EDUCATION DIGEST: Stan Norman named Williams College president; Danny Akin underscores Scripture at SBTS chapel

by Arkansas Baptist News, Southern Seminary & BP Staff, posted Monday, March 19, 2018 (11 months ago)

Stan Norman
Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Baptist News.
WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (BP) -- Stan Norman has been named as Williams Baptist College's seventh president after serving the past nine years as Oklahoma Baptist University's provost and executive vice president.

The March 16 announcement by the college, which is transitioning to university status this summer, caps a five-month search process for a successor to Tom Jones, who led the college for more than five years and now is on the California Baptist Foundation's executive management staff.

Norman, who will assume Williams' presidency April 2, said he is "incredibly honored by this selection and truly humbled at the graciousness of God to lead the Williams board of trustees to invite Joy and me to serve at Williams Baptist University [WBU].

"Six other men have served the Lord faithfully as president of WBU," Norman said of the Baptist college located in Walnut Ridge, "and I recognize that I will stand on their shoulders and that my efforts will benefit from their sacrificial service and contributions."

Norman has worked in Baptist higher education since 1996 as both an administrator and professor, previously serving as a pastor at three churches in Texas.

At OBU, Norman provided executive leadership for academic services, student development, spiritual life, enrollment management and athletics.

J.D. "Sonny" Tucker, executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, which owns and operates Williams, welcomed Norman in "joining Williams Baptist University and the Arkansas Baptist family."

"Stan is a delightful person who brings strong leadership skills and an impressive background to the helm of WBU," Tucker said. "Stan's wife Joy is a gracious, wonderful lady and will be well-received by the university's family and this state. Stan will continue and build upon the impressive work of WBU's previous presidents and lead the university to continued significant Kingdom impact," Tucker said.

J.R. Cox of Walnut Ridge, chairman of the Williams' trustees, said, "Dr. Norman quickly rose to the top in our search process. … His experience and the wonderful demeanor we saw in him and his wife Joy are an ideal fit for our university. We are delighted to welcome them to Williams."

The search committee was led by Bob Magee, music professor and chair of the department of fine arts at Williams.

"Our committee was looking for someone with extensive leadership and administrative qualities as well as experience in an academic setting," Magee said. "Dr. Norman's years at Criswell College, Charleston Southern University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwest Baptist University and Oklahoma Baptist University assured us that he was well-qualified."

As a Christian liberal arts college, Williams offers more than 25 majors across a spectrum of academic disciplines. It was founded in 1941 and has an average fall enrollment of 500 students.

Prior to his service at Oklahoma Baptist University, Norman was vice president for university relations at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., providing leadership for donor, alumni and church relations.

At New Orleans Seminary from 1998-2006, Norman was as an assistant professor of theology, later associate professor, and held the McFarland Chair of Theology and then the Cooperative Program Chair for Southern Baptist studies. While at NOBTS, he created and directed the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry to provide programs and resources for the integration of theology and ministry in Southern Baptist life.

Norman's earlier faculty appointments were as assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University, Charleston, S.C., 1997-1998, and assistant professor of theology and church history at Criswell College in Dallas, 1996-1997.

Norman, a native of Durant, Okla., earned his bachelor's degree at Criswell College followed by a master of divinity and doctor of philosophy in systematic theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. He is the author of "More Than Just a Name: Preserving Our Baptist Identity" (2001).

The Arkansas Baptist News reported Norman's intent to maintain and build on the Christian commitment at the heart of Williams.

"In this regard, I will work to enhance the vibrant, relevant mission of the university. I intend to develop strategic plans and structures to ensure the ongoing viability and growth of Williams," Norman said. "I will also work to identify and implement initiatives and programs that creatively and effectively expand the influence and impact of the university regionally and globally."

Norman added, "I want to meet and get acquainted with the faculty, staff, students and alumni. I also want to learn in greater depth the story and legacy of the mission and vision of WBU. I intend to participate in 'getting-to-know-you' events around the state with Arkansas Baptists and WBU alums and friends."

Norman said he will work to learn the overall operations at Williams as quickly as possible and wants to launch a collaborative effort to develop goals for the next three to five years.

"I hope to work with the WBU community to strengthen and grow the efforts of the university to transform the lives of students to embrace their vocations as callings of excellence and … view their vocations as platforms for ministry and witness," he said.

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Seminary, said Norman is "a stellar example of a rare breed in academia. He is a brilliant scholar in his field of theology, and he is terrific in the classroom. While on the faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, he was one of our most popular professors. He has outstanding administrative gifts and a close connection with Southern Baptists, knowing our churches very, very well. With Dr. Stan Norman at the helm, great days are ahead for Williams Baptist University.

Norman and his wife have three grown sons.

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Danny Akin underscores Scripture in SBTS chapel

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Christians should love the Word of God because it is what God uses to bring His people to belief in Jesus, Danny Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in a chapel address at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Danny Akin
SBTS photo.
"If you're here today and you are indeed a follower of Jesus Christ … you did not come to faith in Him apart from the Word of God," Akin said in his March 13 message at Southern, where he was senior vice president for academic administration and professor of theology and Christian preaching until his election as Southeastern's president in 2004.

"Someone … loved you enough to open the Bible and share the Gospel," Akin said, "and that's how we come to faith in Jesus."

The historical reliability of the Bible often comes into question in the secular sphere, Akin said, referencing skeptics like University of North Carolina New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman, a former evangelical who uses the many textual variants in the New Testament to cast doubt on the accuracy of the text. Many of the students Ehrman seeks to "deconvert" in his classes, Akin said, were raised in a culturally Christian setting and claim to believe in the Bible's inerrancy but haven't read it. Yet believers show what they believe, Akin said, by how they use and love the Bible, not just by what they say about it.

Preaching from 2 Timothy 3:10-17, Akin stated that Christians need to love and treasure their Bibles. The book of 2 Timothy is the last book the apostle Paul wrote before his execution, so it carries a special amount of weight, Akin said. Timothy, the recipient of this letter, was taught from childhood by his mother and grandmother to love the Scriptures, and in Paul's final letter the apostle urged Timothy to remain committed to what he learned.

Christians today can learn a similar lesson -- to treasure the godly heritage they received, Akin said.

"You can trust those who love you most," Akin said, comparing Timothy's mother and grandmother to skeptics like Ehrman. "Why would you trust someone who doesn't love you … whose goal in life is to tear down your faith? … No, Paul says [to Timothy], 'You had a grandmother and mother who loved you more than anyone else in this world, and they taught you the Scriptures. God used your grandmother and your mother to lead you to faith in Christ.'"

Treasuring the Word of God will prepare Christians to face persecution, Akin continued. Paul assumes godly Christians will face some kind of persecution during their lives. While Christians in the United States don't face the same kind of abject mistreatment as many other Christians throughout the world, Akin said believers everywhere face mocking, ridicule and other kinds of belittling opposition, and only the Bible prepares a person to endure such treatment.

A proper understanding of the Bible's place in Christian doctrine also emboldens all missions work, Akin said. Using the categories of "general" and "special" revelation from systematic theology, Akin said general revelation (the created world and a conscience weighed down by guilt) may condemn a soul, but only special revelation (Scripture) can save.

"I'm grateful to be part of a missionary denomination," he said of the Southern Baptist Convention. "I'm grateful that your school is a school that cares about the nations. I'm glad that we are part of a people that has a driving ambition to get the Gospel to every single person on the planet, because if they don't hear the Gospel, they cannot be saved."

And knowing the Bible well and loving it also prepares Christians to face false teachers and deceiving doctrine, Akin said. While false teachers are leading others astray, they also desperately need the grace of the Gospel, he said, noting that the Bible doesn't just expose false teachers but calls believers to minister to them.

"The Bible teaches us that God's Word will protect us from false teachers," Akin said. "It exposes them and it helps us actually understand their heart and their spiritual condition. It will prepare us well not only to defend the faith, but also to fulfill the assignment of an evangelist in their life."

Audio and video of the chapel message are available at equipsbts.edu/video..

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by the Arkansas Baptist News and J.W. Andrew Smith of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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