Jamie Dew presented a vision for his first year as New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary president in a press conference following his unanimous election by the NOBTS board of trustees on Wednesday (June 5).
Dew noted NOBTS' untapped potential and pointed to the seminary's unique opportunity for "theological education and ministerial preparation."
"In this city you have the best of everything -- culture, challenge, opportunity for ministry, a religious pluralistic context that our students could learn in," Dew said. "If you can learn to share the Gospel here, if you can learn to minister to the poor, the broken, the needy here, then that is incredible preparation for wherever God's going to take you."
A virtual press conference via video conferencing was held at the seminary's Leavell Center for Church Health and Evangelism with media in attendance, some online, and with one press corps member viewing from assignment outside the country.
Tony Lambert, board of trustees chairman, opened the conference saying, "It is an incredible day for NOBTS. It's an historic day for our denomination."
Responding to questions were Dew, Tara Dew -- Jamie Dew's wife -- Lambert, and Frank Cox, chairman of the presidential search committee.
Jay Adkins, SBC Voices, asked Jamie Dew about the future and potential of NOBTS' Leavell College.
Dew outlined a four-pronged vision for NOBTS and Leavell College in his response. Leavell College would be "priority number one," Dew said, noting that NOBTS and Leavell College were "dripping in potential." He continued saying enrollment -- which he noted included admissions, completions, retentions, financial aid, and student success -- would also draw his attention, with marketing and communications as a third priority, and building denominational relationships, as fourth.
When asked about NOBTS' strengths, Dew praised the seminary's "incredible footprint" and regional impact through its significant alumni base serving in ministry. New Orleans is a city provides a cultural preparation that equips leaders for ministry, Dew said.
Dew praised the faculty and its rich diversity of thought and pointed to it as an example for Southern Baptists.
"We need to find a better way of interacting with each other and loving each other and standing under the Baptist Faith and Message 2000," Dew said. "The diversity on the campus provides us the opportunity to do that well."
Brian Blackwell, The Baptist Message of Louisiana, asked Dew what he wished to say to Louisiana Baptists.
"I can't wait to meet you," Dew responded, adding that he looks forward to serving alongside them and hearing their needs, compassions and concerns.
"We need to have an ear for the convention," Dew continued. "Our job is to serve them and equip them."
In a lighthearted moment, Tara Dew responded to Adkins' question regarding how the children felt about the move. The Dews have two sets of twins, Nathan and Natalie, 12, and Samuel and Samantha, 9.
Tara Dew explained that their older son, Nathan, remembered that the Israelites obeyed God by following the cloud He provided for direction and told the family, "It looks like the cloud is moving -- we need to obey."
She noted their younger son, Samuel, then said, "I was getting kind of tired of Cam Newton, anyway. I can cheer for (New Orleans Saints quarterback) Drew Brees."
"This is a family effort," Tara Dew said. "We are going to love this campus together. We are going to love this city together."
She added, "When God calls you somewhere, He’ll be very faithful to meet you there."
Jamie Dew said he looks forward to getting to know faculty, staff and students and hopes to have plenty of "face-to-face" time with them. Dew noted that the NOBTS family is now their family.
"I want to be 'all in' immediately," Dew said. "We will share life together. I want to be in the trenches with the people I love."
Prior to his election, Dew shared his testimony with faculty and trustees and told of heartache and pain in his childhood and teen years. "A defining wound" came at age seven, Dew said, when his father walked out on the family. Cox noted Dew's testimony when he gave an overview of the search committee’s work.
Cox said, "When (Dew) walked in the room, it was a God moment," Cox said. "God's spirit permeated that room. He answered every question as if it came from God's heart to our ears."
A search committee member, Cox said, pointed out that Dew's life prior to coming to faith in Christ was hard and not like his own background, but added that Dew's testimony would resonate with many who come to seminary today and are called to ministry out of difficult situations.
"He comes from brokenness," Cox said of Dew. "He understands brokenness. He understands hurt. He understands redemption. He is a leader. Our campus, at this time, needs Jamie Dew."
The committee's work, Cox said, began with fasting and prayer and "a commitment to find God's man for New Orleans Seminary." Cox noted the committee surveyed NOBTS faculty, staff and students, and then accepted nominations from Southern Baptists convention-wide. Twenty candidates were seriously considered, Cox said, adding that each of four final candidates were "excellent" choices.
God directed the committee to the right man, Lambert said.
"We believe God has given us a man who will follow the Lord and the Lord only," he said. "We are praying that He will direct him clearly and with great wisdom and patience in the days to come."
Marilyn Stewart is assistant director of communications at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.