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Seminary luncheons relay highlights & achievements

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Alumni and friends of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries gathered to hear their institutions’ 2018-2019 highlights and achievements June 11 and 12 in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Iorg notes Gateway online D.Min., social media fundraising effort

By Kathie Chute

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — About 130 alumni and friends of Gateway Seminary gathered for their annual luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Ala., June 12. Attendees heard reports about the seminary’s progress and honored distinguished alumni.

President Jeff Iorg said Gateway’s accrediting agency had granted reaccreditation for 10 years and complimented the seminary on the strength and consistency of its academic program.

Iorg also reported that the Arizona campus was relocated to a new facility in Phoenix “and now features educational technology on the same level as our campus in Ontario [the seminary’s main campus in Southern California].

“In addition, all of our master’s degrees are fully online,” Iorg said. “We are the only SBC seminary with all of our master’s degrees fully online, and the doctor of ministry program will be available completely online soon.”

The first online D.Min. cohort will begin in Singapore in July if accreditors grant permission to proceed with the program, Iorg said.

Gateway’s enrollment has increased by 6 percent over last year, with full-time equivalency hours also up, he reported.

Iorg announced that the seminary had conducted its first-ever social media-driven fundraising campaign, raising $75,000 in seven days, culminating at the spring trustee dinner.

“I thought, ‘That will never work. I wouldn’t give a dime over a text message.’ I like to be wrong about that!”

Iorg recognized Gateway’s Distinguished Alumni Award honorees Mark Wyatt and Kelly King.

“We are proud of the outstanding accomplishment Mark and Kelly have shown throughout their careers as they exemplified a commitment to shaping leaders and expanding God’s kingdom around the world,” Iorg said.

Wyatt has served as vice president for marketing and communication at California Baptist University since 2002; King serves as women’s ministry specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources. Additional information about the careers of Wyatt and King appeared in this BP story on May 30.


Allen moderates MBTS panel on cultural Christianity

By T. Patrick Hudson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — A panel discussion on the topic of “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel,” the president’s report, and presentation of the Alumnus of the Year Award highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary alumni & friends’ luncheon June 12 at the Birmingham Jefferson County Convention Center.

MBTS President Jason Allen reported on the Mathena Student Center’s completion, significant faculty hires, the seminary’s transition to a biblical counseling model, the relaunching of Spurgeon College and record enrollment.

Allen described the $13 million, 40,000-square-foot Mathena Student Center as a spectacular addition to campus, providing space for study, fellowship over meals, exercising and holding events. He added that the campus dynamic has been enhanced by the building’s completion.

He also highlighted notable new faculty hires over the past year, recognizing Andreas Kostenberger as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology; Jason DeRouchie, research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology; Dale Johnson, associate professor of biblical counseling; Andrew King, assistant dean of Spurgeon College; and Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of church history.

Discussing the relaunching of Spurgeon College just over a year ago, Allen said the college’s ministry footprint is expanding, with students coming to the Kansas City campus to train for positions other than pastors, ministers and missionaries.

“Yes, we are training pastors and ministers and missionaries through Spurgeon College, but we also will be training men and women who are intending to be serving Christ both vocationally and in the marketplace,” he said. “So, they will come and get trained in biblical disciplines, theology, church history and similar subjects because we want them to have a strong, Bible-based undergraduate program. But they can also get a degree in business, in communications and in other programs … to serve and proclaim the Gospel at home or around the world in the marketplace.”

Allen expressed gratitude to God for continued enrollment growth, which is on course to reach 3,800 to 3,900 students, tripling the enrollment seven years ago.

Allen reported that a renovation of Midwestern’s library is planned for the year ahead, with the project currently in the stage of determining a final proposal for the building’s schematics and design.

“We’re not knocking out walls or expanding the existing library,” he said, “but it will be recreated, be reimagined, not only to modernize it or make it only a place to house books, but as a place that is welcoming, inviting for students to study, to gather, and to be encouraged and mentored together.”

Allen honored Dean Inserra, lead pastor at City Church in Tallahassee, Fla., as the recipient of the seminary’s Alumnus of the Year award.

Inserra received a master of theological studies from Midwestern in 2015. He has served as lead pastor of City Church throughout his ministry, being called to start the church in his hometown when he was student body president at Leon High School.Inserra recently authored “The Unsaved Christian” through Moody Publishing.

Allen moderated a panel discussion on “Cultural Christianity and the Gospel.” Panelists included Inserra; Micah Fries, senior pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Collin Hansen, an author and editorial director for The Gospel Coalition.

The panel broadly addressed the topic of scores of souls who attend church, even regularly, yet never engage or interact in a meaningful way. Thus, the question arises as to the salvation of many who sit in today’s pews.

Inserra and Fries both agreed that the local church is one of the largest mission fields. However, it’s a difficult one because many of the people being evangelized have gone through “pseudo-salvation” experiences.

Fries said the church has not been helpful in discussing the issue, saying such members need to get serious about their faith or say they’re backslidden — all in the name of being loving.

But: “It’s not loving to someone to pat them on the back on the way to hell, but we love them,” Fries said. “We don’t want to think the worst of them. We don’t want to believe that they may, in fact, not be regenerate.”

Part of the problem, Hansen said is that churches don’t want to offend those attending. “We’re scared to call people out of something to do something hard, which Jesus did. We’ve believed the simple Gospel idea, which is true, for so long. But we’ve never called them to death to self as they embrace life in Christ,” Hansen said.

The solution is not easy, the panelists said. It will take recognizing the situation within local churches and confronting people with their need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Kelleys honored during NOBTS alumni gathering

By Gary D. Myers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary alumni and friends gathered June 11 for a grateful look back at the tenure of Chuck Kelley and a hopeful look forward under the leadership of Jamie Dew.

A capacity crowd of 650 gathered to celebrate the ministry of Chuck and Rhonda Kelley at NOBTS before their upcoming retirement July 31. The gathering also afforded trustees the opportunity to introduce Dew, the newly elected NOBTS president, to another segment of the seminary community. Participants expressed gratitude for the accomplishments of the Kelleys and hopeful anticipation for the seminary’s newest leader.

During the dinner, trustees announced the election of Kelley to the role of president emeritus. Then trustees and members of the NOBTS administration surprised the Kelleys with an award and the announcement of two new scholarships.

Outgoing trustee chairman Frank Cox and incoming trustee chairman Tony Lambert announced Rhonda Kelley as the 2019 Distinguished Alumna recipient much to her surprise. Cox and Lambert listed Rhonda Kelley’s 17 books, her efforts to train women students, and her involvement in convention leadership in the area of women’s ministry as reasons she was selected for the award. Another surprise came when Mark Hagelman, acting vice president for institutional advancement, announced the creation of two new doctoral fellowships in honor of the Kelleys — one in discipleship studies and one in women’s ministry.

R. Albert Molher Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered a tribute to Kelley on behalf of the Council of Seminary President, sharing what he had learned about Kelley during the many years they have led sister seminaries.

“If you come to know Chuck Kelley, you are going to know that he loves Christ, you’re going to know he loves people coming to know Jesus,” Mohler said. “You are going to come to know that he loves Rhonda. That is very evident, and it is wonderful and to the glory of God.”

Mohler said Chuck Kelley also loves the students and faculty of NOBTS. That love takes on the form of tireless pastoral care for those he leads, Mohler said.

Lambert commended Kelley for his personal integrity as a leader, recounting that God had led him to a verse, Psalm 78:7, which represented Kelley’s ministry. The psalm reads, “He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with skillful hands.”

“So this is what a funeral is like,” Kelley quipped after the tributes. “Thank you, one and all for words far more kind than I could ever imagine. So many of you in this room have made such an impact on my life.

“The only true measure to evaluate a seminary president is what the students who come are able to do for Jesus,” Kelley said to the students and alumni in the room.

Before Jamie Dew addressed the crowd, Kelley commended the presidential search team and the trustees on their choice of the next NOBTS leader. Kelley greeted Dew on the stage with warm embrace and expressed his own hopeful thoughts about the future of NOBTS.

After his introduction, Dew took a few moments to thank Kelley for his leadership and his commitment to evangelism.

“Your life and your ministry has been one of holding up the Gospel of Jesus, preaching it yourself, teaching others to preach the Gospel of Jesus and urging our entire denomination to do the same,” Dew said. “For that I thank you my dear brother.”

Dew promised to raise up a generation of servants of Jesus Christ at NOBTS, noting that the basin and towel should symbolize the ministry of those who follow Christ. The seminary will continue to prioritize the proclamation of the Gospel and will be known for people of prayer and spiritual fervor, Dew said.

“I want New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to be the type of place where our students leave more passionate and closer to Jesus than they were when they got here,” Dew said.

The alumni event followed the Tuesday evening session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in which messengers approved a resolution honoring Chuck Kelley’s 23-year tenure as NOBTS president. After the vote, Kelley received a standing ovation from convention messengers.


SEBTS luncheon highlights Great Commission stories

By Lauren Pratt

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — A time of worship, celebration and prayer marked Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary 2019 alumni and friends’ luncheon.

The luncheon featured first-person Great Commission stories from four students and alumni as well as a time of prayer and commissioning for Jamie Dew as he transitions to his new role as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Kambiz Saghaey, a current doctor of education student at Southeastern, was the first to share his story of radical conversion and persecution while living in the Middle East.

“People call that persecution, but I call that the closest relationship with God,” Saghaey said.

After experiencing persecution for his faith, Saghaey has an appreciation for the freedom he has to worship Christ in the U.S. and a desire to see Persian peoples trained to take the Gospel to those who haven’t heard. He is doing this through his role as director of the Persian Leadership Development office at Southeastern, providing a unique fully-accredited, theologically-driven bachelor’s degree program delivered in Farsi.

The second Great Commission story came from Daniel Richie, an evangelist from Charlotte, N.C., and a graduate from The College at Southeastern. From birth, he was nearly dead and born without both arms, causing the doctor to encourage his parents to go ahead and let him die at the hospital. While that “cast a big shadow” on his life, as he described it, he recounted that at age 15 he began to learn what the Bible said about his worth.

“God in His grace was pursuing me even when I wanted nothing to do with Him, and for me to trust Him and rest in Jesus as my everything changed the course of my life,” said Ritchie, who was called to preach at age 16.

Betsy Gomez, a student pursuing her master of arts in ministry to women, shared her story of how Jesus radically transformed her identity. While she grew up in the church, it was not until later that a friend clearly communicated with her how the Gospel shapes one’s identity. Before this, Gomez said success had been her idol. However, now she sees how the Gospel is beautifully displayed both in the home and the workplace.

“In that moment, I was so free. I understood that the Gospel was not just a door; it was everything,” said Gomez, who now works with Revive Our Hearts, a ministry led by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, where she equips women to thrive in their identity in Christ through teaching in Latin America and managing the media team and blog for Hispanic women.

Lastly, Jeff Struecker recounted how his time serving on the Army’s task force in Mogadishu, Somalia, transformed his view of gospel urgency, when he saw a friend and fellow soldier shot and killed instantly while riding in the back seat of Streucker’s Humvee. The gravity of his friend’s eternity loomed large in Struecker’s mind as a result of that experience.

“That was the moment that God attached for me this Gospel urgency that I think should go with every Christian who understands the Great Commission,” he said.

Struecker served more than 22 years in the military. He surrendered his life to the Lord in ministry and decided to become a chaplain in the Airborne and Ranger units, which he served for the last 10 years of his military service. Struecker, who received his Ph.D. from Southeastern in 2015, is the lead pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Columbus, Ga., and an assistant professor of Christian leadership at Southeastern, teaching graduate and doctoral intensives.

After hearing stories from graduates and current students, Akin took time to pray for Jamie Dew as he and his family move to NOBTS, where he will serve as its newly-elected president.

“It becomes so much more personal when the people that the Lord chooses to send are very close and dear to you,” said Akin of Dew. Cabinet members and their wives gathered around Dew and his family while the audience extended their hands toward the stage to commission them through prayer.

As Akin closed the luncheon, he shared briefly that he was “wonderfully encouraged” by how the convention took action in view of complementarianism, racial reconciliation and addressing the abuse crisis. He noted that Southeastern is seeking to play a key role in each of those areas.

“I would argue that all three of those things are embedded in what it means to be a Great Commission seminary,” Akin said.


Greenway: SWBTS to be ‘catalyzing force in Southern Baptist life’

By Alex Sibley

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) During Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary annual alumni and friends’ luncheon, attendees heard for the first time from newly elected President Adam W. Greenway, himself an alumnus of the seminary.

Greenway began by sharing his desire “to bring the Southwestern family back together, where every alumnus, every alumna feels loved and valued and appreciated by their alma mater.”

“Because, ultimately,” he said, “Southwestern Seminary is not a beautiful campus; it is a family of people whom God has called together into relationship.”

In the roughly 100 days since he was elected as Southwestern’s president, Greenway said he has aimed to reinvigorate “the incredible history and heritage, the vision and legacy” that extend all the way back to the seminary’s founder, B.H. Carroll.

“Continuing in that long line of faithfulness,” Greenway said, “what we desire to do is to see our seminary be the seminary where pastors and missionaries and church staff members and others are trained and raised up by God to make an impact here in North America and to the ends of the earth.”

Greenway said this has involved “making some very strategic decisions” and having “serious discussions” with his administration and with the seminary’s trustees “about how to recalibrate some things related to our business model, related to our academic model.”

He assured attendees he believes a new day has dawned. He shared that enrollment for the previous academic year encompassed 3,831 students from 71 countries and 44 states. The seminary unveiled a refurbished 82-hour master of divinity degree this spring and has added four new professors to its faculty: Gregory A. Wills as research professor of church history and Baptist heritage; Travis S. Kerns as associate professor of apologetics and world religions; Joseph R. Crider as interim dean of the School of Church Music and Worship; and Chuck T. Lewis as professor of church music and worship.

Finally, Greenway shared the results of the seminary’s recent Crossover evangelism efforts in Birmingham: Southwestern students visited 565 homes, engaged in 115 Gospel conversations and led 14 people in professions of faith in Christ.

As he concluded his report, Greenway said, “It is so important to me that our seminary be once again that catalyzing force in Southern Baptist life that is helping to articulate the best of what it means to be Southern Baptist, the best of what it means to be committed to church ministry, the best of what it means to be committed to missions and evangelism; and that when people think of Southwestern Seminary, when they think about a Southwesterner, they think, ‘There is somebody who knows the Gospel, who has a walk with God, and is going to be a force for all that is right and good in our world.'”

In addition to delivering his report, Greenway also honored three individuals with 2019 Distinguished Alumnus Awards: Malcolm McDow, a longtime evangelism professor at Southwestern; Brad Waggoner, acting president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources; and Danny Wood, pastor of Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and president of this year’s Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference.

Officer elections also took place for Southwestern Seminary’s alumni association. Wes Baldwin and John Avant became president and vice president, respectively, by acclamation, and Guy Grimes was elected vice president for service.

The luncheon concluded with a presentation by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention — represented by Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, and Austin pastor Danny Forshee, chairman of the SBTC Executive Board — of $100,000 to Southwestern Seminary. In accepting the gift, Greenway assured the SBTC that this money would be put “to Gospel use.”

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