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Seminaries celebrate God’s blessings, honor alumni at SBC luncheons

Approximately 700 people attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's luncheon June 16. Photo by Adam Covington

NASHVILLE (BP) – The six Southern Baptist seminaries hosted luncheons for both alumni and friends during the lunch break Wednesday, June 16, — the second day of the two-day 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. Seminary presidents addressed the crowds with updates from their respective schools, recognized distinguished alumni and welcomed guests.

Gateway Seminary

By Tyler Sanders

Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg recognized Gary Floyd, Charles Grant and Mitch Martin for their “distinguished careers of Christian service” at the seminary’s annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16.

Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg addresses the Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16. Photo by Abbey Sprinkle

The presentation of the distinguished alumni awards to these leaders was “an opportunity to not only congratulate them, but to inspire others to follow their example to come up to their level of leadership,” Iorg said.

Gary Floyd earned the master of divinity from Gateway in 1981. He served as SBC Disaster Relief director in the Pacific Northwest for 26 years. “He not only served with distinction on the Northwest Baptist Convention staff… but also served in significant ways in national roles with disaster relief for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Iorg said.  

“In 2019, upon his retirement, [Floyd] received the Laddie Adams Service Award, which is the highest award given annually to someone who’s distinguished themselves for a lifetime of service in disaster relief.”

Charles Grant earned the master of divinity from Gateway in 1994 and planted New Life Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., in 1997, where he served as senior pastor for 10 years. From 2008 to 2020, he was a regional church partner for Lifeway. In 2020 he took a position as executive director for African American relations and mobilization with the SBC Executive Committee.  

“We are honored that God has placed this gentleman in national leadership prominence for Southern Baptists and on behalf of Gateway Seminary,” Iorg said.  

Mitch Martin earned the master of divinity in 1983 and the doctor of ministry from Gateway in 1994. He pastored churches in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Nevada and Tennessee. In the Pacific Northwest, he worked as director of missions of the Golden Spike Association in Utah and as a missions and leadership consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. He then served as a bi-vocational ministry specialist at Lifeway for six years. He is currently the executive director of missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, Tenn., and is the founder and leader of the Century Associations Network, an organization that facilitates best practices for leaders or larger Baptist associations.

Additionally, Martin was president of the Northwest Baptist Convention when Iorg was appointed executive director of that convention.

“Mitch and I cut our teeth together in Baptist leadership; me as a young executive director and him as a young pastor serving as president of the [Northwest] convention,” Iorg said.

Following the distinguished alumni recognitions, Iorg shared an encouraging update on the school, saying God has blessed Gateway through strong enrollment, finances and harmony among staff. Most important, the Seminary is strong because of its mission fidelity.

Read the full story here.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Michael S. Brooks

The President’s Report, a presentation of the 2021 Alumni Distinguished Service Award, and a private concert by Nashville-based music artist Andrew Peterson highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16 at the Omni Hotel in Nashville.

Jason Allen addresses the MBTS Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16. Photo by Eric Brown

Midwestern’s Senior Vice President of Institutional Relations Charles Smith welcomed nearly 1,000 attendees to the luncheon. Lee Roberson, chairman of the seminary’s Board of Trustees, led the gathering in prayer before President Jason Allen delivered his report.

Allen expressed optimism regarding the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting before sharing positive news related to the growth of Spurgeon College’s undergraduate programs, updates on the seminary’s For the Church Institute online training resource and significant additions to the seminary faculty.

Following his report, Allen invited retired pastor Michael Catt to the platform as the recipient of Midwestern’s 2021 Alumni Distinguished Service Award.

Catt attended Midwestern in 1975 and recently retired from pastoral ministry after 32 years of service at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. Catt has also served as executive producer of Sherwood Films, an independent film company based in Albany that has produced major Christian motion pictures such as Flywheel, Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and Courageous, among others.

“When I came to Midwestern Seminary nine years ago, we were reviewing the possibilities to award an Alumnus of the Year award at a gathering such as this,” Allen said. “Pastor Catt’s name was one of the first names that came to mind, but I was disappointed to find out the seminary had previously recognized him as Alumnus of the Year. However, this year, we could not let Pastor Catt’s ministry transition pass without honoring him.

“This award is given to Pastor Catt based on his many decades of faithful service to the Lord, Jesus Christ, as pastor of one of our convention’s leading churches, his stellar reputation as a man of God, and his commitment as a spiritually mature and spiritually-minded man. Pastor Catt’s impact has emanated far beyond the congregation he has pastored, and we are delighted to present him with this year’s award.”

Catt said he was honored to receive the award, though it was unexpected, and he announced a forthcoming personal donation to Midwestern Seminary’s Spurgeon Library, saying, “I did not expect this, but I am grateful for it, and I am grateful for all that God is doing at Midwestern Seminary.”

Catt indicated his intention to donate a first edition copy of Charles Spurgeon’s autobiography, along with a personally signed letter written by the famous Baptist preacher’s wife, Susannah Spurgeon.

Following the award presentation, Peterson concluded the event with a private concert. The quick-witted Peterson delighted event attendees with playful banter and a setlist composed of several of his most well-known songs, including “In the Night,” “Dancing in the Minefields” and “Is He Worthy?”

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New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

By Gary D. Myers

A capacity crowd of 700 New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College alumni and friends gathered during the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting to fellowship and celebrate what is happening at the seminary.

“I’ve watched every day as God has shown up and been faithful to us,” Jamie Dew told NOBTS alumni and friends. Photo by Robin Jackson

NOBTS and Leavell College President Jamie Dew utilized the June 16 luncheon to share his vision for the school. He started by sharing what he had learned about the “School of Providence and Prayer” when he first arrived at NOBTS.

“As an outsider, I knew that’s what we were called, but I could not give an account as to why,” Dew said. “It’s been two years now; I don’t need anyone to explain it to me anymore. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve watched every day as God has shown up and been faithful to us.”

Dew said the brokenness and lostness throughout the world should guide all the efforts of the seminary and the churches the graduates serve. Dew pointed to a “haunting” statement by International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood – every day, 155,000 people die without Christ.

“It puts everything that we do at the seminary in perspective,” Dew said. “When you see that need, it causes me to approach every single thing we do with a great vision and a greater passion – that is to bring the light of Jesus Christ into that darkness.

“We are either going to do that or die trying.”

Dew said the opportunities for NOBTS and Leavell College are vast, and they are uniquely equipped to training ministers for the urban setting, for missions, for mercy ministries, for evangelism and for church planting.

“Southern Baptists need NOBTS and Leavell College to be distinctly herself,” Dew said.

To close his time with alumni, Dew challenged them to give, send students, and to pray.

He introduced two new giving opportunities for alumni and friends – the new Alumni Association, which offers discounts, library access and other benefits and is designed to foster community, and the Providence Society.

Dew closed his time with a call to prayer – not for growth or expanded programs, but that the seminary family would honor God and be a part of His mission.

The alumni also heard encouraging updates from other seminary and alumni leaders.

Stephanie Lyon, women’s life coordinator, shared about the new Prepare Her initiative at NOBTS and Leavell College. Prepare Her focuses on academic training, spiritual formation, skill development, and fellowship.

George Ross, church planting professor and a North American Mission Board Send missionary, shared about the immediate impact of the new church planting center on the seminary campus. Ross said the center has already hosted hundreds of church planters and missions and is being used as a training base for future missionaries and church planters.

Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former SBC president, spoke about the joys and challenges of being a pastor – especially pastoring in a unique place like New Orleans. Luter concluded that NOBTS and Leavell College are uniquely positioned to prepare pastors to serve anywhere God calls.

Read the full story here.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Lauren Pratt

The Alumni and Friends Luncheon of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) was filled to capacity on the last day of the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting June 16.

J.D. Greear, Ed Litton and Johnny Hunt join Daniel Akin on stage at the SEBTS Alumni and Friends Luncheon June 16. Photo by Abby Duren

Hosting nearly 800 alumni, friends and supporters, SEBTS President Danny Akin welcomed the attendees from the stage with a past, present and the newly elected president of the SBC. The crowd paused for a moment as all attendees joined Akin, Johnny Hunt, and J.D. Greear to pray for SBC President-elect Ed Litton.

Akin then shared updates about Southeastern, including the addition of the Sam James Church Planting Endowment as well as Great Commission stories of alumni who have served in ministry for more than 100 combined years.

The Sam James Church Planting Endowment, announced by Akin and Greear during the luncheon, will enable SEBTS to recruit, train and send more church planters around the world. Akin and Greear urged those in attendance to consider giving to endowment with the goal of raising $1 million to train ministers to fulfill the mission. The fund is named after a longtime International Mission Board missionary, who served more than 50 years in 115 countries.

“We want to honor [Sam James] because of his passion for the Gospel and his love for Southeastern,” Akin said.

Johnny Hunt, senior vice president of evangelism and leadership with the North American Mission Board, said based upon his background of poverty and lostness he never imagined he’d one day have a part in raising up the next generation of scholars to lead churches.

“I would have never dreamed that there would be a Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching,” Hunt said. “I’ve never considered myself a scholar. … I’ve considered myself a hot-hearted, Gospel preacher my entire tenure, and I still feel the same.”

Hunt encouraged attendees to consider giving to the mission of SEBTS, so that more students can be trained to share the Gospel and lead churches around the world.

Litton celebrated the Great Commission DNA that makes up SEBTS and encouraged alumni to continue giving to the work of equipping leaders to fulfill the mission.

“Because of the people who lead this institution, you have ‘go’ in your DNA, and it will never leave. It’s who you are… and you’re changing the world for the glory of God,” Litton said.

The luncheon also featured video testimonies from missionaries, including James as well as Dr. George Braswell, who, along with his wife Joan, served as the first missionaries to Iran in 1968.

The lunch concluded with a time of music led by award-winning artist Ellie Holcomb. 

Read the full story here.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Jeff Robinson

Two longtime pastors were named alumni of the year Wednesday afternoon, June 16, at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s alumni luncheon during the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville.

Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler announced David Dykes and Josh Manley as co-alumni of the year.

Dykes holds both a master of divinity and a doctor of ministry from the seminary. He has served as senior pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, since 1991 and will retire on August 31.

Dykes also did post-doctoral studies at Cambridge University, focusing on biblical art from the Renaissance period. In 2017 he received an honorary doctorate from East Texas Baptist University.

He also served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Gardendale, Alabama, for many years and was one of the first conservative trustees at SBTS who helped bring about the recovery of orthodoxy at the seminary in the 1990s.

He is the author of 19 nonfiction books including: Handling Life’s Disappointments and Do Angels Really Exist? David has also written a trilogy of action novels: The Cloudstrike Prophecy, The Jerusalem Protocol, and The Masada Proposal.

David and his wife, Cindy, have two grown daughters, Jenni Holman and Laura Grace Dykes, and four grandchildren.

For the past eight years, Josh Manley has served as senior pastor of RAK Evangelical Church in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

Manley graduated from SBTS in 2011 with a Master of Divinity and again in 2013 with a Master of Theology in New Testament. During his years at SBTS, he served as an elder at Third Avenue Baptist Church and as producer of the Albert Mohler Program, the radio precursor to Mohler’s current podcast, The Briefing. Manley joined the luncheon via livestream from UAE.

Prior to entering vocational ministry, Manley worked as an aide in the U.S. Senate. He is married to Jenny, and they have five children: Reeves (13), Caroline (11), Miriam (9), Harper (5) and George (2).

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

By Ashley Allen

A capacity crowd of 700 gathered at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Alumni and Friends Luncheon at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting on Wednesday, June 16, to honor three distinguished alumni, announce plans for a newly endowed chair, hear from newly-elected SBC president and SWBTS alumnus Ed Litton and hear updates from President Adam W. Greenway.

Ed Litton and Steve Gains join President Adam W. Greenway at the SWBTS Alumni and Friends Luncheon. Photo by Adam Covington

Litton, a former member of the board of trustees of Southwestern Seminary who earned a Master of Divinity there in 1986, addressed the gathered alumni.

In his introduction of Litton, Greenway said, “Dr. Litton, we are excited for your service over this next year, and I want you to know that in any way and in every way Southwestern Seminary can serve you and serve our Southern Baptist family, as Jesus said, ‘You have not because you ask not.’”

Litton said he will “never forget the loving care I received from my professors like Roy Fish, Malcolm McDow, people who loved us through our difficulties and our trials.”

Steve Gaines, a two-time graduate of Southwestern and the most recent alumnus to serve as SBC president, led the group in praying for Litton. Gaines prayed for Litton what Gaines’ wife prays for him, that God would “wear him like a glove.”

In honoring distinguished SWBTS alumni – D. Hance Dilbeck, Jr., Thomas J. Nettles and Roy J. Fish – Greenway said, “One of the highest honors our seminary can bestow upon one of our own is to name that person a distinguished alumnus.”

Dilbeck, president-elect of GuideStone Financial Resources, earned Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from the seminary and later served as SWBTS trustee chairman. He also served as the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and pastored churches for 27 years.

Nettles co-authored Baptists and the Bible with L. Russ Bush in 1980, a 40th anniversary edition of which was released in 2020 by Seminary Hill Press. The book proved Baptists’ historical commitment to inerrancy of Scripture as Southern Baptists passionately debated the issue.

In a video tribute to Fish, the audience heard from the late Southwestern Seminary evangelism professor in his own words. Fish said part of the training at Southwestern Seminary “is the training to share one’s faith. You may not have the gift of evangelist, but you have the role of witness. Every Christian has the role of witness.”

Greenway said he “is part of a generation … where you can’t ever think of Southwestern Seminary and not think of Roy Fish.”

“If Roy Fish is not a distinguished Southwesterner, then no one is,” Greenway said.

As several generations of Fish’s family, including his wife of more than 50 years, Jean, made their way to the platform to receive his award, Greenway asked those in the audience who had Fish as a professor to stand. More than half of the 700 attendees stood.

The luncheon concluded with updates from Greenway regarding the seminary. Noting the challenges COVID-19 had on the seminary, Greenway commended “the resiliency and the incredible work of all of our faculty and staff.”

Greenway said Southwestern Seminary at its best has always been known for a great faculty, noting the faculty had gone “above and beyond” during the pandemic. Greenway expressed thanks for the leadership of David Dockery, Southwestern Seminary’s interim provost and distinguished professor of theology.

Greenway also reported that applications for the upcoming fall semester are double what they were at the same time last year.

Reflecting on the strong attendance at the luncheon, Greenway said, “When you look around this room, dear friends, this is the big tent vision. This is the one Southwestern vision. … Southwestern Seminary at its best has always been the seminary able to bring Southern Baptists together around the things that matter most.”

Southwestern Seminary’s seventh president, Kenneth S. Hemphill, concluded the luncheon in prayer.

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