Gregory Wills, Travis Kerns to join Southwestern’s faculty
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Historian Gregory A. Wills and North American Mission Board missionary Travis S. Kerns have been named to the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
Wills, who has served 25 years at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., will be research professor of church history and Baptist heritage and founding director of the new B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission.
Kerns, a church planter who has served as NAMB’s Send City missionary in Salt Lake City, will be associate professor of apologetics and world religions. He is the author of “The Saints of Zion: An Introduction to Mormon Theology.”
Gregory A. Wills
Southwestern President Adam W. Greenway said Wills has “a demonstrated and distinguished track record of teaching and scholarship, and he is firmly committed to the primacy of the local church and to Baptist distinctives.”
“Both personally and professionally, Dr. Wills stands squarely in the Carroll tradition of ‘scholarship on fire,’ and I can think of no one in Southern Baptist life more capable to lead this new institutional initiative, fittingly named for our founder and first president, than he,” Greenway said.
Wills noted, “Since its founding in 1908 under the leadership of B.H. Carroll, Southwestern Seminary has played a critical role in equipping in scriptural conviction and zeal those called by God to serve His church as pastors, missionaries and teachers. I am grateful to God for the privilege of serving at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for 25 years and will always treasure the many joys shared with wonderful students and colleagues there. With full confidence that God is now leading me and my family to become members of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary family, I look forward to joining the long tradition of vital Kingdom work there.”
Wills, who has specialized in Baptist life over the last two centuries, most recently was the David T. Porter Professor of Church History at Southern. He first came to the seminary in 1994 as archives and special collections librarian, then joined the faculty full-time in 1997. He later served as dean of the seminary’s school of theology from 2013-18.
“Greg Wills is a first-rate scholar, theologian and churchman,” Southwestern Seminary Provost Randy L. Stinson said. “What he brings to Southwestern in terms of Baptist heritage and scholarship is unparalleled in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Wills holds a Ph.D. from Emory University, master of divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and master of theology and bachelor of science degrees from Duke University. His dissertation, “Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South, 1785-1900,” was published by Oxford University Press.
Wills is the author of “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009,” also published by Oxford. He is currently writing an updated history of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is scheduled to be released by B&H Publishing in 2020 during the convention’s 175th anniversary year.
The B.H. Carroll Center for Baptist Heritage and Mission will be housed in the building known during its construction as the Baptist Heritage Center. The name has now been modified to honor B.H. Carroll, Southwestern Seminary’s founder and first president. The Carroll Center will house significant Baptist archival collections; serve as a research hub for doctoral students in Baptist studies; and sponsor lectures and events to promote and perpetuate Baptist history and identity.
Wills and his wife Cathy have four children. He will officially begin at Southwestern in the fall semester.
Travis S. Kerns
Greenway said Kerns, with years of academic and ministry experience, especially in the area of Mormon studies, is “not only an extraordinarily gifted apologist, but he has demonstrated experience as a pastor and church planter.”
“He will help us more effectively equip our students to know what they believe, why they believe it and how to share their faith in an increasingly secular and pluralistic culture,” Greenway said.
Kerns said he is looking forward to becoming part of the seminary’s “big-tent vision” and “the emphasis on evangelism and missions that is across the campus. That is where my heart is.
“My hope is to train students in not only a love for the Gospel, but a love for sharing the Gospel with people from any other faith tradition, and to be able to defend their faith with any person who asks,” he said.
Kerns taught apologetics, world religions and philosophy at Southern Seminary for eight years before moving to Salt Lake City with his wife Staci and son Jeremiah in 2013. As a NAMB Send City missionary, Kerns has led and given oversight to missions and church-planting efforts in a largely unreached region dominated by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
From an early age, Kerns developed an interest in learning the beliefs and motivations of other religions and has studied Mormonism for more than 20 years, devoting much of his academic work, including the focus of his doctoral research, to LDS history and philosophy. His book on Mormon theology was published by B&H Academic in 2018.
Kerns holds Ph.D. and M.Div. degrees from Southern Seminary and an undergraduate degree from North Greenville University in South Carolina.
NAMB President Kevin Ezell said Kerns “has done a magnificent job connecting Southern Baptists to the needs of the West. We will miss him, but I am excited about the prospect of him investing in the next generation of missionaries and leaders. SWBTS and its students will be incredibly blessed by his ministry.”
SBTS names Matt Boswell church music & worship asst. prof.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Matt Boswell, a widely respected hymn writer and worship leader, has been named to the faculty of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as assistant professor of church music and worship.
Boswell, a graduate of Southern Seminary, currently is the founding pastor of the Trails Church in Prosper, Texas. He has released multiple albums and has authored or coauthored such acclaimed songs as “Christ the Sure and Steady Anchor” and “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery.” He is the founder of Doxology and Theology, a ministry for equipping and encouraging worship leaders in the practice of Gospel-centered worship.
SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Boswell is “one of the most thoughtful, biblical and faithful leaders of Christian worship, and one of the most important figures in modern Christian hymn writing.”
“The renaissance of great hymns in this generation is one of the most important signs of hope,” Mohler said. “I eagerly look forward to Matt Boswell providing leadership and inspiration for our students as we move into an exciting new era in providing stellar, inspiring and faithful worship leaders and church musicians in the coming generation. We are proud of Matt Boswell as one of our own and we are confident that his teaching and exemplary leadership will make a decisive difference in years to come.”
Boswell holds a master of arts in Christian ministry from Southern and will complete his Ph.D. in Christian worship and biblical spirituality at Southern this year. His dissertation is on Charles Spurgeon’s pastoral theology of singing.
Southern has “profoundly influenced my life and ministry,” Boswell said, “making it an incredible honor to share the wealth of wisdom I’ve received here with the next generation of church leaders.”
“Southern stands out for its relentless commitment to the truth, the local church, the world and the glory of God. While the seminary’s history is rich, I believe the future holds an even greater reward for the work Southern students and faculty will accomplish,” Boswell said.
Before founding the Trails Church in 2018, Boswell was a worship pastor at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas (2011-2018) and Fellowship of the Parks in Keller, Texas (2002-2011). He will continue to serve as pastor of the Trails Church while teaching at Southern.
Matthew J. Hall, Southern’s provost, said of Boswell, “Those who know him also know him to be a faithful pastor, a careful theologian and a devoted husband and father.”
Southern Seminary “has been at the center of the resurgence of biblical hymnody and worship in the past two decades,” Hall said. “Matt’s appointment to the faculty strengthens that commitment and vision. For students who want to rightly understand the inseparability of doxology and theology, there is no better place, nor a better time, to be than at Southern Seminary.”
Boswell and his wife Jamie have four children.
MBTS names historian Thomas S. Kidd as distinguished professor
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has named historian Thomas S. Kidd as distinguished professor of church history.
Kidd will continue as distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, commuting to Kansas City, Mo., from Waco, Texas, for doctoral seminars and to instruct graduate and doctoral students in the discipline of history both in classroom and in conference settings.
Midwestern President Jason Allen said the seminary has “a longstanding relationship with Dr. Kidd, and we look forward to deepening that relationship in the years ahead. I’m thankful for the partnership with Baylor University that though Dr. Kidd will remain in residence there, he’ll be on our campus multiple times a year, leading doctoral seminars, teaching master of divinity intensives and supervising doctoral students. Students can come to Midwestern Seminary and anticipate to study with Dr. Tommy Kidd.
“Dr. Kidd is extensively published and widely respected throughout the Baptist and evangelical world and beyond,” Allen said. “Adding Dr. Kidd to the ranks of our other church historians and historical theologians is a tremendous step forward in those disciplines, putting us as a theological institution in an enviable position.”
Allen added that Kidd’s joining the faculty reflects “God’s blessing on Midwestern Seminary wherein in recent years He has been pleased to send us a new generation of accomplished scholars, dedicated churchmen and devoted Southern Baptists who are committed to Midwestern Seminary’s vision of existing for the church.”
Kidd said he looks forward to joining Midwestern “in its work to glorify the Lord and serve the church by training up a new generation of pastors and Christian scholars. Midwestern is one of the most exciting seminaries on the American church landscape today, and I am delighted and honored to contribute to the dynamic faculty that Midwestern is assembling.”
Kidd said he hopes “to bring students a strong sense for what the Lord has done in and through the church and for them to learn from the great ‘cloud of witnesses’ that we encounter in church history. Too often, American Christians act as if not much has happened between the time of Christ and this Sunday’s church service. Our failure to search out the lessons of church history deprives us of a trove of wisdom for ministry.”
Kidd added that his hope for students in his courses would be for them to realize Christians need not set aside their faith while they do serious, scholarly historical inquiry. Instead, they can serve the Kingdom with a deeper historical understanding of how the church came to be what it is today.
Kidd began his teaching career at Baylor in 2002 after completing a Ph.D. in history at the University of Notre Dame, where he worked with historian of religion George Marsden. He also holds master of arts and bachelor of arts degrees from Clemson University in South Carolina.
In addition to his professorship in history, Kidd is associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion. He has authored numerous books including “American History,” volumes 1 and 2 (B&H Academic, 2019), “Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father” (Yale University Press, 2017), “American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths” (Yale University Press, 2016), “Baptists in America: A History” (with Barry Hankins, Oxford University Press, 2015), “George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father” (Yale University Press, 2014), “Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots” (Basic Books, 2011), “God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution” (Basic Books, 2010), “American Christians and Islam (Princeton University Press, 2008) and “The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America” (Yale University Press, 2007).
Kidd also blogs at The Gospel Coalition’s “Evangelical History” website.
He and his wife Ruby have two sons. They attend Highland Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where Kidd teaches Sunday School.