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Heritage Fellows Publish “Keeping the Faith While Making Interfaith Relationships”


Three Virginia Baptist college students were challenged to intentionally get to know fellow students on their campus who practice another faith and hopefully to make a friendship. Emma Tilley and her sister, Virginia Tilley, students at the College of William & Mary, and Andrew Cook, a student at Virginia Tech, were appointed as the class of Heritage Fellows 2016-17, a program sponsored by the Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies at the University of Richmond.

Their assignment was to become more grounded in their own knowledge of Baptist distinctives and principles while purposely reaching out to persons of other faiths.  In a world where religious faiths are in conflict and even in the contemporary scene in America with “fear of the other,” these young Baptists were encouraged to practice the same openness of early Virginia Baptists who struggled to help secure religious liberty for persons of all faiths and even no faith.

The Heritage Fellows’ experiences were documented in a new book entitled Keeping the Faith While Making Interfaith Relationships. It gives their analysis of Baptist principles, their own testimonies of why they chose to be “a Baptist Christian,” and the accounts of the relationships which they initiated with fellow students of other faiths.

Emma Tilley wrote about students who are Muslim, Hindu and Jewish and what they appreciated about one another once they became friends. She reflected:  “I had no idea of the implications of this writing project when I signed on. I questioned the need to explain religious freedom because I thought America prided itself in the freedoms it offered to all. Yet I came across people who had experienced prejudice because of their religion. It wasn’t until I began looking out for the ways I interacted with other religions, that I began to realize the importance of how we relate to others. With each added day, the younger generation speaks louder and louder against injustice.”

Andrew Cook learned about the Muslim Student Association on his campus and attended one of their meetings. He wrote about his friendship with a Muslim student:  “His devotion to his faith and constant kindness and sincerity with others has inspired me. Because of his own devotion to the memorization of the Muslim religious text, the Qur’an, I have been challenged to memorize the Bible with the same dedication he has shown.”

“While most Muslims whom I have met so far hesitate to talk about Muslim terrorism or Jihadism, he addresses the topic and strives to point towards the faith he calls his own which has nothing to do with terrorism.”

Virginia Tilley made a friend of a Hindu who was struggling with Atheism.  The Heritage Fellow observed “the importance of fostering a mutual respect between religious groups, cultures and nationalities.”  “No religious group, even Christianity, should try to force its views upon others by use of government.  God alone is ‘Lord of the conscience,’ giving each person free will to think and act for themselves.”

Fred Anderson, executive director emeritus of the Heritage Center, explained the purpose of the project:  “It is hoped that Baptist young people who read these accounts will be moved to reach out beyond their own circle and form friendships with those who represent ‘the other’ within their community. It is further hoped that this project and the book which tells the accounts will serve in some way to help foster an atmosphere of acceptance and tolerance in the land which birthed religious liberty for all.”

The Heritage Fellows program receives each January applications from Virginia Baptist college sophomores and juniors. Full qualifications and requirements are posted on the Heritage Center’s website wwwbaptistheritage.org. Each year the nature of the Heritage Fellows’ project changes so that there are presented a variety of issues of current interest to Baptists.

Copies of Keeping the Faith can be ordered for $7 each plus $3 for shipping and handling.  Send orders to Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies, P.O. Box 34, University of Richmond, VA 23173.

    Virginia Baptist Historical Society Announces New Executive Director


    Nathan L. Taylor has been elected executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society and the Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies effective May 1, 2017.  Both institutions are housed at the University of Richmond.

    Taylor is a graduate of Asbury College and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.  He is scheduled to receive a Doctor of Ministry degree from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology at the end of this year.

    Taylor taught United States history at Woodford County High School in Versailles, KY.  He is a contributing writer for Smyth & Helwys Publishers.  He comes to his new position from Central Baptist Church in Richmond where he was an associate pastor.

    He is a member of the Baptist World Alliance’s Commission on Mission and participated in the 2015 Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa.  He has served on the Virginia Baptist Historical Society’s Executive Committee since 2010 as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies.

    Frank Schwall, president of the Historical Society, remarked, “Rev. Taylor comes to the Society and the Center equipped with the expertise and gifts to project their ministry into the future with creativity and strength.  He has a passion for Virginia Baptists’ significant contribution to establishing religious liberty in our nation and a commitment to safeguard that heritage.”

      Virginia Baptist Historical Society Announces Fred Anderson’s Retirement


      After completing 38 years of service as executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, Fred Anderson has announced his plans to retire on July 31, 2017. In 2000 Anderson expanded his service becoming the executive director of the new Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies.  Both institutions are headquartered at the University of Richmond.

      Anderson has written 18 books on Baptist history and over 1,100 history columns for the Religious Herald, the state Baptist newspaper in Virginia. He developed historical character monologues of noted Baptist ministers which were offered in over 500 presentations across Virginia and beyond.

      Under his leadership, the Virginia Baptist Historical Society’s building was renovated to become a living museum. He commissioned 36 scenes for the Virginia Baptist History Mural by Sidney E. King which is a feature of the museum. He wrote God’s Stories: An Illustrated History of Virginia Baptists which gives the story behind each panel in the mural.

      Periodic exhibits have brought tour groups from across Virginia and the eastern United States.  A landmark exhibit was “free indeed!” which told the relationships between whites and blacks in the Baptist churches of antebellum Virginia as well as the trials and triumphs of Virginia’s enslaved. The current exhibit is “To See a World,” telling the stories of travels of 19th century Virginians. He also has created traveling exhibits which have been mounted across Virginia and beyond.

      The Society serves as a repository for Virginia Baptist records.  Under Anderson’s leadership, the Society’s church records have increased from 1,200 to over 4,000 record books.  The collection is used by researchers from across the world.  The Society also publishes an annual journal.

      The Center for Baptist Heritage & Studies has produced numerous books and other educational materials.  It holds conferences and convocations on various issues. Under Anderson’s leadership, the Center began appointing outstanding college students as Heritage Fellows and to date 26 Virginia students have been appointed. They undertake a project which is published for distribution. The current class of Heritage Fellows intentionally made friendships with students of other faith groups on their campus and have written a book entitled Keeping the Faith which will be published in May.

      Fred Anderson serves on the Baptist Heritage and Identity Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and has participated with other Baptist historians around the world. For 35 terms he has served as clerk of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

      Anderson says, “We are Virginia Baptists. We are people with an identity, a history and a presence in this garden we call Virginia.” He has devoted his life to telling this story.

      Frank Schwall, president of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society, remarked, “Fred Anderson has worked with unwavering commitment, enthusiasm, creativity and excellence. He has brought Virginia Baptist history to life.”

      Fred Anderson will be honored at the Society’s annual meeting on May 16 at River Road Church, Baptist in Richmond.

        “Religious Liberty Affirmed” is the theme of Virginia Baptist Historical Society’s Annual Meeting May 16

        “Religious Liberty Reaffirmed” is the theme of the annual meeting of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society to be held at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 16 at River Road Church, Baptist, 8000 River Road in Richmond’s west end.

        The keynote speaker will be Amanda Tyler, the new executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Fred Anderson, executive director of the VBHS, will share the story of the contributions of 18th century Virginia Baptists to secure religious liberty. Special guests will be representatives of the 116 surviving Virginia Baptist churches from the 1700s which experienced the trials and triumphs associated with securing religious liberty for all Americans to enjoy.

        The program will include a recognition of Fred Anderson upon his retirement and the installation of Nathan L. Taylor as executive director of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society. A special highlight will be a mini-concert by Robert Gallagher on the church’s recently restored pipe organ. The program is open to the public.

          Dr. Linda McKinnish Bridges named Presidential Candidate for BTSR

          By Lacy Kendrick, BTSR

          Dr. Linda Bridges, Associate Dean of the College, Wake Forest University.

          The BTSR presidential search committee has named the Reverend Doctor Linda McKinnish Bridges as the presidential candidate for Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

          Upon approval by a vote of the BTSR Board of Trustees on March 21, McKinnish Bridges will succeed president Dr. Ron Crawford, effective July 1, 2017. Crawford is retiring after a decade of service to BTSR. Crawford says he is “very excited” about McKinnish Bridges returning to BTSR to serve as the next president. “Dr. Bridges’ disposition, training and experience uniquely qualify her for this position,” says Crawford. “She is known and loved in the larger BTSR community, and will lead the school well in the coming years.”

          McKinnish Bridges was selected after a comprehensive nationwide search led by a BTSR committee consisting of trustees, faculty and staff, with assistance from AGB Search. McKinnish Bridges will serve as the third president of BTSR, and comes to the seminary at the culmination of BTSR’s 25th anniversary.

          Dr. Bert Browning, chair of the presidential search committee, says, “Rev. Dr. Linda McKinnish Bridges represents our heritage as one of the seminary’s original professors at its founding. She embodies our hope, as we look to her wise leadership for the challenging and promising days ahead. She joins us in the here and now to link our past and our future.”

          Dr. Tracy Hartman, BTSR faculty member and member of the search committee, adds, “As a renowned scholar and respected business woman, Dr. Bridges is the ideal person to lead us into the future. She knows and loves BTSR, and she understands the challenges facing the church and theological education. BTSR will thrive under her innovative and visionary leadership.”

          A native of Henderson County, NC, McKinnish Bridges brings a wealth of experience as a theological educator and academic administrator. She earned her bachelor’s degree in religion and education at Meredith College, a master of divinity (MDiv) and PhD in New Testament Studies and Greek from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a master of business administration (MBA) from Wake Forest University School of Business. Ordained to the Gospel ministry in 1990 by the Northminster Baptist Church in Richmond, McKinnish Bridges has fulfilled her calling in both church and classroom.

          Dr. E. Bruce Heilman, former president of Meredith College and current chancellor of The University of Richmond, recalls, “Dr. Linda McKinnish Bridges, whom I know well, is a graduate of Meredith College where I served as president. She is distinguished in every respect. She has all the qualifications essential to fulfilling the challenging responsibilities of leading an institution of higher learning. Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond will continue to flourish under her strong leadership and reputation.”

          McKinnish Bridges, who served as the founding professor of Biblical Interpretation, Ancient Greek and New Testament Interpretation at BTSR from 1991 to 2001, looks forward to her return to the seminary. “I believe in the power of education to transform individuals, communities, and even nations. With thanksgiving for the faculty, administration, students, and trustees of BTSR who have created this vibrant community of learning for these 25 years, I am delighted to return to Richmond and help guide us into the next chapter,” says McKinnish Bridges.

          In addition to her experience as a founding faculty member, McKinnish Bridges brings student recruitment, business management and fundraising expertise to BTSR. She currently serves as Managing Director of The International University Alliance, Shorelight Education, a company seeking to help international students and US universities reach their international education goals in a highly competitive global environment.

          Dr. Basil Cleveland, Executive Vice President and co-founder of Shorelight Education, says, “It has been our distinct privilege to work with Dr. McKinnish Bridges for the last several years. My team in particular has benefitted from her thoughtful approach to developing and negotiating complex academic partnerships. She brought generosity, warmth, and curiosity to the negotiating table, which inspired trust. She brought humility and other-care to her coworkers, which inspired admiration. We are thrilled that she has chosen to pursue this leadership opportunity at Baptist Theological Seminary, and grateful for the time we spent together.”

          McKinnish Bridges also served in many roles of leadership at Wake Forest University from 2001-2014. As Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences she led the University in student academic advising, diversity initiatives, and departmental leadership. As a faculty member and administrator in the School of Divinity, she worked to create joint degree programs with the WFU School of Medicine and the School of Law. With ability to speak Mandarin Chinese fluently, she helped develop and implement the first international enrollment strategy for Wake Forest University, focusing student recruitment primarily in China.

          Dr. Lynn Sutton, vice provost of Wake Forest University, says, “Linda McKinnish Bridges is a visionary leader in the field of higher education. She is the ideal person to advance the good work of the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.”

          Rev. Dr. Linda McKinnish Bridges will transition to her new role in Spring 2017, and will officially begin as president of BTSR on July 1, 2017.

            Robert Parham (1953 – 2017)

              Theological Library Service Available for Church Leaders, Teachers

              Union Presbyterian Seminary’s William Smith Morton Library, in Richmond, launched a new service in 2016 designed to provide theological resources to individuals with leadership or teaching roles in religious organizations. 

              Those who can provide evidence of such a role – whether ordained or non-ordained, paid or unpaid – are now eligible to apply for library privileges at a reduced rate of $50 a year, less than $5/month. 

              This service is designed not only for pastors but also for Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, music directors, board and committee members, administrators and those who serve religious non-profits, whether Christian or of another faith. 

              More information is available on the library’s Membership page at http://library.upsem.edu/about-the-library/richmond-campus/membership/.  The library’s front desk staff is also available to answer questions by phone at 804-278-4310.

                Ministering to Ministers Founder Set to Retire

                Posted: 10/7/16 at 3:40pm.

                20161005-3When Dr. Charles Chandler experienced involuntary termination at his church in Virginia he wrestled with the fact he was 58 years old and “less marketable” as a prospect for another pulpit. He found few resources to help him deal with these issues and began to dream of an organization that would benefit ministers in crisis. He created the Ministering to Ministers Foundation in 1994, and the organization has sponsored some 132 Wellness Retreats throughout the nation for ministers in pain, helping 1,287 men and women discover new hope.

                “It’s been gratifying to see ministers reenter their world with greater wisdom and new-found commitment to serve other people who hurt,” he said.

                Now Chandler is set to retire and pass the baton to another executive.

                Current board chair Jim Johnson of Richmond has agreed to serve as interim executive-director beginning Jan. 1. He said he had big shoes to fill.

                “No one has attempted to do more for the disenfranchised pastor than Charles Chandler,” Johnson said. “This effort on behalf of clergy has excelled because of his kindness, wisdom, counsel and deep personal sacrifice. To be sure, there is none like him!”

                Chandler said a number of things have changed in his 22 years at the helm of MTM.

                “Early on I’d search for pastors who needed help and phone them with invitations to our retreats,” he said. “Now, the Internet has revolutionized this process and we also get many referrals from others who’ve benefited from this ministry. And we’ve developed a team of professionals who assist us. It’s so different from the early days when it was basically me and [the late Chattanooga psychiatrist Dr.] Ross Campbell.”

                But the basic format of the five-day Healthy Transitions Wellness Retreat for Ministers and Spouses has remained the same, with some minor changes, Chandler explained. The core group is limited to 12-15 participants who share their crisis stories and engage in intensive individual and group therapy led by a psychiatrist, psychologist or certified therapist. Participants also hear from numerous experts including an attorney, a job counselor, a physical fitness instructor and spiritual leaders.

                For every participant attending a wellness retreat, at least nine others will experience some other aspect of the MTM ministry, according to Chandler, such as what he calls “the ministry of presence” that occurs when ministers seek counsel by telephone. MTM also offers one-day workshops, awareness presentations and has trained some 40 “Friends for the Journey” to partner with ministers in their struggles.

                Chandler said the two most oft-cited reasons for pastor-church conflict have been a constant for many years: control issues and people skills. And he believes in many ways these issues are more pronounced today than ever before.

                “We find a corporate-mentality in many churches,” he said. “The pastor is expected to function like a CEO. He or she runs the organizational machinery and grows the organization. If either doesn’t materialize, the pastor can be expendable. But most pastors aren’t trained to be CEOs and they find themselves very frustrated.

                “If a pastor provides leadership, he or she is a change agent and change brings conflict. But there’s conflict also if the pastor doesn’t provide leadership. I’ve always believed the pastor is to cast a vision, but must ask the people to help shape and carry out the vision.”

                Chandler noted that sometimes the terminated minister is victimized by forces outside their control, but at other times ministers make bad choices leading to crisis. He often tells retreat participants, “Don’t waste your pain. Grow from it. Wounded ministers can have a new dimension of ministry since we grow in wisdom through all the experiences of life.”

                Chandler said MTM’s surveys find that about two-thirds of retreat participants go back into full-time vocational ministry. Others don’t return to full-time ministry but to non-ministry vocation where many have opportunity to do part-time ministry. Chandler himself is in the latter group having served as bi-vocational pastor during his tenure at MTM.

                Chandler grew up in a pastor’s home in Alabama and Georgia. He graduated from Jacksonville High School, Jacksonville, Ala., Samford University, Birmingham, Ala. and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky. He served churches in Kentucky, Illinois and Virginia and was elected to two terms as president of the Illinois Baptist State Association. He has contributed more than 200 articles to denominational publications.

                Chandler and his wife, Betty, are parents of four children grandparents of six and great-grandparents of three.

                Chandler says he wants to remain active and supportive in the organization he founded.

                The MTM board of directors will honor Chandler at a dinner on Nov. 3 at the Willow Oaks Country Club in Richmond.

                More information about the work of MTM may be found at mtmfoundation.org.

                  Averett University Partners with Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond


                  Averett University and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) today announced a partnership to offer BTSR its master of divinity (MDiv) graduates a prescribed path for a master of business administration (MBA) through Averett University. For enrolled students, BTSR will provide a shortened MDiv degree format, at which upon completion they can apply to enter into Averett’s Graduate and Professional Studies’ MBA program. The advantage to students is a shortened track to complete their MDiv in order to move into the MBA program at Averett sooner.

                  Many recent MDiv graduates become ministers at smaller churches, which often don’t have employees to handle accounting, finances and marketing for the church. This degree path will equip future ministers with the necessary business background so that they can go and instantly lead a church directly out of school.

                  “This partnership between Averett University and the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond is a testament to our dedication to expanding program offerings to support those who seek to serve in the ministry and who want to strengthen the skills necessary to lead their churches and congregations effectively,” said Averett University President Dr. Tiffany Franks. “Averett University embraces its Judeo-Christian heritage as we strive to enhance students’ faith development by nurturing and actively pursuing opportunities for them to deepen their faith and to serve.”

                  In addition to its membership in the Baptist General Association of Virginia, Averett maintains its decades-long history of a Baptist Student Union, which more recently was renamed the Christian Student Fellowship. Each week, more than 50 students gather twice: once for food, fellowship and inspiration at neighboring West Main Baptist Church, and once for student-led, evening worship with their own praise band and student speakers on campus.

                  “BTSR is delighted to share this partnership with Averett University,” said BTSR President Dr. Ron Crawford. “Offering a shared master of divinity degree and a master of business administration degree will make both schools stronger and provide needed educational experience for both fields. We need ministers with a strong understanding of business and we need business leaders with a strong sense of ministry.”

                  BTSR opened for classes in September 1991 to question, discover, learn and serve in Jesus’ name. Springing from historic Baptist soil, the seminary became an expression of innovation and creativity in theological education. The seminary was established originally by the Alliance of Baptists, but it has since been nurtured by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist General Association of Virginia. BTSR currently has more than 700 graduates serving all around the world in local congregations, social service agencies, educational institutions, chaplaincies, and on the mission field.

                    The Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute and BTSR Announce New Partnership

                    Richmond, VA. — The Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute and Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) have announced a partnership offering courses designed to equip civic and religious leaders to navigate the intersection of religion and public life. Students at BTSR will be able to declare a concentration in Religious Freedom as part of their Master of Divinity degree program, completing a total of 72 core semester hours at BTSR and 15 semester hours of concentration electives with the Religious Freedom Center, for a total of 87 semester hours.

                    “BTSR has always attracted students interested in furthering the cause of religious liberty. Our proximity to the U.S. capital and the heart of the U.S. political process makes this partnership with the Newseum a perfect mix for our students to better understand the place of religion in pub- lic life. Prospective and current students will not want to miss this opportunity for a unique learning experience from two respected institutions who highly value religious freedom and quality theological education,” said Dr. Melissa Fallen, BTSR’s Director of Admissions and Recruitment.

                    Dr. Ron Crawford, President of BTSR, states, “Baptists were a passionate voice for religious liberty in the founding of our country, and now BTSR is collaborating to ensure this historic voice is not lost in the modern conversation about the relationship between state and church, in a time when most do not understand religious freedom let alone religious liberty.”

                    As unprecedented challenges arise from the nation’s rapidly expanding pluralism, civic and religious leaders require a thorough understanding of the guiding principles of the First Amendment. In this blended-learning course of study, students will master the constitutional and human rights principles necessary to lead people of any religion or none and to negotiate religious and philosophical differences with civility and re- spect. Four courses will be offered in the fall of 2016: “Foundations of Religious Freedom in the United States,” “Religious Liberty and Contem- porary American Public Life,” “Religion and News Media,” and “The Human Right to Freedom of Religion.” Using a blended-learning model, clas- ses will be conducted online except for a three-day seminar in October at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

                    Religious and civic leaders of all faith traditions or none are encouraged to apply online by July 31, 2016. Thanks to a generous grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, emerging and established religious leaders are eligible for full or partial scholarships. Upon successful completion of courses, students will receive graduate credit through Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

                    About the Religious Freedom Center:

                    The Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute is a nonpartisan national initiative focused on educating the American public about the religious liberty principles of the First Amendment. We envision a world committed to religious freedom as an inalienable right for all people. In carrying out this vision, our mission is to educate the public about the history, meaning, and significance of religious freedom, and to promote dialogue and understanding among people of all religions and none.

                    About Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond:

                    BTSR opened for classes in September 1991 to question, discover, learn, and serve in Jesus’ name. Springing from historic Baptist soil, the semi- nary became an expression of innovation and creativity in theological education. The seminary was established originally by the Alliance of Bap- tists, but it has since been nurtured by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist General Association of Virginia. BTSR currently has more than 700 graduates serving all around the world in local congregations, social service agencies, educational institutions, chaplaincies, and on the mission field.

                      Lakewood Now Accepting Direct Admits

                        BTSR President Ron Crawford Announces Retirement

                          Virginia Baptist Homes is now LifeSpire of Virginia

                            Brent Walker announces plans to retire from Baptist Joint Committee

                              James M. Dunn: 1932-2015