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New Orleans Seminary launches $50M ‘New Horizons’ campaign


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–After being awakened to pray at about 3 a.m. that July morning, Philip Walton fell into a deep sleep and instantly heard these words in his mind: “There is no better investment than the kingdom of God.” Immediately waking, the physician knew this was God’s answer to his fervent prayer about whether he should chair New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s capital campaign.

Sharing his testimony with seminary students, faculty, staff, trustees and NOBTS Foundation Board members, Walton said that despite the fact that neither he nor any of his family members had attended the seminary and that he lived two states away, he knew there was no better investment of his time, energy and resources than in the kingdom work being done at the seminary.

Walton spoke at a special chapel service March 13 to launch the “New Horizons: Equipping Leaders to Change the World” campaign, NOBTS’ fund-raising effort to revitalize its campus, provide for a multitude of student needs and continue on its mission to provide theological education that will make a difference in how ministers serve their congregations, ultimately resulting in a revitalization of Southern Baptist churches.

Calling Walton a passionate force in leading the New Horizons campaign to raise $30-$50 million to assist NOBTS in its mission “to equip leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandments through the local church and its ministries,” Jerry W. Pounds, vice president for development, expressed gratitude for Walton’s spirit and leadership. Walton, a gynecologist once voted “Favorite Doctor” at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., and an active layman in The Church at Brook Hills, Walton has served on NOBTS’s Foundation Board for more than 10 years. “Dr. Walton is committed to helping us provide the very best training for our students,” Pounds said.

NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said in the chapel service, “I believe in this New Horizons project because I know it’s not about revitalizing a seminary; it’s about revitalizing our churches, and helping our churches find a way to learn to grow again.”

Kelley pointed out the critical need for a difference in what currently is being done in local Southern Baptist churches, noting that every other denomination in history has followed the cyclical pattern of explosive growth, plateau and extensive decline. Citing the convention’s decline in growth since its all-time record of 415,000 baptisms in 1955, Kelley asked, “What if the Southern Baptist Convention surprised the world of denominations by finding a way to get its churches to grow again?”

As part of the seminary’s overall strategy to combat the decline or plateau affecting 70 percent of Southern Baptist churches, Kelley pointed to the seminary’s recent changes in its curriculum, now focusing on seven competencies necessary for effective ministry and including practical hands-on field experience as part of the training.

“Forty years from now, someone will write the story about the status of Southern Baptist churches,” Kelley said. “The story hasn’t been written yet, but the pen and ink is in your hands,” he told attendees in the nearly filled chapel. “The paper is the church. Everything that we do is the next chapter in helping churches grow again.”

Explaining the campaign, Pounds said, “I cannot think of a better God-given strategy for laying the foundation to equip our students to reach the world for Christ than what we will do through the New Horizons campaign. The end result will impact three significant areas of a student’s life: the complete renovation of our main classroom building, the building of needed student apartments and funds for more student scholarships.”

A four-phase project that will span two decades, the campaign was approved by NOBTS’ board of trustees in March 1999, by the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee in the spring of 2000 and by convention messengers during their June 2000 meeting in Orlando, Fla. The public phase begins with Phase I of the campaign, which has the fund-raising goal of $8 to $12 million over the next three years to fund the following priorities: Bunyan Classroom Building ($2 to $2.5 million); Student Family Village ($4 to $6 million); and endowment ($2 to $3.5 million).

First constructed in 1951, the Bunyan Classroom Building, the major classroom building on campus, has served the seminary for many years, and was recently renovated, refurbished and updated to reflect the seminary’s vision and mission. A combination of years of heavy use and extensive damage by Formosan termites had left the building in critical need of attention. Because of the extensive termite damage, the project had to be started before the funds were raised. The New Horizons effort will repay those construction costs.

The Student Family Village is the future residential anchor for the north end of the campus where student trailers once were located. Two-story residential buildings will be casually arranged around open spaces, such as brick patios, azalea gardens and dining terraces. With a pedestrian area free from cars, the family village will contain basketball and tennis courts, and playgrounds and other recreation amenities. A community building with such facilities as a coffee shop, meeting rooms, swapshop and laundry also will be located within the village to support student needs.

The income from endowment funds provides scholarships for students’ children to attend local Christian schools, student scholarships, faculty/staff development, academic program enrichment, along with campus maintenance.

Noting that the number one area of concern among students and prospective students is the education of their children, the seminary endeavors to make available scholarships for children of seminarians to attend local Christian schools. A generous benefactor gave the seed money to start this endowment and the seminary’s goal is to increase it to provide assistance to every seminary student’s child or children.

Another goal of the seminary is to make available, regardless of one’s financial ability, the NOBTS education opportunities to men and women called to full-time Christian ministry. In the New Horizons campaign, a named scholarship can be provided with a gift of $10,000, and a presidential scholarship can be made possible for a gift of $50,000.

With the recognition that the faculty and staff of any seminary shape the spirit of the institution and its academic and community quality, the New Horizons campaign also will assist the seminary in its continued effort to attract and retain top-quality faculty and staff members who are highly qualified, caring, committed Christian men and women dedicated to accomplishing the mission of the seminary.

As each phase is completed, a preventive maintenance and enhancement schedule will be implemented. This income will insure the facilities will remain in top operational order.

Future projects include a network of arcades to link the Hardin Student Center area with the chapel quadrangle area and its academic buildings, as well as the residential areas; a prayer garden and water fountain, to be located behind the Roland Q. Leavell Chapel; a wellness center, to contain a gymnasium, tennis courts, a pool, separate spaces for youth and student activities, and the beginning point for a new campus jogging trail; and other projects.

In 1996, the seminary launched an exhaustive three-year, long-range planning process evaluating its physical, educational and financial resources and responding to growing and changing ministry opportunities. This led to the development of an award-winning campus master plan to be funded by New Horizons. The planning team of PageSoutherlandPage and Morton Verges Architects of Houston provided the programming and master planning services to the project.

Once developed, a feasibility study was conducted by Cargill Associates, Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, regarding what the seminary needed to have in place to accomplish the new master plan. The resultant New Horizons campaign was organized with specific financial goals by divisions, including trustees/former trustees, Foundation Board members, faculty/staff, alumni; and prospects in the following areas: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Atlanta, Shreveport and other friends and foundations. Walton, as the campaign’s overall chair, will be assisted by honorary chairs and an executive leadership council.

“If this seminary is able to raise up a generation of leaders who can help churches learn to grow again,” Kelley said, casting his vision, “if we can help those 70 percent of our churches find a way to grow again and have an influence for Christ in their communities again, it will be historic and will have implications beyond anything we can conceive. That’s what New Horizons is all about.”

To view the chapel service, which features the New Horizons campaign video, visit online at http://nobts.edu/chapel/new%20chapel%20schedule.htm and select March 13, 2001. For more information about giving opportunities, contact the seminary’s office of development at 1-800-662-8701, ext. 8424, or visit online at nobtsfoundation.com.
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(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title:
PHILIP WALTON.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker
    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United. Read All by Shannon Baker ›