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Trustees approve measures for New Orleans Seminary’s ‘next wave’

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–In meetings marked by laughter and camaraderie, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved measures to prepare for what seminary President Chuck Kelley called the institution’s “next wave.” These measures included new student housing, four faculty elections and four new degrees.

In his report to the trustees, Kelley pointed to the seminary in the days after the Depression, when then-President W.W. Hamilton had to face the issue of whether to close the financially challenged seminary. Kelley recounted how a special Southern Baptist Convention-appointed committee decided to allow the institution to operate — with a reduced budget that entailed a reduction to only five faculty.

Recounting Hamilton’s discovery of a group of seminary students praying over the difficult situation one night, Kelley remarked, “Who would have thought what God had in mind for this School of Providence and Prayer?”

Against that backdrop, Kelley noted the seminary’s 2000-2001 record-breaking enrollment, with more than 3,000 students for the first time in the history of the institution; the increase in capital giving, with three recent gifts totally almost $2.5 million; and the high productivity of NOBTS faculty, who have done more scholarly presentations in the past year than was done in a previous decade. He noted in particular the following publications: “Biblical Authority: The Critical Issue for the Body of Christ,” a book that Ken Keathley, assistant professor of theology, co-authored with James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources; and “More Than Just a Name: Preserving Our Baptist Identity,” a book authored by Stan Norman, assistant professor of theology.

“See what happened because of the faith, tenacity and willingness to sacrifice of those who came before us,” Kelley said.

Kelley said that while the first five years of his presidency were focused on solidifying a decision to remain in New Orleans and on developing a new curriculum and a strategy for rebuilding the campus, the “next wave” will continue these initiatives and entail more focus on NOBTS’ extension centers and distance learning programs.

“We rejoice over God’s blessings on our efforts to strengthen our base in New Orleans,” Kelley said. “With a new curriculum in place and our master plan of construction now underway, it is time to turn our attention toward strengthening our extension center and distance education programs.”

Responding to the record-breaking enrollment and a growing need for more student housing particularly for larger families, trustees gave unanimous approval Oct. 10 to revise the seminary’s master plan and to build 36 units of four-bedroom apartments in a central location on campus. The decision was followed by a special ground-breaking ceremony with trustees and other seminary officials.

“Our students have been very patient as we did the necessary work to get our plans for the future in place,” Kelley said. “Now it is time for us to move as quickly as possible to provide contemporary, affordable housing for our student families.”

In faculty accessions, trustees elected David Meacham as professor of church planting; Archie England as associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; Jim Graham as instructor in Christian education; and Margaret “Margie” Williamson as assistant professor of Christian education for the seminary’s North Georgia campus. Meacham, who has served as executive director of the Nevada Baptist Convention since 1992, also will be director of the seminary’s Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting and serve as the New Orleans director of the Nehemiah Project, a partnership agreement between the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and NOBTS.

Trustees also approved the promotion of Laurie Watts to associate vice president of information technology. The first woman to serve in such a role at NOBTS, Watts will retain her position as assistant professor of educational technology.

In a continuing effort to provide training for lay pastors, trustees approved undergraduate and graduate-level certificates in pastoral leadership. Designed to reach out beyond existing NOBTS extension centers, these classes provide core pastoral training while encouraging students to continue their studies at established centers nearest them.

Also, in response to a growing desire for additional education for those interested in preschool and children’s ministry, trustees approved two other degrees: the advanced certificate in preschool/children’s ministry, which builds upon the already-approved certificate in preschool/children’s ministry, and the associate degree in preschool/children’s ministry. Both degrees are composed of classes that could be applied towards a baccalaureate degree at the seminary’s undergraduate program. The interest in this program has grown in relationship with the annual August preschool/children’s ministry conference coordinated by the Louisiana Baptist Convention and NOBTS.

Trustees also approved renaming the seminary’s College of Undergraduate Studies the Leavell College, honoring the legacy left by the extended family of George Washington and Corra (Berry) Leavell and their nine sons. The seminary trustees also designated the proceeds of a life insurance policy on NOBTS President Emeritus Landrum P. Leavell II to be used to create the Leavell College Fund. Valued at $1.5 million, these funds are the first endowment the college has received. Former President Leavell was a son of one of the nine Leavell boys.

The trustees also approved the following commitments from the Providence Education Foundation, relating to the seminary’s Providence Learning Center, formerly called the continuing education department at NOBTS:

— to outsource the MissionLab program, a custom-tailored program operated by the PLC that matches the needs and abilities of senior adult and youth ministry groups with appropriate mission opportunities in the New Orleans area.

— to build and operate a dormitory for MissionLab in accordance with all New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary policies and guidelines.

— to accept the Providence Education Foundation’s recommendation to name the MissionLab dormitory the Nelson Price Center for Urban Ministries.

In addition, the trustees adopted a resolution of gratitude to the Providence Education Foundation board and Clay Corvin, the seminary’s vice president for business affairs and a member of the Providence board, for their vision and contribution to New Orleans Seminary.

In other action, trustees:

— unanimously approved the construction of a new home to be used for the seminary’s provost, to be built during regular construction of new faculty homes.

— unanimously approved responses to referrals from motions made at the June 12-13, 2001, Southern Baptist Convention regarding the seminary’s undergraduate faculty signing the Articles of Religious Belief and Baptist Faith and Message, which is current practice for all NOBTS faculty, and the request for “equipping students for discipling homosexuals,” which will be taken under advisement as the seminary works on its curriculum.

— recognized the following new trustees: Jerry Dixon, pastor, Memorial Baptist Church, Gettysburg, Pa.; T.C. French Jr., pastor, Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La.; Phil Hanberry, owner, Hanco Corp., Hattiesburg, Miss.; Seven Linginfelter, pastor, First Baptist Church, Benton, Tenn.; L. Ray Moncrief, executive vice president, Kentucky Highland Investments, Corbin, Ky.; V. Wayne Rogers, retired, Delta Airlines, Douglasville, Ga.; Gregg Simmons, pastor, First Baptist Church, Borger, Texas; and Jerry L. Smith, pastor, First Baptist Church, Summit, Miss.

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  • By Shannon Baker