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New building, missions endeavor highlight NOBTS meeting

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees authorized construction of a new campus building, created a new degree, expanded the school’s mission partnership in Russia and approved a $17 million budget during their meeting April 14.

Trustees approved plans to build a 22,000 square foot building next to the Hardin Student Center on the New Orleans Seminary campus. The opportunity to construct the building came about in a unique way. Since the fall of 1998, William Carey College School of Nursing has leased space on the seminary campus. The nursing school had been located in the Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, but when a private company purchased the hospital, the school was asked to relocate. The seminary found space for the school.

William Carey College’s nursing school has experienced significant growth since moving to the seminary campus. In December, officials from William Carey, a Baptist college based in Hattiesburg, Miss., contacted New Orleans Seminary administration about the possibility of a new building — a development that would help both institutions.

“This is really a win-win situation for the seminary and William Carey,” said Chris Friedmann, associate vice president of operations.

Friedmann said that due to the seminary’s growth, classroom and office space was becoming an issue. Not only does the new facility open up much-needed classroom space, William Carey College will have facilities to meet the needs of the nursing school.

Seminary trustees voted to invest $2.3 million to construct the two-story facility. William Carey College will in turn lease the building from the seminary. The seminary will earn a 7 percent return on the investment through the lease income.

The nursing school will occupy the first floor of the new building, freeing up space for the seminary in the student center and another campus building. The second floor will be occupied by the seminary’s MissionLab program, Providence Learning Center and the WBSM-FM radio station. New Orleans Seminary officials plan to complete the project by January 2005.

Trustees also approved a new 90-hour master of divinity degree with specialization in leadership. The degree offers two concentrations — one in ministry leadership and administration and another in pastoral leadership. Both concentrations include a foundation in biblical studies, theology, Christian and Baptist heritage, ethics and philosophy. The pastoral leadership concentration includes training in biblical languages.

“Leadership is one of the hottest areas of interest among our students,” seminary Provost Steve Lemke said. “Our hope is to help prepare the next generation of church leaders to serve with maximal effectiveness.”

The ministry leadership and administration concentration is designed for those who will serve in church or ministry staff positions. The pastoral leadership concentration is designed for those called to pastoral ministry roles.

The trustees also approved a change in the daily class schedule of Leavell College, the seminary’s undergraduate school, in order to help commuter students. Instead of offering daily classes over three days (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), they will be offered in one- and two-day formats (Tuesday and Thursday, and Wednesday only). The Monday only and Friday only class formats will continue.

“Having longer class meetings on fewer days will assist our commuter students who serve in churches at a distance from the seminary to get their education with less disruption in their ministries,” Lemke said.

New Orleans Seminary trustees also expanded the seminary’s partnership in Russia. In 2001, trustees approved a partnership between the seminary and International Mission Board representatives in Moscow. In the new partnership, Leavell College will team with the Center for Global Ministries based at Hunter’s Glen Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, to help Russian church leaders develop ministry skills.

Hunter’s Glen Baptist Church, pastored by seminary graduate Kim Hall, has a long-term relationship with churches in Russia. Leavell College will partner with the church to offer occasional certificate-level courses for Russian pastors and church leaders. Ryazan, located two hours southeast of Moscow, was chosen for the site because it is more affordable and centrally located. It is easily accessible by rail from Moscow and other Russian cities.

Because mission groups must travel through Moscow in order to go to Ryazan, they will have the opportunity to minister in Moscow in addition to Ryazan.

“The church wanted us to come in and offer the certificate program to train Russian pastors,” said Thomas Strong, dean of Leavell College. “Many of the pastors are fairly new Christians who have been called to ministry recently … hardly any of them have training.”

Pastors can take one week-long certificate course at the beginning of each quarter. A training center with housing will be established at the site. Strong said that in addition to training, the gathering would provide much-needed fellowship for the Russian pastors.

“Leavell College will be providing oversight for the training program,” Strong said. “Our plan is to have one faculty member go over every year to participate in at least one of the courses.”

In July 2005, Leavell College faculty members will travel to Ryazan for the inaugural class. Strong plans to bring a number of Leavell College students along to participate in the event and in mission projects.

The $17 million seminary budget approved by the board during the meeting is the largest in school history. The seminary will receive its largest allotment of Cooperative Program funds due to enrollment growth. The budget includes increases in tuition and fees.

After approving the new budget, trustees paused to pray for the financial well-being of students, faculty and staff. Trustee commended the New Orleans Seminary administration for keeping costs down while providing innovative learning opportunities for students.

The board unanimously passed a resolution affirming New Orleans Seminary President Chuck Kelley. Citing the seminary’s numerical growth and Kelley’s fiscal responsibility, trustees said he has served Southern Baptists well over the past seven years.

“Be it finally resolved that we, in recognizing the unique and selfless contribution of Dr. Charles Kelley, commend his leadership as president of NOBTS and acknowledge him to be a model of servant leadership and excellent Christian character,” the resolution read.

Board chairman Tommy French called Kelley “one the finest administrators in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Trustees elected French, a pastor from Louisiana, to a second term as board chairman and Don Davidson, a pastor from Virginia, to a term as vice chairman. Phillip Hanberry, a businessman from Mississippi, was elected to a second term as secretary/treasure of the trustee board.

In other action trustees:

— Activated the Manuel Family Lectures on Archaeology and the Bible.

— Approved minor changes in the bachelor of arts in music degree in Leavell College.

— Approved 13 new members for the New Orleans Baptist Foundation Board.