Mohler tells spring 2013 graduates to minister in Jesus’ name

Two hundred forty-seven Southern Seminary students received degrees – ranging from certificates to doctorates – during commencement exercises on the seminary lawn, May 17, 2013.

“This great assembly is humbled by the knowledge that you will go where so many of us have never gone,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, told the 210th graduating class. “You will go to churches of all shapes and sizes and contexts. You will go into the streets with mercy and into the cities with compassion. You will go into homes with care and into places marked by both light and darkness. You will go to preach the Word, to declare the good news of salvation, to make disciples. You will teach and preach and care and pray. You will lead and learn and point people to Jesus.

“Our fervent prayer is that, as you go, you go with the longing to be asked the question that was so famously asked of Peter and John: ‘By whose power or by what name did you do this?’ We long to hear you answer, ‘This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’

“That question may land some of you in jail. It will be asked of others in jungles. But, wherever you are asked and regardless of who does the asking, the answer is always the same: ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’”

Also at graduation, Mohler presented the Findley B. and Louvenia Edge Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence to Russell D. Moore, who, in addition to his role as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration, has served as professor of Christian theology and ethics. This was Moore’s final commencement before beginning as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, June 1.

Mohler presented a posthumous master of divinity degree to Heather Weeks on behalf of her husband, Wesley Matthew Weeks, who died March 28 after a short battle with cancer. Matt served as the administrative pastor at FBC Kissimmee in Kissimmee, Fla.

Mohler’s entire address is available in audio and video at the SBTS Resources page, www.sbts.edu/resources. A complete transcript of the address, “‘By What Power or by What Name Did You Do This?’ The Question Every Minister of Christ Must Long to Be Asked,” is available at www.albertmohler.com

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Smith named Southern Seminary executive editor, spokesman

Veteran Southern Baptist journalist James A. Smith Sr. has been named seminary executive editor and chief spokesman of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, school officials announced May 15.

"Jim Smith is one of the most respected journalists and writers in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a man of great gifts and tremendous experience,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, said of Smith, who has served as executive editor of Florida Baptist Witness since 2001. “I have known Jim Smith for many years, and I have seen the evidence of his work and leadership up close. I am tremendously proud to have him return to Southern Seminary in this important new capacity.

“I am so thankful for Jim Smith's commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention and to the cooperative work of our denomination. He will bring a wealth of experience to this new position. Furthermore, he is passionately committed to the development of a Christian worldview and to the equipping of the church. We welcome Jim and Linda Smith back to Southern Seminary," Mohler said.

In the new position, Smith, 48, will oversee the editorial content of the seminary’s publications, supervise the seminary’s news operation, and lead public and media relations. He is expected to start no later than Aug. 1.

Smith expressed excitement about returning to the seminary’s administration, having served 1997-2001 as news and public relations director at the school.

“I’m thrilled about the opportunity to serve again at Southern Seminary,” Smith said in a May 9 statement to the Witness board of directors.

“Because President Albert Mohler is such a pivotal figure in Southern Baptist life and the broader evangelical world, this is a wonderful opportunity to minister in a place of great significance to our denomination and the Kingdom,” Smith said.

While expressing great “affection” for Florida Baptists, Smith said he is convinced God is calling him to Southern.

“I have been blessed abundantly by serving as executive editor of Florida Baptist Witness,” he said. “My time here has greatly shaped me, making me the minister I am today.”

Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz and chairman of the Witness Board of Directors, said in a May 13 statement it was with a “mixture of joy and sadness” that the board announces Smith’s departure.

Whitten said the board has joy in the knowledge that Smith will be able to work for the institution he loves.

“He is not only a graduate of Southern, but his love runs deep for Dr. Al Mohler and the entire staff; and like Florida Baptists, he will serve them well,” he said.

“Our sadness is that for 12 years Jim Smith and Florida Baptists have been talking to one another through articles, editorials, and reports,” Whitten said. “And we will miss his conservative mind, theological heart, his political views, and gifted pen.”

Whitten said Smith’s “accomplishments are many, and we have been tremendously blessed to have had Jim at the helm these past 12 years.”

Speaking on behalf of the board and Florida Baptists, Whitten told Smith he will be greatly missed.

“We pray God’s best for you and Linda as you begin a new chapter in Louisville, Ky.,” he said. “They will love you as we have. Thank you for your devotion to the Lord, the accuracy of your writing, and your heart that always came through in your editorials. You will be greatly missed.”

In Smith’s 12 years at the Witness, the official newspaper of the Florida Baptist State Convention, he has emphasized coverage on missions, theology and moral concerns. The Witness website (gofbw.com), established in 2002, is now vastly expanded with readers across the Southern Baptist Convention and is watched closely by reporters of Florida newspapers. His editorials took a strong, conservative position on issues within the denomination and in the broader culture.

Under Smith’s leadership, the print edition of the newspaper has gone through three redesigns, added color, and moved from a weekly to a bi-weekly print edition. It is available on mobile devices and in a digital online format.

In 2011-2012, Smith served as president of the Association of State Baptist Publications, the fellowship of state Baptist newspaper editors.

Previously, Smith worked in public relations at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. Also, he was the first Washington, D.C., staff member of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, serving 1989-1995.

Smith earned a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary in 1999 and is also a graduate of Dallas Baptist University. He and his wife, Linda, are parents to two adult children.

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Moore preaches final sermon on staff, seminary honors him for nearly a decade of service

Southern Seminary honored Russell D. Moore for his nearly 10 years of service, April 16, when he preached his last chapel sermon as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration.

Earlier this year, on March 26, trustees of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention elected Moore as its next president. Moore, 41, will be the eighth president of the ERLC, an organization that addresses moral and religious freedom issues in the public square. Moore’s last day in his role at Southern Seminary is May 31.

This chapel service came during the spring meeting of the Southern Seminary Board of Trustees. Before Moore preached, seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. addressed those in attendance, which included members of the board and a sizable gathering of the seminary community. Mohler introduced Moore and commented extensively about the dean’s tenure at Southern Seminary.

“It humbles me to think about how many men have stood behind this pulpit to preach,” said Mohler as he stood behind the pulpit of Alumni Chapel, which the school built in 1949. “It should cause all of us to consider how many firsts and lasts have taken place here. This pulpit and this chapel have stood here long enough for generations to come and generations to go. And we recognize that we don’t get to hold on to people. They come and they go. And we recognize that that is exactly what this institution stands for: we are not here to accumulate people, but to deploy them. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“This is the last sermon Russell D. Moore will preach here as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is going to be the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nothing should make Southern Baptists more thankful than that fact. God has prepared Russ Moore for this position in a way such that anyone close to him, anyone who knows him, knows that God made his genetic structure for this job and made him for this time.”

Mohler continued: “I knew him as a student. I have known him as a colleague. And this is one of those bittersweet moments when we say ‘goodbye’ to a friend. At the same time, we want to rejoice because we have immense personal and institutional pride in Southern Baptists’ electing him to this position, and we want him to know how grateful we are for his years of service here. Transformative years. Crucial years. Historic years.

“When you work with someone, you inevitably get to know them better day-by-day and year-by-year. To know Russ Moore is to know that what you see in him in the first is only just a hint of what is to come. Southern Baptists will discover this year-by-year, through his service as president of the ERLC. We have experienced that — I most close at hand and most gratefully.

“There are so many things that could and might properly be said, but the most important thing to say is ‘thank you’ to Russ Moore.”

Moore preached a sermon titled, “The Weight of Twelve Stones: Reflections on a Grateful Goodbye” from the Book of Joshua, chapter 4. Moore explained that he chose that particular chapter because of a sermon he heard years before that contributed to his attending Southern Seminary.

“I chose this text today because this text chose me,” Moore said. “This text is the reason we wound up here at Southern Seminary in the first place. In 1995, at the sesquicentennial Southern Baptist Convention, I heard Al Mohler preach from Joshua 4: ‘What Mean These Stones?’ I’d been to a lot of religious events, and in many of these I’d heard strings of clichés put together in order to evoke ‘amens,’ in order to prop up whatever status quo was being propped up. But this was different. This was someone preaching with a power, with a conviction, with a rootedness and with a theological vision that wasn’t some kind of antebellum reenaction of somebody else’s thought.

“He spoke as someone not speaking for Bible-belt civil religion, but someone speaking of an ancient vision of what it means to be the people of Christ,” Moore said. “He was preaching something that sounded so different from anything I had ever heard from a living person. It was a vision that wasn’t only 150 years in the past, but a vision that was looking 150 years into the future. And as I stood there listening to that, I said, ‘That is what I believe; that’s the vision I hold to and I would love to give my life to.’ And I still do.”

According to Moore, this sermon by Mohler sparked an interest in him in studying at Southern Seminary under a president he saw as a visionary leader. Nearly 15 years later, Moore’s journey at Southern includes posts as a doctoral student, research assistant for the president, professor and administrator.

Moore explained that the stones the Israelites build on the bank of the Jordan in Joshua 4 are to establish a continuing pattern of memory with the Israelite community, so that later generations both remember that God brought his people through the Jordan River, and see a vision for God’s protecting and guiding them into the Promised Land.

Moore connected this idea to God’s placing people in the lives of Christians as markers both of God’s faithfulness in the past and a vision for the next generation. He said, for him, these kinds of people define his tenure at Southern Seminary, from students and faculty to fellow executive leaders and interns. And one particular person who serves as a marker for him is Mohler.

“There’s a danger, whenever you have a hero in the faith who you get to see up close, that that hero is just an artifice,” he said. “And that was not the case when I came around Al Mohler. I’ve travelled all over the country with him, and we’ve worked together here where I’ve been able to see his leadership up close, having to work together in good times and in bad times. In every step of the way, I have seen the same vision, the same conviction, the same integrity that I first heard at the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Immediately following Moore’s sermon, the seminary held a reception in his honor. Hundreds of people — trustees, faculty, staff, students and friends — filled the Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion to congratulate and express appreciation to Moore and his family, including his wife, Maria, and their five sons. At the reception, Mohler presented the Moore family with a large, commemorative photograph of Southern Seminary’s campus. The school also gave Moore a portrait of one of the seminary’s founders and influential Southern Baptist, John Broadus.

Later the same day, during the plenary session of the board of trustees meeting, the board laid hands on Moore to pray for him and his new responsibility at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Mohler further commented on his working relationship with Moore. Mohler said, recounting the recent death of his father, that one of the things he learned is to appreciate those people who are worth missing.

“I’m thankful for so much that I have that is worth mourning the missing,” he said, “I told Russ Moore as we walked out of the chapel today, ‘There won’t be a day I won’t miss you.’ And I am thankful to have had a colleague I’ll so greatly miss.

“Precious is a day like this in the life of Southern Seminary. I’m glad we didn’t miss it.”

Audio and video from Moore’s final sermon as dean and senior vice president are available at the Southern Resources Web page: here.

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At its spring trustee meeting, Southern Seminary announces formation of new school, names new academic leadership and expands budget

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary announced the formation of a new school, named new academic leadership and approved an expanded budget at the spring meeting of its board of trustees, April 16. These moves aim to position the school strategically to continue carrying out its mission.

New school of missions, evangelism and ministry

Beginning in August 2013, the seminary will launch a new school: the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. This school, which combines the current Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, established in 1994, and the School of Church Ministries, 2009, will serve students of both international and domestic missions, church planting, worship leadership and both local church and educational leadership.

“The new Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry consolidates the great strengths of Southern Seminary’s tradition in Great Commission ministry, in global evangelism outreach and in ministry to the local church,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., who is president of the seminary. “In a new global age, it is vitally important that students who graduate from Southern Seminary are exposed to a comprehensive curriculum that will prepare them for the challenges of real-life ministry in the local church and the mission fields of the world. This new school will bring together a comprehensive ministry vision and Great Commission passion.

"Southern Seminary was the first seminary in the United States to have an endowed chair of Christian missions,” Mohler said. “It is now the first in the nation to combine the strengths of these disciplines into one school of missions, evangelism and ministry. Missions must be more than a department; it must permeate the entire curriculum. The creation of this new school allows us to penetrate the entire institution with Great Commission urgency.”

The new school’s sole purpose will be enhancing the seminary's Great Commission reach and its faithfulness to the local church. Mohler noted the seminary will retain all faculty in the current Graham School and School of Church Ministries, and will retain and even expand the entire curriculum. The seminary plans to name the dean of the new Graham School in coming months.

New academic leadership

Currently, Russell D. Moore serves as the seminary’s lead academic officer under the president as well as dean of the School of Theology. Earlier this year, on March 26, trustees of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention elected Moore as its next president. In light of Moore's recent election, Mohler named Randy Stinson as senior vice president for academic administration and Gregory A. Wills as dean of the School of Theology.

Mohler said that separating the roles of academic administration and dean is now necessary due, in large part, to increased enrollment.

“Southern Seminary has now reached the point in terms of expanding enrollment such that we need to have full-time executive leadership in academic administration and thus separate the roles of dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration,” he said. “We are experiencing record enrollment and we now look to posture the seminary to continue that growth and development. I am pleased to separate these two positions in order to facilitate the future.”

Stinson became the founding dean of the School of Church Ministries at its inception in 2009. He holds a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and master of theology and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southern Seminary. He is also the former executive director and current senior fellow for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

“Randy Stinson is one of the most dedicated, gifted and faithful Christian servants I have ever known,” Mohler said. “It has been a tremendous privilege to have him serve with the executive team. He has shown himself to be a natural leader, a servant and collegial catalyst for the entire institution. He is a gifted servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, a passionate teacher and a man who in his marriage and family life and ministry models everything we want Southern Seminary to represent. He will serve in an outstanding way as senior vice president for academic administration and will also fulfill the responsibilities of provost.”

Wills becomes the 10th dean of the seminary’s oldest and central school since its formation in 1954. Wills joined the faculty of Southern Seminary in 1997 after serving as the seminary’s first full-time archivist starting in 1994. He is now a professor of church history, an associate dean in the School of Theology, vice president for research and assessment and director of the Center for the Study of the Southern Baptist Convention. He holds a bachelor's degree and a master of theology degree from Duke University, a master of divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a doctor of philosophy degree from Emory University.

“Dr. Gregory A Wills is the very model of the Christian scholar,” Mohler said. “I am glad to say I first met him when he was a doctoral student, and it is a tremendous personal satisfaction now, 20 years later, to see him emerge as such a model of scholarship, consecrated learning, academic writing and classroom teaching. Throughout its history, Southern Seminary has had a succession of scholars who have served as dean of the School of Theology. Greg Wills belongs in that illustrious line and will make his own very distinctive contribution to the life and work of the School of Theology. He already has the confidence and appreciation of his peers and faculty colleagues; that will only increase as he moves into this new role and responsibility.”

Moore said of Wills’ appointment: “Gregory Wills is a brilliant choice for dean of the School of Theology. He is a world-renowned scholar, a master teacher, a gifted leader, and a godly man. He will not only have written the history of Southern Seminary, but he will also make it, as he works with President Mohler to take our mother seminary to a new level of excellence. He is committed to the vision of Boyce and Broadus, and he knows the challenges of the 21st century. Greg Wills leads with both the sword and the trowel and with the basin and the towel. Excellent choice.”

Mohler also announced Matthew J. Hall as vice president for academic services, which will include oversight of the Office of Enrollment Management and institutional research and assessment. Hall, currently chief of staff in the Office of the President, is a graduate of Southern and a doctoral candidate at the University of Kentucky.

“I am very pleased to appoint Matt Hall as vice president for academic services,” Mohler said. “Matt is a skilled administrator and a proven leader. He is also a Christian scholar, one who is unquestionably committed to the mission of Southern Seminary. He has served as executive assistant to the president and chief of staff and he will quite naturally move into this new position of expanded responsibilities.”

Expanded budget

Trustees voted to approve a budget for the 2013-14 academic year that represents a 3.3 percent increase from 2012-13.

Mohler said of the school’s fiscal health: “We are thankful for God’s continued blessing on Southern Seminary in terms of enrollment, the support of our donors and most importantly the support of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. We are proud and thankful to be a Cooperative Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention and we are very thankful at this time to be able to move, as in previous years, into an expanded budget.”

Trustees approved the promotion of both Adam Greenway and Heath Lambert to associate professorships, and Robert L. Plummer to a full professorship. The board also granted sabbatical leave for professors Timothy K. Beougher and Bruce A. Ware and extended the contracts of seven other faculty members.

Before concluding their meeting, trustees honored the late Rick Byargeon, a trustee of the seminary who died April 4, 2013, approximately 150 days after doctors diagnosed him with cancer.

“We are so thankful for the service of Rick Byargeon and his service as a trustee of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Mohler said. “His death services to remind us of what it means, regardless of the length of our days, to finish the course. We are thankful that Rick Byargeon finished his course. And we are thankful for the investment of time and energy he made in Southern Seminary.”

Byargeon was most recently the senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church, Ruston, La. Before that, he served as a pastor in other churches and on the faculties of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (1993-1999; 2003-2005) and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (2001-2003). Southern Seminary trustees will present a framed set of resolutions in Byargeon’s honor to his widow, Jonann, and his son, Will.

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Fred Luter calls Southern Baptists to a renewed mind in chapel service

“The enemy will do all that he can to attack the minds of the sons and daughters of God,” said Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in a chapel service at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 11, as he called Southern Baptists to cultivate a renewed mind.

“None of us are exempt from the tactics of the enemy,” Luter said.

Luter, who is also senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La., observed that, despite the fact that God saves sinners so that they might “be light in a dark world and salt in their society,” Christians often do not make a significant impact on their churches, cities or nations. One reason for this, according to Luter, is a lack of renewed minds.

Preaching from Philippians 2:5-8, Luter echoed the exhortation of the apostle Paul to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” A renewed mind helps Christians to think biblically about Christ and the impact his sacrifice should have on the choices of Christians.

Given all that Christ has done for his people, “How can you not want to live and stand for him?” Luter asked.

He also emphasized the cross of Jesus as the purpose for Christ’s incarnation and ministry, as well as the important role it plays in the Christian’s life.

“Everything Jesus did, he did because of the cross. And he did it for you,” Luter said. “But thank God, that’s not how the story ends.”

He closed his message by singing the refrain of the hymn, “At the Cross.”

Russell D. Moore, dean of the School of Theology and president-elect of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, introduced Luter.

“He is the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Moore said, “a convention formed out of two contradictory impulses: to share the gospel throughout the world and to protect the antichrist idolatry of slavery and white supremacy. The gospel won.”

Luter also congratulated Moore for his election as president of the ERLC, expressing confidence that Moore would capably and faithfully fill the role. Luter expressed gratitude to be at Southern Seminary.

“I thank God for this seminary and all it’s done for the kingdom of God,” he said.

Luter’s sermon is available here.

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Mohler to discuss DOMA, Prop 8 on Focus on the Family radio, April 10

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will appear on the “Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast” radio program Wednesday, April 10, to discuss marriage and the Supreme Court.

The program will feature a discussion between Helen Alvare, a law professor at George Mason University, and Mohler about the Supreme Court’s recent review of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8; both of these define marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Focus on the Family Daily Broadcast” airs on radio stations across the nation. Details about area stations and broadcast times are available here. The program will also be available at the Focus website: www.focusonthefamily.com

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Duke K. McCall, Southern Baptist statesman and Southern Seminary president, dies at 98

Duke Kimbrough McCall, a Southern Baptist statesman and former president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, died, April 2, near his home in Delray Beach, Fla., from congestive heart failure and respiratory distress. He was 98.

McCall, whose contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention cover nearly 70 years, profoundly shaped both Southern Seminary and the denomination in ways that continue to define them today. When he became the seventh president of the seminary in 1951 at the age of 36, he already owned a remarkable record of denominational leadership.

He served as president of three different Southern Baptist entities: New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (1943-1946), the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention (1946-1951) and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1951-1982). Second, he invested in denominational leadership as a very young man: he was only 28 when elected president of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Third, he exercised denominational leadership over an extraordinary period of time: 40 years across five decades of the 20th century, and then continued to be an active Baptist voice after his retirement.

By the time he retired in 1982, he had become the longest-serving president in the history of Southern Seminary. Throughout his extraordinary career, his purpose was to serve faithfully the people of God as they followed Christ in advancing his kingdom.

“A giant has fallen in Israel. The death of Dr. Duke K. McCall reminds us of the lengthened shadow one man can cast over a great denomination,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., who is the current president of Southern Seminary. “Dr. McCall was a giant among Southern Baptists. He belongs to that great generation of Southern Baptist leaders who shaped the convention as the 20th century brought new opportunities and new challenges. He, along with Drs. W.A. Criswell and Hershel H. Hobbs, brought the Southern Baptist Convention into the modern age.

“He was Southern Baptist to the core, and he entered denominational leadership at an incredibly young age. He was president of the Baptist Bible Institute, and helped it to become New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, and then he came home to his alma mater, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was to serve as president for three decades.

“His leadership at Southern Seminary represented an entire epoch in this institution's history. He was president during some of the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century, and he guided the seminary through years marked by both peace and controversy. This campus, including the James P. Boyce Centennial Library, bears the marks of his vision and leadership. I was greatly honored to preside at the ceremony that commemorated the opening of the Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion when Southern Seminary marked its 150th anniversary. The Duke K. McCall Lectures on Christian Leadership bring some of the world's great leaders to the Southern Seminary campus,” Mohler said.

He continued: “My relationship with Dr. McCall goes back to my childhood, when he came to my home church as a visiting preacher. Later, he was the president of Southern Seminary when I arrived as a student. I saw his leadership up close, and my admiration only grew. Later, I was able to develop a deep and very personal friendship with Dr. McCall, and for that I am so very thankful. When I was elected president of Southern Seminary, in the midst of difficult days in our denomination, Dr. McCall was among the very first to call me. He offered prayer and friendship from the start, and, even when he would have disagreed with my decisions, he respected the office and offered true friendship.”

Frank S. Page, current president of the Executive Committee said of McCall: “Southern Baptists are indebted to Dr. McCall. I know that I follow some great men, and Dr. McCall is one of them. He now moves to his ultimate reward and stands before our Lord. Southern Baptists have lost a great leader today. He leaves a powerful legacy.”

Chuck Kelley, the current president of New Orleans Seminary, said, “Dr. Duke McCall was one of the most influential leaders in SBC history. He made an indelible impact in New Orleans, presiding over our transition from Baptist Bible Institute to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His influence throughout the SBC was profound, extending from our seminary to the Executive Committee to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and beyond. Whether you agreed with him or disagreed with him, you had to take account of his perspective. He earned the respect and appreciation even of those who disagreed with him. The story of the modern Southern Baptist Convention cannot be told without including the story of Duke McCall.

“I am thankful for Dr. McCall’s giving his life in kingdom service to Southern Baptists and the global Baptist family. New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary will always be in his debt.”

Son of judge John W. and Lizette McCall, Duke McCall was born in Meridian, Miss., in September of 1914, and he grew up with his four siblings in Memphis, Tenn. Following high school, McCall entered Furman University in Greenville, S.C. There, McCall met Marguerite Mullinnix. The couple married shortly after McCall graduated from the university as valedictorian in 1935. The McCalls raised four sons.

1951, McCall beginning his presidency of Southern Seminary

After McCall graduated from Furman University in 1935, he enrolled at Southern Seminary, earning a master of theology degree in 1938 and a doctor of philosophy degree in Old Testament studies in 1942 from Southern Seminary. Through most of his student years he pastored churches, including the prestigious Broadway Baptist Church, Louisville, Ky.

In 1943, the trustees of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, at that time still called the Baptist Bible Institute of New Orleans, elected McCall, despite his youth, because he had earned a reputation for powerful preaching, evangelistic zeal and bold leadership. He looked, however, like an incoming freshman. “Are you new here too?” a freshman asked him in 1943. “Yes I am,” McCall replied, “they have just made me president.”

As president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and as president of the Executive Committee, McCall exercised visionary leadership and attracted the support of leaders throughout the denomination. He was able to move Southern Baptists to accomplish some of the challenging things that the gospel demanded of them. Though young, he demonstrated wisdom and power, and a heart to serve the churches. These things endeared him to Southern Baptist pastors and laypersons.

In 1951, the trustees of Southern Seminary brought McCall back to his alma mater. He  had already proven himself capable of bold leadership in challenging circumstances at Broadway, New Orleans and the Executive Committee. And the seminary trustees ultimately concluded that McCall was their candidate; the search committee brought him to Louisville for the interview in early August 1951. McCall accepted and became the longest serving president in the institution’s history.

On the 60th anniversary of McCall’s election, the seminary honored him at an event, Sept. 6, 2011. In an unprecedented service afforded only few institutions, Mohler led a full-to-capacity Alumni Chapel, in celebrating McCall’s more than 32 years as president of the school.

Earlier that same year, in April, the McCall Family Foundation established the Duke K. McCall Chair of Christian Leadership and the McCall Leadership Lectures series at Southern Seminary. The inaugural lecture in that series came at the anniversary celebration.

2011, McCall at a celebration of the 60th anniversary of his election as SBTS president

Duke K. McCall made deep and varied contributions to Baptist life throughout his remarkable career. Some of them came outside the Southern Baptist Convention, as in his long service and leadership in the Baptist World Alliance. But it was within the life of the Southern Baptist Convention that he made his most durable and impressive contributions. He launched a new era of progress for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He reconceived the work of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in ways that resulted in advances in denominational giving, missionary expansion and institutional prosperity. And in less tangible ways, he left his imprint on Southern Baptists.

McCall leaves behind his wife, Winona McCandless, a widow whom he married after Marguerite died in 1983, and his four sons: Duke Jr., Douglas, John Richard and Michael.

“When a giant of this stature falls, we realize just how few men of his stature are,” Mohler said. “What a remarkable life. Southern Seminary is praying for the entire McCall family. Our prayers are with Mrs. Winona McCall, his beloved wife, and his four sons and their families. I am so thankful to have known Dr. Duke K. McCall as president, statesman, churchman, preacher and friend.”

The family will hold visitation services in the Duke K. McCall Sesquicentennial Pavilion at Southern Seminary, at 1 p.m., Sunday, April 7. A funeral service will be held the next day at Broadway Baptist Church, 4000 Brownsboro Road, Louisville, KY, at 10 a.m.

Gregory A. Wills is professor church history at Southern Seminary and director of the Center for the Study of the Southern Baptist Convention; Aaron Cline Hanbury is manager of news and information at the seminary.

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Richard Albert Mohler Sr., father of seminary president, dies, calls attention to faithful service

The legacy of one Southern Baptist deacon and Sunday school teacher includes serving his local church faithfully for 40 years and raising up one of the world’s most influential evangelical leaders.

Pictured (l to r): R. Albert Mohler Jr., Katie Mohler, Richard Albert Mohler Sr.

Richard Albert Mohler Sr., 76, died Monday, March 18, 2013, after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage in his Deerfield Beach, Fla., home. He died in an area hospital that evening with family gathered at his bedside.

A native of Plant City, Fla., Mohler Sr. leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Janet Johnson Mohler; four children, Richard Albert Mohler, Jr. of Louisville, Ky., Jan Mohler Knight of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Lee Mohler of Boynton Beach, Fla., and Mark Mohler of Melbourne, Fla.; and seven grandchildren.

Mohler Sr.’s eldest son, R. Albert Mohler Jr., received news of his father’s condition early that morning, and arrived in Florida prior to his father’s passing.

Moments after, Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, sent out the following tweet: “My faithful and compassionate earthly father has gone home to be with my Heavenly Father. Blessed be the name of the LORD.”

A retired store manager for Publix Supermarkets, Mohler Sr. was recently honored as deacon emeritus — “deacon for life” — at First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach, Fla., where he and his family became members in 1972. His son, Mohler Jr., delivered a sermon at the tribute service for the honored deacon in January 2013.

Regarding his father’s recognition as deacon emeritus, Mohler Jr. said during the funeral service: “I want you to know how much that meant to him, because if there was any title that he would want other than husband and father and grandfather and friend and believer it would be deacon of the First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach.”

The church’s pastor, Ron Harvey, arrived in Pompano Beach eight years ago, and during that time regarded his deacon, Mohler Sr., as a “mentor and source of godly advice.”

“It is a rare gem for a church to have someone like Dick Mohler.”

Harvey recounted how Mohler Sr. served as a Sunday school teacher for middle and high school-aged students. Remarkably, the teenagers consistently remained silent during lessons because of their high level of respect for the elder Mohler.

“[Mr. Mohler] has influenced so many lives for Christ,” one family friend wrote on the online obituary website legacy.com

“Families move to different locations, but they never forget the foundation and love he poured into the kids of FBC Pompano.”

On Mohler Sr.’s Facebook page, current and former students in the youth ministry posted messages to honor his memory.

One wrote, “I’m eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to spend even a second of time with a man like Richard Mohler. He was compassionate, understanding, humble, always ready to listen.”

That same student described how Mohler Sr. drove him and his brother to church even though their family moved 15 minutes away from Pompano Beach.

“He did this for two years, never once being late and somehow always finding a chance to grab donuts for the ride. Mr. Mohler played a large role in bringing me to salvation in Christ.”

Another student, reflecting on Mohler Sr.’s dedication to the students, wrote: “Who knew that the one youth leader that understood us kids was the oldest one.”

As a Publix store manager for nearly 40 years, Mohler Sr. often provided the youth in his church with their first jobs in order to teach them a solid work ethic. One of those former youth employees shared that he “always admired [Mr. Mohler’s] wisdom and would not hesitate to go to him for advice.”

“I honestly believe he was one of the greatest Christian men that I have met in my lifetime.”

One of those young employees included his eldest son, Mohler Jr., who began working with his father early on Saturday mornings at the age of 14.

In an episode of Mohler Jr.’s daily podcast, “The Briefing,” posted on his website the morning of his father’s funeral, March 21, Mohler Jr. devoted the end of his broadcast to commemorate his father.

“I’m so thankful in a world in which so many did not know their fathers or did not know their father’s love, that I was known by and loved by and named for a father I will so greatly miss,” Mohler Jr. said.

“I am thankful for the legacy of Christian faith he left for me and so many others.”

That legacy was reflected during the funeral service held at First Baptist Pompano, a service that included as speakers Mohler Jr., Harvey, grandson Joey Knight and former youth pastor Brad Jones.

The memorial service drew a large crowd in attendance to remember Mohler Sr.’s life, including prominent Southern Baptist leaders Chuck Kelly, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former chief of staff for Mohler Jr. at Southern Seminary; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Fla.; and Dorothy Patterson, wife of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson.

Harvey reflected on Mohler Sr.’s influence in the community and dedication to serving the church, especially the youth. Mohler Sr. had planned to serve at a youth discipleship event the weekend of March 22-24 and at the Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina during the summer.

Of Mohler Sr.’s role to the youth in the church, Harvey said: “He was like a father figure and maybe in later years, a grandfather figure. He was so loved by the kids in this congregation.”

Mohler Sr.’s grandson, Joey Knight, also spoke at the service. He learned as a student in Mohler Sr.’s Sunday school class and also received instruction from his grandfather on how to set up his Facebook page.

“My grandfather was one of the most godly and Christ-like men that I’ve ever known and has served as a role model for me for as long as I can remember,” Knight said. “He was also the coolest grandfather that I could ask for.”

Jones, FBC Pompano’s former youth pastor, shared his own memories of Mohler Sr., centered around Paul’s instructions on humility in Philippians 2:2-3. Jones currently pastors CityChurch Pompano, a local church plant.

Prior to his arrival at FBC Pompano, Jones received an email from Mohler Sr. after the youth pastor made a connection between the deacon and his son, the president of Southern Seminary.

Mohler Sr. wrote in the email: “I’m proud of my son. He has a ministry that reaches the world. But my ministry is to middle school guys and in what I do, they are my world.”

That was the beginning of a fruitful friendship between Jones and Mohler Sr., who often gave Jones the option of choosing someone “more relevant” to help with the youth group.

Jones said, “If you want to know how to be like Richard Mohler when you grow up, here it is: he was an ordinary man, living an ordinary life with Gospel intentionality. And that ordinary, humble man armed with the good news of the Gospel was extraordinary.”

Mohler Jr. delivered the main eulogy of the service, remembering his father’s life, and ultimately issuing a call for attendees to profess faith in Jesus Christ. Mohler Jr.’s reflections of his father’s life included how their ministries often overlapped.

“The Lord allowed me the joy of having young men show up at the seminary I’m privileged to serve who told me, ‘Your dad taught me in middle school and had a massive impact on my life,’” Mohler said. “And more than one has told me, ‘Your dad led me to the Lord and helped me understand what it meant to come to Jesus and to believe in him and to be saved.’”

Reading from Matthew 7:7-11, Mohler Jr. emphasized the perfect goodness of the Heavenly Father by comparing it to the goodness of his earthly father Mohler Sr., which extended beyond his own children to the children of the church.

Issuing a call to believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, Mohler Jr. said, “My father staked his life on this. My father would want you to know this same truth. My father shared this with me by word and precept and by the quiet confidence of his faith and active energy of his faithfulness.”

Mohler Jr. noted that two years ago, he spoke on the topic of death to biblical counselors using Psalm 116:15 as his Scripture text: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”

“Brothers and sisters, I want you to know even more I believe [Psalm 116:15] now,” Mohler said in the conclusion of his eulogy. “And thus, I can tell you how proud I am to be Richard Albert Mohler Jr., and how thankful I am to be gathered here with you this day with my dear mother, with my wife and children and with my family to say, it is well with my soul.”

And certainly precious is the life, and death, of Richard Albert Mohler Sr.

 

James A. Smith Sr. and Aaron Cline Hanbury also contributed to this article.

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Russell D. Moore elected next ERLC president

NASHVILLE, TENN. (BP) — Russell D. Moore has been elected as the next president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

The ERLC's board of trustees approved Moore, currently dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in a special, called meeting Tuesday (March 26) at a Nashville hotel.

Moore, 41, a native of Biloxi, Miss., will be the eighth president of the entity charged by Southern Baptists with addressing moral and religious freedom issues. With a background in government, the pastorate and seminary training, he already is well-known as a commentator from a Southern Baptist and evangelical Christian perspective on ethics, theology and the culture.

"I am honored and humbled to be asked to serve Southern Baptists as ERLC president," Moore said. "I pray for God's grace to lead the ERLC to be a catalyst to connect the agenda of the kingdom of Christ to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the Gospel in the world."

Moore's election means he will be only the second ERLC president in the last quarter of a century. He will succeed Richard Land, who will retire upon the completion of 25 years leading the entity.

"I am delighted that the Holy Spirit has led the ERLC's trustees to Dr. Russell Moore as the commission's next president," Land said. "Dr. Moore is a godly Christian minister, a devoted husband and father, and a convictional, committed Baptist. His excellent academic preparation, combined with his keen mind and his tender heart for God and His people, make him a person uniquely suited to serve our Savior and Southern Baptists in this crucial role at such a critical moment in our nation's history.

"I join the trustees and ERLC staff in committing to pray for Russell and his dear family as he prepares to assume the tremendous responsibilities of the ERLC presidency," Land said.

Moore will begin his new responsibilities June 1. At that time, Land will become the entity's president emeritus, an honor bestowed on him by trustees in September.

The ERLC trustees' seven-person presidential search committee, chaired by Barry Creamer of Criswell College in Dallas, recommended Moore to the full board after a seven-month process.

"After praying, planning, meeting and working for months to find the man we believe God would have lead the ERLC, we are blessed by the board's election of Russell Moore today and confident that God will use his message to impact churches and the public marketplace of ideas for what is right, true and desperately needed today," said Creamer, Criswell's vice president of academic affairs.

Moore has served since 2004 as dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He joined the faculty in 2001 as professor of Christian theology and ethics and continues in that role.

He was preaching pastor at a campus of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville from 2008-12. While a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Moore was associate pastor at Bay Vista Baptist Church in Biloxi, Miss.

Before attending seminary, Moore served for four years as an aide to pro-life Democratic Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

Moore and his wife Maria are the parents of five sons.

Moore is a leading voice in the growing pro-adoption movement among evangelicals. His 2009 book -- "Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches" -- has played a significant role in that cause and he is a frequent speaker at adoption conferences.

On his blog, in written commentaries, in speeches and in news media interviews, Moore comments frequently on a range of issues and the Christian Gospel's impact on them. These include abortion and other sanctity of life matters, race relations, marriage, pornography, politics and popular culture.

Government, academic and church leaders applauded Moore's selection in written statements.

"His presence of mind and keen insights as a theologian and pastor are such that his work has not only benefited me personally, but many who serve our nation in public life," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. "I have never read anything by Russell Moore that did not leave me with a strong impression that this was a man who could speak carefully and powerfully to the public square."

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said, "He will provide a public voice Southern Baptists will follow and the secular world will respect. ... The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will greatly miss him, as will I, but we congratulate Southern Baptists on the wisdom of their choice. Russell Moore was made for this position of leadership, and for this hour."

SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page, whose Ph.D. is in ethics, said, "Welcome, Dr. Moore to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. As an ethicist myself, I am always concerned about this particular area of our ministry. I am delighted that someone with Dr. Moore's cultural awareness and concern for God's people has been appointed to such a post for such a time as this. I encourage all Southern Baptists to pray for him during this time of transition, for the need has never been greater."

Popular author and Southern California mega-church pastor Rick Warren said he "can think of no one more qualified in experience, in temperament, in passion, and in doctrine to represent us as Southern Baptists on the most critical ethical issues of our day, and on the all-important issue" of religious freedom.

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Moore "has uniquely prepared himself spiritually, theologically, academically, and politically for just such a moment as this. Placing a leader with the right convictions, a razor-sharp mind, and a moral compass that will not fail paints a bright picture for Southern Baptists' future."

In addition to his book on adoption, Moore has written two other books, "Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ" and "The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective." He has three other books scheduled to be published, including one on marriage and one on abortion. Moore also has edited and contributed to other books.

He has served four times on the Resolutions Committee at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting, including as chairman in 2010.

Land, who was 41 when he became head of the entity in 1988, led the transformation of the ERLC during the convention's theological resurgence, moving the commission in a more conservative direction on such issues as abortion. He announced his retirement as ERLC president in July 2012.

In addition to Creamer, other ERLC trustees on the presidential search committee -- all members of Southern Baptist churches -- were Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.; Kenneth Barbic, a lobbyist with the Western Growers Association in Washington, D.C.; Lynne Fruechting, a pediatrician in Newton, Kan.; Ray Newman, executive director of Georgia Citizens Action Project in Atlanta; and Bernard Snowden, family life pastor at Antioch Baptist Church in Bowie, Md. ERLC trustee chairman Richard Piles, who appointed the search committee, was an ex officio member. Piles is pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.

In addition to its Nashville office, the ERLC has an office in Washington, D.C.

More information on Moore, including a full list of endorsements, is available at http://erlc.com/moorepresskit

Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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New plan aims to improve theological writing

In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Poisonwood Bible, missionary pastor Nathan Price preaches to villagers in the Belgian Congo for three decades with no fruit from his labors. Price’s fruitless ministry, which culminates in the death of a daughter and the abandonment of his family, centers on his poor communication. For 30 years, he preaches “Jesus is Bangala,” which translates as “Jesus is a poisonwood tree.” Price’s ministry isn’t fruitless because of a lack of zeal, but because he lacks clear communication.

“Pastors need the ability to communicate the greatest truths clearly, in such a way that the least educated person in their congregation can clearly understand them and see the beauty of these life-changing truths,” said Joe Harrod, director of assessment at Southern Seminary.

Toward that end, the seminary will implement a plan to improve theological writing among master’s degree-level students.

As a part of the seminary’s regular 10-year accreditation reaffirmation process, the school formed an enhancement plan to strengthen an area of student learning. In the process, the faculty at Southern Seminary decided to focus on student writing ability. So, starting fall 2013, the seminary will initiate a quality enhancement plan (QEP) to improve theological writing among master’s students.

Harrod says that while theological writing may seem only an academic pursuit, the fruits of better papers will be “vitally important for the church.”

“We recognized that writing is a key feature of academic life, and also a key feature of pastoral ministry,” Harrod said. “Pastors, missionaries and those serving in other ministries — whether they go on to do a higher academic degree or not — will always be writing. We want to help them write better papers while they’re here, and, ultimately, we want them to be better communicators of the gospel.”

The seminary will improve theological writing among master’s level students primarily through a new rubric for evaluating academic papers in systematic theology courses. This rubric, which represents the consensus and expertise of the Southern Seminary faculty, emphasizes eight areas of theological writing: (1) thesis statements, (2) methodology statements, (3) argument and organization, (4) biblical interaction, (5) source and information literacy, (6) grammar and mechanics, (7) style and (8) Southern Seminary format.

This new rubric will allow professors and graders to give students both objective and constructive feedback on written assignments; students will understand clearly those areas in which they need to improve. They can then pursue improvement through the seminary’s newly bolstered Writing Center.

The QEP team also launched a campus-wide campaign to raise awareness of the initiative, which is an important aspect of the QEP. The seminary’s midterm review of the plan takes place in 2018, at which point the seminary must report to accreditors on the impact of its QEP. But that won’t be the end of the seminary’s emphasis on writing.

“This project will extend far beyond 2018; we want it to become part of Southern’s culture,” said Harrod. “This isn’t just something we do because we have to, we want to improve student writing for the long-run.”

More information about the QEP and the Southern Seminary Writing Center is available at www.sbts.edu/writing

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