Kelley extols God’s mercies in NOBTS ‘State of the Seminary' address

By Marilyn Stewart

The past is proof God’s mercies never fail, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley said in his State of the Seminary address in Leavell Chapel, April 13, following the spring board of trustees meeting. Kelley pointed to the seminary’s 100 year history to make his point.

“We serve an amazing God who delights in doing awesome work to nurture his children and extend the work of his kingdom,” Kelley said. “I would submit that ‘exhibit A’ of that statement is New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.” 

Prior to relating highlights of the academic year, Kelley looked back to the seminary’s founding in 1917 in New Orleans, a city with few Baptists at the time, and said the Southern Baptist Convention intended the training center for ministers to be “a mission station as much as it was to be an institution.”

The trials and challenges faced by the institution in its 100-year history are evidence that God is always faithful, Kelley said.

“I thank the Lord for putting us, and me, in a hard place,” Kelley said, adding, “It is only in the difficult places that you get the clearest view of the glory of God and the deepest experience of the richness and sufficiency of his amazing grace.”

Highlights of the academic year included the renewal of accreditation by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges; an enrollment that remains among the seminary’s highest; tuition income and giving to NOBTS that are trending upward; and key changes in curriculum and delivery systems, Kelley said.

Kelley announced 31 additional Caskey Center for Church Excellence scholarships for bivocational and smaller membership church ministers serving in Louisiana, bringing the total number of Caskey Center scholarships available to 275. Caskey Center scholarships in excess of 1 million dollars were awarded this year and funding for two faculty positions and support staff was provided.

In the first two-and-a half years of the Caskey Center program, scholarship recipients had 15,163 Gospel presentations with 5,682 full presentations that included an invitation to accept Christ, with 1,372 coming to faith in Christ.

Kelley also note that the Caskey Center is a primary sponsor for the June 11-12 SBC Pastor’s Conference in Phoenix where pastors from smaller membership churches will be featured speakers. 

Pointing to other highlights, Kelley praised the NOBTS Tel Gezer Water System Excavation team in their discovery of a cache of objects, a rare piece of linen cloth, and a clay goddess mold that support the dating of the site to the Middle Bronze Age II (2000-1550 B.C.).

Kelley announced the name change of the NOBTS Division of Christian Education to the Division of Discipleship and Ministry Leadership, noting the vital role discipleship in making gains in evangelism.

“We can’t fix evangelism problems without fixing discipleship and helping people look and live more like Jesus,” Kelley said. 

In noting the upward trend in Cooperative Program giving, Kelley said 36 percent of tuition income is provided through scholarships, the highest ever, with CP being the second largest stream of income for the seminary.

Kelley reminded listeners that trials will come but that God’s compassions never fail. Relating trials to the black velvet set against a glittering diamond, Kelley said the blackness makes the diamond sparkle brighter. 

“When the Lord lays black velvet across your life, you know a diamond is coming,” Kelley said. “Looking back on the trials of 100 years is evidence that God’s mercy is enough and that God will use every moment of our lives to show us that He is an amazing God.”