The first decade of Carroll was a work of God, born of vision, built on sacrifice, grown by faith. The second decade will be those things and more… I remain convinced that the hub of God’s global, redemptive work remains in the local church, which is led by spiritually gifted and properly equipped servant leaders. These hubs of influence exist today and remain God’s Plan A to complete the Great Commission.
These were the opening words of B. H. Carroll Theological Institute’s new president, Dr. C. Gene Wilkes, in his inaugural address.
Carroll Institute, in its 10thanniversary year, installed its new president in a ceremony held at First Baptist Church, Arlington, on February 28, 2014. The evening was full of celebrations beginning with a dinner prior to the ceremony to honor Carroll’s past president, Dr. Bruce Corley. Current and former students, close colleagues, and family were present to reflect on Dr. Corley’s ten years of service to the Institute. Although Corley is stepping down as president, he will continue his teaching and writing career as Senior Fellow of the Institute in the Scripture and Witness Cluster. During the dinner program, Dr. Gene Wilkes announced the unveiling of a new project called “Carroll Primers.” The Carroll Primers is a set of brief, introductory books that will cover the 16 core courses from the four learning Clusters of Carroll’s curriculum. The English materials will be digitized and translated into Vietnamese, Russian, Mandarin, and Spanish. The set has been created to honor Dr. Bruce Corley who will serve as the general editor of the set and will enlist former students and colleagues to author the volumes.
The inaugural event began with the processional of administrators, governors, faculty, and delegates representing other institutions, associations, and learned societies. The formal ceremony was a service of worship and thanksgiving to God, affirming His grace and provision during Carroll’s first ten years, and expressing hope for the future. Participating in the service were some of Dr. Wilkes’ close friends and colleagues in ministry. James Worsham, worship leader at Legacy Church, Plano, where Dr. Wilkes served as pastor for 26 years, led the opening worship song. Robert Sterling conducted the Carroll Chorale, a choir of over ninety voices representing several area churches, in two of his arrangements, “Jesus Paid It All” and “Give Me Jesus.” Robert Sterling is a Christian songwriter, arranger, record producer, and author who has collaborated with Wilkes on some writing projects. Chris and Diane Machen, Christian artists and friends of Gene Wilkes during his days at Baylor University, provided inspirational music. Dr. Henry Webb, retired director of pastoral ministries at LifeWay Christian Resources, who invited Wilkes to write the series “Jesus on Leadership,” gave the prayer of dedication. Dr. Leon Leach, chair of the Board of Governors, presided over the installation ceremony. In addition to the Senior Fellows, others on the platform who participated in the service represented Carroll’s administration, students, and global partners in theological education.
An inauguration is a time to look back, affirming the past, and to look forward to the challenges of the future. In his opening statements, Dr. Bruce Corley commented,
The Scriptures record memorable scenes of resignation and succession, where one leader departs and a new leader steps forward. They all are turning points in the story of God’s people, and they all feature a challenge, a command, a commission, a charge—some with a token of the handing over, a visible reminder of the task to be done.
Dr. Corley proceeded with examples from the Old and New Testaments of such resignations and successions. In his charge to Dr. Wilkes, Corley laid out the challenges for meeting the needs of students, faculty and staff, governance and administration, church constituency, and academy and community. He restated the founding principles and vision of pastor/educator B. H. Carroll that are being entrusted to the new president:
Therefore, if we ever intend to make Texas Baptists the greatest spiritual force in the world and to be the potential in shaping the destiny of our state and nation, we must provide at home for the right and adequate training of a great host of spiritual leaders. Not to do it is a sin. We may not devolve this responsibility on others, nor can we safely postpone the work.
In facing an unknown future, Dr. Corley encouraged the new president to keep three things in mind: “Colleagues make a difference” – “Calling trumps everything else” – and, as a final blessing, “Keep calm and Carroll on!”
In his inaugural message, Dr. Wilkes compared the mission and vision of Carroll Institute to the New Testament church at Antioch:
The Antioch church was an equipping, “teaching church” – the mission and vision of Carroll Institute is to ‘equip men and women called to serve Christ in the diverse and global ministries of His church through an integrated network of Fellows, Teaching Churches, and Learning Centers to mobilize the priesthood of believers for service in society and provide theological education that is both biblically based and praxis oriented.’
The Antioch church was a “serving church” that ministered to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ – Carroll Institute serves the needs of the local church through serving its students who are able to continue where they are engaged in ministry as they prepare themselves through theological studies and follow God’s call to make disciples in every corner of the globe. Wilkes commented, “The DNA of Carroll is service to Christ and His Church. This is a primary reason we are committed to training our students in the language, context, and locale where they are called to serve Christ.”
The Antioch church was a “sending church,” a hub for the global reach of the Gospel. Carroll Institute is reaching the globe with the Gospel by partnering with churches who share the Great Commission as their mission. Wilkes referred to “Triads of Training: a domestic Flagship Church, a global local church, and BHCTI” as the key to Carroll’s growth and expansion. “We will expand our reach judiciously without jeopardizing the strength of our core competencies.” Carroll currently has 175 students in its 4 partnership countries of Viet Nam, Russia, China, and Cuba. At last year’s Convocation ceremony, four out of the six PhD students who graduated were from countries outside of the United States.
President Wilkes concluded his message with a charge of his own:
We cannot take small steps. We must take a leap forward and trust in the Lord who has secured our place in the theological education landscape and who will make the way straight for us to complete the mission he has called us out to embody… No matter your Christian heritage or by what name you call your allegiances, if you are a follower of Jesus and you have a heart to equip the Christian church wherever it may dwell, I ask you to: Pray for us – Support us – and Join us in this second decade of equipping men and women called to serve Christ here and around the world.
Following the inauguration, there was a reception to greet Dr. Wilkes along with a table where certificates and letters of congratulations were on display.