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Profs receive Yale award for family nurture course

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Two Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professors, David Nelson and Bruce Ashford, have received one of four $5,000 awards from Yale Divinity School for a course they designed to help pastors equip families to live wisely in God’s world.

The course, “Being Christian Family: Living God’s Word in God’s World,” was designed by Nelson and Ashford to “help pastors to think carefully about the relationship of the Bible and the formation of a Christian way of life,” as Nelson put it, “and then to focus specifically on training parents to foster spiritual formation and cultural engagement in their children.” Nelson is senior associate dean and associate professor of theology at Southeastern’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus.

The Yale competition, held as part of the divinity school’s “Faith as a Way of Life” project, seeks to promote “theological education that focuses future pastors and lay leaders on the task of how to live the faith holistically and how to mediate faith as a way of life to persons, communities and cultures,” according to Christian Scharen, associate director at the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.

Professors from numerous Christian denominations and regions across the nation participated in the competition by submitting proposed courses that will be developed and offered at their respective theological institutions over the next few years.

Ashford, an assistant professor of philosophy and history of ideas, said he believes the course will be profitable for students training for pastoral ministry because it shows how theology is put to work practically.

“Southern Baptists and other theological conservatives admirably have insisted upon doctrinal integrity,” Ashford said, “but often they have not made the connection between doctrinal orthodoxy and faithful living. Faithful living includes, among other things, thoughtful Christian interaction with contemporary culture. Southern Baptists should seek to glorify God in various spheres of culture such as the arts, the sciences, politics and economics. Our goal is to rivet together theory and practice, theology and life. Hopefully, this course will help future pastors to equip their congregations to do so.”

Nelson said the development of the course is the result of several years of study and discussion by Ashford and himself on the topic.

“Dr. Ashford and I have spent a good bit of time talking about these issues the past few years,” Nelson said, “since we have both been engaged in ministries in which we interact with families on these very issues. For us, this kind of course is a natural outgrowth of our conviction that doctrine and life ought always to be held together. We hope to help pastors help families to see this vividly.”

Nelson and Ashford worked on the course proposal off and on for a period of four months before attending a competition-related workshop at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., last September. They were notified in November that their entry had been selected to receive the award.

Southeastern President Daniel Akin praised Nelson and Ashford and said they serve as fitting representatives of Southeastern Seminary.

“David Nelson and Bruce Ashford exhibit the best in terms of evangelical conviction and academic excellence,” Akin said. “These two men embody the kind of faculty that Southeastern Seminary is building, and they are more than deserving of this award from the Yale Divinity School.”

The course will debut at Southeastern next summer. It will also be taught in the fall.

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  • Kyle Smith