NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary approved a new master’s specialization in Islamic studies, a new graduate certificate for bivocational ministers and revisions to graduate degrees and certificates during their spring meeting April 13. The board also approved a $20.9 million budget and elected six faculty members.
The new master of divinity specialization in Islamic studies is the fruit of several years of work. The first step was securing faculty members with the experience and knowledge base to lead the program. In recent years, trustees elected Mike Edens and Page Brooks to the faculty as professors of theology and Islamic studies.
Edens served with the International Mission Board more than 25 years in the North Africa/Middle East region. Edens’ unique experience and understanding of Islamic culture prepared him to train the next generation of missionaries for the world’s growing Muslim population. Brooks, in addition to his academic study of Islamic thinking, also draws experience from short-term mission encounters with Muslims and, most recently, from eight months in Iraq as a military chaplain.
“This degree is our response to the crucial missional challenge of preparing a generation of leaders to understand Islam and how to explain the Gospel to the Islamic peoples of the world,” NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said.
The board unanimously approved a plan to update and revise each graduate degree and certificate. Based on 18-months of research, the faculty and administration developed modest revisions designed to better prepare students for ministry in the 21st century. In most cases, the changes resulted in more focused degree plans with fewer total hours.
Trustees affirmed revisions to the standard M.Div. degree during their December 2010 meeting. The goal of the revision was to strengthen the focus on biblical studies, discipleship strategies and church revitalization and to streamline the degree by eliminating or combining overlapping courses. Since the standard M.Div. serves as the basis for all the seminary’s specialized M.Div. programs, the revisions impact each specialization as well as master of arts degrees and graduate certificates.
Provost Steve Lemke said the seminary is developing guidelines to help students make a smooth transition when the revisions take effect in August.
“All of our current students should be able to graduate no later than they are currently scheduled. Since the new degree has fewer hours, some students who follow carefully the advice of their academic adviser may be able to graduate a semester earlier,” Lemke said.
Trustees approved a $20.9 million budget, down slightly from last year’s $21 million budget. In spite of decreased Cooperative Program contributions, trustees were able to pass a balanced budget with only minor increases to student tuition and housing rates.
Although six faculty members were elected by the trustees, there was a net cost reduction from the previous year’s budget, largely because one election represented a move from full- to part-time status. Four of the faculty members had been serving full-time in some capacity — either by presidential appointment or a different trustee-elected status. Two filled critical vacant budgeted positions to assure adequate faculty support for all NOBTS programs.
“Even though the recent drop in Cooperative Program income forced us to lay off some faculty members, the election of these key additions gives us the faculty members we need to maintain all our current degrees and specializations with excellence,” Lemke said.
Trustees elected Damian Emetuche as assistant professor of church planting; Ian Jones, professor of psychology and counseling; Randall Stone, associate professor of Christian education; Chris Turner, assistant professor of voice; and Bob Welch, professor of church administration. Dan Holcomb, who joined the NOBTS faculty in 1979, was elected as senior professor. Emetuche, Jones and Turner joined the faculty in October 2010 as presidential appointments.
Emetuche serves as director of the seminary’s Day Center for Church Planting and is jointly endorsed by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and NOBTS. In his role as Nehemiah Project church planting professor, Emetuche trains church planters for ministry in North America.
A native of Nigeria, Emetuche has served as a NAMB church planter in Ohio and Washington. Before coming to the United States, he served as a pastor in Nigeria and a missionary and church planter in Ivory Coast. He speaks English, French and Igbo.
Jones came to NOBTS last year after serving on the faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1997-2010. Following the deadly Sept. 15, 1999, shootings at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Jones counseled the survivors. Research gleaned from his experience with the tragedy is included in his book “The Counsel of Heaven: Foundations for Biblical Christian Counseling.”
Stone joins the faculty after 35 years of local church ministry, most recently as associate pastor/minister of education at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth. A Louisiana native and graduate of NOBTS and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Stone has served as an adjunct professor at Southwestern Seminary, Liberty University Online and the NOBTS Baton Rouge Extension. One of Stone’s primary tasks will be leading the seminary’s doctor of educational ministry program.
Turner is a skilled church music practitioner. Currently serving as minister of music at First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Turner has 15 years of experience in local church music ministry. Turner served as a graduate assistant at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge from 2006-2010 while completing his doctor of musical arts degree. During the 2009-10 school year, he served as an adjunct professor at NOBTS.
Welch comes to NOBTS three years after retiring from the faculty of Southwestern where he was dean of the school of educational ministries. Before his 17-year tenure at SWBTS, Welch was a career Navy officer and had spent five years as a professor and Navy ROTC leader at the University of Oklahoma. Welch has authored three books on church administration and contributed to five others.
In other action trustees also approved:
— A new graduate certificate in bivocational ministry.
— Church leadership certificates at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and Living Faith Christian Church in Long Island, N.Y. (The launch of the New York site is contingent on the seminary gaining approval from the New York State Department of Education, which has unusually stringent accreditation standards.)
The board granted the following faculty rank promotions:
— Scott Drumm, from associate professor to professor of theological and historical studies in Leavell College.
— Lloyd Harsch, from associate professor to professor of church history.
— Preston Nix, from associate professor to professor of evangelism and evangelistic preaching.
— Craig Price, from associate professor to professor of New Testament and Greek.
— Bob Stewart, from associate professor to professor of philosophy and theology.
— Laurie Watts, from associate professor to professor of educational technology in Leavell College.
Trustees also granted tenure to Dennis Phelps, professor of preaching and director of church relations and alumni.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.