NEW ORLEANS (BP) — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees named Chuck Kelley as chancellor of the school through July 31, 2019, and approved the accelerated M.Div. program during their fall meeting Oct. 3.
Kelley announced his plans to retire from the school on July 31, 2019, during the Oct. 2 Founders’ Day chapel service. As a result, much of the board’s work at the fall meeting centered on helping Kelley finish his presidential tenure and beginning the search for the next president.
Naming Kelley chancellor was a required step in the initiation of the presidential search process. The bylaws state that the office of president must be vacant before the trustees can initiate the search. The role of chancellor clearly indicates the seminary will continue normal operations under Kelley’s leadership while the trustees seek the next leader.
Kelley expressed a strong desire to see a successor elected by the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year. This move makes this goal a possibility.
“The combination of a strong, healthy board, a planned transition, and a clear process is a great blessing for our seminary,” Kelley said. “We were able to work through all the issues and processes involved in the transitions of an unusually long-tenured team of senior leaders privately over a period of two or three years, making the public phase of handing the baton off as smooth as possible.”
“It made the public announcements of each transition a bit surprising for most, but positioned the organization to function with minimal disruption,” he noted. “Thank you Southern Baptists for the trustees you sent to us.”
While Fairhope, Ala., will become the primary residence of Kelley and his wife Rhonda, in July, the trustees will provide the Kelleys the use of the presidential on-campus apartment. This tradition dates back to the days of former president Roland Q. Leavell and his wife Lillian.
Kelley’s predecessor Landrum P. Leavell II and his wife Jo Ann were also provided an on-campus apartment.
The trustees also voted to amend their bylaws concerning the presidential search team. The bylaws call for trustee chairman Frank Cox to appoint a committee with 11 voting members — including the board chairman, the immediate past chairman, one faculty member, one student, and seven other board members. The board approved a bylaw amendment that added two trustee alternates. The alternates will attend all the meetings but will not have a vote unless another search committee member withdraws from the committee. If a search committee member withdraws, Cox will appoint one of the alternates to serve as a voting member.
Cox said he will announce the names of the search committee members on Oct. 11.
Cox and Kelley expressed great appreciation for Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear’s call to prayer and fasting on Oct. 8.
Greear called on Southern Baptists to pray for wisdom, boldness and lovingkindness as five SBC entities search for new presidents. Before adjourning the trustee meeting, Cox led a focused time of prayer with the board. They prayed for God’s blessing on the presidential search team and the Kelleys.
The trustees approved the new Accelerated M.Div. designed to help graduates of Baptist colleges (or colleges of like faith) save time and money while earning a master of divinity degree at NOBTS. Because the M.Div. is designed to prepare those with no previous theological or biblical studies, a number of the required courses are repetitive for many Baptist college graduates.
The plan allows these qualified students to receive credit for the undergraduate classes (up to 25 percent of the M.Div.) and move directly into more advanced courses. With the Accelerated M.Div. program, a student can earn the seminary standard M.Div. with only 63 credit hours. The standard M.Div. requires 84 credit hours for students who do not qualify for the Accelerated M.Div.
“We are excited about the Accelerated M.Div. program because it will allow students to build upon what they have already learned, save money, and complete their seminary training in a timely manner,” said NOBTS Provost Norris Grubbs. “The M.Div. is the gold standard in theological education. The Accelerated M.Div. program is going to allow students to get the most well-rounded degree we offer.”
The credit is not automatic. NOBTS will review the undergraduate content on a course-by-course basis to ensure that it is equivalent to the NOBTS course it replaces. Students must have earned at least a “B” in the course and students must start at NOBTS within five years of their baccalaureate graduation to qualify.
Centennial celebration conclusion
Last April, the trustees voted to move their fall meeting to the first week in October in order to participate in the conclusion of the seminary’s year-long centennial celebration. Trustees attended the Founders’ Day chapel and a special chapel led by NOBTS alumnus David Platt Oct. 2.
The final centennial event took place midday Oct. 3. The trustees participated in a luncheon with representatives from the New Orleans city council, the New Orleans mayor’s office, the Orleans Parish sheriff’s department, and the Louisiana House of Representatives. Interim president of the SBC Executive Committee D. August “Augie” Boto also spoke at the event, encouraging continued evangelism efforts in the city.
After the luncheon, participants joined a jazz procession from the chapel quad through the historic campus gates to the front of the campus to unveil a new Louisiana historical marker. The trustees and dignitaries were joined at the historical marker by many NOBTS professors, students and staff members for the unveiling. Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement at the Executive Committee, led the closing prayer. Weathersby was the first African American professor hired by NOBTS.
In other action, the trustees approved:
— Minor adjustments to the master of music in church music and master of divinity degree with a specialization in church music. The moves are designed to streamline the degrees and better fit the current music faculty and the needs of students.
— Adjustments to the doctor of philosophy degree in Christian education. The move aligned the foundational courses with foundational courses in the doctor of education degree.
— A revision of the doctor of ministry (D.Min.) and doctor of educational ministry (D.Ed.Min.) degree specializations. Both degrees will now utilize the same 16 specializations which includes: apologetics, church revitalization, discipleship and spiritual formation, evangelistic, church growth, expository preaching, intercultural studies, next generation ministries and others.
— Steve Echols, president of Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, Ga., as visiting professor of leadership. Echols will primarily teach in the school’s doctor of philosophy in leadership program. He joins the list of visiting professors at NOBTS which includes Russell Moore and Gary Habermas.