Criswell College elects Jerry Johnson as president

Communications Staff — December 8, 2003

DALLAS (BP)–The board of trustees of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies (CCBS) unanimously elected Jerry A. Johnson, 39, of Louisville, Ky., as the sixth president and chief executive officer of CCBS, which includes Criswell College and Criswell Communications, during its meeting Dec. 5.

Johnson, a native of Malakoff, Texas, and a 1986 Criswell graduate, will likely assume his duties Feb. 1, Mike Deahl, search committee chairman, told the board.

Johnson comes to Criswell College from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned a doctor of philosophy in Christian ethics and most recently served as dean of the seminary’s Boyce College and a member of the seminary’s executive cabinet.

Johnson succeeds C. Richard Wells, who resigned in May to become pastor of South Canyon Baptist Church in Rapid City, S.D. Since then, Lamar Cooper, executive vice president and provost, has served as acting president of the four-year college begun in 1971 by First Baptist Church of Dallas and named in honor of the late W.A. Criswell, the church’s longtime pastor.

“He [Johnson] has taught in academic settings, and he has administrative experience as a dean, and he has served extensively as a pastor,” board chairman Royce Laycock said. “He brings a pastor’s heart to this position in addition to all the other strengths we need.”

In addressing the board before his election, Johnson said he sensed a strong calling to Criswell though, initially, he resisted because he and his family were happy in Louisville. He explained how as a young Southern Baptist college student he became disillusioned with Christian education and considered leaving the Southern Baptist Convention, only to discover Criswell College after coming to Dallas to hear Criswell preach.

Johnson, referred to in the meeting by a trustee as a “[spiritual] grandson of Dr. Criswell,” said he would work to maintain the school’s foundational principles developed by Criswell himself, which included a commitment to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture; the centrality of expositional preaching, and the priority of evangelism.

Johnson also said he would work to increase emphasis on student recruitment, financial development and relationships inside and outside the institution.

Quoting B.B. Warfield, Johnson told the board, “’If the call to preach is the highest calling, then there is no greater task than to prepare men to do it.’

“That is why I am excited about this opportunity,” he said.

Jim Richards, a Criswell trustee and executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, said, “With tremendous rejoicing and celebration I welcome Dr. Jerry Johnson back to Texas and The Criswell College. He brings scholarship, a passion for souls and a Christ-like spirit to the office of president. I believe and pray that The Criswell College’s best days are ahead. It is my delight to have Jerry as a co-laborer in Texas. I have counted him among my dearest friends for a number of years. It is now a special treat to be able to work more closely with him.

“The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has a strong advocate in Dr. Johnson. We share the same convictions. We desire to reach people for Christ. We are a part of the greater Southern Baptist Convention family. Jerry Johnson will make a tremendous impact in the years to come.”

Richards added, “Rhonda is a lovely first lady for the college. The children will bring excitement to the campus. It is a new generation, a new day and a new opportunity for The Criswell College and Texas.”

Mac Brunson, pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas and Criswell College’s chancellor, said, “I think it was very clear to all of us on the day that we interviewed Dr. Johnson that there was a unanimity in the room that we felt like that this was the man, clearly, that God had brought to us.

“We’ve been through a long process … yet the Lord guided us through it all to Jerry, and I‘m excited about his being here, I really am,” Brunson said.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, commented, “I congratulate Jerry Johnson upon his election as president of The Criswell College. Jerry Johnson is a man of rare gifts and solid conviction. He combines first-rate scholarship with evangelistic passion and stellar leadership ability. The Criswell College has chosen a young man with great gifts as its next president. He is a personal friend and a cherished colleague. We will surely miss him as dean of Boyce College, but we expect great things out of his service at the helm of his alma mater.”

For nine years Johnson served Southern Seminary as a trustee — two as board chairman — and later served the school in administration and teaching.

In addition to serving as a Southern Seminary trustee, Johnson also served on the executive board of the Denver Association of Southern Baptist Churches, the Colorado Baptist General Convention and on the Credentials Committee and Committee on Order of Business of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Johnson’s first ministry assignment was as pastor of Ireland Baptist Church in Ireland, Texas, from 1982-83. He has served as a youth pastor, interim pastor and pastor at numerous churches. He earned a master of divinity degree in 1998 from Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary; he served churches in Colorado for 12 years after earning a bachelor of arts degree in biblical studies at Criswell in 1986. Johnson is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Evangelical Philosophical Society and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity.

During his doctoral work at Southern Seminary, Johnson completed tutorials at Oxford University from 1999-2002, and he was a Garrett Research Fellow from 2000-02 and a Bodleian Library Reader at Oxford, 1999-2003.

Criswell College is an affiliate institution of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. It has 17 full-time faculty and numerous part-time and adjunct professors at its campus east of downtown Dallas, which until 1989 was the campus of Gaston Avenue Baptist Church. The student body includes more than 400 students from 30-plus states and 30 countries. The college grants undergraduate through master-level degrees.

The Criswell Center for Biblical Studies also includes Criswell Communications, which includes several radio stations, including its flagship Dallas station, KCBI-FM.

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