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NOBTS trustees welcomed to ‘seminary of the 21st century’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–With continued record-breaking enrollment and an enhanced global vision, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is showing evidence of a 21st century seminary, President Chuck Kelley announced to trustees during their Oct. 8-9 meeting on campus.

For the second year in a row, New Orleans Seminary has enrolled more than 3,000 students, nearly doubling its size from 20 years ago. Most of the increase is in the number of students enrolled in on-campus programs, the president reported, with enrollment in the master of divinity program setting a new record with 1,000-plus students. Kelley also reported that more students enrolled in the summer session than in the three previous summers combined.

The enrollment increases have taken place while the institution has taken steps toward becoming the seminary for the 21st century, Kelley explained, pointing to new student housing and other construction projects, a completely revamped curriculum and other innovative initiatives to increase the efficiency and quality of theological education for Southern Baptists.

In their regular fall meeting, trustees also approved the New Millennium Partnership, a five-year partnership between NOBTS and the church planting team of the International Mission Board in Moscow, Russia, beginning in spring 2003 and concluding in fall 2007.

“This global perspective is another indication of a 21st century seminary,” Kelley said. “Our students need more of an opportunity to get involved on the mission field than just giving money to the Lottie Moon offering [for international missions]. We want Moscow to be on the hearts of our seminary family.”

“These are exciting times in the life of NOBTS,” said Phil Hanberry, a trustee making recommendations from the building and grounds committee. “[Our decisions] will impact future ministry and this campus for years to come.”

Hanberry recommended that trustees approve the naming of the three newest three-story, 12-unit student housing units on campus in honor of recent donations to the seminary. Trustees gave approval to name the first student housing building the “Texas Manor” in honor of Texas Baptists who gave $150,000 to NOBTS through the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in a time when the seminary was unsure of continued support from their state.

“We would not have been able to build this new student housing if it had not been for those Texas Baptists, under leadership of the SBTC, who gave above and beyond their Cooperative Program offerings. Their support gave us the freedom to move forward on this project,” Kelley said.

Trustees also approved naming the second building “Providence Manor” in honor of the Providence Education Foundation. “Without a key contribution from the Providence Education Foundation, we would not have been able to do this project in a timely manner,” Kelley said.

The third building will be named “Wood Manor” after former NOBTS trustee Ed Wood who recently died and left the seminary in his estate. Wood previously donated a home on the Mississippi coast to serve as a place for retreat for NOBTS faculty and has been a constant friend to the seminary, Kelley said.

In answer to concerns about future development of long-term housing on the seminary’s campus, trustees set in motion a feasibility study of rebuilding the infrastructure and constructing new buildings on the north end of the campus.

In action Kelley called the continuation of the reinvention of the seminary, trustees additionally approved two new elected faculty positions that will assist in instruction for focused disciplines or delivery systems for which regular fulltime trustee-elected tenure track faculty are not available.

In some cases, the non-tenure track renewable appointments might be for faculty in a very focused discipline for which there is an ongoing need for faculty, but not yet enough curriculum to require a fulltime faculty member.

“This ministry-based faculty model will allow us to have adequate staffing for our non-traditional delivery systems, including extension center, Internet and Saturday classes,” Kelley explained. “This is not a replacement for full-time faculty positions,” he clarified. “It is a supplement to enhance our current program.”

Trustees also approved a senior professor rank which purposes to honor the academic excellence of senior faculty members who have officially retired, but can continue making a contribution to the seminary for a longer period of time with reduced responsibilities. “This will allow our experienced faculty members to continue doing what they do best … teach,” Kelley said.

In his report to trustees, Kelley said he has been continually reminded of the height of God’s glory, the depth of God’s love and the breadth of God’s power in how God has provided amazing solutions to the “Gordian Knots” the seminary faces as it enters the 21st century. Pointing to the story of Alexander the Great who was able to unravel an incomprehensible, unsolvable knot, the president said that God has provided unbelievable solutions to the campus’ greatest needs.

Kelley said that the three crucial needs confronting the seminary are deferred maintenance of the campus, increasing faculty salaries and future development of the seminary’s master plan. In each case, Kelley said, God is raising possibilities that could provide solutions to these hard challenges.

With a continuing rising tide of enrollment and a campus busting at its seams, Kelley confidently proclaimed, “Our God is an amazing God, capable at doing incredible things. He is providing answers to these seemingly unsolvable concerns.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GROWTH IN NEW ORLEANS and READYING FOR MORE STUDENTS.

    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.

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