The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has announced the launch of a new research institute under the direction of its president, Russell Moore, and the appointment of an array of new scholars and professionals as research fellows, one of whom is Trinity President David S. Dockery.
Moore commented on the launch and addition of new fellows to the institute.
“The aim of the research institute is to be a catalyst to connect the agenda of the gospel to the complex questions of the day—and to do so at the highest levels of academic scholarship for the good of local congregations. I am thrilled to get to work together with an exceptionally gifted band of scholars and leaders as we seek to be a persuasive, prophetic witness engaging the academy and equipping the church.”
Read the rest of the press release.
In God’s providence, this year’s Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Alumnus of the Year receives his recognition in the midst of another celebration.
The 2013–14 academic year marks the fiftieth year of the beginning of the transformation from a small, denominational seminary into a large, internationally recognized evangelical theological institution. It was during the early years of this time that our recipient both graduated from (1967) and taught at Trinity (1969–78).
Born in 1939 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Dr. David F. Wells spent most of his childhood running around the bush and playing rugby. The second of two children, David’s father, Archie, served as a district commissioner and also sat on the High Court there (the equivalent of a governor and Supreme Court judge in the States), while his mother, Jessica, managed their house situated in the vast grassy woodlands of southern Africa.
“There was no civilization there,” Wells says. “My mother sometimes helped in my dad’s office, but there were no businesses or anything like that around. We were really out in the bush and, in fact, never had electricity or indoor plumbing. Cooking was done on a wood stove.”
In 1957, after graduating from boarding school, David went off to university in Cape Town, training to become an architect. It was there, as a radical student flirting with Marxist thought, that he found himself confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In those days, many universities would put on a “mission” and invite a “commissioner” to make a case for Christianity, during the course of which the speaker would deal with the various pressing questions of the day. On this particular occasion, John Stott was the mission’s representative, and it was through his preaching and teaching that God called David Wells to follow him. Almost immediately, Wells recalls, his vocational desires shifted toward the ministry, particularly toward missionary work.
This desire prompted David’s move to the United Kingdom in order to pursue a bachelor of divinity (today’s master of divinity) at the University of London. Shortly after his arrival in the city, David sought out the man whom God had used to change his life’s direction, and Stott promptly invited him to stay with him in the rectory of All Souls Church during the course of his studies. This mentoring relationship, which deeply affected Wells throughout his life, is what also led David to Trinity.
After being ordained in the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference and finishing his divinity degree at the University of London in 1968, David and his American wife, Jane (they married in 1965, having met at Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s L’Abri), moved to Chicagoland to attend Trinity, per Stott’s recommendation. By this time, Wells’ desire to serve as a missionary abroad had been supplanted by a desire to serve the church through academia. David often found himself at the top of his class at the University of London (competing regularly with his classmate and longtime friend Os Guinness), and so he discovered his giftedness in doing theology. At Trinity in 1966–67, David fondly recalls the faculty being “really extraordinary,” from whom he received a “terrific education.” While focusing on church history in his master of theology program, Wells spent the majority of time working on John Calvin’s doctrine of predestination.
From Trinity, Wells went on to Manchester University in England, where he completed the requirements for a PhD in an astonishing three years. While at Manchester, David received an unexpected call inviting him to teach at TEDS.
“I never thought that I would get invited back to Trinity,” Wells says. “But it was a welcomed surprise.”
Just a few years before the second round of Kenneth Kantzer’s hand-picked team came on to teach at TEDS in the early 1970s, Kantzer, with John Warwick Montgomery’s blessing (then head of the church history department), asked Wells to teach in 1969 (first as professor of church history, then as chair of the church history department, then finally as chair of the systematic theology department in 1977). In so doing, David joined the ranks of those who, with Kantzer, Arnold T. Olson, H. Wilbert Norton, and Harry Evans, dreamt of and put into the practice the great experiment that would become Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Wells resonated deeply with that vision of an academically superior graduate seminary that was unswervingly faithful to orthodox Christianity, where gospel-centered instruction was at the heart of the curriculum, where godly and well-trained professors formed students to be faithful preachers and committed to the evangelistic mission of the church. It was a broad ecumenical vision, in line with the central convictions and priorities of historic Christianity, as found in the Bible, the early creeds, and the doctrinal confessions of the Protestant Reformation.
“Both as a student and especially as a faculty member, there was a deep sense of exuberance about a Trinity education,” Wells recalls. “It was attempting to accomplish something that had not been tried previously, at least among evangelical free churches.”
“And there was no guarantee that this experiment in service to the evangelical church at large would endure.”
This broad ecumenical vision—service to the global evangelical church that cut across denominational lines—has perhaps influenced David’s work more deeply than anything else. His academic career, which spanned nearly a decade at Trinity before he went on to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1979, has seen a commitment to institutions that exist to advance the kingdom of God across the world, regardless of denominational affiliation. His writing career, in which he has authored more than twenty books and co-authored or edited many more, embodies this same spirit.
Fewer names are more closely associated with incisive and critical analyses of the intersection of evangelical Christianity and culture than David F. Wells. Yet, he does not consider himself primarily a critic of evangelicalism.
“I see myself primarily as a proponent of reformational Protestantism,” Wells says. “I see a waning and a denying of the very elements that have always been important to evangelicals.”
And so we see the impetus for the trajectory David’s writings have taken. With the publication of No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? in 1993, Wells sparked a coalition of like-minded reformational Protestants to face the challenge of the evangelical church in America—the abandonment of its historical and theological roots for the pragmatic naturalism of the world.
That coalition generated a conference and eventual declaration of faith—the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (1994) and the Cambridge Declaration (1996). From No Place for Truth, Wells went on to publish in this “series” God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams (1995); Losing Our Virtue: Why the Church Must Recover Its Moral Vision (1998); Above All Earthly Pow’rs: Christ in a Postmodern World (2005); and, finally, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-Lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (2008). All of these served to critique the evangelical landscape, with the express purpose of calling his beloved church to return to the historic faith of classical evangelicalism—one marked by doctrinal seriousness, as opposed to the new movements of the marketing church.
But this was not to be his last word on the subject. Just this year, Wells put the capstone on his long-running critical call to action with the publication of God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World (Jan. 2014). To his mind, this book is his most important work to date.
“God in the Whirlwind was in a way a response to the critics that criticized me for never offering a solution,” David says.
At first, Wells was seeking to answer the question, why is the theological character of the church disappearing? No Place for Truth was his answer. But more work was to be done. How has the culture shaped our horizons? The other books mentioned above continued to unpack his answers to that question. But with God in the Whirlwind, “the hardest book I have ever written,” Wells sought to provide some sort of way forward from the potential analysis-paralysis.
When focusing only on the analytical, you may feel like you are mastering the subject, and thus you can keep your distance from it. “But when you’re writing on the greatness of God and his character—the more you think about and formulate it—the more you realize there are depths you will never plumb,” says Wells. “I found myself always standing before God as a pauper.”
What is more, a renewed vision of God’s character is the “cure for the shallow theology we find at times in evangelicalism, with its weightless God and sentimental gospel,” Wells says. “The way forward is for evangelicals to recapture a God-centered, God-fearing, and God-honoring life of the church,” he explains. “Nothing else gives better shape to the Christian life than the holy love of God.”
Today, David serves as distinguished senior research professor at Gordon-Conwell since 2008, after serving as the Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology for seventeen years prior to that. In addition to teaching and writing, Dr. Wells has served on the boards of several international ministries, including The Rafiki Foundation, an organization that establishes orphanages and schools in Africa, with the express purpose of helping Africans know God and raise their standard of living. For a number of years, he was a member of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, its theology working group and its planning committee for the World Congress that was held in Manila in 1989. He has also worked to provide theological education and basic preaching tools for pastors in developing countries for some time.
With more than fifty years in service to Christ and his church, Dr. David F. Wells was selected for the TEDS Alumnus of the Year award because he by God’s grace embodies the core values of Trinity International University: Christ-centeredness, Comprehensive Education, Community, Church Connectedness, and Cultural Engagement.
Please welcome the Chicago Suzuki Institute to TIU starting on Saturday, June 28th for their 29th year on campus! The camp will be in the following buildings; McLennen, Gundersen, Waybright, Carlson, Trinity Hall, ATO Chapel, ATO classrooms, Kantzer 141 and Aldeen. The last day of camp will be Sunday, July 6th.
Please email Katherine Goehrke, Director of Conference Services, at email@example.com or by phone at 847-317-6406 with any questions.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held its annual meeting in Baltimore on June 10–11, and Trinity President David S. Dockery was honored with two awards during the course of events.
On Wednesday morning, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer presented Dockery with the Holman Christian Standard Bible Award, the highest honor that LifeWay bestows—and a rare occurrence, as well. This is the second HCSB Award that LifeWay has given, doing so only when they find that “rare individual who has honored the Word of God in a significant way.”
Rainer, speaking during the LifeWay report on the Convention Floor, said the award recognizes Dr. Dockery “for a life dedicated to serving the Lord, his churches, and the Southern Baptist Convention, through the preaching and teaching of the gospel.” He went on to say that Dockery’s “speaking and proclamation of the Word are uncompromising. And his academic and statesman leadership is known across the country and around the world.”
Later that day, during its alumni luncheon, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) announced that Dockery has been named the recipient of their annual Distinguished Denominational Service Award, which is given to individuals who have shown extraordinary leadership within and tireless service to the SBC. Additionally, award recipients have proven to be faithful supporters of and dear friends to Midwestern Seminary (Dr. Dockery has served at MBTS as distinguished professor of theology and Baptist studies, occasional lecturer and conference speaker, as well as a “dear friend” to President Jason K. Allen).
President Allen went on to say that “in this generation, Dr. Dockery has emerged as a leading statesman in the Southern Baptist Convention. He is a gifted theologian, an accomplished leader in Christian higher education, and, most especially, a man of God. He is exceedingly qualified for this high honor, and it is my honor to bestow it on him.”
Dockery said these recognitions were “incredibly humbling and most meaningful. I want to express my genuine appreciation to all of those at LifeWay and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who were involved in these decisions.”
During his first official week as Trinity’s president, David S. Dockery brought his first major report to the Board of Regents during their meetings on June 5–6. In that address, he shared his understanding of the president’s role and the role of the Board, and talked through the initial phases of a new vision for the University moving forward. The goal for this discussion was for the Board to affirm and bless Dockery’s vision for Trinity so that the work of developing a new strategic plan can begin.
“We trust this plan will have some connection and continuity with the plan that was presented in 2012,” Dockery said. “Though it will be a rather different plan, one that I expect to be bold and far-reaching, one that only the Lord can help us accomplish.”
Inspired by William Carey‘s challenge—”Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”—Dockery expressed his desire to “take the lead, initiate ideas and plans, articulate a compelling vision with a clarity to develop shared vision, shared goals, and a shared future.” This led into a further unpacking of the importance of having a vision, the role a strategic plan has in the enacting of that vision, identifying effective planning processes that serve the vision in the University’s day-to-day operations, and, the first step in all of this, thinking creatively and strategically about how to frame a plan for Trinity’s preferred future.
The dreams for Trinity that followed in his board presentation ranged across eight large sectors of the University: strategic initiatives; institutional identity and mission; the role of the Board of Regents; administration and operations; academics; student life; advancement and university relations; and facilities. Several of the highlights include:
- Prioritizing enrollment, retention, and support services.
- Creatively, consistently, and coherently communicating the Trinity story.
- Exploring a new, clear vision for Trinity’s future—one that can be embraced by all.
- Establishing and articulating with clarity the identity of Trinity International University.
- Investing in institutional research, which will help guide decision making in a way that is primarily, though not entirely, data driven.
- Strengthening the administration through mission-focused and collaborative leadership, looking to ensure effective and efficient oversight of the University.
- Conceptualizing Trinity’s academics afresh so as to better reflect the reality of what it means to be a comprehensive university.
- Exploring dual appointments for some faculty across the University.
- Looking at the possibilities for developing new academic programs and centers of focus.
- Strengthening student life programs.
- Beginning the work to plan a large and major comprehensive capital campaign.
- Deepening and expanding the work with alumni.
- Exploring opportunities to improve the quality of facilities and enhancing the look and function of the Deerfield campus for the good of the students, staff, and faculty.
These are just a handful of the forward-looking ideas for Trinity that President Dockery outlined during the board meetings this week, and hopefully provide a small taste of the sorts of things that he will begin speaking about across the many aspects of the Trinity International University community.
Please join us in prayer for Trinity’s students, faculty, staff, board, and administration as we all seek to advance the mission of the University to “educate men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning.”
This summer, we will be doing a series on TIU Student Hangouts. Get to know Alex, Michael, and Megan—our student contributors who will share about why they love these places!
by Michael Smith, Digest staff writer
“Dona nobis, dona nobis pacem.”
“Grant us peace” softly concluded Schubert’s Mass No. 2 and first half of the TIU concert choir’s spring concert on Sunday, May 4. The concert was the last of the year for Trinity’s school of music.
The mass, which comprised the entire first half of the concert, is separated into six movements (spanning about a half hour). The choir was accompanied by an eleven-piece orchestra and featured five soloists: TIU seniors, mezzo soprano Kyrri Schober, soprano Naomi Sorensen, and baritone Steve Durgin, and TIU juniors, bass Connor Drewes, and tenor Shawn Selagea.
The second portion of the concert featured pieces from the choir’s tour repertoire, including a motet by Bach, a modern piece by Eric Whitacre, and a hymn setting arranged by TIU concert choir conductor Dr. Paul Satre.
The last concert of the year tends to be a bittersweet time for members of Trinity’s three music ensembles. While they are glad to be able to share what they have worked on all semester with their friends and families, it is also affected by the imminent departure of the seniors in the group.
Durgin, who has been in choir since his freshman year, valued his time in the ensemble.
“Choir has been, for me, a family within the family of Trinity,” Durgin said. “I feel a special bond with this body of worshipful musicians. Choir has given me an opportunity to train as a minister and to travel around both the country and the world. It provides an opportunity to cultivate discipline, pursue unity, and commit to something beyond ourselves.”
For Durgin, choir was well worth the hours of practice, and the experience helped to define his Trinity experience.
“I felt deep joy and thankfulness to be a part of something so beautiful,” Durgin said. “I will miss finishing our concerts by giving the benediction through song.”
The choir was also honored to be a part of the celebration of God’s work through the seminary school as they had the opportunity to sing in the TEDS 50th anniversary service on May 1. They will finish their year with performances at both the University Convocation Service on May 16 and the Undergraduate Commencement to be held the following day.
Click here (and then the “On Demand” tab) to watch a recording of the concert choir’s performance from May 4 as well as past concerts from the school of music.