New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees voted unanimously to keep the seminary in New Orleans during a Sept. 27 meeting at the seminary’s temporary administrative offices in Decatur, Ga.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees
voted unanimously to keep the seminary in New Orleans during a Sept. 27
meeting at the seminary’s temporary administrative offices in Decatur,
Trustees also approved the administration’s plans to
restore the main campus to normal operation by August 2006.
“I am very excited about the passionate commitment
of trustees to the city of New Orleans,” seminary President Chuck
Kelley said of the vote.
“After talking through the (issue), there was
absolutely no reservation, no hesitation, that New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary is and always will be New Orleans Baptist
The trustee board met on the seminary North Georgia
campus in a called meeting last week to discuss the damage to the
seminary campus and explore options for the future. From the beginning,
the meeting took on a hopeful tone.
Trustees discussed the question of returning to New
Orleans before their vote. In the end, with awareness of the task
facing the seminary, the board expressed a firm commitment to return to
“We are compelled to rebuild the seminary in New Orleans,” trustee Chair Ray Moncrief emphasized.
“The seminary was founded there, and it’s a great
opportunity for this seminary to have an impact on the reconstruction
of the city and for the cause of Christ.”
Moncrief said he hopes the seminary will play a
prominent role in helping people in New Orleans heal and recover from
Hurricane Katrina. The seminary also will be needed to help re-launch
and re-establish the churches in the region, he said.
Others agreed with Moncrief. They said the seminary
must not abandon its original mission in New Orleans – established in
1917 by a Southern Baptist Convention vote. That mission to serve as a
“lighthouse” and a “schoolhouse” is needed more than ever in the city,
“If Christians know anything, we ought to know how
to respond in a time of crisis,” trustee Danny Cros said. “I think we
have got to say, ‘You don’t run out on the poor and hungry. You preach
the gospel to the poor ,and you don’t quit.’”
Trustees were given detailed reports and
presentations before they made their final decision. Kelley showed
photographs taken shortly after city levees failed, with board members
watching as image after image revealed damage to the homes and
apartments of faculty, staff and students.
After the difficult images of floodwaters on campus,
Kelley showed more hopeful photographs. The recent photographs reveal a
dry campus – completely unaffected by the city’s recent re-flooding due
to Hurricane Rita. Green grass is beginning to poke through the dead
grass and gray sludge left after floodwaters receded, photos showed.
Trustees then listened to a report from seminary
building contractor Mike Moskau about the feasibility of restoring the
campus in New Orleans.
Moskau shared a positive assessment of the damage.
The main academic buildings at the front of campus received relatively
minor damage from wind and roof leaks, he pointed out.
By far, the majority of the seminary’s damage
occurred in housing units, Moskau said. But the news was not all bad,
he added. While 60 percent of campus housing was affected by
floodwater, Moskau said mold damage has not spread to second floors. No
building received structural damage from the storm or the flood.
Moskau said his work crews have begun repairs and expects to have all the roof damage sealed by Oct. 1.
Mold abatement experts also have been contacted to
assist with the eventual sanitation of damaged campus housing units.
Moskau said that before any of the new walls are installed and sealed,
mold testing will be performed in each facility.
Restoring the campus will not be cheap, Moskau said.
The initial estimate for restoration carries a $20 million price tag.
However, insurance is expected to cover most of the cost.
In spite of the cost of recovery, trustees said the
$70 million in assets the seminary owns in New Orleans would be hard to
replace in another location. Those assets include $31 million in new
construction – buildings that are less than five years old.
Trustees also discussed the risk of future
hurricanes that may affect the city, acknowledging and accepting the
reality of such danger. They decided that staying true to the
seminary’s historic focus on ministry in the city should inform their
decision more than future risks.
“We know New Orleans carries some risks, but it has
never been a seminary for the faint of heart,” Kelley said after the
vote. “After all, this was the first and only storm of this magnitude
in the city’s 300-year existence. We are comfortable with a future in
the hands of God.
“I look forward to moving into the process of restoring the campus.”
Trustees praised Kelley’s leadership during the
crisis. They called special attention to his work in establishing
temporary offices in Georgia and in helping provide aid to seminary
families. The board also cited Kelley’s optimism and his focus on
returning to minister to the city.
“I don’t mean to patronize you, but your leadership
and vision and wisdom is incredible,” new trustee Houston Roberson
said. “I thank God for you.” (BP)