Dr. Charles S. (Chuck) Kelley, Jr., was elected unanimously February 23, 1996, as the eighth president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. A professor of evangelism at New Orleans Seminary since August 1983, Dr. Kelley assumed the office of president March 1, 1996. He succeeds Dr. Landrum P. Leavell II, who served as president 1975-95.
Originally from Beaumont, Texas, where he was born July 27, 1952, Dr. Kelley is the son of the late Doris and Charles S. Kelley, Sr. He has four sisters: Dorothy, the wife of Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX; Kathy, a school librarian in Las Vegas; Charlene, a homemaker in Dallas; and Eileen, a pastor's wife in Las Vegas. He grew up working in his father's business, the Kelley-Hixon Funeral Home in Beaumont, originally thinking that he as the only son would one day assume responsibilities from his father. But God had other plans for him.
During his senior year at Beaumont's Forest Park High School in 1970, he was elected president of the student body, named captain of the football team, chosen as an Athlete of the Year for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and selected as Outstanding Teenager of America. He also responded to God's call to preach.
During his freshman year at Baylor University, he finalized a decision to focus on evangelism. He was ordained to the ministry February 2, 1972, at the First Baptist Church of Beaumont, where he was an active member. The same year he served as pastor of Ireland Baptist Church in Ireland, Texas, until he was asked to become the assistant director of the Baptist Student Union at Baylor. During his three years of service, the BSU experienced significant growth and revitalization. In 1974, he completed the Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy and on June 21 married his college sweetheart, Rhonda Harrington, a speech pathology and audiology major at Baylor.
After Rhonda completed Baylor's master of science degree program in speech pathology and audiology, the Kelleys moved to New Orleans where Chuck began the Master of Divinity degree program at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Rhonda enrolled in the Doctor of Philosophy degree program at the University of New Orleans, majoring in special education and speech pathology. After Chuck completed the M.Div. degree in 1978, specializing in biblical studies, he began the Doctor of Theology degree program, with a major in preaching. Both Kelleys completed their doctoral degrees in 1983.
In August 1983, Chuck was elected to the faculty of New Orleans Seminary. Later he served as the Roland Q. Leavell professor of evangelism. In March 1993 he was named chairman of the seminary's largest division, Pastoral Ministries. In June 1993 he was named director of Southern Baptists' first Center for Evangelism and Church Growth, located on the front block of the NOBTS campus. He also served from 1983 to 1993 as the seminary's director of field education.
A much-requested public speaker throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Chuck Kelley is recognized widely both for his evangelistic preaching and for his research in the area of church growth. He is the author of numerous denominational articles, training materials and books, including How Did They Do It? The Story of Southern Baptist Evangelism; and "The Roman Road" tract, teacher's guide, learner's guide and training video produced by the Southern Baptist Convention's Home Mission Board and used throughout the SBC during the 1995 "Here's Hope" nationwide evangelism campaign.
From 1978 to 1994 Dr. Rhonda Kelley worked for Ochsner Medical Institutions, where she served as director of the Division of Communicative Disorders. She has been an adjunct professor at New Orleans Seminary for more than ten years, teaching communication and various student wives' courses.
God chose not to give the Kelleys children. Instead, He led both of them to be deeply involved in ministry. The election of Dr. Chuck Kelley to the presidency of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has confirmed that God wants Chuck and Rhonda to pour their lives into the lives of the students, faculty, and staff of this School of Providence and Prayer.