noted that in joining Midwestern’s faculty, along with other recent hires, Duesing adds strength to an already robust group of scholars. “Combined with our current faculty, the recent additions of Yeats, Christian George and now Jason Duesing, Midwestern Seminary’s church history and theology departments move toward the forefront of seminaries in North America.”

Duesing comes to the Kansas City-based seminary after serving for more than a decade on the administrative leadership team and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. His various roles at SWBTS included assistant to the president, chief of staff in the office of the president and, most recently, vice president for strategic initiatives. In the classroom, he was assistant professor of historical theology.

Duesing previously served as assistant to the president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and as assistant to the pastor at First Baptist Church (SBC), in Durham, N.C.

The newly appointed provost earned his Ph.D. in historical theology and Baptist studies from Southwestern in 2008. He also holds an M.Div. from Southeastern and a B.A. in speech communications from Texas A&M University in College Station. Duesing has been editor of “Counted Worthy: The Life and Thought of Henry Jessey” and “Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary” and is author of the forthcoming book “Seven Summits in Church History.”

In Southern Baptist life, Duesing currently serves on the Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archives advisory board, on the Committee on Nominations for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, as a research fellow for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and on the board of directors for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is also a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Duesing and his wife Kalee have four children, Gracyn, Ford, Lindsey and George.

Bridger to lead Southern’s Islamic study center

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — J. Scott Bridger, an evangelical scholar of Islam, has been named as director of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam. He also has joined the faculty as the Bill and Connie Jenkins assistant professor of Islamic studies.

SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. described Bridger as “the singular individual God has prepared to take on the leadership of the Jenkins Center at this time. His academic preparation, his knowledge of Arabic language and Arabic culture, his deep knowledge of Islam, not only as a structure of thought but as a way of life, his experience in the Middle East, all of these serve him singularly well as the one to take on this responsibility.”

The Jenkins Center was dedicated in February as part of the annual Great Commission Week at the Louisville, Ky., campus.

Bridger and his family spent 12 years in the Middle East where he studied and three of his five children were born. He began to study Islam as an undergraduate at the University of Tennessee and continued as he earned a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Haifa in Israel. He earned a doctor of philosophy degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, with a dissertation on a Christian exegesis of the Quran.

Bridger previously served as assistant professor of world Christianity and Islamic studies at Criswell College in Dallas.

The Jenkins Center’s mission, Bridger noted, is in its name.

“As Christians, we are committed to truth and excellence in all we do, and this commitment extends to our investigations into and descriptions of what Muslims believe and practice,” he said. “For us, any truly Christian understanding of Islam must be accurate in its description of what Muslims themselves believe about Islam, though we recognize that Islam is interpreted and practiced in a variety of ways by its adherents.”

But, he said, a Christian understanding of Islam cannot stop with “accurate descriptions.” Instead, quoting a fellow from the Jenkins Center, he explained that it involves “evaluating the claims of Islam, in its various forms, in light of the truth of the Christian faith” and loving Muslims as their neighbors as Christ commands.

A Christian understanding of Islam “necessarily involves Christian witness to the exclusive claims of Christ to Muslims,” he added.

Courses in Arabic language, Islam, the Quran and Muslim peoples will be offered through the seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. Bridger said workshops and an annual colloquium about Islam and related topics will be available for faculty and students to “elevate their understanding of Islam and enhance their effectiveness in loving and engaging their Muslim neighbors.” He also plans for the center to send groups of students to the Arab world and other Muslim contexts in the future.

More information about the Jenkins Center is available at jenkins.sbts.edu.

Former Ga. governor addresses TMC grads

CLEVELAND, Ga. (BP) — Former two-term Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue told spring graduates of Truett-McConnell College he would use a word that “would be very, very rare in commencement speeches across the United States.”

“It’s a powerful word; it’s Jesus,” said Perdue, who teaches Sunday School at the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Woodstock.

Even though that word is not welcome in much of modern culture, Perdue said the name of Jesus marks history’s calendar, “is a name above all names” and is a name at which “every knee shall bow” one day.

“You can’t utter that word in polite society because you will be labeled a peculiar person, weird and strange if you talk about the name,” he said. “But that’s exactly what you’ve been trained to do, and that’s the reason for your education.”

Titling his remarks as “The Power of Predetermined Obedience in the Favor of God,” Perdue said God likely will call those willing to obey Him to uncomfortable places.

“God would not tell me what He wanted for me to do until I said to Him, ‘Wherever, whenever, whatever, I’ll go,'” Perdue said. “That is the principle God honors.”

Perdue said he never intended to run for governor. “But the Holy Spirit started scrubbing on me with a Brillo pad … and the message was, Get out of your comfort zone.”

In public office, he said, “you take your heart all the way out, where people can stomp on it all over the state.”

Regardless of the 2002 gubernatorial race’s outcome, Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction said he would have been victorious “because there is victory in obedience unto the Lord.”

Perdue noted the Old Testament character Daniel who was kidnapped into forced slavery but resolved to obey God and did not bow to the Chaldeans’ idols.

“Graduates, you are walking out today into the land of the Chaldeans,” Perdue said, to be “besieged by a different thought process in the United States than has ever been here.”

“Your faith will be challenged in the marketplace and in the ministry if you are resolved to stand for Jesus,” he said.

Compromise of one’s faith and convictions is among those challenges, Perdue said, noting that he faced it in his political career. “But God will honor your resolve to obey Him.”

Perdue said the graduates had received a “special gift from Truett-McConnell College to empower you, to embolden you, to teach you how to withstand” the challenges of compromise in a culture hostile to Christianity and its principles.”

“Will you resolve not to defile your own conscience, your own Lord?” Perdue asked the graduates. “This decision isn’t a moment-by-moment decision. It is a predetermined resolve to remain undefiled.”

Such commitment to God will “enable you to defeat the power of evil, the power of the Chaldeans in your personal life, and in society as you go forth,” Perdue said.

The Baptist-affiliated college in Cleveland, Ga., conferred 102 baccalaureate degrees during its May 24 commencement.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reporting by T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; RuthAnne Irvin of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Norm Miller of Truett-McConnell College.

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