Academics

Moving Forward

By Drew Menard, February 20, 2015
Dr. Hindson teaching

Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the School of Religion, is carrying on Liberty’s rich traditions while keeping programs relevant for this generation.

After being named dean of the School of Religion (SOR) in the fall of 2013, Dr. Ed Hindson expressed his desire to see the school rise in influence through practical curriculum and dynamic faculty, all while remaining rooted in Liberty’s rich theological history.

President Jerry Falwell said the selection of Hindson to lead the SOR followed much thought and prayer. When the two sat down to discuss the position, they talked about goals for the school.

“I am delighted that he has surpassed all of my expectations for the School of Religion,” Falwell said. “I believe that Dr. Hindson has the School of Religion on a trajectory toward becoming the leading such school in the nation.”

“There is a strong sense of confidence in Dr. Hindson’s leadership,” added Dr. Mark Allen, chair of the Department of Biblical & Theological Studies. “With his years of experience in Liberty leadership and teaching, he makes the kind of insightful, bold, and quick decisions that have rapidly moved us forward. He seeks on-the-ground input from faculty and staff. His leadership has catalyzed positive change and created movement forward, with a spirit of hopefulness and expectation. There is a sense that the best days are ahead of us.”

In the past year, the School of Religion has seen a boost in enrollment in most of its programs: 39 percent in global studies; 35 percent in theology and apologetics; and 24 percent in pastoral leadership.

About 20 percent of students studying online with Liberty are majoring in a religious area, either in an undergraduate program with the School of Religion or a graduate program through Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary.

“It is exciting to know that we can have a cross-denominational, global impact through our online programs and, at the same time, be preparing our on-campus students for an effective career in full-time Christian work,” Hindson said.

To ensure that the curriculum remains relevant, the SOR opened a Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement last semester. This unique center equips students with “real answers” when they are faced with attacks on their faith, Hindson said. In addition, the SOR recently launched several new programs in the Department of Christian Leadership & Church Ministries. A new B.S. in Christian Leadership & Church Ministries offers cognates in adventure leadership and outdoor ministries, biblical studies, global studies, technical studies, theology and apologetics, women’s leadership, and worship. A new B.S. in Youth Ministries offers cognates in adventure leadership and outdoor ministries, biblical studies, Christian leadership, cinematic arts, coaching, pastoral leadership, sport outreach, technical studies, theology and apologetics, women’s leadership, and worship.

Hindson has served at Liberty for more than 20 years; for the past 15 years, he has taught as a distinguished professor of religion. He personally teaches more than 1,000 students each semester, seeing firsthand how the university is making an impact on their lives.

“The personal contact is what I love about teaching in the classroom,” Hindson said. “I enjoy the opportunity to get to know the students, to influence them, to hear their concerns and answer their questions, and really give them a passion for the things of God and for the Bible.”

The school is also intentional about providing opportunities for practical experience. In addition to several practicums and internships offered locally, students now have the option to take part in the new Ministry Fellowship Program. Seniors can spend an entire year working with one of several church partners around the world to receive internship credit. While serving, they also take classes online to maintain full-time enrollment status, and their transportation and housing costs are covered.

As programs continue to grow, Hindson said the university is considering plans to construct a new building that will serve the SOR’s needs for years to come.

New Faculty

Chris Gnanakan

Chris Gnanakan

Joshua Chatraw

Joshua Chatraw

Rusty Small

Rusty Small

Hiring young, highly qualified faculty supportive of Liberty University’s doctrine is pivotal in maintaining Liberty’s conservative theological foundation in the future, according to Ed Hindson, dean of the Liberty University School of Religion.

“The great thing about our faculty is that we have some very seasoned veteran teachers who have proven to be effective over the years and are greatly respected by our students,” Hindson said. “In addition, our new faculty members have helped to energize our existing faculty and improve our influence across the student body.”

Last summer, the SOR added three new faculty members:

Dr. Joshua Chatraw

Chatraw is the director of Liberty’s new Center for Apologetics & Cultural Engagement and the theology and apologetics programs, which prepare students to defend their faith. He earned his Ph.D. at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and has co-authored two books, written several peer-reviewed articles, and served in pastoral ministry. Chatraw is also a fellow with the Center for Pastor Theologians and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, Institute for Biblical Research, and Society of Biblical Literature. Chatraw speaks at churches, colleges, and ministries around the world.

Dr. Chris Gnanakan

Gnanakan, a professor of theology, brings to the classroom 25 years of experience training students and national leaders in the Bible, church, and missions. He has a passion for evangelism, discipleship, mentoring leaders, and furthering the church’s global mission. Gnanakan, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England, has served as the director of Outreach to Asia Nationals, where he trained Christians to plant churches and mobilize local outreach events in their native countries, including those that are closed to the Gospel. A dynamic speaker, Gnanakan also serves as a guest lecturer in churches and universities around the world.

Dr. Rusty Small

Small, an associate professor of theology, graduated from Liberty in 2003 and went on to earn his Ph.D. at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. During his time as a pastor, Small gained an understanding of what it takes to grow a church. During his ministry at Liberty Baptist Church in Appomattox, Va., attendance at the 179-year-old church more than doubled. Small brings multiple gifts to the classroom, including expertise in investing in the health of the church and insight into the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

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