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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.

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