Campbell dean appreciates church commitment
    October 18 2010 by Norman Jameson
, BR Editor

    Campbell University Divinity School’s new dean appreciates the school’s balance of scholarship with its desire to serve the church practically.

    Andy Wakefield was named dean in July, succeeding Michael Cogdill who returned to the classroom after helping to get the divinity school started 15 years ago. Wakefield, who found his trail to teaching through a forest of other possibilities, will continue to teach at least one class while adding administrative duties because he is “passionate” about teaching.

    He also is enthusiastic about living and working in the Campbell community because Campbell values his scholarship and love of teaching and enthusiastically endorses his “love for the church and a desire to serve the church.”

    “I want to be able to serve a church and that not be seen as a distraction from my job,” Wakefield said during an interview in his office. “My church involvement is seen as an asset rather than a detriment.”  

    As a young student sorting out possibilities for life, Wakefield, 50, never pictured himself as a dean, or even as a professor because he never saw someone in front of the classroom that he wanted to be, he said.

    He worked three years in the blossoming world of micro computers before he went to seminary, trying to discern exactly what God was leading him toward.

    On his first day in seminary, he met a missionary kid on her birthday. Because Olivia was just off the field, her birthday was included on the Woman’s Missionary Union missionary prayer calendar. He told her, “With millions of people praying for you today, and you meet me, that can’t be a coincidence!”

    He found a love for preaching while at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I remember thinking to myself what would really be wonderful — the ideal, if I had my wishes — would be to somehow put these together, where I could teach and also serve the churches. I didn’t realize until much later that was describing what I have a Campbell.”

    Wakefield earned his doctorate at Duke University Divinity School and was teaching Greek and New Testament adjunctively at Campbell when he was asked to join the faculty of the new divinity school. Campbell’s divinity school found early success, even as a new school in the midst of much more established seminaries.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Andy Wakefield wasn’t a basketball fan when he came to North Carolina, but he appreciated the University of North Carolina’s coach being on the faculty. He thought “Dean” Smith was a title.

    “Each of us is offering something slightly different and I think that’s valuable,” Wakefield said. For instance, he felt lost among Southern’s more than 2,000 students. Community is easier to find among Campbell Divinity’s 220.

    “We have very powerfully been able to model the body of Christ,” Wakefield said. “Students really plug into this where they experience a sense of community, of acceptance. And it’s not based on all having the exact same views. We have students coming from a wide variety of backgrounds. Twenty-five percent of the student body is not Baptist; the other 75 percent is different flavors. They are different ages, post-college to their 70s, and ethnically diverse.” They are all committed to the school’s ministry statement which is:  Christ centered, Bible based and ministry focused.

    That statement is more than a slogan, Wakefield said. It gives students latitude to hold different perspectives. They “may not be on the same page” in some things, but they’re in the same book and a part of the same body of Christ.

    “Our students then want to take this model of being the body of Christ out to the churches and say, ‘OK, how can we as a church embrace one another with our differences?’”

    Wakefield recognizes that Campbell Divinity and Gardner-Webb Divinity were born from turmoil in the Southern Baptist Convention, whose six seminaries have been the primary preparatory schools for Baptist church staff. And although the five universities affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) are changing their relationship to the BSC, “Campbell still views itself as partners with the Baptist State Convention and we value that partnership because this is who we’re serving,” he said.

    He said Campbell Divinity graduates “for the most part” find open doors for service and “find themselves well equipped for ministry.”

    “We are rigorously academic but we are also rigorously practical and we don’t think those two can’t go hand in hand,” he said.

    Most students are in the master of divinity program, but Campbell Divinity also offers master in Christian education, a doctor of ministry degree and several certificate programs, including Hispanic theological education, childhood ministry and women in leadership.

    Wakefield is a missionary kid himself, having grown up in the Philippines and Singapore, although he graduated from high school in Richmond, Va., when his father, Bill, became an administrator with the International Mission Board. He graduated in philosophy from Wake Forest University and Southern Seminary and earned his PhD at Duke Divinity.

    He and Olivia have been married 23 years and have two daughters: Natalie and Allison.

    His doctoral thesis and continuing interest is on the Apostle Paul’s use of scripture in his writing and on Paul’s view of the law.  

    Manual hobbies
    Maybe unusual for an academic, but Wakefield’s hobbies are very manual — metal working and wood working. He says it’s logical to have those interests because “I’m interested in everything and would like to know a little something about everything.”

    He is a part of Baptist Fellowship of Angier, a four-year-old non-traditional church that focuses on ministry to young people. Campbell University and Divinity School students are involved in tutoring Hispanic, black and Anglo children. The church shares an old funeral home with an Hispanic congregation.

    “The thing that keeps blowing me away is that we are literally a handful of people and we have made it our focus to basically pour everything we have and do into ministry,” Wakefield said.

    Although Campbell Divinity trains students primarily for service in traditional churches, “the church is evolving and we want our students to connect to that and be at the forefront of leading the church to wherever God takes them,” Wakefield said.

    He says the Southern Baptist Convention is “at the forefront” of that church evolution. It is struggling through inevitable change, and no one knows what it is going to become.

    Wakefield has “a very high view of scripture” he said. But he has “a very low view of someone who wants to tell me what scripture says. I’m committed to scripture. That means I have to read it; I have to wrestle with it; I have to explore it as honestly as I know how.”

    “What I passionately want is that students have thought it through and they have their own grasp on it,” he said. “It is real close to blasphemy not to force yourself to treat all of scripture as honestly, as responsibly and as consistently as you know how.”

    All the Divinity School’s faculty are Baptist and Wakefield says the school is intentional about its identity as Baptist.

    “Within that, we embrace diversity,” he said.
    10/18/2010 9:57:00 AM by Norman Jameson
, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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