NEW ORLEANS (BP) — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved three new degrees and curriculum updates for Leavell College and elected new faculty members during their spring meeting April 17.
Trustees also received updates on the seminary’s “Different Voices” diversity initiative and spring enrollment growth, and they approved the seminary’s budget for the coming academic year.
And the board utilized the last regular trustee meeting of Chuck Kelley’s presidency to recognize his tenure at NOBTS, hosting a banquet and worship service in his honor on April 16 and electing him as distinguished research professor of evangelism during their plenary sessions on April 17. Kelley, who has led the seminary since 1996, will retire from the post July 31.
During his presidential report, Kelley lamented the tragic decision by the founders of NOBTS to exclude African American students. While the seminary reversed the policy in the 1950s, the seminary is still working to repair the damage it caused, Kelley said.
One step in the process was the creation of the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship in 2011. Since then, NOBTS has awarded $1.4 million in scholarships to more than 1,000 African American students through the Luter Scholarship. Kelley noted that many more minorities have benefited from the general scholarships available to all students.
In recent years, Kelley launched the “Different Voices” initiative in an attempt to better serve minority students. Through the initiative, the seminary has been more intentional in inviting minority speakers to chapel and to seminary-sponsored events. The efforts also resulted in the creation of doctoral fellowships for minority students. In May, NOBTS will host its first gathering for minority students who feel called to teaching ministry or denominational leadership.
Kelley also reported that NOBTS now has African American, Korean and Hispanic representation on the trustee-elected faculty and a commitment by each academic division to intentionally utilize minority adjunct instructors. In addition, both Leavell College and Graduate Studies have women serving as associate deans, something Kelley believes is a first for a Southern Baptist seminary.
Trustees also learned of healthy enrollment and tuition income numbers. Initial spring enrollment numbers show a modest enrollment uptick over the previous year and tuition income is up 11 percent.
The board approved the creation of a bachelor of arts and associate of arts degrees in biblical studies and a bachelor of arts in psychology and counseling. Revisions to existing degrees included updates to the bachelor of arts and associate of arts in Christian ministry and bachelor of arts and associate of arts in music with an emphasis in worship.
The curriculum updates were developed by the Leavell College faculty during a two-year period of evaluation and prayer. L. Thomas Strong III, the college’s dean, said the changes are designed to enhance ministry training for students based on the current needs of the churches they will serve.
“When we developed the degrees, we definitely had the church in mind,” Strong said. “Our goals are that graduates will walk into church ministry really well-grounded biblically and in their doctrine.”
Strong said the plan includes the introduction of a Christian foundational core required of all students that includes strong exposure to the Old and New Testaments, Christian doctrine, hermeneutics, evangelism, teaching methods and other essentials for ministry. Every student will receive both the “Darkness to Light” training and MinistrySafe certification designed to help safeguard churches against sexual abuse and to minister to those who have been abused, Strong said.
The board elected Karla McGehee, George Ross and Charles A. Ray III to the faculty.
McGehee, who will receive the doctor of philosophy degree from NOBTS in May, was elected assistant professor of Christian education in Leavell College. McGehee earned her bachelor of arts in Christian ministry from Leavell College and went on to earn two master’s degrees from NOBTS before entering doctoral work.
An instructor in Leavell College since 2016, McGehee previously served eight years as minister of education at First Baptist Church in Belle Chasse, La. In addition to her teaching ministry, McGehee has been the seminary’s associate director of institutional effectiveness since 2013.
Ross, a missionary with the North American Mission Board, was elected as assistant professor of church planting and evangelism (ministry-based) and will occupy the Cecil B. Day Chair of Church Planting.
A Mississippi native, Ross pastoral and church planting experience to his new role at NOBTS. For six years, he served as student pastor at Longview Heights Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Miss., before being called to plant Lifepoint Church in Senatobia, Miss., in 2004. Ross led Lifepoint Church until 2013 when he was named as the North American Mission Board’s Send missionary for New Orleans. Ross currently serves as co-pastor of Lakeshore Church in New Orleans, a NAMB replant.
Ross holds a bachelor of science degree from Crichton College in Memphis, Tenn., and a master of divinity from Liberty University and, in 2018, he earned a doctor of ministry degree from NOBTS.
Trustees elected Ray to serve as assistant professor of New Testament and Greek. Though born in Baton Rouge, La., Ray spent his childhood years in South Korea where his parents served as Southern Baptist missionaries. Ray’s family returned to the United States when he was 11.
Ray holds a bachelor of arts degree from Baylor University and three degrees from NOBTS — the master of arts (biblical studies), the master of theology and the doctor of philosophy. He has taught at Leavell College and NOBTS for more than a decade.
Since 2007, Ray has served as pastor of Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Gulfport, Miss. He and his wife Lisa have fostered nine children during their time in Mississippi, three of whom they adopted.
One of Ray’s primary roles at NOBTS is to serve as director of the Accelerated BA+MDiv program that allows pastoral ministry students to earn both the bachelor of arts degree and the master of divinity degree in just five years. Drawing on his own pastoral ministry experience, Ray will mentor students accepted into the rigorous program. For more on the Accelerated BA+MDiv program, visit www.nobts.edu/ba-mdiv.
In other actions, trustees:
— approved a $23.5 million budget for 2019-2020.
— approved faculty rank promotions for Blake Newsom to associate professor of expository preaching, ministry-based faculty, Bo Rice to associate professor of evangelism and preaching and Adam Harwood to professor of theology.
— approved tenure for Kevin Brown, associate professor of church and community ministries; Bo Rice; and Jeff Farmer, associate professor of church ministry and evangelism.