Southern launches urban ministry center

Communications Staff — September 11, 2008

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a center to help reach people for Christ in urban areas.

Named after a prominent 20th-century Southern Baptist leader, the Wayne and LeAlice Dehoney Center for Urban Ministry will conduct Great Commission research on church growth in the city and provide training and resources for urban ministers.

“More than half of the world now lives in urban settings—including cities in North America to which much of the world has come,” Chuck Lawless, dean of Southern’s Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth, said. “If the church does not invest in the cities, we will miss primary opportunities to touch the world. My prayer is that students will catch a vision for the city, go to the city and plant their lives there for the sake of the Gospel.”

Among the center’s main activities will be hosting conferences and offering continuing education for pastors. The center also plans to produce an online journal for urban ministry practitioners and scholars.

“We want to offer internships and training opportunities for students who want to serve in urban settings,” Lawless said. “Because Southern Seminary has extension center connections near Baltimore, New York, Boston, Cleveland and Chicago, we already have open doors to begin this process.”

Wayne Dehoney, the center’s namesake, pastored Louisville’s Walnut Street Baptist Church from 1967 to 1985. In 1968 he ministered to people participating in race riots within two blocks of the church and urged his congregation to be compassionate and loving. Prior to his tenure at Walnut Street he served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn.

“Through his leadership, Walnut Street Baptist stayed in the city when members and others were fleeing to the suburbs,” Lawless said of Dehoney. “He led the church to influence the urban community around the church. Mrs. Dehoney served alongside her husband for many years. The Dehoney family has graciously supported this center through their giving and prayers.”

George Martin, M. Theron Rankin Professor of Christian Missions, will serve as director of the Dehoney Center, and doctoral student Jeff Walters will be associate director.

“This decade, for the first time in human history, most of the world’s people live in urban settings,” Martin said. “If we are going to reach the world with the Gospel, we must reach the cities. With the same concern for the city exhibited in the lives and ministries of Wayne and LeAlice Dehoney, the Dehoney Center exists in order to provide resources and training for those who will minister in the cities and take the good news of the Gospel to them.”

Walters emphasized that the center will focus on the cities of the world and not exclusively American cities.

“My prayer for the Dehoney Center is that we will not only introduce students to all of the facets of ministry and mission in the great cities of the world, but also that we will prepare them well to carry the Gospel into those contexts,” he said.

Are you ready to become a pastor, counselor, or church leader who is Trusted for Truth?

Apply now for summer or fall studies

Classes begin in June & Aug.