Name-change reflects mission

Dr. Taylor Worley (left), associate dean for spiritual life, and Dr. Greg Thornbury, vice president of spiritual life and the dean of the School of Theology and Missions (right), discuss logistical matters at the end of the day. | Photo by Deanna Santangelo

By Sarah Palmer

More than halfway through the fall semester, leaders in the newly reorganized School of Theology and Missions continue the Union tradition of the integration of faith and learning as they seek to connect daily spiritual life with academics.

In the last week of July, Union published a press release announcing several administrative structural changes, one of which was the reorganization of the School of Christian Studies into the School of Theology and Missions.

Changes in the scope and reach of the program have taken place in addition to the name change, such as the inclusion of the Office of Campus Ministries.

Dr. Greg Thornbury, formerly the founding dean of the School of Christian Studies, is now the vice president for spiritual life and dean of the School of Theology and Missions, and supervises Campus Ministries. Dr. Taylor Worley, formerly an instructor of Christian Studies, is now the associate dean for spiritual life and director of Campus Ministries, and Dr. James Patterson, formerly the associate dean of the School of Christian Studies, is in the same position for the School of Theology and Missions.

Thornbury said Dr. David S. Dockery, university president, spearheaded these changes.

“We recognized the best universities that have a strong scholarly program in Christian Studies refer to the program by the umbrella term ‘theology,’” Dockery said.

“In order to communicate the high level of scholarship taking place among the faculty, in order to show the renewed emphasis on ministry and missions and to indicate a connection to the work of Campus Ministries within the restructuring, the name of the school was changed to the School of Theology and Missions.”

Thornbury agreed: “There’s not really any changes per se to the School of Theology and Missions. The name change is more of a reflection of what we’ve already been doing — it’s a more accurate depiction of the mission and scope.”

Thornbury said that “Theology and Missions” is a better reflection of the program’s overall mission because in recent years the undergraduate program has grown, the biblical studies and theology faculty has grown and an adult studies program was added, as well as a Masters of Christian Studies program and a Doctor of Ministry program.

He also said Union sends more students to the International Mission Board than any other Baptist college or university in the country.

The assignments for Thornbury’s job have not drastically changed since this restructuring — the main change has been in the addition of Campus Ministries.

Thornbury said both theology and missions and campus ministries fall under the one “umbrella” of his title as vice president for spiritual life.

He said including Campus Ministries was a logical step.

“Union University is about the integration of faith and learning, and it is perhaps more than slightly  ironic that the campus ministries piece, which  is the  practical,  service oriented, missions-sending piece and the academic piece, which is the School of Theology and Missions, were not under the same umbrella,” Thornbury said.

Worley echoed his sentiment: “It seems to us like a natural connection, and it’s just solidifying an already informal relationship.”

Worley said there are no immediate changes in Campus Ministries, but to keep and maintain the good work that has been done and provide leadership and vision for improvement.

He said goals include thinking creatively as to how to continue in both men’s and women’s discipleship and how to connect missions opportunities with learning and intercultural experiences so that it is “not learning or ministry, but they happen simultaneously.”

The School of Theology and Mission’s curriculum does not have any changes this year. There is still a Christian studies general major, but some structural changes will take effect next year.

Thornbury said “It’s not going to be a radical thing,” but the curriculum will be more focused and streamlined by implementing some nomenclature changes and the addition of more electives.

Another change in this reorganization is the shift of Chapel to the supervision and direction of Thornbury and Worley. Worley said Chapel has come under their authority because it falls under the category of spiritual life of the university.

There is no longer a dean of Chapel position, and the former dean, Dr. Richard Wells, is now the senior vice president for church relations.

Thornbury said there are not many changes to be made and “that’s one of the great things about Chapel — while we have different formats, people know that when they come to chapel we’ll confess our faith together, we’ll lead the university in worship before God and we’ll hear the Word.”

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