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Glory belongs to God for growth & success at NOBTS, Kelley says

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“I want to give you a testimony to the glory and grace of God,” New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley said during his annual state of the seminary address March 25. “God has acted in amazing ways in, with and through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

The hand of God is not new to NOBTS, he said, noting that God has used an unlikely place to achieve unlikely results throughout the seminary’s history.

When it was founded in 1917, only five Southern Baptist churches or missions existed in the city. Southern Baptists at that time were mostly rural people with little experience in large cities. Although New Orleans, with so few Baptists, was an unlikely place to begin a Baptist seminary, it was a strategic place in terms of reaching the nation and world with the gospel, Kelley said.

“Southern Baptists decided that New Orleans was the place they wanted to start a seminary and they wanted it to be a lighthouse as well as a schoolhouse,” Kelley said. “What God has done from the day that vote was taken to start the seminary to the present day, none would have dared believe in 1917.”

At the time he took office, many longtime professors were reaching retirement age and Kelley was faced with the task of rebuilding the faculty. During the days of transition, enrollment numbers also took a dip. Perhaps the worst blow came when Formosan termites were discovered to have caused severe damage in many campus buildings. Throughout his seven-year presidency, Kelley has sought to rebuild the seminary’s faculty, enrollment and the physical campus for the purpose of furthering the Kingdom of God.

Kelley noted that the rebuilding of the faculty is nearing completion. Charles Quarles, a former international missionary, and Reggie Ogea, a former pastor and director of missions, were recently elected to the faculty, continuing the seminary’s long tradition of emphasizing pastoral experience and strong academic credentials.

Quarles will serve as associate professor of New Testament and Greek. Ogea will serve as associate professor of leadership and pastoral ministry and as director of the doctor of ministry degree program.

“The faculty is a great group of people who serve sacrificially,” Kelley said. “New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is blessed by this faculty and all they do.”

Enrollment numbers are up again for the third straight year, surpassing the 3,000 mark in 2001 and on pace for another record this year, Kelley reported.

“God is doing something amazing and he has called you out to this most unlikely place to do something really significant in and through your lives,” Kelley encouraged the students. “We are focused on a very significant issue, the accessibility of theological education.”

Kelley cited the many ways and places students can receive training as examples of this accessibility focus. They may take courses at one of the 16 extension centers across the Southeast, through compressed interactive video, online, or through short-term workshops on the main campus.

Addressing the ongoing work of rebuilding the physical campus, Kelley said projects such as the remodeling of the Bunyan classroom building and the construction of the three four-bedroom Manor apartment buildings are complete, and trustees recently approved the next stage of campus renovation and building. The Farnsworth Apartments will be totally remodeled to provide an economical family housing option. The plan, which calls for the gutting and renovation of the present decades-old structure, will provide 24 housing units for married students with children. Kelley called the Farnsworth renovation the “pivotal point” in the seminary’s master plan, which will facilitate a number of building projects in the future.

Kelley said trustees also have approved the construction of a new wing in Providence Guest House in order to offer improved housing for extension students who travel to New Orleans for workshop courses and to strengthen the seminary’s Senior Adult MissionLab program. MissionLab is a program that offers church groups the opportunity to experience urban missions in New Orleans. The Providence Guest House construction project will replace the aging east wing and center wings of the complex.

“What we are working on is not building a great seminary,” Kelley stated. “What we are working on is becoming a great people committed to taking Jesus to the ends of the earth and building up his church.

“Our goal is raising up a generation of God-called men and women who can help Southern Baptist churches learn to grow again and who will go to the ends of the earth telling people about Jesus and his glorious gospel.”