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New theology dean at Southwestern, David Crutchley, is former missionary

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In a move that “sends a signal,” trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary elected a new dean for the seminary’s school of theology March 7 during their biannual meeting.

David Crutchley, an associate professor of New Testament at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, was named the ninth dean of the seminary’s school of theology, seven months after he joined the Southwestern faculty. He will officially begin as dean June 1.

Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said Crutchley was selected after a nationwide search because of Crutchley’s strong belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, his integrity as a scholar and his passion as a former missionary to South Africa.

As dean, Hemphill said, Crutchley will continue Southwestern’s tradition of academic excellence and passion for missions and evangelism.

“His appointment will send the signal that that is who we are and what we continue to excel in,” Hemphill said.

Crutchley, 45, said he understands the “awesome responsibility” the position entails.

“It’s a trust that has been given to me and with God’s strength I want, to the best of my ability, to stand in the legacy of the outstanding deans at Southwestern,” Crutchley said.

“I want to be an advocate for the faculty, a confidant to the president and a bridge-builder to the trustees,” he continued.

The decision required much “agonizing prayer,” he said, because he did not want to give up so much of his teaching load and interaction with students.

It was, however, that love of teaching and students, according to Hemphill, that made Crutchley an attractive candidate to fill the position left vacant when Tommy Lea died last June.

“I want students in the theology school to know that there is going to be pursuit of academic excellence,” Crutchley said. “But I also want to nurture in them a deep spiritual and vibrant love for Jesus Christ — a meeting of the heart and head together.”

Crutchley was born in Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe. He came to the United States to attend Southwestern, where he felt called to the ministry. He married Carol, the daughter of a missionary to Zimbabwe, while he was in the United States and became a U.S. citizen. After graduating, he taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

In 1984, he was appointed by the then-Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) to South Africa where he taught at Cape Town Baptist Theological College and Seminary.

In Cape Town, he served as acting principal (the British equivalent of president), senior lecturer and dean of postgraduate studies at the school.

In his first year in Cape Town, Crutchley said he had to drive through anti-apartheid demonstrations and police tear gas and scale a six-foot fence in his three-piece suit to get to his classes.

Prior to his teaching ministry, Crutchley did legal and financial work to support his family while a seminary student.

Crutchley earned his Ph.D. and his master of divinity at Southwestern and spent a semester doing research at Oxford University in England. Before preparing for the ministry, Crutchley earned two law degrees from the University of Rhodesia.

The faculty and students have received his appointment well, Crutchley said.

“Faculty have come to me individually and they have affirmed me and have prayed for me,” he said.

Crutchley’s appointment comes at an important time in the life of the seminary. The curriculum has been revamped and will be implemented this fall, and the school is in the midst of its accreditation process with the Association of Theological Schools.

“There are many trains I have to catch,” he said, adding that his first goal is to listen to the faculty and others.

Crutchley and his wife have two sons and a daughter. The oldest child, Russ, is in his third year at Duke University and hopes to become a medical missionary. Matthew, who intends to major in math or physics, is applying to colleges in the Northeast, and Kristin attends Southwest Christian High School in Fort Worth.

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  • Matt Sanders