GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary alumni honored Chuck Kelley for 10 years of service as president during the school’s alumni and friends luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., June 14. Three others were honored with distinguished alumni and service awards.
“You have been a great blessing to us these 10 years,” Ron McCaskill, national alumni president, told Kelley. “We express our heartfelt gratitude for your leadership. During difficult times, God raises up great leaders. We thank God for sending us a leader who has seen us through the waters.”
The capacity crowd responded with a standing ovation, and McCaskill presented Kelley with a love offering collected by the national alumni officers.
“Thank you very much … for this very kind and generous act,” Kelley said. “It truly has been a wonderful 10 years. It has been great to serve this seminary and this body of alumni.”
Kelley then presented John Moore, state director of Baptist Campus Ministry for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and Emil Turner, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, with distinguished alumni awards. He also gave a special distinguished service award to Joe McKeever, director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, for his ministry following Hurricane Katrina.
“Among our alumni, we don’t have many with the accomplishments of John Moore,” Kelley said. “He has been the heart and soul and lifeblood of our collegiate ministry program in the state of Louisiana for many years.”
In his role as state BCM director, Moore directed ministry on 34 college campuses. He even helped the seminary establish a campus ministry program for undergraduates at Leavell College.
“I am one of the proudest graduates New Orleans Seminary has ever had. I love that institution,” said Moore, who recently accepted a ministry position at LifeWay Christian Resources. “I felt like I went to seminary as a kid and graduated as someone who was challenged to be a faithful servant of Christ.”
Kelley said Southern Baptists are best served by leaders who have the “heart and soul” of a pastor. According to Kelley, Emil Turner, the other 2006 distinguished alumnus, is that type of leader.
“We are so very proud of all that he has done for Arkansas Southern Baptists — leading them to reach people for Christ, planting new churches and growing that Cooperative Program,” Kelley said. “You have just done a fabulous job, Dr. Turner.”
Turner said he learned what it meant to be a Baptist during his days at New Orleans Seminary. The seminary, he said, taught him the importance of individual commitment to Christ and the importance of working together as Baptists.
“I don’t think I ever understood that until I was at New Orleans Seminary and saw the larger picture of what Baptists do around the world,” Turner said. “That experience in seminary gave me the desire to work with other Baptists to see that more people go to heaven and less people go to hell.”
In keeping with the unique year New Orleans Seminary encountered, Kelley presented a special award to recognize Joe McKeever’s outstanding service after Hurricane Katrina. In his role as director of missions in storm-ravaged New Orleans, McKeever pulled pastors and churches together and offered hope in the face of an overwhelming crisis.
Following the storm, McKeever gathered Baptist pastors and ministry leaders from the area for weekly prayer and fellowship meetings. His daily blog postings at joemckeever.com provided important updates and much-needed hope to countless displaced New Orleanians during the months following the storm. Over and over, he told the story of the needs in New Orleans and asked people to “pray big” for issues facing the region.
“Dr. Joe McKeever has held our association together,” Kelley said. “He has done everything he could possibly do to reach out and encourage the congregations of the Greater New Orleans area that were under his responsibility.
“So, Dr. McKeever, we simply could not let what you have done for Southern Baptists in New Orleans go unrecognized,” Kelley added.
Kelley concluded the luncheon with a testimony of God’s faithfulness and provision following the hurricane. He thanked those who took in families from the region and those who sent disaster relief teams to clean, restore and rebuild.
As a series of photographs from the past 10 months rotated, Kelley explained the restoration process on the seminary campus. The slides began with the campus under water and concluded with recent images of the restored Leavell Chapel quadrangle.
“[God] showed us that this is the school of providence and prayer,” he said. “He has taken us through this time for a purpose and I submit that it is the greatest opportunity we’ve had in the history of the school.”