NOBTS adds Ph.D. apologetics major, 3 new faculty

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustee executive committee approved a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) major in apologetics and elected three new faculty members during their June 7 meeting.

“Apologetics is an area of strength at NOBTS,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said, adding that the Ph.D. major builds on the seminary’s three master’s degrees in apologetics and has generated “great student interest.”

Robert Stewart, director of the NOBTS Institute of Apologetics, noted, “In our postmodern, post-Christian culture it is simply irresponsible for Christian ministers not to be equipped apologetically.

“This means that our seminaries have to be on the leading edge of academic work in stating, defending and providing reasons for the faith once delivered to the saints. This major is just one part of responding to this need.”

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Mosque lawsuit: editor, profs, ERLC, IMB weigh in

BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, N.J. (BP) – The proposed construction of a mosque in New Jersey has prompted discussion among Southern Baptists of the proper way to protect Muslims' religious liberty.

Today (June 9) a trio of Southern Baptist professors – Jason Duesing, provost at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Thomas White, president of Cedarville University; and Malcolm Yarnell, professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – issued an open letter deeming it "inappropriate to question whether Muslims should retain the right freely to practice their religion" even though "granting such rights to some forms of Islam might one day lead to the threatening of Christians in our worship."

The letter (see below for complete text) came in response to a June 6 editorial by Gerald Harris, editor of Georgia's Christian Index newsjournal, who argued Islam "may be more of a geo-political movement than a religion" and may not qualify for all the First Amendment protections granted to religions. In his editorial, Harris critiqued the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the International Mission Board for taking the mosque's side in an amicus brief filed in a lawsuit seeking to have building permit denials overturned.

Meanwhile, a local pastor told Baptist Press the Muslim group behind the mosque "received the same treatment from our local planning boards that many of our churches do." He deemed local authorities' actions "consistent" despite claims made in the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge's lawsuit.

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Williams Baptist College sells Ridge Center, clears path for Tractor Supply Co.

Tom Jones, Williams Baptist College president, expresses his gratitude to those involved in the selling of the Ridge Center.WALNUT RIDGE – Williams Baptist College (WBC) announced June 6 that it is selling the Ridge Center in Walnut Ridge, paving the way for a new business in the city.  With the signing of the papers, an investment group is taking over the shopping center and is preparing to move Tractor Supply Co. into part of the retail space.

“Williams Baptist College is proud to be a part of anything that is good for our community,” said Tom Jones, Williams president.

Jones said that the college received the Ridge Center property six years ago, and has been “blessed with extraordinary tenants over the years.” He added that proceeds from the sale would help fund a residence hall on the WBC campus, which he called a “major step forward for the college.”

About 15 to 20 jobs are expected to come with the new business.  Tractor Supply will occupy a vacant retail space that was the former site for Wal-mart in Walnut Ridge. 

“The announcement that Tractor Supply Co. will be remodeling a portion of the Ridge Center in Walnut Ridge will provide a huge boost to our local economy. Jobs will be created and a new tax base will be established. That tax base will provide support for all the residents of Lawrence County,” said Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp.

Construction is expected to begin later this month, said Snapp.


UPDATE: Billy Graham statue moving from LifeWay to North Carolina mountains

EDITOR'S NOTE: LifeWay Christian Resources has reported that the removal of the Billy Graham statue has been rescheduled for June 25 because it was attached to the ground differently than expected. The statue was originally scheduled to be removed June 8.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. –  LifeWay Christian Resources is moving a larger-than-life statue of Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham from its downtown Nashville location to a LifeWay retreat center in the North Carolina mountains, a few miles from Graham’s home. The move is prompted by last year’s sale of LifeWay’s 15-acre Nashville campus.

The iconic bronze sculpture will be dismantled Wednesday June 25 and placed in storage until a new site is ready this fall at the entrance to LifeWay’s 1,300-acre Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center, near Asheville, N.C.

“Ridgecrest is a perfect location for the Graham statue,” said Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay President and CEO. “It is only a few miles from the home where Mr. Graham has lived most of his life, and it will welcome nearly 70,000 men and women, boys and girls who come to Ridgecrest every year for spiritual training and retreat.”

The sculpture features a 7-foot-tall depiction of the world famous evangelist standing beside a 17-foot cross. Graham’s arms are stretched wide, and an open Bible rests in his left hand. At the foot of the cross are three nails and a stone inscribed with the words of John 3:16.

Sculpted by bivocational pastor Terrell O’Brien, the statue was donated to LifeWay in 2006 by two Southern Baptist businessmen from Atlanta, Chris Fryer and Matt Samuelson. It was unveiled at the 2006 SBC annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C. and placed on the northeast corner of LifeWay’s property that December.

At a dedication ceremony, O’Brien said his vision for the statue was to pay tribute to Graham and his life’s ministry, but “my heart’s desire is to also honor the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

During the dedication, Cliff Barrows, longtime music director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said the sculpture captures Graham’s passions for the Word of God, Gospel preaching, the invitation, and the cross.

The 97-year-old Graham has preached the Gospel to an estimated 215 million people in live audiences in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts.

Graham has written 33 books and has been listed as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World” for more than 50 years. Now in frail health, Graham resides in the home he shared with his wife, Ruth, who died in 2007, and their five children in the mountains of western North Carolina.



Laura Bednar named Baptist Prep head of school effective July 1

BednarLITTLE ROCK -- The Baptist Preparatory School’s board of trustees has announced that Laura Bednar, currently the deputy superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), was voted unanimously as the next head of school, effective July 1.
"We are excited about Baptist Prep's future as we move forward under the leadership of Dr. Bednar," said Clayton Vaden, chairman of the board of trustees. "Baptist Prep is recognized for providing our students with an excellent college-preparatory education in a Christ-centered environment. Dr. Bednar is recognized as an educational leader, and she has a deep abiding faith in Jesus Christ. We see this as a great fit.”
“Our trustees know that Dr. Bednar will build on the successes that Baptist Prep has enjoyed. We are blessed with a dedicated and talented faculty and staff who carry out our mission every day. While this is a time of transition, it is an exciting time as we begin a new chapter at Baptist Prep," Vaden added.

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