FROM THE SEMINARIES: Hershael York named SBTS theology dean; MBTS launches women's ministry concentrations

In today's From the Seminaries: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Herschael York named theology dean at Southern

Hershael York
SBTS photo.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Longtime pastor and New Testament scholar Hershael York will become the new dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's school of theology, effective Aug. 1, succeeding Gregory A. Wills, who is completing a five-year term.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., made the announcement at the alumni and friends luncheon during the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

The school of theology is the seminary's oldest and central school, encompassing what Mohler calls a "classic theology faculty" of scholars and practitioners in the Old and New Testaments; biblical, historical and systematic theology; church history; philosophy; ethics; and preaching.

"The school of theology represents the original purpose of the seminary … that has existed since 1859 in a succession of teachers and academic leaders," Mohler said in an interview, describing it as "the very heart of Southern Seminary."

York will be the 11th dean of the school of theology since its formation in 1954. Previous deans include Russell D. Moore, now-president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Danny Akin, now-president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Wills, the outgoing dean, will return to scholarly pursuits teaching and writing. In the next year, Wills intends to finish writing a history of Southern Baptists. He is also under contract to write a two-volume history of Christianity.

"Being dean of the school of theology," Mohler said, "requires a sacrifice of time and something of a sabbatical from some of the scholarship that a professor like Greg Wills both wants and needs to undertake. And so especially with some major developments to come like the 175th anniversary of the Southern Baptist Convention, I wanted to be certain we give Greg Wills relief from the responsibilities as dean to turn his attention to some scholarly projects that we all need him to do."

Mohler added that Wills' his tenure as dean will serve as a model for the future. Because deans of the school of theology typically are not be able to set aside publishing and teaching indefinitely, this led Mohler to change the nature of the deanship of the school of theology.

"We are looking at a model scholar already on our faculty, already serving on the faculty of the school of theology, to take on the responsibility of dean for a term. As we look to the future, we're going to be asking deans to serve for five years," Mohler said, adding that a dean could serve longer, but he wants to ensure deans are not forced to choose between scholarly and administrative careers.

York's relationship with Southern Seminary began 25 years ago when Mohler became the ninth president of the seminary and York was the 33-year-old pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

"I had literally no thought that it would be possible for the seminary" to return to its theological roots as the SBC's flagship seminary.

"Southern was just so far gone. I didn't picture Southern ever being what it is today, and I certainly didn't picture myself on the faculty. In all of history, there's never been the dramatic change in the theological direction of a seminary like there has been here. It is unparalleled."

When Mohler was announced as president in early 1993, York called Mohler and said, "You don't know me, but I want you to know that there's at least one pastor in Kentucky who is glad you're coming."

Mohler hired York in 1997 as one of his first preaching professors. Two years later, in 1999, the seminary's trustees elected York to an endowed position as Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching.

York said he considers preaching professors as one of the most important at a confessional evangelical seminary since students are taught the Scriptures and theology in order to faithfully proclaim it.

Wills said of York, whom he has known for more than 20 years: "I have immense respect for him as a man of God, as a theologian, and as a leader in theological education. He is committed utterly to the full inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, and to the power of the Word of God, to evangelism, and to the worldwide mission of the church. In his teaching, he has modeled the way that theological education should be done."

York's educational background includes bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in classical languages from the University of Kentucky, as well as master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees in New Testament and Greek from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Tonya have two sons, both of whom work in ministry positions.

Dates for an installation service for York as well as a celebration of Wills' tenure as dean will be announced later this summer.

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Midwestern introduces women's ministry concentrations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has introduced two women's ministry concentrations with a goal of providing degree options to cultivate a Christian lifestyle, offer instruction in classical theological disciplines and develop the theoretical understanding and practical skills necessary for women's ministry.

Beginning immediately, students studying at Midwestern Seminary for a master of divinity degree can earn a concentration in women's ministry, and those working toward degrees through the Midwestern Training Network can obtain a master of theological studies with an emphasis in women's ministry.

"The main impetus for Midwestern Seminary in offering these degree concentrations is to more fully serve the local church, specifically in the area of women's ministry," President Jason Allen said. "If our goal is to develop and maintain strong local churches, then that means we must properly educate and train members for service in each distinctive ministry within the church.

"Women have long served vital areas within the local church and played key roles in spreading the Gospel. These concentrations will afford them the opportunity to develop their God-given spiritual gifts and abilities to an even fuller extent," Allen said.

While each student will work through the traditional core courses for a M.Div. or MTS degree, the new concentrations will focus on specific practicum courses related to women's ministry such as Biblical Womanhood Practicum, Women's Ministry Internship, Women's Discipleship Practicum, Women's Evangelism and Missions Practicum and Age Group Ministry.

In all, the M.Div. with women's ministry concentration will entail 90 credit hours while the MTS will be a 45-credit-hour degree.

Speaking to the new women's ministry concentrations, which join similar programs at several other SBC seminaries, Provost Jason Duesing noted, "The addition of focused avenues of study for women's ministry is something we've been working to add to Midwestern's programs for several semesters. I am thankful for the team of students, faculty and deans that worked to provide input and recommendations that are seen in these new concentrations."

To register for the M.Div. with women's ministry concentration or the MTS with women's ministry emphasis, visit www.mbts.edu/womensministry.

In another academically-related move, Owen Strachan has been named as director of Midwestern's residential Ph.D. program known as "The Residency," begun last year.

Strachan, who will assume the role on Aug. 1, also serves as associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center of Public Theology.

"At Midwestern Seminary, we're seeing unprecedented growth in our doctoral studies program, including our residential Ph.D. program, The Residency," Allen said. "Dr. Strachan, as a mentor to this next generation of Christian academicians, will inject great energy and expertise into the lives of these students. They, in turn, will come away from here on a trajectory of study that qualifies them specifically for a future in theological education or Christian higher education, which will, in turn, benefit the local church."

"I am beyond excited to lead The Residency," Strachan said. "In an age when many seminaries are paring their residential programs, under the visionary leadership of Dr. Allen, MBTS is investing in personal ministry training with a vengeance.

"This is what I'm in it for: to train churchmen, leaders, pastor-theologians and scholars for the over-spilling glory of God. We will have numerous facets of The Residency to announce in coming months. For now, I can say that we will feature theological discipleship, regular mentoring, select teaching and publishing opportunities, and a spirit of unfettered exultation in the life of the Christian mind for the church's upbuilding."

Midwestern Seminary Provost Jason Duesing said, "Having Dr. Strachan give attention now to The Residency, Ph.D. Program is like having Steph Curry on hand to coach your college basketball team. For these students to have regular access to a theologian like Dr. Strachan, who is critically engaged in his field, is an educational experience that few have in some of the most well-known Ph.D. programs."

For students interested in learning more about The Residency at Midwestern Seminary, visit www.mbts.edu/theresidency, or contact Mindy Akright in the doctoral office at makright@mbts.edu.

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston from reporting by the communications office at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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