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Connecting cultures for Christ
May 04, 2004
By Jeff Robinson
Ken Fentress (center), dean of Southern Seminary’s new Intercultural Studies program, talks with two doctoral students, Kevin Smith (right) and Robert Cheong. The program is aimed at racial reconciliation and fulfilling the Great Commission task. Photo by David Merrifield
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees unanimously affirmed an initiative April 20that creates a new Intercultural Studies program aimed at fulfilling the Great Commission.
Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. appointed Ken Fentress as dean of the new program. While new courses eventually will be added as part of the program, Fentress’s immediate task will be to analyze existing seminary courses to ensure that they meet the cultural diversity purpose demanded by the Great Commission, Mohler said.
Referring to Revelation 7:9, Mohler said God’s glory is magnified when the church ministers to the redeemed from every tribe, tongue, people and nation. This is a vital part of the seminary’s task in preparing ministers to the glory of God, he said.
“We understand the Great Commission horizon of this course,” Mohler said. “We must ask how we understand, through every course, through every program of study, through every emphasis, what it would mean for God to find glory in the sameness of human beings made in His image [and] redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and in the diversity of human beings ... and bring them all under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Mohler said Fentress was clearly the man God had sent to Southern Seminary to lead the new program.
“This is a big step for us,” Mohler said. “We’ve been looking for an individual whom God has gifted to have the leadership qualities to take on this kind of challenge. He is also going to bring a vision to us that is going to help us to see God’s glory demonstrated -- we hope not only in the age to come, but we’re determined to see it in the churches of our denomination looking to the future.
“Ken Fentress is one of the most intellectually and academically qualified young scholars in America. He is also one of the most equipped leaders of this generation.
“He has served as a pastor and he is a man who is going to bring enormous passion to this. We have prayed him to Southern Seminary.”
Fentress presently serves as assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation at the seminary, a position he has held since 2003.
He is a former pastor who holds degrees from Criswell College, Southern Seminary and Johns Hopkins University.
Fentress says he hopes to develop leaders who will be able to minister in the culturally and racially diverse church of the 21st century.
“It is a great honor and a humbling experience to have the opportunity to serve as dean of intercultural studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” said Fentress, who will also serve on Southern Seminary’s Executive Cabinet.
“My vision for the new deanship is to seek to develop a new generation of racially diverse leaders who will be prepared to meet the challenges of 21st Century Christian ministry with a biblically based, well-informed evangelical theological perspective that will advance the Kingdom of God and the Church of Jesus Christ.”
Fentress says the initiative is a “definitive step toward faithfully fulfilling the New Testament vision of racial reconciliation” as demanded by the Great Commission.
“It is vital to work toward racial reconciliation because it is consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through which God reconciles people of all races to Himself,” Fentress said. “Reconciliation with God through Christ is the basis for racial reconciliation in the Church [according to] 1 John 1:7.”
Russell D. Moore, dean of the seminary’s School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern, called the initiative “an historic moment” in Southern Baptist history that recognizes Southern Baptists are no longer a racially homogenous, regional denomination.
“But this initiative is about more than the challenging demographics of Southern Baptist churches,” Moore said. “It is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel that transforms churches, breaking down barriers of racial pride or ethnic boundary.”
In other business, Southern Seminary trustees:
* Elected and extended tenure to a number of faculty members: Chad Brand, associate professor of Christian theology; Gary Bredfeldt, professor of Christian leadership and ministry; William R. Cutrer, C. Edwin Gheens professor of Christian ministry; Russell T. Fuller, associate professor of Old Testament interpretation; and Eric L. Johnson, associate professor of pastoral theology.
Bredfeldt will begin service on Southern Seminary’s faculty in the fall. He is presently a professor at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Ill.
* Promoted several faculty members from associate to full-professor status: Douglas C. Walker III, professor of Christian ministry; William F. Cook, professor of New Testament interpretation; Esther R. Crookshank; professor of church music; Peter J. Gentry, professor of Old Testament interpretation; Gregory A. Wills, professor of church history; and Charles E. Lawless Jr., professor of evangelism and church growth.
Trustees also honored Walker for his 10 years of service as the seminary’s senior vice president for institutional relations.
“He [Walker] has helped so many Christians to exercise stewardship,” Mohler said. “We express a profound gratitude for his work.”
* Approved a $26.9 million budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year, a 5.2 percent increase over last year.