Seminaries honor alumni, share highlights

ST. LOUIS (BP) -- Alumni awards, reflections on missions and reports of progress in seminary education were highlighted June 15 during luncheons for alumni and friends of Southern Baptist seminaries during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in St. Louis.

Gateway

Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, thanked attendees at the seminary’s luncheon June 15 in St. Louis for their continued support of the institution through the two-year process of moving the primary campus to Ontario, Calif.

“It will take a little time to get used to saying ‘Gateway’ instead of ‘Golden Gate,’” he said.

He told alumni that the first of the trucks are arriving on the new campus this week from Mill Valley and asked that prayer continue for the seminary during the move over the next few weeks.

Iorg invited attendees to participate in grand opening events for the new campus on Oct. 6 and 8.

Three alumni were honored with Distinguished Alumni of the Year Awards.

-- Dr. Robert E. Haskins earned a doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate Seminary and served churches in Oklahoma for nearly 40 years. He began his career as a pastor before taking on the role of state missions director, relating to more than 100 missionaries and 42 associational directors of missions, and became senior associate executive director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. BGCO’s Robert Haskins School of Leadership was named in his honor. Even in retirement, he has continued to serve, assisting 10 churches as interim or transitional pastor.

-- Frank Lewis earned a doctor of ministry degree from Golden Gate Seminary and has served for the past 16 years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn. He also has worked as a preaching and worship consultant for LifeWay Christian Resources and as senior pastor at Green Valley Baptist Church in Henderson, Nev. He has taught as an adjunct professor at Gateway Seminary and Belmont University in Nashville and has served as a field supervisor for master of divinity and doctor of ministry students at Duke, Vanderbilt and Beeson divinity schools.

Chang Sun Moon earned a master of divinity degree from Gateway Seminary and was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity by Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary in Tacoma, Wash. He has served as a pastor to Korean congregations for more than 40 years and was president of Pacific (Korean) Union Seminary from 1989 to 1993. He also has served as a board member for the Northwest Baptist Convention Executive Board for the past four years.

Recipients are nominated by faculty, staff or alumni “in recognition of outstanding accomplishment that exemplified a commitment to shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom around the world.”

Midwestern

A reflective, heartening president's report, the announcement of a new seminary resource, and a panel discussion on one of the hot-button issues of the day, highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's luncheon on June 15 in St. Louis.

In his report, MBTS President Jason Allen reflected on God’s blessings and favor upon the institution over the past three years. He noted how enrollment nearly doubled during that time, addressed the tremendous faculty and staff who joined Midwestern’s team, and spoke to the generous gifts and contributions made since 2012.

He further provided insight on how Midwestern Seminary aims to become the strongest seminary on the planet by 2020. Although admittedly it is a bold goal, he explained how it is obtainable.

First, he said Midwestern Seminary must stay true to its vision of existing for the church.

“We are not only devoted to that vision; we desire to be a prophetic voice, encouraging others to exist for the church as well,” Allen said. “If I were to reduce an explanation for God’s favor upon us to one reason, it would be that we are seeking to serve the church to the best of our abilities and making full use of our energies and resources to this end.”

Secondly, Allen noted we must continue to be men and women of God who teach, live and minister according to the the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the school’s other guiding statements. “These are covenants and statements we would give our lives for,” he added.

Thirdly, he said the school must remain consistent with certain desired goals. He noted the goal of having 3,000 students enrolled by 2020, keeping tuition low, and providing certain amenities to meet student and family needs.

Allen concluded his report by announcing that Midwestern Seminary is launching the Center for Public Theology, which will be directed by Owen Strachan.

“It brings me great pleasure to announce that Midwestern Seminary is launching the Center for Public Theology under the guidance of Dr. Owen Strachan,” Allen said. “In being a seminary that exists to serve the local church, the CPT offers another vital training tool to equip pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders to fulfill the Great Commission amidst a lost and morally-confused culture.

“Our aim is to prepare believers theologically to engage matters of society, politics and culture knowledgably and confidently, yet humbly and in a Christ-like spirit. We accomplish this mission through complete trust and assurance in the truthfulness of Scripture and the transforming power of grace.”

Upon completing his report, Allen interacted with Strachan during a discussion on the topic, “God, Gender, and the Gospel.”

Topics addressed during the interview included how God, gender and the Gospel intersect; how the Center for Public Theology will continue to project Midwestern’s institutional momentum; and how the church can engage the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and address events like the mass shooting in Orlando.

To this last question, Strachan said, “We often underplay our understanding of mankind. Do you recognize that … when you look into the face of any living person, you’re seeing the image of Almighty God? We must today recognize that we should love gay and lesbian people more than the [LGBT] community does. We have the most reason to love these people because we know that they were created to live for all eternity with God. We cannot hide out and expect somebody else to share the Gospel with these people. It’s our job to do this.”

Allen honored John Mark Clifton, senior director of church replanting at the North American Mission Board, as the recipient of the seminary's Alumnus of the Year.

Clifton received a master of divinity degree from Midwestern in 1985. Before undertaking his role at NAMB, he served as pastor of Wornall Road Baptist Church in Kansas City for 10 years, revitalizing the once dwindling and dying neighborhood church.

Additionally, Allen honored Ronnie Floyd, now former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in Fayetteville, Ark., with the school’s Distinguished Denominational Service Award.

“On rare occasion, our denomination is led by a man who steps into the role of SBC president and gives of himself to the overall task of actually leading this convention of churches forward,” Allen said.

“Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a consistent friend to me and to Midwestern Seminary. To see his church, to know his leadership, and to see what he’s done within the convention these past two years, reveals that he is a true man of God.”

New Orleans

Surprises took center stage at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s luncheon June 15 in St. Louis.

The first surprise was the awarding of a long-overdue diploma to distinguished alumni award winner, Mel Jones. The second surprise caught NOBTS President Chuck Kelley off guard when he received the distinguished alumnus to mark his 20 years at the seminary helm.

The seminary also named Fred Hewett, executive director of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention, and Tommy King, president of William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Miss., as distinguished alumni.

Kelley began the program by presenting the distinguished alumnus award to Fred Hewett. A veteran of the U.S. Navy and a businessman, Hewett entered full-time ministry at age 35 and studied in New Orleans Seminary’s extension system.

“We are very proud of all of our extension center students,” Kelley said. “Fred is a great representative of that group of people.”

Before serving in his current role in Montana, Hewett led churches in Florida and Georgia. In Jupiter, Fla., Hewett planted a church and grew it to a membership of 600. Hewett went on to serve as church planting group director at the North American Mission Board.

“He has not only been outstanding in ministry in the churches he has served and the other denominational roles he has fulfilled, he has been a great and passionate advocate of the Cooperative Program,” Kelley said.

In presenting the next distinguished alumnus award, Kelley acknowledged the historic nature of the moment. Kelley presented Mel Jones with his bachelor of arts in Christian ministry diploma moments before naming him a distinguished alumnus. Jones earned the degree in 2001, but never received his diploma.

Jones, pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church and executive director of Bethel Colony South Transformational Community and Women at the Well in New Orleans, knew about the distinguished alumnus award, but the diploma came as a surprise.

Jones was a successful businessman before drug and alcohol addiction left him homeless for three years. Through the Brantley Center, the Baptist-related addiction recovery program in New Orleans which closed following Hurricane Katrina, Jones recovered from addiction and ultimately came to study and work at NOBTS.

“He knows what brokenness is all about. He knows what restoration is all about. He knows what the hard work of urban evangelism and life recovery is all about,” Kelley said. “I am very proud to give you this distinguished alumnus award Pastor Mel Jones.”

Due to recent back surgery Jones’ wife could not attend with him. Faced with the prospect of sitting at a table alone during the luncheon, Jones found new friends in St. Louis to share this occasion with him.

“I went to the local homeless shelter to get brothers and sisters who are like me,” Jones said asking his guests to stand. “Would you all welcome my brothers and sisters from St. Louis?”

Jones shared that the ministry he started now serves 140 men and 70 women who spend six months recovering from addiction. With few other options available, the recovery program is always full. A new family house has room for 10 mothers and 20 children.

“All of this came through people not giving up on me,” Jones said. “When you take a fall, when you mess up in life, people distance themselves from you -- even in the Christian community.”

Jones told of the relapse he had shortly after beginning master’s study at the seminary. Rather than rejection, Jones said he received support and encouragement from the seminary community. The love he received was instrumental in establishing Bethel Colony South after Jones completed rehab.

Kelley then recognized Tommy King, president of William Carey University (WCU), with the distinguished alumnus award. Kelley commended King for his leadership in Christian higher education and called William Carey a valued NOBTS partner.

Before being named president in 2007, King served as a professor and dean of psychology and counseling, vice president for graduate and off-campus programs and executive vice president at William Carey. During King’s tenure, WCU’s enrollment increased by 46 percent.

“We are grateful for Dr. King and the work he has done,” Kelley said. “The most important thing is that he has always been making a difference for the kingdom of God through the lives on the up-and-coming generation.”

As Kelley concluded the distinguished alumni presentation, NOBTS national alumni president Nathan Cothen, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, announced the surprise award for Kelley. The announcement was greeted with a standing ovation by the luncheon crowd.

“Dr. Chuck Kelley has corrected my paper many days,” said Cothen, who studied under Kelley. “Today, I am here to correct your paper -- the paper with the agenda for this meeting. We have one unannounced, surprise recognition for a distinguished alumnus of the year.”

Kelley came to study at NOBTS 40 years ago and began his teaching and leadership ministry at NOBTS 33 years ago -- first as an evangelism professor, then as the director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health and chair of the seminary’s division of pastoral ministry. In 1996, Kelley was named New Orleans Seminary’s eighth president.

“Thank you very much,” Kelley said. “I get a lot more credit than I deserve and not nearly enough blame. It has been a great privilege to spend the 40 years of my life at the School of Providence and Prayer.”

Southeastern

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary continually asks students the question, “Where are you going?” and challenges them to fill in the blanks with how they will advance the Kingdom of God.

During the seminary’s luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, guests had the opportunity to see how two students have answered that question.

“I remember sitting in my first chapel service and hearing Dr. Akin give a charge to us to take the Gospel to the lost,” said Andrew McNair, pastor for preaching and vision at Lamp City Church in Clarkston, Ga., and a SEBTS alumnus. “He said that the question we should be asking ourselves is not why should I go but why should I stay.”

While at SEBTS, McNair saw how the Great Commission is tied to the local church, which led him to return to his home state to reach the nations. “Unreached peoples are now within arm’s reach of your local church,” McNair said. “It is now clear that one can be in America and still go. Global kingdom advancement can happen right here in our cities.”

God has called McNair and Lamp City Church to impact the nations represented in their schools, community center and neighborhood. Through Peoples Next Door, a program of the Center for Great Commission Studies at SEBTS, McNair received training on how to reach internationals in his city.

“So I fill in my blank by saying I am going to the nations with the Gospel in Clarkston, Ga.,” McNair said.

He left the audience with this challenge: “How will you fill in yours?”

Alumni and friends also had the opportunity to hear from a unique type of student -- one who was once imprisoned for planting churches in the Middle East.*

“I hear so many people talk about ‘I am going,’ but I am here to say thank you because you came,” the student said. “Because you sent missionaries, God turned a fanatic Muslim to an ordained pastor, and now my wife and I are students at Southeastern.”

The student recounted his journey of coming to faith in Christ and being called by God to plant churches. He told of how authorities came to arrest him during a Christmas party and how he spent three months in jail for crimes against the government and Islam.

After escaping his country, he and his family lived in Central Asia, where he began taking classes as a distance-learning student at SEBTS. Now living in the U.S., the family has the opportunity to attend SEBTS and finish their seminary degrees.

“God has been so good to us,” he said. “My goal is to move toward the vision God has given me -- to go and make disciples in my Jerusalem, my Judea, my Samaria and to the world.”

The student and his family want to reach the thousands of Muslims living in the Raleigh area and provide training for churches to reach people from their home country.

“I want to say a special thank you to Dr. Akin and Southeastern,” the student closed. “Because of [your] generosity, I have received a scholarship and I can be a student. Because of you, I can train, and now I can say I am going to reach Muslims.”

These testimonies led into a time of remembrance for Larry and Jean Elliott, SEBTS alumni who were martyred on the mission field. The Summit Church pastor and SEBTS alumnus J.D. Greear gave a message and asked guests to consider giving to the Larry and Jean Elliott Memorial Scholarship Fund, which supports students planning to be missionaries in closed countries.

“One of Southeastern’s objectives is to be able to see not just more people raised up to reach the already reached, but to see people going to the most difficult places in the world,” Greear said.

Other guests at the SEBTS alumni lunch included David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, and Keith and Kristyn Getty, Christian music artists and modern hymn writers. Platt thanked SEBTS friends and alumni for the impact that SEBTS has around the world.

“The training [students] are getting from Southeastern is bearing glorious fruit around the world for the spread of the Gospel,” Platt said. “The fruit that is flowing from Southeastern really cannot be measured, and that’s ultimately, obviously attributed to the grace of God in this school.”

The Gettys closed the luncheon by performing their new song, “For the Cause,” which is now the official hymn for SEBTS and The College of Southeastern. They led the group in a time of worship and reflection on what God has done at SEBTS.

*For security reasons, the name of this student has been withheld.

Southern

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary presented the 2016 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year award to Russell D. Moore at the seminary’s luncheon.

“Russ Moore has already made history and there is much history still to be written. He has made Southern Seminary proud in so many different ways,” said Mohler, who also presented Moore a commemorative plaque. “It is high time that we make this presentation and celebrate Russ Moore as Alumnus of the Year of the institution very proud to claim him as our own.”

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and SBTS Ph.D. graduate (2002), also formerly served as professor of Christian theology, dean of the School of Theology, and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary.

“This school didn’t just educate me,” Moore said. “I look around this room, the best friends in the world that we have, I look at students that I love. I look at a place where, when we arrived home with our first two children, there was a parking lot full of people waiting for us.... I can’t thank Southern Seminary enough for being our family.”

In his annual presentation to alumni and friends, Mohler called for increased boldness for the challenges facing Southern Seminary. Using Acts 4:23 as his text -- in which the disciples react to their bold proclamation of the Gospel before the Sanhedrin by praying for more boldness -- Mohler said more is required of the seminary as it looks to the future. 

"I think there’s the temptation for us to simply be thankful for how bold the Lord has allowed us this school to be,” Mohler said. “But what we really pray for is that the Lord would make us even more bold, because what will be required of us in the future is even far greater than what has been required in the past.... Everything we’ve done thus far -- sweet and precious and instructive as it is -- is just, by God’s grace, a foretaste of what’s to come.”

Mohler referenced a resolution that had passed the previous afternoon at the SBC’s annual meeting, which renounced the display of the Confederate battle flag. He said it was a necessary but preliminary step in addressing the sins of previous generations of Southern Baptists, and that the seminary will require greater boldness to address continued issues of racial tension within the church.

“The burdens of history and the mandate invested in us has to be always on our mind,” Mohler said. “The great failure of the Southern Baptist Convention and the great failure of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is exemplified and realized in nothing more powerful than our failure to our African-American brothers and sisters through more than a century-and-a-half. I’m humbled by the fact that I think this is a permanent stain that the Southern Baptist Convention will have to bear as a mark, just to prevent us from the temptation of denominational hubris.”

Mohler also discussed the seminary’s recently launched Hispanic Initiatives, which seeks to reach the Spanish-speaking world with theological education. The program, which is part of a movement to cultivate diversity in the seminary community, includes the hiring of two Latino professors and the availability of Spanish online courses at a reduced cost.

“With every passing day and every passing year, the Southern Baptist Convention has to look more like the nation, more like the world, more like the marriage supper of the Lamb -- or we’re going to look less like Jesus.”

Mohler also recognized the June 10 announcement that Matthew Hall would be the next dean of Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary, which has grown an enrollment of 1,200 students.

The more than 450 attendees of the luncheon also received a copy of the "President's Report," a publication providing a summary of the 2015-16 academic year.

Southwestern

Its annual luncheon during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting provides an opportunity to recognize distinguished alumni of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and this year, two recipients were named for the prestigious award. During the luncheon held on June 15, Southwestern President Paige Patterson recognized Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., and Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions at Southwestern Seminary, as recipients of the distinguished alumni awards.

“Ted has been as constant and as consistent as the flowing of the Mississippi River,” Patterson noted. “I thank God for someone you can depend on in his commitment and in his conviction. This school is very, very proud of you.”

Dedicated to preaching the Word of God and training his flock to be fully devoted followers of Jesus at Olive Baptist, Traylor also operates a weekly radio and television ministry, “At the Heart of Things,” in hopes of reaching thousands of homes along the Gulf Coast with the Gospel.

Traylor also integrates food, clothing and medical services into the ministries of Olive Baptist for the purpose of advancing the Gospel.

After receiving the award, Traylor said that he remains deeply indebted to the teachings of Southwestern Seminary, where he earned his master of divinity in 1981 and doctor of ministry in 1986. He recounted the advice given by Roy Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism emeritus, that still holds true for his faith and ministry to this day.

“Dr. Roy said to me one day ... ‘Ted, there will be days when the heavens are brass, and the Scripture is stone. But if you will prevail, the wind of God will blow again,’” Traylor said. “And I found that to be true in my life again and again.”

Sanchez, in addition to serving Southwestern Seminary as professor of missions, is also associate dean of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions and director of the Scarborough Institute for Church Growth, and holds the Vernon D. and Jeannette Davidson Chair of Missions. Prior to teaching at Southwestern, Sanchez worked as an IMB (then Foreign Mission Board) missionary in Panama from 1967 to 1971. Upon returning to the United States at the end of his term, Sanchez served as assistant director of the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) in Atlanta, Ga., and as evangelism director and state missions director of the Baptist Convention of New York.

More recently at Southwestern, Sanchez has played a central role in establishing the Global Theological Innovation program at Southwestern Seminary, training pastors and leaders for ministry throughout the world through seminary education. “He is a major part of our Global Theological Innovation program, and we could not have done it without him,” Patterson said. “It is, in my estimation, one of the greatest movements of God in international missions that I have ever seen in my whole life.”

After the presentation of distinguished alumni awards, new alumni officers were elected. Mark Mucklow, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Glendale, Ariz., moved from vice president to president by acclamation. Kevin Moore, pastor of Lamar Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, was nominated and elected vice president.

Reported by Katherine Chute of Gateway Seminary; Pat Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Harper McKay of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew J.W. Smith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Eunsun Han of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Download Story