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

Communications Staff — April 16, 2013

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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