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Seminary luncheons draw alumni, guests

Monday, Jun 21, 2010

By By Staff

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)--Fellowship and campus updates highlighted the alumni luncheons hosted by Southern Baptist Convention seminaries June 16 during the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Following are reports from the luncheons.

GOLDEN GATE -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary honored Floyd Michael Story and Benny Wong with Distinguished Alumni Awards at the seminary's annual alumni and friends luncheon June 16.

Jeff Iorg, the seminary's president, praised the work of Story and Wong as pastors and described their ministries.

Story is an Oklahoma native who graduated from Golden Gate in 1980 with a doctor of ministry degree. He began his ministry in 1972 as a youth pastor before serving as a pastor in Oklahoma and then in Colorado.

In 1990 Story founded Community of Grace Church in Centennial, Colo., and pastored there for 19 years while teaching as an adjunct professor at Golden Gate's Rocky Mountain campus. He is currently director of Baptist Collegiate Ministry at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla.

Benny Wong is pastor of First Chinese Baptist Church in Los Angeles, where he has served since 1993. Born and reared in Hong Kong, Wong moved to Canada in 1978, where he came to know the Lord. He spent 14 years in ministry in Canada, and during that period he also earned a master of divinity in Taiwan. While pastoring First Chinese Baptist, Wong received his doctor of ministry from Golden Gate in 2001.

Also at the luncheon, Iorg reported on the work of the five-campus seminary, noting a budget increase of 3.5 percent over last year, which enabled the preservation of all positions and benefits; ending the practice of faculty teaching one overload course without compensation; and adding a few part-time support positions.

"My vision for Golden Gate Seminary is to be where the people are," Iorg said. "That's why we have campuses across the West, minister to Haitian communities in Miami, and Hispanic ministers across Oklahoma, and why we recently held a graduation at San Quentin State Prison."

The president explained the adoption of a new faculty rank and compensation plan to provide a framework for improving the faculty compensation strategy. He announced the receipt of $12.4 million toward a $13 million goal through the Partners for the Future Campaign, which included recent gifts of two $1 million endowments.

"I believe that God will provide for what God wants to do" Iorg said. "He has provided for us. We will end this year in the black and positioned to expand our ministry in strategic ways."

MIDWESTERN -- An overview of the chapel construction project by the director of Builders for Christ and the presentation of alumni of the year awards highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's alumni luncheon June 16.

Lawrence Corley, leader of Builders for Christ since 1982, informed attendees about the volunteer construction project taking place throughout the summer at Midwestern. He explained that the partnership between Midwestern and Builders for Christ began last year while the volunteer group was working on a project in Eudora, Kan. The group decided to take on the Midwestern chapel project, and construction began May 26.

Corley also told about a proposed library expansion once the new chapel is in use.

"We have a vision of what would happen once the chapel 'tenant' would vacate the space that it's occupied since the early '60s that was to have been the library," Corley said. "The current library is just packed. There are even boxes of books that can't be unpacked. Part of the Spurgeon collection is in the basement of the Koehn-Myers Center. So, with this proposed concept, the current chapel would become the library as its original destiny was intended."

Corley added that another benefit of the expansion is that the Spurgeon collection would be properly displayed and more available for research use.

R. Philip Roberts, Midwestern's president, expressed appreciation for the sacrifice Builders for Christ volunteers have made during the construction process.

"What a fabulous ministry this is with the teams of laypeople -- builders, contractors, professional or nonprofessional people -- who say, 'We want to give of our time every year to build churches for the cause of the Gospel,'" Roberts said.

"They don't just go and build a church anywhere. They'll go and build them in the parts of our nation where the needs are the greatest in the terms of a Gospel witness -- where the lostness is most prevalent. They'll go to churches in the situations that they feel are making an impact for the cause of the Gospel that need those facilities to reach more people for Jesus Christ."

Following the presentation, three people were named alumni of the year. Don Combs, an International Mission Board worker in Central Asia, accepted his award via cell phone. Combs was recognized for "leading a group of dedicated, hard-working and deeply committed colleagues who are seeking to reach people who live in five countries of Central Asia with the Gospel message."

Lora Jones, a Christian education director at First Baptist Church in Liberal, Kan., and a leader of Peace House Ministries, endured the loss of her family in a 2004 automobile accident. In the wake of the tragedy, she was assured of God's strength, presence and healing. Jones was described as "sharing the message of hope from a living God to those in the midst of fear, tragedy and loneliness."

Jim Akins, a former pastor and strategy coordinator for the North American Mission Board, was honored posthumously; his widow Penny accepted the award on his behalf. Akins was recognized for his 47 years of serving the Lord. Even as his life was ending because of cancer, he and Penny ministered to fellow cancer patients and medical personnel.

Three key supporters of Midwestern who have sought to share the message of Christ in creative ways were named honorary alumni of year. Johnny Hunt, outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., was honored for his "exceptional leadership" in support of Midwestern, his ministry at First Baptist Woodstock and for "what he has done for the Kingdom of the Lord."

Wayne Lee, a real estate developer and co-founder of several banks in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, received the honor for his efforts as a Midwestern trustee, board of regents member and Building for the Future capital campaign council member.

Wendell Hudson, a businessman in the wood products industry from Purvis, Miss., was presented the honorary alumni award in absentia for his service on the Midwestern board of trustees, board of regents and for "sacrificially serving and supporting the seminary."

NEW ORLEANS -- New Baptist Theological Seminary honored four longtime ministers with distinguished alumni awards during the seminary's annual alumni and friends luncheon June 16.

The award recipients were Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga.; Jimmy Dukes, director of theological education for the Florida Baptist Convention; Peter Lord, retired pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Fla.; and Jay Wolf, pastor of First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

"What we really want to celebrate is sustained excellence in ministry," Chuck Kelley, the seminary's president, said to the capacity crowd. "That is why New Orleans Seminary exists, to prepare men and women called of God to do the work of the Kingdom of God."

After graduating from NOBTS with a master of divinity degree in 1980, Cox accepted a pastorate in Georgia, where he has ministered for 30 years. During that time, Cox has baptized more than 4,000 believers.

In addition to leading North Metro, Cox has been involved in numerous associational, state convention and SBC leadership roles. He has served as president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, as an SBC vice president and an Executive Committee member.

Acknowledging the next honoree, Kelley said, "Dr. Jimmy Dukes is the greatest educational visionary that I have ever had the privilege of knowing personally. Our school is focused on a simple mission -- that is to make theological education as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. And for all the years he has been at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Dr. Dukes has been helping us find those ways to make theological education more and more accessible," Kelley said.

Dukes earned a doctor of theology degree and master of divinity degree at NOBTS. In addition to his duties with the Florida Baptist Convention, Dukes serves in a number of roles at NOBTS. He is the regional associate dean for Florida extension centers, director of the Orlando Hub and since 1984 and professor of New Testament and Greek.

In April 2009, Dukes and his wife Retia were struck by a car while crossing the street near the seminary campus. Both sustained significant injuries. After a four-month struggle to recover, Retia died from her injuries on Aug. 3, 2009.

Many alumni made donations toward the Dukes' medical and rehabilitation bills. Kelley said the remaining funds were used to establish the Jimmy and Retia Dukes Scholarship Fund. According to Kelley, the fund has reached $100,000 and will begin helping students afford seminary training.

"We know you have walked through deep waters and are still walking, but you are not walking alone," Kelley said to Dukes. "We are all with you, and we love you."

As Kelley presented the next distinguished alumnus award, he recalled reading Peter Lord's prayer guide "2959 Plan" as a young college student. Lord's message of personal intimacy with God resonated with Kelley.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Lord earned a divinity degree from NOBTS in 1957. He went on to serve seven churches, including a 30-year pastorate at his last church, Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville, Fla.

Lord's book "Hearing God" is now in its 27th printing. His "2959 Plan" sold more than 300,000 copies.

"I just can't tell you how much I learned about the importance of personal discipleship from Peter Lord," Kelley said. "Thank you so very much for what you have done for all of us."

Wolf, a 1981 master of divinity graduate from NOBTS, has served as pastor at First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., since 1991. Before moving there, Wolf pastored churches in Alabama, Louisiana, Texas and Virginia.

Passionate about international missions, Wolf has participated in mission trips in 12 countries and established a scholarship fund at NOBTS to help students participate in mission trips.

"I count this as a gracious honor," Wolf said. "I love New Orleans Seminary."

SOUTHEASTERN -- Alumni and friends of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary gathered to honor the work of Daniel Akin, the seminary's president, as well as honor alumnus and outgoing president of the Southern Baptist Convention Johnny Hunt.

The two men, along with International Mission Board representative Gordon Fort, were the keynote speakers at the alumni and friends luncheon June 16. Both Akin and Hunt were honored for their part in the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommendations that were adopted during the June 15-16 SBC annual meeting.

After contributions from sources across the nation, Southeastern now has the full funding for a new Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching.

The endowed chair, the third to be fully funded at Southeastern, will allow for more students to be trained to preach the Gospel around the world as it will provide growing, annual salary support for a professor of preaching, said Ryan Hutchinson, senior vice president for business administration at Southeastern.

The endowed chair in preaching is a tribute to the preaching and pastoral legacy of Hunt, who has been pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., for 23 years.

In large part, the $1 million to fund the Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching has come from gifts, both large and small, given by members of First Baptist Woodstock as well as others from across the nation who value Hunt's preaching ministry, said Daniel Palmer, Southeastern's director of financial development.

The final gifts, enabling the chair to be funded with $1 million, came in "at just the right time in the life of the seminary," Palmer said. On the tail end of Hunt's two years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the timing was "providential. God has used him to call our attention to putting first things first, because he's led his church in putting first things first for years, so it is no accident God has seen fit to have us be able to fully fund a chair in his honor," Palmer said.

Akin said, "This is just a small way of us saying to you, 'We love you, we believe in you and you're not only a friend but a hero to many of us.'"

Hutchinson agreed on the providence of the timing.

"It would be difficult to conceive of a better time for the completion of funding of the Hunt chair. At a time when most funding sources are shrinking or flat, the Hunt chair will improve our financial footing and provide support that will no longer need to come from students' tuition," Hutchinson said.

"The successes of higher education institutions depend upon the gracious gifts of men and women to accomplish the mission set before them. When those gifts are invested for a Kingdom purpose -- equipping those God has called to shepherd His people -- the return on investment is not only great but everlasting," Hutchinson said.

Akin said the completion of the Hunt chair is a blessing to him as well.

"Johnny Hunt is one of my dearest friends and a personal hero. He is a pastor to pastors all across our convention of churches," Akin said. "He is a faithful, biblical preacher who always honors the text, exalts King Jesus and calls men, women, boys and girls to trust in our Savior. This chair of preaching will appropriately honor one of God's choice servants."

Albie Brice, Southeastern's director of alumni relations, announced the recent launch of the Southeastern Alumni Association, a networking initiative. "It's amazing what can happen when you gather people together," Brice said.

Fort, Akin and Hunt addressed supporters and alumni on the importance of faithfulness, especially in the final days.

Akin said he is thankful for the faithfulness of Southern Baptists, especially for the work done at this convention.

"This has been a historic convention in many ways, and the Lord has been gracious and kind to us," he said.

Hunt said it has been God's graciousness that has carried him this far in ministry, and it will be God's faithfulness that will enable him to finish well.

"I'm now in the last quarter [of my life]. What if the last quarter is the best quarter?" Hunt said. "Strive to live so your last words are a commendation of God's faithfulness."

SOUTHERN -- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary honored Timothy A. McCoy with the seminary's distinguished alumnus award and congratulated alumnus Bryant Wright on his election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the Southern Seminary luncheon on June 16.

The luncheon was held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla. The seminary welcomed 600 guests to the sold-out luncheon.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., the seminary's president, presented the distinguished alumnus ward to McCoy, pastor of Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, Ga.

"Tim and I arrived at Southern Seminary in the same year -- that was a very different hour in the life of Southern Seminary -- and Tim McCoy stood out as a man with a mission. I have always admired and had great respect for him," Mohler said.

McCoy graduated with honors from Louisiana College and earned his master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees at Southern Seminary. During his ministry, the Mississippi native has served as an officer in the Georgia Baptist Convention and as both a trustee and chairman of the International Mission Board. McCoy has served Ingleside since 1989.

Following the award presentation, Will Jackson, a May 2010 graduate of Southern and outgoing president of Southern's student ambassadors, shared a testimonial of his experience as an IMB Journeyman and how the Lord led him to attend Southern's Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.

"Southern is striving to balance strong Gospel theology with urgent missiology," Jackson said. "They are preparing students like me to go into the world to make disciples of Christ."

Mohler reflected on the Southern's sesquicentennial anniversary, saying that during the past year the seminary maximized the anniversary not to the glory of the institution but in a sober and thankful way that reflects on what God has done for the institution.

Mohler led attendees in a prayer for Wright in recognition of his June 15 election as president of the SBC.

Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., said of the luncheon, "One reason I am so excited in being here and keeping up with what God is doing through the leadership, through the faculty, through the trustees, and through the key supporters of the seminary is seeing how God is working here."

Of his SBC presidency, Wright said, "I am absolutely passionate about people renewing their relationship with Jesus Christ, that individual relationship with God through Christ. I'm absolutely passionate about global missions and seeing what can happen in the local church when people begin to not only give and not only pray, but to go and develop partnerships around the world."

Those also in attendance included longtime supporters of the seminary Otis and Staci Ingram of Macon, Ga. Mohler announced a gift from the Ingrams to fund a renovation project at Boyce College, the undergraduate institution of Southern Seminary.

SOUTHWESTERN -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary honored three distinguished alumni whose ministries reach around the world with the Gospel during its annual alumni luncheon at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16.

More than 400 alumni and friends gathered to honor Gil Stricklin, Mike Howard and Charles Stanley in addition to hearing a president's report and electing alumni association officers.

Stanley, whom Southwestern president Paige Patterson said is the most well-known Southwestern alumnus in the world, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta as well as founder and president of In Touch Ministries, a global broadcast ministry that presents the Gospel in 50 languages on 1,800 television and radio stations around the world. Stanley also served as SBC president for two terms during the Conservative Resurgence. His 35 books have sold 6.5 million copies.

Patterson praised Stanley's steadfast obedience to the Lord regardless of the circumstances. He recounted occasions during the turbulent times of the Conservative Resurgence when someone would suggest a political shortcut, and Stanley would say, "Wait a minute. We don't have to win. All we have to do is please God."

Stanley thanked Southwestern for honoring him with one of the distinguished alumni awards and gave the credit to God.

"When I think about all the things that God has done and people ask me why, my answer is very simple: Just do what God tells you to do next," Stanley said.

Also during the luncheon, In Touch board member Dean Hancock presented Southwestern with the first of five $100,000 checks to be used to fund student scholarships at the seminary.

"It is our desire as a ministry to honor Dr. Stanley by giving $100,000 each year for the next four years to see the ministry of In Touch bless and be used until our Lord returns," Hancock said.

Patterson accepted the check on the seminary's behalf. He noted that when Stanley found out that it would be another year before the endowment would produce the interest to fund student scholarships, he personally donated $10,000 of his own money to fund students for the coming academic year.

Stricklin is founder and CEO of Marketplace Ministries, a Dallas-based company that provides 416 U.S. corporations with nearly 2,500 chaplains who minister to their employees. Founded in 1984 with contributions from First Baptist Church in Dallas and the North American Mission Board, Stricklin's company has seen more than 55,000 people come to Christ in the workplace through their ministry.

"We're all about seeking to bring others to Christ,” Stricklin said, “and getting them into a fellowship where they can be discipled for Christ.

"People do not have to go to your church or mine, but I want you to know that they've got to go to work, and if we can be there to love them and encourage them and uplift them and value them and tell them about Jesus, there will be a lot of them that will join us in heaven."

Howard and his wife Lindy have served with the International Missionary Board in the African nation of Zambia since the early 1980s. The Howards worked with national believers to plant 230 churches before being assigned as IMB strategy facilitators, where they mentored missionaries who planted an additional 1,400 churches, resulting in 6,000 new believers.

"We went to Africa and went to a bush situation, and we were amazed to see that there were Africans that God had already put in place who were ready to share the Gospel," Howard said. "All we were was a catalyst for them to plant churches among their own people."

In addition to alumni awards, Patterson relayed information he received from the IMB indicating there are 948 Southwestern graduates currently serving with the IMB on the mission field. Even more noteworthy, Patterson said, is the 382 Southwesterners serving in secure locations around the world, 191 of whom are serving in Security 3 zones where the highest level of hostility toward Christianity resides and many are martyred for their faith.

In election of national alumni officers, Hayes Wicker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., was elected president and Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La ., was elected vice president.
--30--
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Lauren Vanderburg of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Emily Griffin of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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