Geoffrey Dennis, former publishing executive, named development vice president at Southern Seminary

Geoff DennisGeoffrey Dennis, a former executive with evangelical publisher Crossway, has been named vice president for development at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, school officials announced Jan. 6.

“Southern Seminary is very pleased to have Geoff Dennis joining our development team in this crucial new capacity,” said president R. Albert Mohler Jr. “The appointment of a vice president for development to work alongside Craig Parker, our vice president for institutional advancement, represents a great step forward for Southern Seminary in our effort to serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and to meet Southern Seminary’s needs in one of the most God-blessed moments of our history. Geoff brings great skills and deep commitments to this new task and I am very glad to welcome him as a crucial member of the Southern Seminary leadership team.”

Dennis, who began his new duties Jan. 1, worked for the last 23 years in various capacities at Crossway, a leading evangelical publisher based in Wheaton, Ill. He served most recently as executive vice president, chief operating officer and associate publisher with oversight of advancement, sales and marketing, digital and information technology, operations, human resources, fulfillment, finance and literature ministries. During his tenure on Crossway’s Publishing Committee, Dennis was involved in the strategic development, market positioning, production and distribution of the English Standard Version Bible, first published in 2001, and the award-winning ESV Study Bible, published in 2008.

“I could not be more pleased that God is sending Geoff Dennis to be part of the Southern Seminary leadership team,” said Parker. “Geoff is a proven leader who possesses professional skills and experience that are second-to-none. Geoff’s accomplishments are significant, but you do not have to be around him long to recognize that he is also a man of great spiritual maturity, warmth and relational gifting. He is going to be an exceptional ambassador for Southern.”

Parker, who leads the seminary’s development program, said Dennis will be an important asset to the development team as the school is experiencing a “wonderful season of growth.”

“The addition of Geoff to our team will make it possible to seize new opportunities for capital gifts — especially for renovation and expansion of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library — planned giving that will be instrumental for growth of the endowment, and other major gifts that will enable us to contain the cost of tuition that must be borne by our students,” Parker said.

Dennis said, “I have a deep passion for effective Christian ministry that serves the body of Christ, a commitment to the application of sound business practice in the ministry environment and desire for the effective use of digital technologies to extend ministry reach and impact. I have great appreciation for the mission and ministry of Southern Seminary and its remarkable history of serving God’s people since 1859. It will be an honor to serve the Lord — as well as students, faculty and staff — through the exceptional ministry of Southern Seminary for many years to come.”

Dennis earned a bachelor of science degree in business management from National Lewis University in Chicago and a master of arts degree in theological studies from Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill.

He and his wife of more than 20 years, Allison, are parents to four children. Dennis has served in various church capacities, including as elder, worship leader and small group leader.

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On CNN, Mohler defends ‘Duck Dynasty’ star’s views about homosexuality

 R. Albert Mohler Jr. (right), president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appeared on “CNN Newsroom” today, with host Brooke Baldwin and Wilson Cruz, representing the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
R. Albert Mohler Jr. (right), president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appeared on “CNN Newsroom” today, with host Brooke Baldwin and Wilson Cruz, representing the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Earlier today on “CNN Newsroom,” R. Albert Mohler Jr. defended the view of homosexuality espoused by “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, noting the reality television celebrity’s concern to spread the message of the gospel.

Robertson, the “patriarch” of the Louisiana family featured in A&E network’s widely popular reality television show, told a writer for GQ magazine about his Christian faith and the faith of his family. He spoke openly — and at times crudely and graphically — about sin. His comments specifically related to homosexuality, which he views as sinful, caused A&E to suspend Robertson indefinitely from the show. And his dismissal has generated a controversy centering around the Christian perspective on homosexuality, religious liberty and freedom of speech.

“I’m going to defend Phil on this very clearly,” Mohler, who is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told “CNN Newsroom” host Brooke Baldwin.

“He put his comments in the context of the gospel; he was doing exactly what Christians should do,” he said. “And, by the way, the GQ article is very clear about this. His concern was to help people to know their need for Christ and to turn to Christ and to believe in Christ and find salvation in Christ.”

Mohler added: “And he was talking about that in the context of sin; he wasn’t comparing one sin to another. He was doing what the Bible does repeatedly: and that is put out a list of sins that includes all of us so we know our need for Christ. And in those sins, Phil was very clear: he included himself amongst the sinners who needs Jesus, like we all have to do continually. ”

Baldwin asked Mohler if he supported Robertson’s comments. In response, he explained that while he would not express himself in the manner Robertson did, he affirms the biblical teaching embraced by Robertson.

“I wouldn't have put it exactly how he put it; I wouldn't have been so anatomical,” Mohler said. “He was answering a question he was asked and he did so in a way that, in terms of its substance, was unquestionably faithful to the Scripture and is faithful to what most people around the world believe right now, and what virtually all Christians have believed throughout the entire history of the church until this moment, and continuing. … I wouldn’t have said it exactly how he said it. But what he said — what is causing the offence — is classic Christianity.”

Mohler also said that he thinks the reason that “Duck Dynasty” appeals to such a large audience — some 14 million weekly viewers, according to Nielsen — is its presentation of a “wholesome” family that is not available elsewhere on television.

“Part of the reason why millions of Americans love ‘Duck Dynasty’ has very little to do with ducks, and everything to do with the Christian life, the family life, the wholesomeness of that program. And quite frankly it’s a picture of family life you don’t get almost anywhere else in terms of popular television. That’s why there’s so much attention there. And there’s a very positive, healthy depiction of Christianity in life of that family.”

During the same segment as Mohler, Baldwin spoke with Wilson Cruz, strategic giving officer and national spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Although Mohler and Cruz both appeared on-screen along with Baldwin, the two did not interact.

The “Duck Dynasty” segment of “CNN Newsroom” — "Bigotry vs. Belief" — is available here.

This morning, Mohler posted an essay at his website — “You Have Been Warned—The ‘Duck Dynasty’ Controversy” — addressing the issue.

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Mohler to discuss “Duck Dynasty” controversy on CNN at 2 p.m.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is scheduled to appear today on CNN at  2 p.m. EST to discuss the recent controversy surrounding “Duck Dynasty” cast member Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality to GQ magazine.

This morning, Mohler posted an essay at his website — “You Have Been Warned—The ‘Duck Dynasty’ Controversy” — addressing the issue. In the essay, he questions Robertson’s wisdom in agreeing to an interview with GQ and notes that some of his comments were “rather rude and graphically anatomical.” But, “the fact remains that it is the moral judgment he asserted, not the manner of his assertion, that caused such an uproar,” writes Mohler.

He continues, “So the controversy over 'Duck Dynasty' sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life — say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.”

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Mohler tells winter 2013 graduates to be torchbearers for Christ

IMG_9605-webAt the winter commencement service of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 157 students received degrees, Dec. 13, 2013.

At the ceremony, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary, delivered a commencement address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” in which he charged graduates to be a torchbearers for Jesus Christ.

“Take the light; send the light; defend the light; declare the light; teach the light; preach the light,” he said during the seminary’s 212th commencement exercises. “And let the light of Christ shine, confident that, even as he is our light, he will draw sinners unto himself. In other words, ‘preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching,’” he continued, quoting 2 Timothy 4:2.

Throughout the address, Mohler contrasted a 1838 commencement address at Harvard Divinity School by Ralph Waldo Emerson with the words of the prophet Isaiah (Isa 9:2-7).

“Emerson’s ‘Divinity School Address’ is now remembered as one of the most influential commencement addresses ever delivered to an American audience,” Mohler said.

“Emerson was declaring theological independence from every authority and model, including the Bible, the prophets and the apostles,” he said. “Do not be imitators, he charged the students, go alone, in your own light, and with their own ‘immeasurable mind.’

“[Emerson] declared each of the graduates, ready to assume the pulpit, as ‘a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost’,” Mohler said.

In contrast, the prophet Isaiah — in Isaiah 9:2: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone” — reveals that “the people were walking in darkness, but have now seen a great light. They were dwelling in deep darkness, but the light has now shone on them,” he said.

In the end, Mohler concludes that “Ralph Waldo Emerson had it wrong.”

Mohler said: “The minister of Christ is a torchbearer, not a newborn bard of the Holy Ghost; but this is a greater calling, not lesser. By God’s sheer grace, the light has shone on us. Now we share that light with others.”

Mohler’s entire address is available in audio and video at the SBTS Resources page, www.sbts.edu/resources. A complete manuscript of the address, “On Them Has Light Shined — The Christian Minister as Torchbearer,” is available at www.albertmohler.com.

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William Hull, former provost and dean at Southern Seminary, dies at 83

p.hulw.003William Hull, 83, former provost and dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died Dec. 10 from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, according to a press release from Samford University.

Hull taught New Testament at the seminary for 17 years, during which time he served as dean of the School of Theology and the seminary’s first provost. He then, in 1975, became the pastor of First Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., and in 1987 he became the provost at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

“Bill Hull was a gifted scholar and a born leader, and he stood as a giant in his generation of Southern Baptists,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the seminary. “He was a dedicated professor and a gifted administrator, who helped to define the roles of dean and provost at Southern Seminary.

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Southern Seminary Communications team wins graphic design awards for fourth year in a row

IMG_9417 lowerFor the fourth year in a row, Southern Seminary’s Office of Communications received five awards at the 24th-annual Louisville Graphic Design Association (LGDA) 100 Show, Dec. 6, 2013.

“The mission of Southern Seminary has attracted a talented creative team committed to producing innovative communication materials,” said Steve Watters, vice president for communications at the seminary, who leads the office. “It’s a testimony to their commitment that Southern’s work should not only be recognized by an organization as prestigious as LGDA, but that the gospel-centered materials Southern submitted should be recognized so highly, including the Best in Show award.”

Of the six compositions the office submitted, five won. The design team received the highest available award, the Best in Show award for the 2013-14 Southern Seminary Viewbook. The office also received a gold award for the design and layout of The Call to Ministry journal; a silver award for DVD packaging of “Don’t just stand there: say something,” the 2013 convocation address by Southern Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr.; and bronze awards both for a Women at Southern booklet and photography from a recent study tour to Israel. Southern’s photographer, Emil Handke, also won a “people’s choice” award for a portrait submitted as a personal entry.

Southern Seminary’s creative team includes creative director Eric Jimenez, lead designer Andrea Stember, graphic designers Daniel Carroll and Gabriel Reyes, photographer Handke, account executive Lindsey Poenie, special projects manager Jason Thacker and production coordinator Brittany Loop, as well as interns Ashley Dunn and Amy Loh. The lead writer for the viewbook and The Call to Ministry was Matt Damico.

The LGDA 100 Show accepts entries from professional graphic designers and creative service agencies in the Louisville, Ky., area. The show’s panel of judges include directors, designers and entrepreneurs from leading creative service companies around the country. Judges for the 2013 show were Katie Heit Gardner of Tomorrow Studio in San Francisco, Calif.; Kevin Grady of Ideo in Boston, Mass.; and Eric Thoelke of Toky in St. Louis, Mo.

The 2013 100 Show is the final LGDA event, as the organization will become a chapter of the 23,000-member American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). More information about the LGDA is available at lgda.org; information about AIGA is available at aiga.org.

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New Southern Seminary worship degree format allows leaders to earn degree without relocating

Crider photo webA new delivery method for the master of arts degree in worship leadership will allow worship pastors with substantial experience to earn a seminary degree in as few as three years without relocating from their local church ministry. The program, offered through the Department of Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will begin enrolling students in June 2014.

“We are thrilled to announce the new  master of arts in worship leadership professional track. This new delivery model allows students to study online throughout the year and attend a two-week summer intensive for three summers,” said Joseph R. Crider, professor of church music and worship and executive director of the Institute for Biblical Worship, who led in developing the program. “We believe students are looking for the type and quality of education that Southern Seminary provides, and this delivery model will be a significant step in serving those students.”

The Department of Biblical Worship is a part of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Seminary.

“Students enrolled in the M.A. in worship leadership professional track will enter this coming summer [June 2014] for the program’s foundational courses, and then begin supplementing their residential summer study with our online theology courses the rest of the year,” Crider said. “During the two week sessions, we will offer band lab courses, a summer worship choir, applied lessons and the other performance-based courses that are nearly impossible to deliver effectively online.”

The M.A. in worship leadership requires a total of 61 credit hours. In the professional track, students earn all of their worship- and music-related credits during two-week intensive terms for three summers. Students then complete the degree’s core courses online — including biblical studies, theology and ministry —  during the standard fall and spring semesters.

This new model is a part of Southern Seminary’s commitment to combining the best of online education with the best of traditional formats. With the M.A. in worship leadership professional track, seasoned worship pastors can complete a degree that brings together the seminary’s historic, 154-year-old campus, with the engagement and fellowship that characterize the seminary experience and make it irreplaceable — all while continuing to serve in their local church.

Information about this new degree program — including instructions on how to apply — is available at sbts.edu/bgs or email Crider at jcrider@sbts.edu.

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Mohler: Southern Baptists need ‘table manners’ when discussing Calvinism

Mohler, Hankins conversation Nov. 7, 2013 webSouthern Baptists need to “learn the table manners of denominational life” when discussing the controversial issue of Calvinism, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during a Nov. 7 “conversation” with Mississippi pastor Eric Hankins at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, and Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., co-chaired a 19-member Calvinism Advisory Committee that issued an unanimous report in May to Executive Committee President Frank Page, who assembled the group, acknowledging tension and disagreement within the Southern Baptist Convention. The report urged Southern Baptists to “grant one another liberty” on Calvinism while joining arms for the Great Commission.

In recent years, a debate about Calvinism, a term associated with the doctrine of salvation taught by 16th century theologian, John Calvin, has generated controversy within the SBC, with each side of the debate convening conferences, publishing books and issuing theological statements. Mohler holds to Calvinistic soteriology. Hankins was the primary author of “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” issued in 2012 as an alternative to Calvinism.

Mohler invited Hankins to hold the public discussion before students and faculty in order to model how Southern Baptists who differ on the often-contentious issue can dialogue with each other while remaining committed to working together. Hankins also preached in Southern Seminary chapel earlier in the day.

Throughout the hour-long conversation, both men affirmed the need for Southern Baptists on both sides of the debate to exercise humility and show grace to those who disagree.

“We have to learn the table manners of denominational life," Mohler said. “There is a certain etiquette and kindness that is required, just like in the family reunion.”

The Southern Baptist family is made up of Calvinists and those who are not, he said.

“The decision to be a Southern Baptist is the decision to work with the people” on both sides of the debate, Mohler said. “We should not be surprised by differences of understanding of the issues that are comfortably within the Baptist Faith and Message,” he added, citing the SBC’s confession of faith, most recently revised in 2000.

Hankins said, “There’s been too much ugliness,” noting a friend warned him before issuing the “traditionalist” statement that “Calvinists will maul you. … And he was right.”

“That goes both ways,” Mohler responded, to which Hankins replied, “I absolutely acknowledge that.”

Both men agreed that terminology and labels are significant hurdles to better understanding on both sides of the debate.

Hankins flatly rejected the term “Arminian” to describe his theology due to Arminianism’s rejection of eternal security of the believer, among other reasons.

Arminianism is named for late 16th century Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius who rejected some tenets of John Calvin’s theology of salvation. His followers, known as the “Remonstrants,” issued their views in 1610, to which followers of Calvin responded in the Synod of Dort in 1619. Both Calvinists and Arminians express their convictions with five points addressing various aspects of salvation.

Hankins also said “non-Calvinist” is not a good term — one he “hates” — while conceding, “We do not have good terms.”

Hankins said he used “traditionalist” to attempt to describe his views in contrast to Calvinism, although he acknowledged the term is offensive to some Calvinists.

“I wasn’t trying to insult anyone. I was just trying to come up with a name. … I hope to figure out some way to talk about what the distinctions are, but I don’t have a good answer to that question,” he said.

Mohler said, “I am troubled at times and challenged perpetually about what language to use,” noting the term “Reformed” carries its own misunderstandings.

Hankins said most Southern Baptists who hold to less than four points of classical Calvinism do not consider themselves Calvinists. Mohler noted, however, that Southern Seminary’s confession of faith, the Abstract of Principles, only requires adherence to three points of Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election and perseverance of the saints. The other two points of Calvinism are limited (or particular) atonement and irresistible (or effectual) grace.

“So it is a very interesting thing in that I think most people would look at the Abstract of Principles and say it was Calvinist, and I think that would be right,” Mohler said, adding that “from the very beginning” of the seminary, there were faculty “who were more or less Calvinist on some of these very questions.”

Hankins said a “real problem” is Calvinists who consider his soteriological views to be “deficient.” That attitude “propelled me to say something,” responding to what he considered to be a new “tone” among Calvinists.

Mohler responded, “Well, I do think your soteriology is deficient,” while adding that in truth Hankins would say the same about his soteriology.

He said “theological humility” requires both sides to acknowledge “we’re doing the very best we can.”

Mohler said those who hold to all five points of Calvinism and those who do not are still capable of cooperating together in the Great Commission and other ministries, as long as they can both affirm the Baptist Faith and Message.

Mohler and Hankins agreed that the BF&M in its current form is sufficient for both sides of the debate.

“I need to say publicly in this conversation with you — I do not want our Baptist Faith and Message to be any narrower than it is now,” Mohler said. Hankins responded, “I sense zero interest in having the Baptist Faith and Message be this battleground and we’re going to fix it there.”

Mohler asked Hankins to outline areas of Calvinist “misbehavior.”

Hankins said Calvinists should not dismiss those who disagree with them as “stupid.” Some young, aggressive Calvinists make older pastors who reject Calvinism “feel inadequate.”

Hankins noted, “Those who hold to non-Calvinism can do so with a robust seriousness about the sovereignty of God, a robust seriousness [about] the absolute ruination of sin over humankind, and the singularity of the gospel in bringing about salvation and the absolute necessity of the prior working of the Holy Spirit to bring about salvation.”

Another problem are Calvinists who fail to disclose their convictions when under consideration by pulpit committees, Hankins said.

He said search committees should move beyond a yes or no question, “Are you a Calvinist?” on pastoral search questionnaires. “And if you check, yes, they’re going to wad it up and throw it in the trash, which does not need to happen,” he said.

Mohler responded that it’s good that young believers are interested in these issues. “I don’t think you can be too excited about theology or the truths of God’s Word,” he said. “You can just be too excited about your system.”

He added, “If there’s a young, Reformed guy who’s more interested in traveling across the state to argue about John Calvin when he’s not talking to his next-door neighbor about the gospel, then there’s a huge problem.”

Hankins suggested a “rule” for both sides of the debate: “You only get seven days to talk about [Calvinism] and for another seven days you have to actually share the gospel.” The truth, he added, all Southern Baptists are failing to share the gospel.

Hankins said his hope for the future of the SBC is based on cooperation to carry out the Great Commission.

“The concept of cooperating together to do the work of missions and evangelism is beautiful and it’s brilliant,” he said, adding that seminarians need to be engaged in the denomination. “This seminary exists because of that cooperative movement.”

Mohler said in a “post-Christian culture” all Southern Baptists “need each other because we’re going to be up against unbelievable ethical, moral, leadership, discipleship challenges. … I feel right now we desperately need one another and we need the resources we all bring to this.”

He added, “What we need to think about is what it means to have healthy gospel churches in a hostile culture ready to be faithful to Christ.”

In his chapel sermon, Hankins preached about “A Great Commission Hermeneutic” from Luke 24:44-49, asserting the need for “Christ-centered preaching.”

Audio and video from the discussion with Mohler and Hankins’ sermon are available at sbts.edu/resources.

RuthAnne Irvin contributed to this report.

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In a new book, Burk says sex exists to glorify God

20131022_3248-webIn his new book, What is the Meaning of Sex? Denny Burk says that the ultimate purpose of marriage and sexuality, which finds its fulfillment in the picture of Christ’s love for the church, is the glory of God.

Burk, associate professor of biblical studies and ethics at Southern Seminary’s Boyce College, wrote the book to “help communicate to people what the Bible says about the gift of sexuality, why God created this and what we’re supposed to do with it,” he said in a recent interview with Towers, the seminary’s campus newsmagazine.

“I think the most important thing that I’m saying in this book that maybe is not stated as well elsewhere is that sex exists for the glory of God,” Burk said.

“The Bible teaches that the deepest meaning of marriage, and indeed of the gift of sexuality, is to indicate Christ’s love for his church, the way Christ relates to his people,” Burk said. “If you’ve missed that, then you’ve really missed the ultimate meaning of sex and you’ve missed what God’s purposes are for you in Christ.”

In a culture where sexual promiscuity is rampant, Burk says Christians need to prepare to face ridicule for a firm conviction about what the Bible says about sexuality and the world.

“If we’re faithful to Jesus, we’re going to be more conspicuously different than everyone else,” Burk said. “And it means that there’s going to be sometimes a cost for us to pay to be faithful to Jesus in the culture that we live in. Jesus said to us that it would be this way. But it is a change for us and it’s something that Christians are going to have to learn to face with courage and conviction.”

Because Christians live in a sexualized culture, this issue is important for pastors to understand. Pastors know their members’ struggles, and they know that the culture pushes Christians to believe and act contrary to Scripture. So, Burk said, preachers “have a responsibility to preach the Bible to people, to preach in such a way that people would be sanctified and formed into the image of Christ.”

Burk answers what the meaning of sex is by asserting that Christians must understand the gift of sexuality in light of God’s purpose for it and everything else in life. If Christians fail to understand that, they fail to understand why God created humans, he said.

He hopes after people read his book that they understand their own need for Jesus. Christians are not saved through sexual holiness, Burk said. Jesus saves sinners and he sanctifies them into his likeness for God’s glory.

“I want readers to have an abiding hope in Jesus Christ for salvation from sin, but I also want them to see that the same Jesus who saved us is the one who sanctifies us, and he intends for all of our lives to be brought under his sovereign control, and that includes our sexual lives, and he wants our lives ordered for and toward the glory of God.”

Burk’s full interview with Towers is available online at www.sbts.edu/resourses. What is the Meaning of Sex? is available in all major Christian book retailers and on Amazon.com.

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Mohler introduces Billy Graham to new dean of school named for the famed evangelist

Graham-and-Mohler-lower-webIn a rare meeting, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reported to Billy Graham — the world-renowned evangelist and evangelical leader — about Southern Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at the 20-year anniversary of its establishment. He also introduced him to the school’s new dean, Adam W. Greenway.

“It was a tremendous privilege to visit with Dr. Graham and to affirm the friendship that has existed between him and Southern Seminary for so many decades,” Mohler said of the Oct. 29, 2013, meeting at Graham’s home in Montreat, N.C. “My personal friendship with him goes back to when I first came here as president. He played such a pivotal role in the establishment of the Graham School and in my inauguration as president, and I owe to Dr. Graham such a deep personal debt.

In October of 1993, Graham spoke at a worship service held the evening before Mohler’s inauguration as the ninth president of Southern Seminary.

“You have elected a young man here with a tremendous vision, not only for the future of this theological seminary but the future of evangelism and missions in the Southern Baptist Convention and in the world,” said Graham, speaking directly to the seminary’s trustees and broadly to the 9,000 people in attendance at the service. “I support him with all my heart and will pray for him daily from now on.”

When Mohler became the president of the seminary, the school’s board of trustees charged him with returning the school to its founding commitments, from which the school drifted during years previous. Upon his hiring, Mohler faced criticism from the seminary faculty and even uproar among the students.

“There will come difficult times,” Graham said during Mohler’s inauguration. “There are many decisions that you have to make. And one of the things that will be difficult for Dr. Mohler will be the great expectancy there is of him at this moment. And he'll have to make hard decisions. And it won't be a decision that everybody will like.”

Graham’s words proved both prophetic and as source of encouragement to Mohler since then.

“Dr. Graham’s coming in 1993 to speak at my inauguration was such an incredible gift, and it was not only a gift in his presence, but in his words,” Mohler said.

Now, 20 years later, Graham “continues to marvel at what he calls the ‘new Southern’,” according to Graham’s chief of staff, David Bruce, who was present in the meeting. Graham expressed to Mohler his “joy at knowing that the school is reliant on the truth of God’s Word as the focus of study,” Bruce recalled.

“Praise God for the faithfulness of Dr. Mohler and his leadership of Southern Seminary,” Graham said.

Addressing Mohler directly, the evangelist said, “I am grateful to you, Dr. Mohler, for leading Southern Seminary in a reaffirmation of the truth of God’s Word.”

Also in 1993, when Mohler first assumed leadership of the seminary, he announced the establishment of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth. Last week, Mohler reported to Graham about the only school he permits to use his name and introduced him to the school’s new dean, Greenway.

Graham-and-Greenway-lower-web“The invitation to visit with Billy Graham personally was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Greenway, who became the fourth dean of the Graham School in June. “Being dean of the only school Dr. Graham ever endorsed with his own name is a singular honor and a sacred trust, and I took great pleasure in being able to report to him that we remain unwavering in our commitments to the same gospel message and urgent mission that he has so faithfully embodied.”

Greenway is the first dean of the school since it expanded as the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, combining the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism and the School of Church Ministries. The new Graham School serves students of both international and domestic missions, church planting, worship leadership and both local church and educational leadership.

“Seeing [Graham’s] face light up with great joy as Dr. Mohler and I shared about the incredible work God has done and is doing at Southern Seminary in general, and the newly expanded Billy Graham School in particular, was a deeply moving experience,” Greenway said. “I know with certainty that Dr. Graham has a special affection for the Billy Graham School and Southern Seminary, and I left his presence with an even greater conviction about the tremendous stewardship entrusted to me as I lead this flagship school for Great Commission training — a school from which I am a proud alumnus.”

In the meeting, Mohler asked Graham to offer advice for the students at Southern Seminary. In reply, according to Mohler, Graham spoke about the necessity of devotional life to “lead a preacher to truth, spiritual power and ministry effectiveness.”

“Tell them to study more and speak less,” Graham told Mohler and Greenway, Bruce recalled.

Mohler and Greenway’s visit came only a week before Graham’s 95th birthday. Mohler said the two were able to wish the evangelist a happy birthday. A week later, Nov. 7, Graham attended a birthday celebration, where he, in the form of a video recorded during the past year, preached his familiar evangelistic message. The video, titled My Hope America, represents Graham’s “last message to the nation,” his son, Franklin, told USA Today.

In the video, Graham says “how far people have wandered from God” has caused him to weep for the United States and calls for a spiritual awaking in the nation.

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