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Hemphill rejoins SWBTS faculty to lead center bearing his name

Ken Hemphill speaks in chapel at SWBTS in 2019. SWBTS photo

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Kenneth S. Hemphill, seventh president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has been appointed distinguished fellow of the Hemphill Center for Church Revitalization and senior professor of church revitalization in the Roy J. Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, President Adam W. Greenway announced Thursday (April 14).

“It is very special to me to be able to bring my president, Dr. Hemphill, back home to Dome to serve in strategic roles that will significantly contribute to Southwestern Seminary,” Greenway said. “Dr. Hemphill has few peers in the Southern Baptist Convention in the areas of church revitalization and growth. I am delighted that he has agreed to give leadership to the vital work of the center that bears his name and will also bring his lifetime of experience and knowledge to our Fish School classrooms. This is a great day for Southwestern Seminary.”

Hemphill said he is “humbled and honored” by the invitation to serve again at the seminary that he led previously as president from 1994-2003.

“The Lord has used my varied life experiences to prepare me for this unique opportunity,” he said. “My passion for the local church was birthed in me by my pastor/father. The privilege of serving my Southern Baptist family in numerous capacities has provided a wealth of information that I long to share with the next generation.”

Hemphill praised Southwestern’s “world-class faculty,” known both for academic excellence and practical ministry experience in churches. “Southwestern is uniquely prepared to assist pastors and churches with the process of revitalization. The Book of Acts makes it clear that the local church is at the heart of God’s plan to expand His kingdom until His return. This appointment will allow me to play a small part in assisting churches to effectively fulfill the Great Commission,” he said.

He requested prayer “as I begin this new venture in ministry.”

Established in 2019, the Hemphill Center provides academic programs, resources, training and equipping events, consulting services, and ministry opportunities to help meet the needs of pastors, church leaders, and the local church. Additionally, the center works in partnership with the national fellowship of state revitalization leaders and the church replanting team of the North American Mission Board.

During its October 2021 meeting, the board of trustees named the center in honor of Hemphill.

In addition to his role with the center, Hemphill also will teach in the Fish School, an appointment enthusiastically praised by school dean John D. Massey.

“I am grateful that Dr. Ken Hemphill was my president when I was a Ph.D. student at Southwestern Seminary,” Massey said. “I am thrilled that he once again will play a significant role at Southwestern in the Fish School as senior professor of church revitalization. His influence through the center and the academic programs attached to it will be keenly felt in the revitalization of SBC churches at a key point in the life of our convention. He will enable the Fish School to expand its influence ‘to touch the world and impact eternity,’” Massey said, citing the motto of the seminary during Hemphill’s presidential tenure.

Hemphill also will assist the seminary in raising funds to endow the work of the center.

“I look forward to working alongside Dr. Hemphill, a prolific fundraiser during his time as Southwestern Seminary president, to secure the financial future of the Hemphill Center for Church Revitalization,” said F. Edward Upton, vice president for institutional advancement.

In addition to his service at Southwestern, Hemphill was the national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis from 2003-2011. He also served as the founding director of the Center for Church Planting and Revitalization at North Greenville University (NGU) in Tigerville, S.C.

Hemphill served as the pastor of First Baptist Church of Norfolk, Va., 1981-1992, and he led the Southern Baptist Center for Church Growth, 1992-1994, a joint venture of the Home Mission Board and Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (now known as North American Mission Board and Lifeway Christian Resources, respectively).

Originally from Morganton, N.C., Hemphill earned a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 1970. In college, as a player on the Demon Deacons football team, Hemphill served as a youth minister at a local church with aspirations to play in the NFL. However, he surrendered to a call to ministry following his marriage to Paula Moore in 1969.

Hemphill earned Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Philosophy in New Testament from Cambridge University.

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