Leaders Announced for Newly Established Welch Divinity School

Welch President Matt Pinson announced Monday that the newly established Welch Divinity School would be led by Welch Provost Dr. Matthew McAffee and Dr. Barry Raper, coordinator of Ministry Programs at Welch. McAffee will serve as Dean of the Divinity School, while continuing his role as Provost of the College. Raper will serve as Program Coordinator for the M.Div. degree program, while continuing to administer Welch’s other ministry programs.

Pinson said, “I’m excited about the leadership of Welch Divinity School. Matthew McAffee and Barry Raper are just the sort of young scholar-pastors we need as the face of this new initiative.”

Pinson went on to say, “We believe this new divinity school, under the leadership of McAffee and Raper, will help us get more evangelistically minded pastor-scholars out into the churches, who understand how to stand for truth in an era of increasing secularization when the truths of Christianity are no longer assumed. We also think this presents an opportunity to carve out a bigger footprint in the evangelical community for our unique Reformed Arminian approach to theology.”

“Welch has so much to offer to our denomination, and to those outside our denomination who have gotten excited about the Reformed Arminian approach to theology centered in the Free Will Baptist Church. The singular blend of the best of evangelical theological scholarship from this perspective with a practical, evangelistic mindset that is sensitive to the missional uniqueness of our increasingly secularizing society in the West—that’s a winning combination. And, in addition to our Free Will Baptist ministers, we’re hearing from more and more conservative Arminians who are interested in what we have to offer. Drs. McAffee and Raper make a great combination to attract students to this program with its focus on vibrant ministry and solid scholarship.”

Pinson explained: “We need the sort of competence Dr. McAffee has brought to the Office of the Provost. But we also need a face for the new divinity school that signals to our denomination and to the entire evangelical community the sort of scholarship we will feature at the Divinity School. The grant from the Kern Family Foundation provides funds for a new full-time faculty member, a new full-time program coordinator/recruiter, and a new half-time assistant. This support will allow Dr. McAffee to bring his unique gifts to the new Divinity School while maintaining his important role as Chief Academic Officer of Welch College. It will also allow Dr. Raper to give leadership to the M.Div. in addition to Welch’s other baccalaureate and master’s programs in ministry.”

McAffee, a native of Jacksontown, New Brunswick, Canada, has taught at Welch College for thirteen years and has served as Provost for the last three years. Thought of as a leading younger scholar of the language, literature, and culture of the Old Testament, he has also been intimately involved in pastoral ministry, having served several years in church ministry as well as seven years as campus pastor at Welch College. A Welch graduate, he holds the M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Penn State University Press recently published his book, Life and Mortality in Ugaritic: A Lexical and Literary Study. B&H Academic is scheduled to publish an intermediate Hebrew grammar he is writing with Dr. Chip Hardy of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also jointly authoredSexuality, Gender, and the Church (Welch College Press) and contributed a chapter to The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines (Randall House Academic). Co-chairman of the Ancient Near Eastern Study Group of the Evangelical Theological Society, McAffee has gained a reputation as a solid scholar through papers delivered at ETS, the Society of Biblical Literature, and other venues, as well as articles published in journals such as the Journal of Biblical Literature, the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Journal of the American Oriental Society, the Bulletin for Biblical Research, Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought, Ugarit-Forschungen, and the Southeastern Journal of Theology.

Raper, a native of Red Bay, Alabama, and Professor of Ministry at Welch, has established a reputation as the leading ministry educator in the Free Will Baptist denomination as well as one of the leading Free Will Baptist pastors in the mid-South. He has taught at Welch for the past fourteen years. During his first nine years, he administered the Youth and Family Ministry program, which he moved from a conventional youth ministry program to an intergenerational youth-and-family program geared to combining evangelism with the cultivation of biblical truth in the context of a secularizing culture. For the past five years, he has administered all ministry programs at Welch, including the pastoral ministry program, with the assistance of Chris Talbot, Welch’s coordinator of Youth and Family Ministry.

Raper has twenty years of ministry experience, the past eleven as Pastor of Bethel Free Will Baptist Church in Chapmansboro, Tennessee. His academic emphasis has been spiritual formation in ministry, with his dissertation focusing on biblical meditation. A Welch graduate, he holds the M.Div. and D.Min. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of several articles, has contributed a chapter to The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines (Randall House Academic), and is a columnist for ONE Magazine.

In other action, the Board named Dr. Kevin L. Hester Senior Professor of Divinity and Special Advisor to the Dean. Hester will continue as Dean of the School of Theology, thus administering all undergraduate programs in theology as well as the M.A. degree in Theology and Ministry, which will serve as a feeder to the M.Div. Hester will also continue serving on Welch’s Leadership Team as Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and will offer seasoned counsel to the new Divinity School.

Hester, a native of Russellville, Alabama, has taught at Welch for 17 years, administering theological programs for eight years and serving as vice president for the past three. He has established himself as a leader in the world of higher education accreditation, having been on numerous accrediting visits and having served on the Commission on Accreditation of the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) for many years, now as chairman of the Commission. An expert on the church fathers, he is author of Eschatology and Pain in St. Gregory the Great: The Christological Synthesis of Gregory’s “Morals on the Book of Job” (Paternoster), is author of several articles as well as a booklet on “Free Will Baptists and the Priesthood of All Believers,” and has contributed a chapter to The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines (Randall House Academic). He serves on the editorial board of ABHE’s Biblical Higher Education Journal.

“I hope our alumni and supporters will pray for these men as they lead in getting the Divinity School started,” Pinson said. For more information on Welch Divinity School and the M.Div. program, please email Barry Raper at braper@welch.edu.

Welch Receives Grant for B.A.-to-M.Div., Plans to Start Divinity School

Welch College President Matt Pinson announced to faculty Monday that Welch had received a grant of nearly $500,000 from the Kern Family Foundation to start a five-year B.A.-to-M.Div. program, and that the college’s Board of Trustees approved the program and voted to start a new school of Welch College, Welch Divinity School, next year. This grant will allow Welch to begin offering the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree in fall of 2021.

Pinson said, “The offering of an M.Div., the first one offered by a Free Will Baptist institution, and the establishment of a divinity school attached to Welch College, is a dream come true for us. No longer will Free Will Baptists have to go outside our denomination for their M.Div. We have hoped and dreamt for an M.Div. program for many years, and many in our denomination have wanted us to start one. Frankly, I didn’t imagine we’d be doing this so soon. Yet this grant gives us the wonderful opportunity to initiate the M.Div. now. I want to thank Mrs. Anna McAffee, our grants administrator, for her diligent and creative work in helping us get this grant.”

Provost Matthew McAffee said, “We’re so thankful that we were approached about putting together a proposal to offer a five-year B.A.-to-M.Div. degree and then were awarded this grant. This also opens up the possibility for graduates of other colleges to earn an M.Div. at Welch. There have been so many requests from pastors and churches for a Free Will Baptist M.Div. program at Welch. With this new program, it’s possible for students to begin at Welch and complete a B.A. and a regionally accredited M.Div. in five years—something that normally takes seven.”

“But people who already have a bachelor’s degree, even if it’s not in a theological field, are eligible to study for and complete this M.Div.,” McAffee continued. “We’ve been hearing from more and more people in our denomination who feel the need for further ministry education in our increasingly secular society, and this grant allows us to meet this growing need.”

The Divinity School will be structured similarly to those of institutions such as Samford University, which has a Department of Biblical and Religious Studies and also Beeson Divinity School, a graduate professional school that offers the M.Div. degree. Thus Welch’s existing School of Theology will continue to offer the baccalaureate programs in theology and ministry as well as the M.A. in Theology and Ministry, a hybrid degree that utilizes both online and on-campus delivery systems. Welch Divinity School, which will house the M.Div. degree, will build on the upper-level undergraduate coursework and the M.A. core provided by the School of Theology.

“We’re conceiving of the M.Div. program as a full on-campus program,” McAffee said. “The upper-level undergraduate coursework can be earned on campus by traditional college-age students or online by students age 23 or older. The core in the M.A. will be earned in a hybrid format through both online work and one-week, on-campus intensive sessions. The M.Div.-only coursework will be earned entirely on campus. Eventually, we hope donor funding will allow us to move the entirety of the coursework for this program on campus. Furthermore, we want to emphasize that the M.Div. will be open to graduates of other colleges who want to earn an M.Div., as well as to undergraduate students who want to pursue the B.A.-to-M.Div. program.”

The Kern grant will provide funding for a new full-time faculty member, a new full-time administrator/recruiter, and a half-time assistant. College officials hope to have administrative staff in place by January 2021 to begin recruiting for the first incoming class in the Fall semester of 2021. Free Will Baptists on the ordination track who begin the program as an undergraduate are eligible for $10,000 per year in scholarships for the first eight semesters of the program.

Pinson said, “I ask the denomination and our alumni and supporters to pray for this new initiative that will move the Free Will Baptist Church into an exciting new era of ministerial and theological education.”

Details will be forthcoming. In the meantime, for more information, please contact Dr. Barry Raper at braper@welch.edu.

Welch College Strong and Courageous Virtual Event: Award Winners Announced

Gallatin, TN—The annual Strong and Courageous banquet benefiting Welch College took a different look this year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual banquet normally held on the campus in May became a virtual event. The premier showing of the event was held September 28. It can be seen on demand at Facebook.com/WelchCollege or at YouTube.com/WelchCollege.

The event featured many of the aspects of the in-person event. Music included a special performance by Dr. Ming Wang as well as selections by the Welch College Rejoice! ensemble. Comments were made by Welch College President Matt Pinson, David Dill, president and CEO of LifePoint Health Systems, and former student and Hendersonville resident, Hannah Bernui. Judd Sellars, of Sellars Funeral Home, spoke of his commitment to recognize both his father, Rev. Danny Sellars, and grandfather, Rev. Walter Lee Sellars, for their decades of ministry, with a scholarship for ministry students at Welch.

Special Recognitions included a Healthcare Excellence award and the naming of the 2020 Strong and Courageous recipients. Dr. Charles Lea, Special Assistant to the President, in recognizing a special healthcare recognition, underscored the valuable service provided to our community by annual S&Csponsors Hendersonville Medical Center, NHC Sumner Place, and Sumner Regional Medical Center. One facility however assisted in the coordination of a pandemic crisis with a COVID-19 outbreak in Gallatin.  In recognition of the leadership and service provided by Sumner Regional Medical Center and large volume of patients served, a Healthcare Excellence award was presented to Susan Peach, CEO of Sumner Regional Medical Center and the HighPoint Healthcare system.

The Strong and Courageous award is presented annually to an individual(s) who has demonstrated outstanding service to his or her profession while advancing kingdom principles. The 2020 Strong and Courageous award recipients are Bob and Karen Goodall. Introducing the Goodalls were Dr. Charles Lea, who spoke of their service to those less fortunate and their humble walk with God. The 2019 award recipients, Congressman Diane Black and Dr. David Black, close friends and neighbors of the Goodalls, spoke of their commitment to God, family, and community. Many personal examples of the Goodalls’ commitment to Christ and community were shared. In accepting the award, the Goodalls shared how their faith had grown through adversity as well as success. Tim Lafluer, Minister of Pastor Care at Long Hollow Baptist Church, prayed a special blessing for the Goodalls’ life and service.

Strong and Courageous continues to be one of the largest single sources of scholarship support for Welch College students from Sumner and surrounding counties. As a new year approaches, Strong and Courageous 2021 hopes to return to an in-person campus event.

Welch College Ranked in “A+ Schools for B Students” for the First Time in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges Rankings

Welch College received notification that the institution was for the first time ranked among “A+ Schools for B Students,” along with only two other schools in its category, “Regional Colleges South”—High Point University and Ouachita Baptist University. Sixteen other schools nationwide in the “Regional Colleges” category received this designation.

This year Welch ranked 18th among “Regional Colleges South” in U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 edition of America’s Best Colleges rankings, according to Welch president Matt Pinson. The “Best Regional Colleges” category where Welch is ranked includes 350 institutions that focus on undergraduate education and offer a range of degree programs in the traditional liberal arts as well as in professional fields such as business, nursing, and education. Colleges in this category are ranked within four geographic regions: North, South, Midwest, and West.

U.S. News rankings offer opportunities to judge the relative quality of institutions based on widely-accepted indicators of excellence: peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, alumni giving, and more.

“We are delighted about this high ranking in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges, and especially excited about the new ‘A+ Schools for B Students’ ranking,” Pinson said. “It shows our quality to prospective students and their parents, as well as to alumni and supporters. It shows that academic excellence can coexist with a strong commitment to Christian faith and life as the center of the Welch College experience.”

“The first time Welch appeared in this ranking, back in 2010, we ranked 54th,” Pinson mentioned. “And even that was in the top half of all the Southern schools ranked in the Best Regional Colleges category. So in eleven years we’ve gone from 54th to our ranking of 18th for 2021. To put this in perspective, the next ten colleges in the list that Welch outranked had an average enrollment more than five times our enrollment and an average endowment almost nine times our endowment.”

Welch received especially high marks in five strategic areas. Compared to the other 121 institutions in the Regional Colleges South category, Welch ranked:

#2 in student-faculty ratio
#3 in students who were in the top 25% of their high school graduating class
#5 in the percentage of classes under 20 students
#5 in graduation rate
#8 in first-year student retention rate
#8 in alumni giving rate

Welch Provost Matthew McAffee said, “We’re excited to see Welch College perform so strongly in yet another U.S. News & World Report. We hope this measure will continue to show current and future students that Welch is committed to quality and excellence as a Christian institution of higher learning.”

More information is available about the rankings and methodology in the annual America’s Best Colleges guidebook at: www.usnews.com/collegemeth. For more information about Welch, email gotowelch@welch.edu or visit www.welch.edu.

President Pinson Completes Conference Call with Vice President Pence

Dear Welch Campus Family:

I just completed a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence; Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force; and many other college and university presidents. Others who took part in the discussion included Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s new Coronavirus advisor; Dr. Robert Redfield, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota; and Dr. John Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame.

I am happy to tell you that, according to the recommendations these leaders reinforced on the call, we are doing very well on the Welch College campus, not only in the rate of people who have tested positively for the Coronavirus or are in quarantine, but also in following the best practices recommended by the White House and the CDC. This is because of the efforts you are making to follow Welch’s guidelines, and I cannot thank you enough!

One of the things they emphasized on the call, which they said many had not previously understood, is this: In addition to physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings, it is vital that as many as possible students be kept on campus whether they have symptoms or not, and it is important that colleges and universities do everything in their power to keep students as close to campus as possible. 

Having travel policies and other policies that make this a reality will keep down the incidence of the disease on campus, because students will not bring the disease back to campus from across the United States. However, such policies will also keep COVID-19 from going back into households and communities, thus mitigating the spread of the disease. Vice President Pence and Dr. Birx reiterated this over and over again.

They stressed the avoidance of what they called “crowding.” Avoiding crowding, maintaining a physical distance of six feet, and wearing a face covering are imperative. Also, they highly recommended that we encourage everyone to get a flu vaccine. 

The incidence of the Coronavirus among adults under 25 is on the rise. Even though the health risks are lesser for this population, the risk of this age group’s infecting people in the cross-generational population who are at greater risk is growing, they said. Dr. Birx reiterated repeatedly how important it is to understand that many young people who have no symptoms still have the disease and are passing it on to others.

So I want to congratulate you for doing the very best you can to continue to maintain six-foot physical distancing, to wear your face coverings, even when you are in the dorms and in other people’s rooms, to stay in the Gallatin area, and to fill out the form on the Ascend app each morning.

I also want to thank the Mr. Mahler, Coach Fawbush, and Dr. McAffee, as well as the members of the Special Committee on the Coronavirus, for having already put into effect a plan that precisely mirrors what we were advised on today’s conference call.

Thank you for all you are doing, Welch family! If we can keep this up, we feel confident we can make it to Thanksgiving!

The Lord bless you and keep you.


Matt Pinson

Sumner Countians Graduate from Welch College

Eleven residents of Sumner County completed degree requirements at Welch College last month, according to Matthew McAffee, Provost at Welch. The college relocated from 73-year-old campus in midtown Nashville to Gallatin in the spring of 2017, constructing its new campus across the street from Station Camp High School.

“The residents of Sumner County have been so kind and welcoming—even to the point of enrolling themselves and their children,” McAffee said. “We’ve really been welcomed with open arms, and we’re so proud to be a part of this wonderful community and are excited to congratulate our local graduates.”

Welch, currently ranked 16th among Southern Regional Colleges in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges, offers regionally accredited associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. The roster of Sumner Countians includes:

Master’s Degrees
Rejyna Beck, Master of Arts in Teaching
Cassie Davenport, Master of Arts in Teaching

Bachelor’s Degrees
Jerushah Blackburn, Bachelor of Arts in English
Josh Burgus, Bachelor of Science in Music w/ Performance Emphasis
Brenton Driscoll, Bachelor of Science in General Christian Ministry
Deborah Driscoll, Bachelor of Arts in English
Allison Pogue, Bachelor of Science in History
Craig Pope, Bachelor of Arts in English
Noni Wright, Bachelor of Science in Business

Associate’s Degrees
Tanner Carson, Associate of Science in Business
Angelina Waller, Associate of Science in Biology

Welch president Matt Pinson said, “I want to congratulate these residents of Sumner County upon the completion of their degrees. This is evidence that we’ve settled into our new community, and we love it!”

Welch College is proud of its Sumner community and its Sumner county graduates. Please join us in congratulating these graduates.

For more information on Welch, its degree offerings, or its scholarships, email recruit@welch.edu.

Welch College Announces Augmented Athletic Schedule

Welch College has announced an adjustment to the athletic department for 2020-2021, according to Greg Fawbush, Welch Athletic Director. “College athletics has been deeply affected by COVID-19,” Fawbush said, “and Welch is having to make changes to accommodate the global pandemic.”

Among the changes Fawbush outlined, women’s volleyball will play a hybrid season, eleven games in the fall starting September 28 and ending November 7, followed by ten more games during March and April of 2021, for a total of twenty-one matches over the course of the year. Men’s and women’s soccer will play in the spring of 2021 for this season only. Cross country’s schedule will remain in the fall. Fawbush stated that he expects men’s and women’s basketball teams to play their games starting in November and ending in late February.

Fawbush said, “Several factors contributed to these difficult decisions, including the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases through the south’s geographical footprint, the safety of student-athletes, and the inability to maintain a full schedule due to cancellations.” He went on to add, “By carefully realigning when our teams play, we can better realize our overall goal of keeping our athletes healthy while also still participating in athletic competition.”

For more information on athletics at Welch, email Coach Fawbush at gfawbush@welch.edu.

Welch College Strong and Courageous Event Becomes Virtual–LifePoint Healthcare David Dill, Speaker

The annual Welch College Strong and Courageous event originally scheduled for August 18is going virtual. Welch president Matthew Pinson announced the change in plans today.

“It was our hope that COVID-19 pandemic would be dissipating by late summer, but it has not done so,” Pinson said. “As a result, to protect our sponsors and participants, the event will be professionally filmed in segments and released later in the fall.”

All aspects of the event will remain, including entertainment, a keynote address by LifePoint president David Dill, a student address, special recognition of event sponsors, and the awarding of the 2020 Strong and Courageous award.

Dr. Charles Lea, Special Assistant to the President, said, “We are making every effort for this event to continue its tradition of excellence as we highlight the impact of Christian faith in our nation and community.” As the release date of the event is finalized, event sponsors will be encouraged to invite their guests to a preview showing of the event.

Now in its third year, Strong and Courageous provides valuable scholarship support for Sumner County students who desire a Christian worldview education at one of U.S. News and World Report‘s “best regional colleges” in the South.  As Welch nears its fall opening, it remains committed to academic excellence and face-to face instruction.

For more information about this event, contact Derek Altom at daltom@welch.edu.

Letter to Class of 2020 about Cancelling Commencement

Dear Member of the Welch College Class of 2020:

It is with a heavy heart that I write and tell you that we are forced to cancel our planned Commencement ceremony for the class of 2020. Earlier this year, before the second wave of COVID-19 that swept the country, we had every expectation that we could provide a safe, physically distanced Commencement ceremony for you and your family. However, with recent developments, it has become impossible for us to go through with those plans.

Our reasons for cancelling the ceremony include, but aren’t limited to, the fact that the Governor of the State of Tennessee has issued an order that keeps us from having indoor gatherings on campus of more than 50 people. This means that we couldn’t even accommodate the Class of 2020 and the administration of the college in the ceremony. Thus none of your family could attend, which defeats the entire purpose of having a special ceremony. We deemed it far too risky to host an outdoor ceremony, only for you and your guests to travel here and it rain that day, with no ability to move the ceremony indoors. Furthermore, many of the states from which our graduates would have been traveling have orders that require lengthy quarantining after returning from Tennessee.

Many other considerations went into the difficult decision to cancel this special ceremony we had hoped and planned to have for you. I want you to know how deeply we regret that we could not follow through with our plans.  You mean so much to us, and we celebrate with you upon the occasion of your graduation from Welch College. We will be shipping your diploma and (where applicable) your cap and gown.

We look forward to great things from you as you serve Christ, His church, and His world. We hope you will keep in touch with us and come back to visit your alma mater very soon.


J. Matthew Pinson

Coffman Hall on Welch College Campus - a Christian Bible College in Gallatin, Tennessee

Welch Announces Special Fall Commencement

Welch College has scheduled a special Commencement ceremony to be held during the Fall 2020 semester on Saturday, September 19, according to Provost Matthew McAffee. Owing to the Coronavirus pandemic, the college was unable to hold its May Commencement exercises for the 2019–20 academic year. A virtual awards ceremony was held directly following the spring semester to honor 2020 graduates publicly, as well as outstanding continuing students.

The focus of this special commencement ceremony will be the conferral of degrees. “Our 2019–20 graduates have worked hard against unprecedented odds to complete the requirements for their degrees,” McAffee said. “We look forward to being able to award these degrees to a special group of graduates in the history of Welch College.”

In addition to conferring degrees, the special ceremony will also include the hooding of graduates receiving one of Welch’s two master’s degrees (Master of Arts in Theology and Ministry and Master of Arts in Teaching). The first group of Master of Arts in Teaching recipients will have completed their program in time to participate in the special ceremony. The graduate hooding ceremony is usually held as a separate event but will be combined with the main ceremony for the convenience of graduates and guests traveling longer distances to attend.

The Saturday Commencement ceremony will also coincide with the spring 2020 musical, which was canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. Three showings are tentatively scheduled: Friday evening (September 18), Saturday evening (September 19), and Sunday matinee (September 20).

More details regarding the logistics of these events are forthcoming. In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, college officials are continuing to monitor federal and state recommendations for public gatherings and will make adjustments to these plans as necessary.

For more information, visit Welch.edu or email COVID-19@welch.edu.

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