NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary approved the expansion of the prison training program in Mississippi during the board’s executive committee meeting Dec. 4.
They also elected three new faculty members and added two new certificate teaching sites.
Seminary President Chuck Kelley said the expansion of the undergraduate program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman essentially will double the number of prisoners who can take associate’s and bachelor’s degree courses through Leavell College.
The program at the Mississippi State Penitentiary, a partnership between the seminary and the Mississippi Baptist Convention, began in 2005, targeting only one cell block. The trustee vote authorized NOBTS to create a second class cycle in another cell block.
Kelley related a story to the trustees to illustrate why he and other NOBTS administrators are committed to programs like the one in Parchman.
During a graduation service at Parchman in May, Kelley was approached by the mother of an inmate. She told Kelley that her son had been a disappointment for many years. The mother said that changed with her son’s involvement in the seminary program. She told Kelley that he is now exhibiting a true commitment to Jesus. With tears in her eyes, she said she was proud of her son for the first time since his youth.
Kelley said the inmates who have completed the NOBTS training programs at Parchman and Angola are providing a bold witness for Christ in their respective prisons. At Angola, where the program has been functioning longer, prison officials have credited it with a significant decrease in violence, Kelley said.
Trustees elected Jerry Pounds as professor of discipleship; Bayne Pounds as assistant professor of Christian education; and Sandy Vandercook as assistant professor of education and English in Leavell College. The Poundses had been added to the faculty earlier in the semester by presidential appointment.
In addition to his faculty position, Jerry Pounds will occupy the Broadmoor Chair of Discipleship, which includes directing the spiritual formation classes of the seminary, and as assistant to the president.
Pounds returns to NOBTS after five years as president of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga. at NOBTS, he was the seminary’s vice president for development from 2000-02 and taught Christian education from 1988-94 and again from 1997-2002.
In addition to his teaching background, Pounds was associate pastor of administration at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C. from 1994-97 and was editor in the discipleship training department’s youth section at the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) from 1982-85. He has authored or coauthored 12 books.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree from Samford University, a master of religious education degree from NOBTS and doctor of education from Vanderbilt University.
Bayne Pounds’ teaching experience includes the NOBTS faculty from 2000-02, six years of adjunct teaching at NOBTS and two years as an adjunct professor at Carson-Newman College. During her time on the NOBTS faculty, Pounds served as co-director of the women’s ministry program.
From 1994-97, Bayne Pounds served as the director of single adult ministries at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C.
She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Samford University and master of religious education and doctor of philosophy degrees from NOBTS.
While Sandy Vandercook is new as a trustee-elected faculty member, she began teaching English at NOBTS’ Leavell College on an adjunct basis in 2000. She will continue in her role of teaching English in the seminary’s undergraduate program.
Vandercook holds a master of arts degree in English and a master of education degree from the University of New Orleans. She currently is pursuing a doctor of philosophy degree in curriculum and instruction/educational linguistics.
Vandercook has been involved for years with Global Maritime Ministries where her husband, Philip, serves as executive director, serving seafarers from around the world when their ships dock at the Port of New Orleans.
In other faculty-related items, Kelley announced the appointment of Preston Nix, associate professor of preaching and evangelism, as director of the Landrum P. Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health and occupy the Roland Q. Leavell Chair of Evangelism. He will also serve as chairperson for the seminary’s largest academic division — the division of pastoral ministries. Nix fills the vacancy left when David Meacham accepted a position as senior strategist for the North American Mission Board’s church planting group.
Kelley also appointed Jake Roudkouvski, assistant professor of evangelism, as director of supervised ministry, and Dennis Phelps, professor of preaching and director of church-minister and alumni relations, to occupy the J.D. Grey Chair of Preaching.
The board also approved new certificate teaching sites at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and Vaughn Forest Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
The newly approved teaching site in Jacksonville will offer undergraduate certificates aimed at preparing lay leaders to serve in Bible study and Sunday School ministries in the local church. NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said the site could become a model for leadership training for mega-churches.
The Vaughn Forest Baptist Church certificate site will offer both undergraduate and graduate certificates. Lemke said the site is needed for students who live too far from the seminary’s extension center in Birmingham. The undergraduate and graduate courses offered at the Montgomery certificate site are fully transferable to the seminary’s other degree programs.
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.