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W.Va. exec Jere Phillips joins Mid-America Seminary faculty

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Jere L. Phillips, executive director/minister of the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, will join the faculty of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 1.

At the Memphis, Tenn., seminary, Phillips will be associate professor of practical theology and director of the practical missions office and denominational relations office.

Phillips, 49, has led the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists since June 1995 and was director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention’s missions department from 1990-95.

Michael Spradlin, president of Mid-America Seminary, said Phillips will bring “a wealth of local church, state missions and denominational leadership experience to the seminary classroom,” while David Skinner, the seminary’s academic vice president, said Phillips will add “great strength to our school in the discipline of homiletics and counseling as well as a heart for our practical missions work. Students at Mid-America are required to witness to at least one person each week. Dr. Phillips will be an encourager and mentor to our students in all of these disciplines.”

Phillips, in resigning from his West Virginia post, said, “I am grateful for the 10 and a half years of state convention ministry here at West Virginia and at the Tennessee Baptist Convention. I am also grateful for those leaders in our national agencies who have been partners in the harvest and great encouragers. Morris Chapman, Bob Reccord, Jimmy Draper and all the other SBC entity leaders have consistently lent their support to our work in the conventions.”

In his new ministry at Mid-America Seminary, Phillips said he looks forward to “continued strong relationships and partnerships with the various state conventions and with our Southern Baptist agencies.”

As part of his work in church relations at Mid-America, Phillips will initiate a network for leadership development for alumni and other interested friends of the seminary. He is a certified trainer with the North American Mission Board’s Next Level Leadership Network.

In an interesting geographical twist, Mid-America Seminary occupies the former facilities of the Germantown (Tenn.) Baptist Church, where Phillips served as associate pastor from 1987-90.

Phillips earned a doctor of theology degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982 and a master of divinity there in 1978. He made a profession of faith in 1957 at First Baptist Church, Dyersburg, Tenn., where he grew up, and received an undergraduate degree from Union University, Jackson, Tenn., in 1973.

Phillips was a professor and director of Trinity College’s church ministries division, Dunedin, Fla., from 1984-87.

As a pastor, he led churches in Tampa, Fla., and Deville, La.

Of his service with the West Virginia convention, Phillips said, “Seeing God work through our staff, our churches and our associations has been a highlight of all my years of ministry.” He credited the achievement of various goals to “the cooperative work of our pastors, state staff and associational missionaries.”

“One goal,” Phillips wrote in his last column for the West Virginia Southern Baptist newsjournal, “was to see the Cooperative Program reach a million dollars. We just finished the year 2000 with total CP of over $1,000,000, up from $711,000 in 1994. … We believed in the Abraham Principle — that God blesses us in order that we might be a blessing to others — and the percentage of West Virginia CP going on to world missions through the Southern Baptist Convention rose from 28.5% to 37% over six years. We also believed in self-sufficiency and West Virginia has increased its share of the cooperative budget with the North American Mission Board from 15% to 20%.”

Among other accomplishments by West Virginia Baptists noted by Phillips:

— Gifts to the Ola Cox State Offering reached $74,500 in 2000, just shy of the $75,000 goal set in the mid-’90s, while gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong East Offering for North American Missions have risen to new records.

— The convention now encompasses more than 200 churches, missions and new work starts, about 45 of which have been launched during the past five and a half years.

— A West Virginia Baptist Bible Institute has been created to provide nontraditional, decentralized continuing theological education for ministers and laity in difficult geographic and economic settings throughout West Virginia.

— “We wanted to create a modern, highly competent staff and office organization positioned to provide the best support possible to our churches and associations,” Phillips recounted in his column. “Today, instead of departments and directors, we have ministries and state ministers who relate to every area of church ministry. … The office has been modernized with the latest in computer equipment, an 800 WATTS line and even our own website — WVBaptists.org.”

Phillips and his wife, Glenda, originally from Milan, Tenn., have two grown daughters, Julianne and Jennifer.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JERE PHILLIPS.