New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Workshop Focuses on Minorities and Women in Academia

New Orleans Seminary Chancellor Chuck Kelley (left at table) speaks about doctrinal statements and institutional fit during a Different Voices Initiative workshop. Rick Brewer, president of Louisiana College, Norris Grubbs, NOBTS provost, and Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement with the SBC Executive Committee, joined Kelley in the discussion. Photo by Shaale Arencibia

When New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Chancellor Chuck Kelley announced his “Different Voices Initiative” in 2018, a top priority involved encouraging students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as women to pursue a calling to academia.

A May 6 workshop, “Faculty Hiring 101,” marked a key step toward that goal, offering practical tips for those sensing a call to teach in a Baptist institution.

About 25 students from a variety of ethnic backgrounds including African American, Asian and Hispanic attended the event. About a third of the attendees were women, more than half of whom were white.

The group included students at all stages of study in the master’s and doctoral programs at NOBTS. Most were either master’s students considering doctoral work or students in the early stages of doctoral study.

Presenters discussed the preparation for academia, the doctrinal expectations of Southern Baptist schools and institutional fit as well as practical matters like developing an academic resume.

Informal conversations like these take place between professors and students on a daily basis. Some of the NOBTS academic divisions host doctoral recruitment events which cover some of the same ground. However, Kelley created the intentional workshop with the idea of increasing the number of minority Ph.D. students, since raising up more minority graduates is the first step toward increasing the pool of qualified minority applicants for future faculty openings at institutions across the SBC.

In addition to Kelley, other keynote presenters included Rick Brewer, president of Louisiana College, and Ken Weathersby, vice president for convention advancement at the SBC Executive Committee. Weathersby, who was the first African American to serve on the NOBTS faculty before joining the EC staff, offered a unique perspective of a “trailblazer” in faculty diversity. Norris Grubbs, provost at NOBTS, and Sandy Vandercook, associate dean of Leavell College, also led sessions during the four-hour workshop.

Kelley began the workshop by acknowledging the failures of the Southern Baptist Convention and New Orleans Seminary in the treatment of minorities. He said both the convention and the seminary made sinful decisions on race early on.

“The Southern Baptist Convention got off to a horrible start. In part, it was created as a defense of slavery,” Kelley said. “Could there be a more horrible moral and ethical decision?”

At its founding, NOBTS excluded black students. Later, the seminary rescinded that decision and began accepting African Americans in the 1950s.

“As I look across the whole landscape of the Southern Baptist Convention and Baptist institutions, it is a very different day,” Kelley said.

Brewer offered the perspective of Baptist liberal arts colleges where many future seminary professors hone their teaching skills. During his time at Louisiana College, Brewer said he had worked to bring diversity to the school’s leadership and faculty.

“I want to see that grow,” Brewer said. “That’s our student population, that’s the world in which our students are going to serve and that’s who we are as Southern Baptists.

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Source: Baptist Press