SOUTHWESTERN EMBRACES UNREACHED PEOPLE GROUP -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has accepted the challenge of reaching the estimated 1.4 million Antandroy people of Madagascar with the Gospel as part of the "Embrace" initiative for the world's unengaged, unreached people groups.
Embrace, introduced to Southern Baptist churches by the International Mission Board at the 2011 SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, is focused on people groups with less than a 2 percent Christian population and no active evangelical church planting strategy.
The agrarian Antandroy people, who are heavily rooted in animism, live along the southern tip of the island of Madagascar. Food and health care can prove difficult to obtain in the region, due to a terrain of cactus and thorny plants.
The Antandroy thus are known as "a people of the thorns," Southwestern President Paige Patterson said in introducing the initiative during a February chapel.
The International Mission Board has appointed two Southwestern graduates to serve in Madagascar, Patterson noted. The seminary sent a five-member team of faculty and staff on a vision trip to Madagascar this spring, with plans to bring students on the first mission trip in December.
Madagascar is a country with nearly impassable roads and limited drinking water, Patterson said, yet the island is known for its diverse wildlife, including nearly 100 species of lemurs and the world's smallest chameleon, measuring less than an inch in length.
Patterson asked the seminary community to become prayer partners for the Antandroy outreach and, for those who are physically able, to willingly go. Hundreds raised their hands all across the auditorium in response.
"I am going to ask you to join me in taking to the people of the thorns, the message of the crown of thorns that will heal the soreness and the sorrow of cultural life cut off from Christ and make eternity possible in heaven," Patterson said.
"Wouldn't it be great to see churches planted all over southern Madagascar," he said, "to actually see a whole nation come to Christ?" Patterson said.
Keith Eitel, dean of Southwestern's school of evangelism and missions, asked the chapel audience to kneel as he led in prayer for the salvation of the Antandroy people.
"As foreboding as it may seem in terms of human strategies and devices and designs," Eitel prayed, "we know that You confound the wise with the simplicity of Your truth. Lord, let us be ambassadors, who can show forth how the scourge of thorns not only marred the head of our Lord and marred the existence of the Antandroy, but through that sacrifice, victory has come and new crowns await in the grace of the living God."
GOLDEN GATE PARTNERS WITH MEXICAN SEMINARY -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has entered into a partnership agreement with Seminario Teológico Bautista Mexicano (Mexican Baptist Theological Seminary).
GGBTS President Jeff Iorg, who signed the agreement in mid-March, said it will "enhance the association between the two schools and develop academic and cultural relationships in the areas of educational development, research, spiritual growth, and other activities."
Daniel Jiménez, president of the seminary in Mexico City, said the agreement is "the beginning of a great relationship with Golden Gate Seminary. It will provide us with opportunities for collaboration and enhancement of both of our programs."
Among the key aspects of the partnership will be Golden Gate's efforts to facilitate faculty development, as well as consult with Mexican leaders about curriculum design. The Mexican seminary, meanwhile, will utilize Golden Gate's advanced academic programs as a source for training selected students with potential to become their future faculty members.
FAITH & LEARNING AREN'T SEPARATE SPHERES -- A new book edited by Union University President David S. Dockery, titled "Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education," asserts that faith and learning need not be separated into two spheres that have no bearing on each other, as sometimes is the case at church-related colleges and universities.
"We believe that there is a way that faith and learning come together, recognizing that faith bears upon learning and serves as a window for how teaching takes place," Dockery said. "We believe that faith provides a resource for our understanding of all that is explored on a university campus. We wanted to try to show that authentic faith and genuine learning can be brought together in one place."
Faith and Learning includes chapters from several Union faculty members writing about how the Christian faith should inform learning in a variety of fields, from the traditional arts and sciences to health care, engineering, social work, business and education.
"Hopefully it's kind of a one-stop-shopping handbook that Christian college administrators, trustees, donors, parents, faculty, staff and students can use to think about a distinctive vision for Christian higher education," Dockery said.
The first part of book deals with theological formation and understanding of faith and how ethical and moral reasoning help to form a philosophy of education. The second part of the book moves into application in all the disciplines across the university life, with a final section providing application for teaching, student life and engaging the culture.
Dockery writes in the book's preface, "We believe that the calling of Christian higher education is to reflect the life of Christ and to shine the light of truth." He notes: "Our distinctive mission must not be forced into inappropriate either/or choices. We have chosen another course: the calling to be 'both/and.' We reject those who call for us to create false dichotomies or to join together unrelated ideas in an irrationalistic pluralistic fashion."
Among the contributors from Union are Gene C. Fant Jr., vice president for academic administration; Hunter Baker, associate dean of arts and sciences; Gregory Alan Thornbury, dean of the school of theology and missions; Jeannette Russ, professor of engineering; Emily Lean, assistant professor of business; Mary Anne Poe, professor of social work; and C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy.
In addition to the Union contributors, the book also includes chapters by Kenneth Magnuson, professor of Christian ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Klaus Issler, professor of Christian education and theology at Biola University; and Kevin S. Trowbridge, instructor in public relations at Belmont University.
"'Faith and Learning' speaks clearly and with great insight to what I believe is the preferred future of Christian higher education," wrote Jon Wallace, president of Azusa Pacific University, in an endorsement for the book. "David Dockery and 24 contributing authors have created a road map to a thriving and effective Christian university built on the foundation of our historic Christian intellectual tradition."
The book, published by B&H Academic, is available at LifeWay Christian Stores or at online retailers such as amazon.com.
Compiled from reports by Sharaya Colter of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.; and Tim Ellsworth of Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
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