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Sibley to lead Jewish studies at Criswell after 10 years with NAMB

DALLAS (BP)-—Jim Sibley, who has served 10 years as coordinator of Jewish ministries with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, was named March 3 as director of Criswell College’s Pasche Institute of Jewish Studies.

The Pasche Institute, formed by Criswell College in 2004 to train Christians in Jewish ministry, offers an accredited master’s degree program.

The Pasche Institute’s flexible schedule of semester and intensive courses attracts master’s-level as well as undergraduate students, and a special collection of Jewish resources is being developed in Criswell College’s library featuring rare books and research tools.

“The Pasche Institute for Jewish Studies is a part of who we are and who Dr. [W.A.] Criswell was,” Criswell College President Jerry Johnson said in a recent meeting of the Dallas-based institute’s advisory council. Criswell founded the college and was the longtime pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas.

Johnson projected a “long-term, deep-rooted commitment to this [Jewish studies] ministry” based on Criswell College’s theological convictions, biblical foundation and philosophy of ministry.

John Avant, NAMB’s vice president for evangelization, said in a statement to Baptist Press, “The North American Mission Board rejoices with Criswell College at this exciting announcement. We are so very thankful for Jim Sibley’s unique blend of training, experience, calling and passion which have allowed him to make such great contributions over the years to Jewish ministries.”

Avant said NAMB’s intention “at this time is not to attempt to replace Jim, but to continue to use him on a contract basis to assist NAMB and our mission partners to better understand and share our faith with Jews throughout North America.”

With a broader assignment at Criswell College to develop leaders for Jewish ministry and through continued NAMB-related workshops across the country, Sibley said he hopes to see an even greater concern for Jewish people among Southern Baptists, who already have a long history of reaching out to Jewish people.

“By whatever means, I want to try to stimulate Southern Baptists to share the Gospel with Jewish people,” Sibley said.

“It has been a real privilege to work in Jewish ministry at NAMB for the past 10 years and I’m grateful for the commitments NAMB has exhibited in reaching our country for Christ,” Sibley told the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. While personally disappointed that his position at NAMB will not be filled, Sibley said he believes the decision “was sincerely motivated and may yield even greater opportunities for cooperation in Jewish ministries in the future.”

In the past decade, Sibley, more than any other Southern Baptist, has been the spokesman for Southern Baptist efforts to share the Gospel with Jews.

He and his wife Kathy, who had served as Southern Baptist representatives in Israel for 14 years, were appointed by the former Home Mission Board (now NAMB) in June 1996 as missionaries to develop evangelistic ministries among Jews and help start churches in predominantly Jewish communities.

The Home Mission Board’s work with Jewish people dates back to 1921 when Jacob Gartenhouse was appointed as a missionary for Jewish evangelism. While the missionary position was suspended in 1989, work among Jewish people had continued through the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship and dialogue with Jewish leaders.

Sibley found himself in the national spotlight within a few days after his appointment when a resolution calling Southern Baptists to pray for the salvation of Jewish people was passed by messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in New Orleans. The 1996 resolution also called for Southern Baptists to direct “energies and resources toward the proclamation of the gospel to the Jewish people.” The resolution triggered a flood of stories in the media across the country.

The Pasche Institute is named for the late Albert and Dorothy Pasche of Dallas, early supporters of Criswell College and Jewish ministries.
Compiled by Art Toalston, with reporting by Tammi Reed Ledbetter.

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