Following are reports from the luncheons:
NEW ORLEANS -- Beautiful weather, good food, good music and Christian fellowship created a celebratory atmosphere during New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary's Alumni and Friends Picnic held on the school's main campus. The event started with an outdoor picnic on the campus quad and concluded with the annual alumni meeting and worship event in Leavell Chapel.
This year's event served as a time of reunion and reconnection for members of the NOBTS family. Nearly 1,200 alumni, donors and friends of the seminary attended. Many were back for the first time since Hurricane Katrina. The picturesque campus, so damaged by the 2005 storm, shines once again thanks to monumental recovery efforts led by Southern Baptist volunteers and funded by sacrificial gifts from churches and individuals.
During the meeting Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, La.; Clay Corvin, vice president for business affairs at NOBTS; Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention; and Mark Foley, president of the University of Mobile; were recognized as distinguished alumni. The annual award recognizes consistent and unique ministry contributions of NOBTS alumni.
In his introduction of Bailey, Chuck Kelley, the seminary's president, recounted the days when Bailey served as a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. Even then Kelley heard the heart of a pastor in every Bailey lecture.
"If you ever walked by his classroom while he was teaching Old Testament or Hebrew, it was no surprise to you that he was called to pastor a church," Kelley said. "He preached some really wonderful lectures."
Bailey was called as pastor of First Baptist Covington in 1989. A two-time NOBTS graduate, Bailey earned a master of theology degree in 1973 and a doctor of theology degree in 1976. In addition to his ministry at First Baptist Covington, Bailey is president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and is a member of the nominations committee for the SBC.
Kelley pointed to Corvin's role as chief financial officer for NOBTS as one reason for the award. Corvin, he said, left a lucrative career as a private accountant to come to NOBTS, and in 1979 he was named vice president for business affairs. Kelley commended Corvin's ability to maximize the seminary's budget and get the most out of every dollar. He also lauded Corvin's steady leadership during Hurricane Katrina and the recent global recession.
But there is another side of Corvin, Kelley said. He is a minister to those on the fringe of society.
"One of the things that has always impressed me about Clay from the moment he arrived in New Orleans he has devoted his ministry to the lost and the least of our city," Kelley said. "Working with people who are down and out, drug addicts, alcoholics, people on the street, homeless people."
For years Corvin served at the North American Mission Board's Brantley Center in New Orleans. After Hurricane Katrina, Corvin began serving with the Bethel Colony South addiction recovery ministry. He co-pastors a church that was started among the men of Bethel Colony South.
"Whenever you find Clay involved in ministry, you find him pouring his life into the people that society, culture and even the church often tend to overlook and ignore," Kelley said.
Kelley commended Davis for being an effective leader in his role at the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He also commended Davis for his longtime service as a local church pastor, most recently at First Baptist Church in Sevierville, Tenn.
"When I was in school here there were three Randy Davises on campus. When they called and mentioned this distinguished alumni award, I kept asking if they had the right one," Davis said. "Getting any degree here is honor enough. I appreciate this very much."
Kelley pointed out the unique path Foley took on his journey to a career in higher education.
"Dr. Mark Foley is proof of that old Texas adage, 'If you can ever run a truck stop, anything else is easy,'" Kelley said. "That's what he did before he came to New Orleans Seminary."
Foley answered God's call to ministry, left the business world and moved to seminary. He went on to earn master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees in psychology and counseling and served in the NOBTS administration. In 1998, Foley was called to lead the University of Mobile where his goal is the integration of academics and faith.
GOLDEN GATE -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary honored Edmund William "Bill" Hunke Jr. with a distinguished alumnus award at the seminary's Alumni and Friends Luncheon.
Jeff Iorg, the seminary's president, praised the work of Bill Hunke, who, because of his age and health, was presented with the award in person at the seminary's Arizona campus graduation ceremony in May. "Dr. Hunke was one of the earliest graduates of Golden Gate Seminary," Iorg said. "He has invested his life fulfilling our mission of expanding God's Kingdom around the world. It is a privilege to honor him and celebrate his many accomplishments."
During his lifetime of service, Hunke was pastor of four churches in California, Utah and Arizona and served in numerous interim pastorates. He planted 14 churches in California and Arizona and was involved in starting more than six other churches, missions and fellowships in Alaska during his tenure there as executive director.
Hunke was an associational minister, a Home Mission Board coordinator in 15 western states and Canada and wrote books about Southern Baptist history.
"What a remarkable man he is," Iorg said. "Today, at the age of 88, he is helping to plant another new church in Arizona, and it currently meets in his home."
At the luncheon, Iorg reported on the work of the seminary, citing "the ever-present daily challenge of what to embrace, what to let go of, as we focus on our mission and keep up with the changing needs of our students."
Iorg listed several new programs the seminary is launching, including the master in Christian counseling degree.
"This program is made possible by two specific gifts," he said. "Last October we received $200,000, and in April of 2012 we received $400,000, both explicitly to start and sustain the Christian counseling degree. We are now in a position to offer a first class counseling program."
Iorg added that the seminary will offer a chaplaincy program in conjunction with the Christian counseling program, with classes beginning this fall.
The Korean English Bilingual Program also is launching this fall, and Iorg explained that the tracks of two existing degrees, the master of divinity and the master of theological studies, initially will be offered at the seminary's Southern California campus.
"The bilingual program was created in response to the need of many Korean students who are capable academically but who struggle to explain what they have learned in the English language," Iorg said. "They still must be proficient in English in order to interact with our business, administration and other campus departments."
The president told about the retirement of Faith Kim, professor of intercultural studies, and the transition of several faculty and administration members. He described the seminary's new partnership with the Mexican Baptist Seminary and how several faculty members already have been scheduled to teach as visiting professors.
"This agreement 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," he said.
Iorg explained the option for the seminary to deliver fully online degrees as early as next spring depending on the Association of Theological Schools' upcoming decision to revise accreditation standards. "In the future, I envision Golden Gate as having two kinds of accredited options: online and face-to-face," he said. "This will allow us to be creative in what we offer, and I predict our regional campus system is going to change. The 100 percent online degree program opens up possibilities that change the paradigm of what we're doing."
He shared about the land development situation the seminary is experiencing with the county and community groups who oppose any new development on the seminary's Northern California property.
"Other than this issue, it is a good place to be, with so many wonderful things happening," he concluded. "We ask that you send students to us. Thank you for praying and giving, and we appreciate your support and for standing with us as we fulfill our mission of shaping leaders who expand God's Kingdom around the world.
MIDWESTERN -- A confidence-building message from a Kansas pastor and the presentation of alumni of the year awards were focal points of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's alumni luncheon.
Steve Dighton, pastor of Lenexa (Kan.) Baptist Church, addressed the group about how the cause of Christ can be exalted through seminary education with a message from 2 Timothy 2:1-3.
Referencing his church's recognition in Thom Rainer's 2005 book, "Breakout Churches," Dighton spoke about some traits he believed would be applicable to a Southern Baptist seminary.
One trait Dighton described was that breakout leaders persist in their mission, and their setbacks don't have to be failures. He noted that everyone has failures, but "past struggles indeed do not need to be the final chapter, and how true it is at Midwestern Seminary."
Secondly, Dighton said a strategy was needed to strengthen the seminary. "... What indeed needs to happen at Midwestern Seminary is to attract God-called students to Kansas City to get their seminary education," he said. "The best way we can do that is to have a satisfied-customer approach -- that we would tell others about our seminary. Would you help us in this endeavor, to help attract other students to come and experience what we know is a good seminary education?"
Selling points to highlight, he said, include a low student-to-teacher ratio, students' ability to develop personal mentoring relationships with professors, and the school's focus on God's Word.
Dighton's third point was that despite the challenging work involved in attaining success, there should be a great joy pervading the campus. He concluded that two crucial steps in the seminary's future success involve making the correct choice of the next president and completing the chapel construction project.
During his brief report, Robin Hadaway, Midwestern's interim president, praised staff and faculty for their solid work at the convention, noting that the recruiting efforts had garnered a number of strong leads for prospective students.
Midwestern's leader said the seminary is in good enrollment and financial shape. He further reported that although it was likely that other Southern Baptist schools would soon be able to begin offering 100 percent online degree programs, "We are proud of the fact that right now we have the only bachelor's and master's, fully-accredited, 100 percent online programs."
Following the president's report, Tom Elliff, the International Mission Board's president, introduced David Steverson, the IMB's vice president for finance, who was honored as alumnus of the year.
Steverson was recognized for his humble servant nature, heart for those in the mission field and the high character and integrity in which he approaches his work.
"David Steverson has that special quality of dealing with people in a kind, gentle way but making sure that handling the responsibilities of the financial accountability of the largest agency of the Southern Baptist Convention are done well," Hadaway said.
Elliff said, "I cannot imagine a person on this planet more deserving of the alumnus of the year award than David Steverson. I know that when David is sitting there in that office with the IMB, everything that's happening in terms of finances is going to be taken care of in a way that is absolutely and inscrutably above reproach."
Steverson said it was a great honor and a humbling experience to receive the award. "It's not an individual accomplishment," he said. "It's something that happens because of a group of people that get together and do something for the Lord." He then thanked his coworkers on the IMB's executive team, the staff members he supervises, his sister and his wife Judy.
The honoree and his wife also served on the mission field in Thailand for six years before he began his tenure in the IMB's home office in Richmond, Va.
Dighton was named honorary alumnus of year. He received the recognition for his integrity, preaching and gifts to the seminary.
"He's been very giving to the seminary," Hadaway said. "No one is a better friend of Midwestern Seminary than Lenexa Baptist Church, Steve Dighton and his wife Mary."
Dighton said it was a joy to be recognized.
"Our church has a vested interest in the success of Midwestern Seminary. We want it to prosper and thrive," he said. "We want to do what we can do to help the cause of Christ through seminary education."
Dighton and his wife have served in the Kansas City area for more than 20 years. Previously, he was pastor of First Baptist Church in Piedmont, Okla.
Also during the luncheon, Neil Franks, pastor of First Baptist Church in Branson, Mo., was recognized as the 2012-13 National Alumni president.
SOUTHEASTERN -- Alumni and friends of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary came together to hear about what God has been doing at the seminary at the Southeastern luncheon in New Orleans.
Attendees heard from Danny Akin, the seminary's president, and from Jim Shaddix, a new professor of preaching at the seminary.
Shaddix, a former teaching pastor at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, said that in his early years he never thought he would be part of academia.
"My burden today is the spiritual lives of leaders today in our churches," Shaddix said. "I believe theological education is a way of seizing an opportunity of Gospel-making. At Southeastern, it became clear through conversations with Dr. Akin that intentional disciple-making and theological education are to be wed together, and that is why I am excited to be a part of the team at Southeastern."
Akin said the election of Fred Luter as president of the Southern Baptist Convention will become one of the most historic events in SBC life.
In 1995, Southern Baptists marked their 150th anniversary and apologized for the convention's racist past. In 2000, they adopted a revised version of the Baptist Faith and Message.
"Yet these events, even though great, pale in comparison to Luter's election," Akin said. "Look around this room. It is too white. I want to be a part of a convention and a network of churches that reflect the ethnic diversity of the Kingdom."
Addressing past and present discussions of Southeastern's supposed Calvinistic agenda, Akin said, "Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is not going to be dragged down in a street fight over Calvinism. We're going to love everyone on all sides of the issue."
Referencing the Baptist 21 luncheon the previous day, Akin said the panel was an example of the theological diversity reflected at Southeastern.
"More than a 1,000 people gathered for the luncheon to hear from the panel -- Fred Luter, Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, J.D. Greear, David Platt and myself," Akin said. "Each of us has differences on the particulars of theology, but we're all together for the proclamation of the Gospel. Southeastern models this diversity and unity as well.
"The only agenda at Southeastern," Akin said, "is the Great Commission agenda."
Enrollment numbers, Akin said, indicate Southeastern has 2,957 students, and the seminary expects to surpass 3,000 in the fall.
Akin shared a story of a friend who came to visit him and the Southeastern campus and said, "Danny, this is a very happy campus."
Speaking to the attendees, Akin said, "I can tell you all here today at this luncheon why Southeastern is a 'happy' campus. It is because our faculty, staff and students love Christ and worship Him. What a novel idea that a seminary would be happy because they have King Jesus as their Lord."
SOUTHERN -- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced Bryant Wright and John Folmar as distinguished alumni of the year at the Southern Seminary alumni luncheon.
Wright, a master of divinity graduate from Southern in 1979, is pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and the immediate past president of the SBC. Folmar, who earned his M.Div. from Southern in 2003, is pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Mohler also announced that Southern Seminary has identified the Meskhetian Turks as a people group to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Meskhetian Turks, despite their name, are not from Turkey. They are about 300,000 people who lived in the Russian Federation. World War II scattered the Meskhetian Turks, and they have since remained an especially elusive group to engage, with a number of attempts seldom progressing beyond the information gathering stage in the past.
Louisville, Ky., where Southern Seminary is located, houses a community of 60 to 80 Meskhetian families -- somewhere between 500 and 800 individuals. Efforts to reach the Meskhetian Turks will begin by reaching out to the Louisville community, Mohler explained.
Also at the luncheon, Mohler outlined the seminary's adoption and implementation of a comprehensive master plan to repurpose and refocus the seminary's physical campus.
During the next 10 years, the master plan will dissolve $52 million in deferred maintenance and position the campus for immediate and future structural and financial sustainability. Phase one will repurpose the historical Mullins Complex as a state-of-the-art facility for Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.
The SBC Executive Committee June 18 approved a $20 million loan for phase one of the SBTS master plan. Phase two will advance the learning community of Southern Seminary, primarily through renovation of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library. Phase three, without requiring any firm commitments, anticipates future development.
At the end of his address, Mohler emphasized the increasing need for faithful theological education in a time that requires well equipped pastors, missionaries and teachers.
"We're up to this," he said. "But we need each other. It is moving to imagine how the lives gathered together, gather to become a part of that long line of faithfulness that came before us at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."
Mohler affirmed Southern Seminary's commitment to the seriousness of its task, the urgency of its vision and the credibility of its alumni.
The commitment, though, is only a means to an end. He explained: "We have a job to do, and it's not done when we graduate. It's not done when we retire. It's not done until Jesus comes. It's not done yet."
SOUTHWESTERN -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recognized former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and retired pastor Tommy French as distinguished alumni at its annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon. Both were honored for their commitments to the Lord and contributions to the church and the world.
Before campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, before serving as governor of Arkansas and before hosting a top-rated show on Fox News Channel, Huckabee was a young student at Southwestern Seminary. Upon receiving his distinguished alumnus award, he explained how God used his time at Southwestern to heal his brokenness and prepare him for the future.
"I'm truly honored, and few things that I have ever received in my life have meant more to me," Huckabee said. He explained that when he and his wife Janet arrived at Southwestern, they were financially broke and spiritually broken. Janet was recovering from cancer treatments which had taken a toll on her physical strength and on the young couple's emotional strength.
"What wonderful days," Huckabee recalled of his time as a student on campus. He remembers going to chapel regularly, where he heard President Robert Naylor quote long passages of Scripture and other speakers challenge students "not just to be intellectually prepared but to be on fire." He said friends at other seminaries used to refer jokingly to Southwestern as the "three-year camp meeting."
"I considered it a badge of great honor," Huckabee said. " was known as a hotbed of evangelism and missions."
Huckabee completed more than half of the required hours for a master of divinity degree before leaving seminary to pastor churches in Arkansas for 12 years. During that time, he also became the youngest ever president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Huckabee was elected as lieutenant governor of Arkansas in a 1993 special election, and he then served as governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. The following year, he campaigned for the Republican nomination for U.S. President. Afterward, he formed the HuckPac to help Republicans running for office nationwide.
Huckabee has authored nine books, including three New York Times bestsellers. He hosts the hit show "Huckabee" on Fox News Channel and the Cumulus Media Networks' syndicated radio program "The Mike Huckabee Show." He also is heard three times each day on The Huckabee Report, which is syndicated on nearly 600 stations.
Despite his success, Huckabee remembers his days at Southwestern as an unknown.
"I was a nobody," Huckabee said. "Many were the times when I would go to chapel and then afterward go to the prayer room, which was down in the basement. My heart would be so filled with what I had heard in chapel, and I would go to that prayer room and say, 'God, if there is a place for me, use me.'
"I think that prayer is answered every time we ask God to use us, and He chooses to use us in very different ways."
Huckabee added, "The one lesson I learned at Southwestern was to love the Word of the living God, to believe that it is absolutely, 100 percent true, and then to believe that the purpose for reading it was not for what we have up here but for what we would do from here out there in the world."
Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., pastored the church for 50 years until his retirement in 2009. During that time, he also served as president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and chairman of the board of trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Today, he serves as a trustee at Louisiana College.
"Southwestern gave me a set of tools with which to work, they gave me that evangelistic fervor that everybody needs when they go out into the world to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ, and then they gave me a set of principles by which to live," French said.
After 50 years of pastoral ministry, French said, "I found that what Southwestern had prepared me to do helped me get it done along with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
In addition to his faithful service in the local church, French established the Mary French Priscilla Scholarship at Southwestern in honor of his late wife Mary, who, he says, made his ministry possible and effective. French set up a similar scholarship at NOBTS.
In addition to the presentation of awards, Southwestern's president, Paige Patterson, updated alumni and guests on the many exciting things going on at Southwestern.
To watch a video of Huckabee's award acceptance speech, visit www.swbts.edu/huckabee.
Based on reports by Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Pat Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Michael McEwen of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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