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SBC DIGEST: Jimmy Dukes dies at 81; Steve Gaines’ doctors optimistic despite cancer in lungs

Jimmy Dukes, NOBTS visionary and friend, remembered with affection

By Marilyn Stewart/NOBTS

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Jimmy Dukes, a visionary and innovator who served New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College as a faculty member and administrator for more than four decades, died Dec. 4 at the age of 81.

Dukes was integral to the founding and establishment of Leavell College, the ground-breaking and highly successful NOBTS prison theological education system, and the NOBTS extension center system that made theological education accessible to pastors without resources for education.  

“This is an incredibly sad time at NOBTS and Leavell College as we remember the legacy and contribution of Dr. Jimmy Dukes,” said Jamie Dew, president. 

“Dr. Dukes gave over 40 years of his life and ministry to this school,” Dew continued. “He served with great integrity, humility, and servanthood devotion. He was absolutely beloved by everyone on this campus, and will be missed terribly. While we grieve our loss, we rejoice with him that he is now in the presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Elected to the faculty in 1985, Dukes taught New Testament and Greek, but kept the local church and the small church pastor always at heart. Dukes led the way for the establishment of new delivery systems that included compressed interactive video and internet classes, as well as in-classroom distance learning through NOBTS extension centers that brought theological education to pastors already serving on the field.

Dukes’ many leadership roles during his tenure included time as dean of Leavell College (then the School of Christian Training), dean of the extension center system, dean of the NOBTS North Georgia campus, and director of accreditation and assessment. He retired in 2012 as senior professor of New Testament and Greek but continued to teach and to provide guidance in accreditation.

“Dr. Dukes was an influential leader for NOBTS and Leavell College,” said Norris Grubbs, provost. “During his many years at NOBTS, he served in several settings. In each role, he served faithfully and with excellence.”

Well known in the accrediting agency community, Dukes was respected for his expertise and his capacity to help others navigate the detail-oriented accrediting process. At NOBTS, his guidance was integral in establishing Leavell College and the prison theological education system, as well as in leading NOBTS through numerous accrediting cycles.

At the national level, Dukes served on the Commission on Accrediting at the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), one of the seminary’s accrediting agencies, and served at one time as chairman of the Commission on Accrediting.   

Early in his tenure at NOBTS, Dukes served as pastor of New Orleans’ Elysian Fields Baptist Church, a church at that time located near the seminary and attended by many faculty and students. Throughout his ministry, Duke devoted his ministry as pastor or interim pastor to churches across Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia.

“Dr. Dukes was without question a pioneer,” said Thomas Strong, vice president of spiritual formation and student life, who followed Dukes as the second dean of Leavell College.

“His concern was always that every person have the opportunity to train for the ministry to which they were called – it did not matter their age, their location, or their past. I stand in a long line of a number of men and women who have been personally impacted through his ministry and friendship,” Strong said.

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Cancer found in Gaines’ lungs as well as kidney

By BP Staff

CORDOVA, Tenn. (BP) – In a short video posted on YouTube Wednesday (Dec. 6) former SBC President Steve Gaines announced that doctors have found cancer in his lungs. The announcement comes a few weeks after Gaines announced that he’d been diagnosed with kidney cancer. Gaines, longtime pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, appears in the video with his wife Donna.

“Donna and I have been overwhelmed by your love, your prayers and your words of encouragement,” Gaines said in the most recent video. “… Words are inadequate to express our love and our gratitude.”

Gaines said testing that happened after the initial diagnosis showed that cancer had also spread to his lungs. Donna Gaines then said he will soon be having a port implanted to allow for chemotherapy treatments to begin as soon as possible.

“Doctors are very encouraged,” Donna Gaines said, “due to a recent release of a very effective new regimen of three medications that have been very effective against his type of cancer.”

The Gaineses will travel to MD Anderson in Houston in early January for a consultation with doctors there, who will confirm his treatment plan.

The couple asked for continued prayers as they “seek the Lord, that we may be able to glorify Him in this journey.”

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