"Once again we'll have day sessions only, allowing you the opportunity to fellowship with friends and colleagues in the evening," Wright wrote in a letter to Southern Baptists. "And because of the infamous New Orleans heat and humidity you'll see folks in more casual attire, including many of us on the platform."
Wright called for a dressed-down approach last year in Phoenix as well, citing the high temperatures. An elimination of night sessions also was something he implemented in 2011.
More important than the attire and schedule during the June 19-20 sessions, Wright said, is the blessing Southern Baptists can expect as they hear "inspiring stories and exciting updates" from SBC entities as well as "meaningful times of worship and preaching" as they focus on the meeting's theme of Jesus: To the Neighborhood and the Nations.
New Orleans, Wright said, is a "unique and historic city," and he looks forward "to the opportunity to support and encourage our local churches and ministries in the area who have shined so brightly for Christ amidst huge challenges."
"We're especially thankful for the pastors, staff, and lay people on the Local Arrangements Committee who have worked countless hours to prepare for our coming," Wright wrote in the letter, which appeared in the summer edition of SBC LIFE. "We're mighty grateful for their extra-mile ministry and servant leadership."
SOUTHERN SEMINARY GRAD SUCCEEDS JOHN PIPER -- The membership of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn., overwhelmingly voted to accept Jason Meyer as the church's new associate pastor of preaching and vision May 20.
Meyer, a two-time graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, succeeds John Piper, longtime pastor at Bethlehem, as the church's senior leader.
Piper, who has reduced his responsibilities at the church, has had a significant impact on a generation of pastors and church leaders, and his writings and sermons travel around the world to millions of Christians.
"I am overjoyed," Piper wrote of Meyer's selection in a statement to the church. "Both at the process and the person. As I heard the results emerging from the various meetings there were times when I wept for joy.
"A calling to the ministry is not simply equivalent to a sum of competencies. What I have been praying for the elders to have is not mainly the savvy to spot competencies (as important as that is), but, more important, the Holy-Spirit-given discernment to perceive the hand of God on Jason's life for this specific calling. That is why I wept for joy," Piper wrote.
After graduating from Southern with a master of divinity in 2002 and a doctor of philosophy in 2007, Meyer served as a professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis, an institution established by Bethlehem Baptist Church.
At Southern, Meyer recounted, he sat in a class with New Testament professor Tom Schreiner and saw pastoral care coupled with excellent academic instruction, a balance that would shape Meyer's pastoral and academic ministries.
"Many faculty members at Southern, like Tom Schreiner, James Parker and Eric Johnson, display a depth of pastoral care and love for students," Meyer said. "I witnessed these qualities in virtually every professor I had."
Meyer also has taught for four years at Louisiana College in Pineville, La., and a semester at Evangelical Theological College of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
He has been married to Cara for 12 years, and they have four children.
GGBTS RECIEVES LARGEST SINGLE GIFT EVER -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has received a $3.25 million gift for the David and Faith Kim School of Global Missions -- the largest single gift the seminary has ever received.
The Kims commemorated Faith Kim's retirement from the seminary by giving the gift to permanently endow the school. The couple created an original fund in 1995 to establish the Kim School, which has been financed in part with the fund's earnings.
"David and Faith Kim continue to invest in our future by this remarkable gift," Jeff Iorg, the seminary's president, said. "While they have long supported the Kim School, this gift makes their support perpetual and ensures the long-term success of our programs in missions and intercultural education.
"We thank God for their consistent support and vision for what God can do through Golden Gate Seminary."
Faith Kim, professor of intercultural studies at Golden Gate, will retire at the end of July. She has been associated with the seminary since 1979 when she began teaching Contextualized Leadership Development courses in Southern California.
Appointed to full-time faculty status in 1996, Kim has served the seminary for many years, teaching at both the Southern and Northern California campuses on a weekly basis.
"Drs. David and Faith Kim are incredible supporters of the mission of Golden Gate Seminary," Victor Vanloo, the seminary's director of development, said. "Though this significant gift is certainly a tangible example of their incredible generosity, it pales in comparison to their endearing love, passion and commitment to teaching others intercultural competencies that help introduce a lost world to the Good News of Jesus Christ."
The seminary also received in May a $1.4 million bequest from the estate of Cecil and Josephine Osborne, creating an endowment for pastoral care and counseling. Future distributions from the estate will bring the total gift to about $2 million.
Cecil Osborne, a renowned psychologist and author who died in 1999, was a pastor for more than 40 years. He established several social ministries programs and started nine churches in addition to pastoring First Baptist Church in Burlingame, Calif., for 34 years.
Osborne wrote 13 books including two bestsellers, "The Art of Understanding Yourself" and "The Art of Understanding Your Mate." He established Yokefellows, Inc. and the Burlingame Counseling Center in the South San Francisco Bay Area.
Yokefellows, founded in 1957, was an organization devoted to the spiritual and emotional growth of individuals through small group counseling and Bible study. Osborne assumed full-time directorship of Yokefellows in 1970, which ultimately served 90,000 persons in churches of 30 denominations in all 50 states and 14 other countries.
Cecil and Josephine were married in 1986 and lived all of their married lives in California. Josephine, originally from England, was a marriage and family counselor. She died in April.
"The Osbornes spent many years ministering together," Vanloo said. "This gift will extend that partnership in ministry beyond their lifetimes, and we hope it motivates others to think about what kind of legacy they can offer."
Jeff Iorg, Golden Gate's president, noted that the Osbornes gave more than 90 percent of their estate to Christian causes, mostly to the seminary.
"We are grateful for the Osbornes' vision for a counseling program and for creating an estate plan to fulfill their dream," Iorg said. "... We are pleased to see their true desire come to life through this donation."
The seminary is designing a master of arts in Christian counseling degree. Many of the required courses for the MACC will be available in 2012-13, and students will be admitted to the program in the fall of 2013.
"Students who want to begin the program immediately may take coursework in the seminary's existing counseling concentration as part of the master of divinity curriculum," Michael Martin, vice president of academic affairs, said.
"Along with counseling course work, the MACC will require many of the same Bible, history and theology courses required in the M.Div. Once the MACC launches, students can transfer into the new degree and apply hours earned under the M.Div. toward receiving the MACC," Martin said.
BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE NAMES NEW PRESIDENT -- Barbara McMillin, Union University's associate provost and dean of instruction, has been named the eighth president of Blue Mountain College.
"The thing that excites me the most is the opportunity to pursue with this group of faculty and a new group of students the integration of faith and learning, because that's a topic about which I am very passionate," McMillin said. "I am excited to partner with Blue Mountain College to consider how we can together foster the development of Christian higher education, which means that we recognize the lordship of Christ over all the disciplines."
McMillin joined Union in 1992 as an English professor. She later served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences before moving into her current role in 2006.
"There's no describing the extent to which I will miss my beloved colleagues with whom I have linked arms now for a very long time," McMillin said about leaving Union. "They have fed into my life and shaped me and encouraged me. They are precious to me."
Union has modeled what it means to pursue Christ-centered excellence and to integrate faith and learning, McMillin said.
Union University President David S. Dockery congratulated McMillin and Blue Mountain.
"We are happy for our colleague and our sister institution," Dockery said. "Dr. McMillin will bring exceptional experience to this role, both as a talented classroom teacher and conscientious administrator.
"She is a person of extraordinary character and exemplary professionalism," Dockery added. "I am excited about the fresh vision she will bring to the work of Blue Mountain College in the days ahead. The entire Union community joins me in wishing God's best for Barbara and Blue Mountain College."
McMillin and her husband Larry have a 14-year-old son, Sam, and the move to Blue Mountain is a home-going for the family. A native of Falkner, Miss., McMillin and her husband both have family in the area. Blue Mountain is a college of about 500 students that is affiliated with the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
"I so look forward to working with these faculty members and these students as we consider what it means to think Christianly about the various disciplines and about what it means to take our careful Christian thinking and carry it into the culture as students go forth from Blue Mountain College with an education and become salt and light in our community and across the country," McMillin said.
A Union University graduate, McMillin completed her master of arts and doctor of arts degrees at the University of Mississippi. She taught at Northeast Mississippi Community College before joining Union 20 years ago.
McMillin will assume the Blue Mountain presidency Aug. 1. She will succeed Bettye Rogers Coward, who is retiring after 11 years in the position.
"Union goes with me," McMillin said. "It goes with me in my heart and in my plans in terms of being able to think critically about new opportunities based on the experiences I was able to have here."
LAND RECEIVES RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AWARD -- Richard Land was recognized this spring in Washington for his advocacy of religious freedom.
Liberty magazine, which is published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and two other organizations with roots in the church presented the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission with their national award at the 10th annual Religious Liberty Dinner at the Canadian Embassy May 24.
Liberty magazine editor Lincoln Steed commended Land for his "incredible role" in publicly advocating for religious freedom and saluted Southern Baptists as well. In presenting the award to Land, Steed said Seventh-day Adventists "think very highly of the Baptists" for their longtime support of church-state separation and their continuing leadership as "champions" of religious liberty.
In part, the award honors Land "for representing the ideals of religious freedom to Congress, before U.S. presidents and to the media.... e has used his considerable energies as a radio and television host and guest as well as his skills as an author to project a vision of religious freedom that transcends his own faith identity."
Land told the audience he is "very honored and very humbled to receive this award, and I receive it on behalf of Southern Baptists around the country who stand for religious freedom."
"And I want to thank you for your stand for religious freedom around the world," Land said as part of his response. "Religious freedom is not an American value. It's a universal value. It's a human value. Every human being deserves the right to work out his or her relationship with their Creator without coercive interference from any government or ecclesiastical ."
John Baird, Canada's minister of foreign affairs, gave the keynote speech at the dinner.
Joining in presenting the award to Land were the International Religious Liberty Association and the North American Religious Liberty Association.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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