By Frank Michael McCormack
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary held its annual convocation service Sept. 3 at the school’s Leavell Chapel. During the service, 12 faculty members – including NOBTS President Chuck Kelley – celebrated milestone anniversaries. In addition, eight new faculty members signed the seminary’s Articles of Religious Belief and the Southern Baptist Convention’s Baptist Faith and Message.
Longtime faculty members were recognized for 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years of teaching at the seminary. NOBTS President Chuck Kelley, also professor of evangelism at the seminary, was honored for his 30th year on the faculty. Professor of New Testament and Greek Gerald Stevens was recognized for 25 years teaching at New Orleans Seminary.
NOBTS Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Harrison, executive pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, La., offered a special word for Kelley and the other faculty members celebrating anniversaries.
“As part of the trustees, it’s a great pleasure to recognize these men and women who have served here so faithfully,” Harrison said. “These men and women have sought to do that in each of our lives so that we can go out and be a greater part of the kingdom of God.”
During his tenure at NOBTS, Kelley has served as professor of evangelism, chair of the division of pastoral ministries, director of the Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Health, and now president. He challenged those present to remain faithful to God’s call, even when that call is different than expected.
He shared his personal road to serving on the faculty of New Orleans Seminary.
“I did not ever in my life imagine the role of seminary professor for me,” Kelley said. “I came to seminary to be an evangelist.”
Kelley said it was longtime professor Joe Cothen who first asked him to consider teaching.
“Now to be 30 years old and offered the opportunity to teach and be on the faculty of one of the largest seminaries in all the world was a great honor and a great privilege,” Kelley said.
Kelley said he wasn’t initially interested in the offer, particularly because it was not what he wanted to do in ministry.
But through talking with his wife, Rhonda, and with other mentors and counselors in his life, Kelley was convinced joining the NOBTS faculty was God’s will. Still reluctant, he hit the road for the entire summer speaking at youth events. He didn’t return until 2 a.m. the day of faculty workshops.
“That was as long as I could put it off,” he recalled. “I’ll never forget that moment in the classroom two weeks after classes began when I had the experience of seeing exactly why God wanted me here and the realization that God had been preparing me all my life for this.”
Kelley contrasted his call to teach and serve at the seminary with New Testament and Greek professor Gerald Stevens’ story. Unlike Kelley, who stepped directly into a teaching role, Stevens did not experience an immediate open door to being a professor. That delay came in spite of Stevens’ profound conviction that God had called him to teach at seminary.
“He prepared all of his life for that calling, learning Greek and the New Testament, pouring his life [into his studies], because he knew God wanted him to be a seminary professor,” Kelley said of Stevens. “And God opened up a wonderful opportunity for him to sell cars — nothing close to his calling.”
Stevens later had the opportunity to be a collegiate minister, closer but still not what he wanted to do deep down. Kelley said he remembers eating dinner with Stevens at a New Orleans restaurant, both marveling at how God would open a door for Kelley at the seminary and not Stevens.
But it wasn’t too long before Stevens did receive that call to teach. And 25 years later, he remains passionately committed to that calling — so much so that Stevens still has never missed a class. Not for illness, traveling, emergency, professional conferences or ministry.
“Every class scheduled on any syllabus for any course at anytime has never been missed,” Stevens said. “[I’ve] never canceled a class for any reason.
“My call to the class is fundamental and inviolable,” he continued. “That call is a sacred duty sanctified by God and sealed in my heart. That call is the air I breathe.”
The NOBTS faculty recognized Stevens’ dedication and calling during the spring 2013 semester by honoring him with the Marvin Jones Award for Classroom Excellence.
“I was greatly honored to receive this award and the recognition of my fellow faculty members,” Stevens said.
Twenty year anniversaries included Harold Mosley, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; Thomas Strong, professor of New Testament and Greek; and Kenneth Taylor, professor of urban missions.
Professors celebrating 15 years at the seminary were Eddie Campbell, professor of English at Leavell College; John Gibson, professor of communication at Leavell College; Loretta Rivers, associate professor of social work; and Robert Stewart, professor of philosophy and theology.
Ten year anniversaries included Reggie Ogea, professor of leadership and pastoral ministry; Jeffrey Riley, professor of ethics; and Edward Steele, associate professor of music.
New faculty members included Bong Soo Choi, professor of New Testament and Greek; Jody Dean, assistant professor of Christian education; Adam Harwood, associate professor of theology; Peter Kendrick, professor of theology and culture; Jonggil Lee, assistant professor of expository preaching; Mike Miller, associate professor of expository preaching; Hal Stewart, associate professor of discipleship; and Douglas Watkins, associate professor of Christian education.