News Archives: School of Christian Studies

HPU to host lecture on Baptist heritage and distinctives next Monday

Dr BebbingtonBROWNWOOD – October 24, 2017 – Howard Payne University will host guest speaker Dr. David Bebbington next Monday, October 30, for the William M. Pinson Jr. Lectures in Baptist Heritage and Distinctives. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Richard and Wanda Jackson Conference Room of HPU’s Paul and Jane Meyer Faith and Life Leadership Center.

Dr. Bebbington, who serves as professor of history at the University of Stirling in Scotland, will deliver a lecture titled “William Carey: Pioneer in Missions.” The event is jointly hosted by HPU, the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Heart of Texas Baptist Network.

Dr. Bebbington is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. An undergraduate at Jesus College of the University of Cambridge, he began his doctoral studies there before becoming a research fellow at Fitzwilliam College. Since 1976, he has taught at the University of Stirling and has served as professor of history since 1999. He has also taught at the University of Alabama, Regent College in Vancouver, Notre Dame University, the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Baylor University.

His principal research interests are in the history of politics, religion and society in Great Britain from the 18th to the 20th century, and in the history of the global evangelical movement. He is widely known for his definition of evangelicalism, referred to as the “Bebbington quadrilateral,” which was first provided in his 1989 classic study “Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s.”

Dr. Bebbington is a longtime member of Stirling Baptist Church where he has held various positions of leadership. He is also a regular lay preacher for churches affiliated to the Baptist Union of Scotland.

Dr. Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies at HPU, said it is an honor to have a scholar of Dr. Bebbington’s caliber on campus.

“I am excited that our students will get to interact with and learn from an expert on Baptist history,” she said.

In honor of Dr. Pinson’s significant service, the institutional ministries of the BGCT established the William M. Pinson Jr. Lectures in Baptist Heritage and Distinctives as well as an endowment fund to sustain them. Dr. Pinson, executive director emeritus of the BGCT executive board, served as executive director for 17 years prior to retiring in 2000. The lectures are held annually on the campus of one of the nine universities affiliated with the BGCT.

Dr. Don Fawcett, adjunct faculty in the School of Christian Studies at HPU, serves as network missionary for the Heart of Texas Baptist Network.

“We are honored to work with the Howard Payne University School of Christian Studies and the Baptist General Convention of Texas to host Dr. David Bebbington and this lecture on William Carey and his pioneering mission work,” he said. “This affords our local church leaders an opportunity to attend a relevant presentation offered by an accomplished scholar and churchman.”


Cutline: Dr. David Bebbington will speak at HPU next Monday for the William M. Pinson Jr. Lectures in Baptist Heritage and Distinctives.

HPU names six faculty promotions

Faculty Promotions Fall 17BROWNWOOD – September 19, 2017 – Howard Payne University announced the promotion of six faculty members at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. Receiving promotions are Dr. Celeste Church, Dr. Gregory Church, Dr. Kevin Kelley, Dr. Paul Lilly, Dr. José Romero and Dr. Rusty Wheelington.

“We’re proud to acknowledge the accomplishments of these individuals,” said Dr. W. Mark Tew, HPU’s provost and chief academic officer. “The promotions granted are indicative of their hard work and faithful service to the university.”

Dr. Celeste Church, HPU faculty member since 2005 and formerly associate professor of music, was named professor of music. She additionally retains the title of dean of institutional research and effectiveness.

Dr. Gregory Church, formerly associate professor of music, has been named professor of music. He joined HPU’s faculty in 2004.

Dr. Kevin Kelley, who joined the HPU faculty in 2013, was named associate professor of psychology and chair of the Department of Psychology and Family Studies. He was formerly assistant professor of organizational psychology and business.

Dr. Paul Lilly, formerly assistant professor of criminal justice, was named associate professor of criminal justice. He joined HPU’s faculty in 2011 and also served as director of HPU’s Department of Public Safety from 2011 to 2017.

Dr. José Romero, previously associate professor of mathematics, was named professor of mathematics. He joined HPU’s faculty in 1996 and additionally serves as chair of the Department of Mathematics.

Dr. Rusty Wheelington, who joined the HPU faculty in 2006, was named professor of Christian studies. Dr. Wheelington formerly served as associate professor of Christian studies.


Cutline: Six HPU faculty members were promoted at the beginning of the fall 2017 semester. Left to right: Dr. José Romero, Dr. Rusty Wheelington, Dr. Gregory Church, Dr. Celeste Church and Dr. Paul Lilly. Not pictured is Dr. Kevin Kelley.

HPU’s Dr. Gary Gramling speaks at Wednesday morning Chapel service

Gary Gramling ChapelBROWNWOOD – August 31, 2017 – Howard Payne University’s Dr. Gary Gramling, 1981 HPU graduate, professor of Christian studies and director of the graduate programs in Christian studies, spoke at HPU’s Chapel service Wednesday morning.

“I can tell you that once you’ve had a personal encounter with Jesus, you’ll never be the same,” Dr. Gramling told audiences. “The Father wants nothing more than for every one of us, the people He made, to have a relationship with Him.”

The overall theme for HPU Chapel this semester is “Love God, Love Others.” To see the full slate of Chapel speakers, visit


Cutline: Dr. Gary Gramling speaks at HPU’s Chapel service Wednesday morning.

HPU group serves in Slovakia

HPU group in Slovakia 2017 BROWNWOOD – July 20, 2017 – Nine Howard Payne University students traveled to Slovakia at the beginning of the summer for a short-term mission immersion experience. Travelers included students in Dr. Melody Maxwell’s International Missions Practicum course as well as students involved with HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry. The group was accompanied by Dr. Maxwell and Keith Platte, BSM director.

The HPU team led ministry activities among the Roma and Slovak people and learned from Shane and Dianne McNary, field personnel with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“It was our privilege and joy to be able to interact with such a dynamic and talented group of young scholars,” wrote the McNarys in an e-mail newsletter following the trip.

Dr. Maxwell’s class prepared for the trip the semester prior by studying short-term missions along with the history and culture of the area and the Roma people.

“The Roma are a people group in Europe who are often marginalized and frequently live in poverty,” said Dr. Maxwell. “We were blessed with the opportunity to briefly serve among the Roma alongside the McNarys.”

Among other activities, the group taught English at a public school in Važec and hosted a Bible school for Roma children in partnership with Jekh Drom, a local non-profit. They also connected with Word for the World – Slovakia, a group of people translating the Bible into a local Roma dialect, and the Slovak Bible Society who has partnered with the group in publishing and distributing the Bibles.

“This trip specifically taught me about the importance of having cross-cultural knowledge and how that shapes our presentation of the Gospel,” said Zoe Emley, junior from Natalia. “This trip was one where I felt that I gained an overwhelming amount of great information about Slovak and Roma culture and the culture of short-term missions.”

Before departing from Europe, the team traveled to Poland where they visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Schindler Museum and the Polish Roma Association Museum.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that what we did as tourists directly related to who we had been working with while we were on mission,” said Kara Strange, May 2017 graduate from Fredericksburg. “Our tourism was not without a purpose.”

Tara Carroll, junior from McKinney, said the trip taught her that God speaks to everyone differently.

“God transcends human limitations and can transcend cultural differences as well,” she said. “The Gospel is multifaceted and can to speak to everyone in many ways. God has used the McNarys to do beautiful work in Slovakia and with the Roma people. We were able to come alongside this work with them for a short time. They will continue to do this Gospel work long after we are gone.”

In addition to Emley, Strange and Carroll, those on the trip included Daniel Harris, May 2017 graduate from Boerne; Kindell Hill, junior from Jarrell; Tom Kyle, May 2017 graduate from Salado; Anthony McCarson, May 2017 graduate from San Angelo; Erin McCleer, junior from San Angeolo; and Caitlin Vincent, junior from Brownwood.


Cutline: A group from HPU completed a short-term mission immersion experience in Slovakia at the beginning of the summer. They are pictured at the High Tatra Mountains as they traveled from Slovakia to Poland. Left to right: Caitlin Vincent, Kara Strange, Kindell Hill, Keith Platte, Erin McCleer, Tom Kyle, Zoe Emley, Anthony McCarson, Tara Carroll, Daniel Harris and Dr. Melody Maxwell.

HPU students named 2017 Young Maston Scholars by Logsdon Seminary

Information for this press release was provided by Hardin-Simmons University.

Caitlin Alexander for web
Adam Jones for web

BROWNWOOD – May 5, 2017 – Howard Payne University students Caitlin Alexander, junior from Brownwood, and Adam Jones, senior from Irving, were among 18 Texas Baptist students recently honored as 2017 Young Maston Scholars by Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary. The awards were announced during the 17th annual T.B. Maston Lectures in Christian Ethics held on the HSU campus.

Each year, officials from partnering Texas Baptist universities nominate two students from their universities to become Young Maston Scholars, an award recognizing outstanding undergraduate students for their interest in, engagement with and integration of Christian ethics. Nominations for the award are based upon a student’s demonstrated faithfulness to the ethical example of Christ; a commitment to Christian ethics lived out in theological inquiry and academic excellence; an established reputation among peers for ethical Christian leadership; and an articulated clarity in an occupational expression of ministry, though it is not required to be in a congregational setting.

Alexander majors in cross-cultural studies and elementary education. Jones, a Guy D. Newman Honors Academy student, majors in Christian education and youth ministry. Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies, nominated the pair for the award.

“I was proud to nominate Caitlin and Adam for this honor from our sister institution,” said Dr. Auvenshine. “They are both excellent representatives of HPU’s values and commitment to Christian education.”

For more information about Howard Payne University’s School of Christian Studies, visit or call 325-649-8403. More information about Hardin-Simmons University may be found at

HPU honors six students for servant leadership

HPU Nat Tracy Awards 2017 for webBROWNWOOD – May 4, 2017 – Six Howard Payne University students were recently honored for acts of servant leadership on campus and in the community. The awards were presented during HPU’s annual Servant Leadership Program.

“Formally recognizing something like servant leadership is an indication that it is an attribute highly valued by the university,” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies. “As a Christian university, we cherish the type of servant leadership demonstrated most clearly by Jesus Christ.”

Chad Anders, senior communication major from Midlothian, and Kara Strange, senior business administration major from Fredericksburg, were presented the Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award. HPU Servant Leadership Awards were presented to juniors Trey Carpenter, Christian education major from Hamilton; Zoe Emley, family studies major from Natalia; Kindell Hill, cross-cultural studies major from Jarrell; and Cassia Rose, junior theatre major from Winnsboro.

HPU Servant Leader Awards 2017 for webThe Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award was established in 1998 to honor the life of the late Dr. Nat Tracy, a member of HPU’s Bible faculty from 1950 to 1975.

Anders is a four-year member of the Yellow Jacket baseball team and is on the Student Athlete Captains Leadership Team. He has participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for two years, serving as president of the organization during the 2016-17 academic year. He has also participated in Baptist Student Ministry and serves on the BSM leadership team. Anders has been a member of the Iota Chi Alpha fraternity for two years.

Strange has participated in numerous HPU organizations and activities including University Singers, Concert Choir, Jacket Journey and Student-Led Worship. She is a small-group leader and on the worship team at First United Methodist Church in Brownwood and has participated in three summer mission projects during her time at HPU. Additionally, she serves at Hope Home Ministry in Brownwood and is a member and former treasurer of the Delta Chi Rho sorority.

Established in 2007 by the Moore Foundation and Barney II Foundation, the HPU Servant Leadership Award recognizes student excellence in the areas of leadership and service. A $1,000 scholarship is provided to each recipient of the award, and each student designates $250 of the scholarship award to be given to his or her chosen charity.

Carpenter is active in HPU’s Baptist Student Ministry. He served as a Jacket Ambassador and is a former student worker in the university’s Office of Admission. He currently works as a resident assistant in HPU’s Taylor Hall. Carpenter served at Camp Eagle in Rocksprings in the summer of 2016, helping to lead 15 young people to profess faith in Christ and four young people to renew their faith commitments to Christ.

Emley is a member of the Baptist Student Ministry leadership team and was recently elected as the Gamma Beta Phi sorority chaplain. She has served in several roles at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, most recently as music ministry intern. She additionally served at New Horizons Ranch in Brownwood as a girls’ group mentor, Bible study leader and music minister. Emley represented HPU at the Christian Association of Student Leaders conference this year and has participated in Go Now Missions and Beach Reach.

Hill serves as a Jacket Ambassador and is a student worker in the Office of Admission and in the university’s mail room. She is a three-year member of Gamma Beta Phi and has served as the sorority’s chaplain. She has been a member of Ministerial Alliance and has served in the youth ministry at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church. Hill currently mentors a high school girl through the Early ISD ACE program.

Rose is a student in HPU’s Department of Theatre and has participated in several of the department’s productions. She is active in her church, First Baptist Church in May, and spends a great deal of time ministering to her peers at HPU.

Nominations for both the Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award and the HPU Servant Leadership Award are solicited each spring from HPU staff, faculty and students.

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2017 semester at Howard Payne University. HPU offers a variety of financial aid options. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at 325-649-8020 or by e-mail at


Photo cutlines:

Nat Tracy Servant Leader Awards were presented to HPU seniors Chad Anders and Kara Strange.

HPU Servant Leadership Awards were presented to HPU juniors, from left, Kindell Hill, Cassia Rose, Zoe Emley and Trey Carpenter.

HPU represents Baptist World Alliance at UN Commission on Status of Women

HPU group in NYCBROWNWOOD – April 11, 2017 – Representatives from Howard Payne University were among those in New York City recently for the 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Thanks to the Baptist World Alliance, two HPU faculty members, two students and a recent graduate were able to attend the UN conference among diplomats and other leaders from around the world.

HPU representatives included Dr. Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies; Jennifer McNiece, assistant professor of government and director of international studies and academic travel; Elizabeth Allen, senior cross-cultural studies major from Brownwood; Rebeca Puente, senior Guy D. Newman Honors Academy and jurisprudence social science major from Waskom; and Jessi Jordan, a 2015 HPU graduate now studying at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut.

The Commission on the Status of Women helps shape global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. Through her connections with the Women’s Department of the Baptist World Alliance, a fellowship of Baptist conventions and unions from around the world, Dr. Maxwell received five conference passes. Others representing the BWA included female leaders from each continent and representatives from 14 countries.

“The conference discussed what life is like for women around the world,” Dr. Maxwell said. “It was eye-opening to learn about issues that many women face and a great opportunity for our student leaders to discuss issues related to women. Learning about these topics alongside outstanding Baptist women from across the globe was an invaluable experience.”

Puente, who is preparing for a career in law, spoke about the opportunity to meet with leaders from around the world.

“At one of the events, I sat next to the Minister on Gender Equality for Iceland and listened to him talk about the work he’s doing for gender equality in his country,” she said. “At another event, women parliamentarians from around the world told us about their experiences facing violence in their countries because they are women in politics.”

As Christians at a largely secular conference, the HPU group members were tasked with considering how their faith speaks to such issues. Together with leaders from the Baptist World Alliance Women’s Department, they prayed for the women of the world and discussed how the love of Christ motivated them to serve women in need.

“Our students, who are moving toward careers in ministry and law, were able to think about how they can be Christian leaders in today’s society,” said McNiece.


Cutline: A group from Howard Payne University recently attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women conference in New York City. Left to right: Dr. Melody Maxwell, Jennifer McNiece, Rebeca Puente, Jessi Jordan and Elizabeth Allen.

HPU names 2017 Currie-Strickland Scholars in Christian Ethics and Theology

Currie-Strickland Scholars 2017BROWNWOOD – March 10, 2017 – Four Howard Payne University students were named Currie-Strickland Scholars in Christian Ethics and Theology at the university’s tenth annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics event in late February.

Those honored include Joseph Flanigan, junior cross-cultural studies major from Round Rock; Kindell Hill, junior cross-cultural studies major from Salado; Daniel Palacios, senior practical theology major from Kaufman; and Jordan Pitman, junior cross-cultural studies major from Bangs.

Each year, the scholars are selected based on an evaluation of achievement in their classes and on the ways they have excelled in their thinking in the fields of Christian ethics and theology. This year, each student received a certificate and two books including “Do Justice, Love Mercy” by Phil Strickland.

“We are very proud of these four students and their accomplishments,” said Dr. Derek Hatch, associate professor of Christian studies. “Among all of our wonderful HPU students, these four exemplify what it means to be dedicated to serious critical reflection within the life of the church.”

For more information, contact HPU’s School of Christian Studies at 325-649-8403.


Cutline: HPU recently named four students as Currie-Strickland Scholars in Christian Ethics and Theology. Left to right: Kindell Hill, Jordan Pitman, Daniel Palacios, Joseph Flanigan and Dr. Derek Hatch, associate professor of Christian studies.

Dr. Roger E. Olson to speak at HPU’s 10th annual Currie-Strickland lectures

Roger OlsonBROWNWOOD – January 12, 2017 – Howard Payne University’s 10th annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics will feature guest speaker Dr. Roger E. Olson, Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary. The lectures will take place Thursday, February 23, and Friday, February 24, and are free to the public.

Speaking on the theme “Both-And Ethics: Reconciling Niebuhr and Hauerwas,” Dr. Olson will begin his lectures at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening and 10 a.m. Friday morning with a question-and-answer session following each lecture. Both events will be held in the Richard and Wanda Jackson Conference Room of HPU’s Paul and Jane Meyer Faith and Life Leadership Center.

Dr. Olson holds degrees from Rice University, North American Baptist Seminary and Open Bible College. He has written numerous articles for such publications as Theology Today, Dialog, Scottish Journal of Theology, Christian Century and Christianity Today. His recent books include “Reformed and Always Reforming: The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology,” “The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform,” “The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity” and “Who Needs Theology?” with Dr. Stanley J. Grenz. Dr. Olson received two awards for “The Story of Christian Theology” including a Gold Medallion from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association in 1999. In 1993 he and co-author Dr. Grenz received Christianity Today’s award for best book in theology/biblical studies for “20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age.”

A past president of the American Theological Society (Midwest Division), Dr. Olson has been the co-chair of the Evangelical Theology Group of the American Academy of Religion for two years. An expert in historical theology, he is a frequent preacher, teacher and speaker for local churches and organizations.

“We’re looking forward to Dr. Olson’s discussion of ‘both-and ethics’ and well-known ethicists and theologians Reinhold Niebuhr and Stanley Hauerwas,” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies and professor of Christian studies. “Studies of ethics are crucial in today’s society, particularly for Christians. We know Dr. Olson will deliver thoughtful and timely discussion on the subject.”

The Currie-Strickland lecture series is made possible through the generosity of Dr. and Mrs. Gary Elliston and was established to honor the life of Dr. David R. Currie, retired executive director of Texas Baptists Committed, and the memory of Phil Strickland, who dedicated nearly 40 years of ministry to the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Christian Life Commission.

Admission is free but reservations are requested. For reservations or more information, contact Howard Payne University’s School of Christian Studies by e-mail at or by phone at (325) 649-8403.


Cutline: Guest speaker at HPU’s 10th annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics will be Dr. Roger E. Olson, Foy Valentine professor of Christian theology and ethics at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary.

HPU alumna “pays it forward” with scholarship benefiting female ministerial students

jespersen-familyBROWNWOOD – January 6, 2017 – Joanna (Cornelius) Jespersen, a 1998 Howard Payne University graduate, recently established the Jespersen Direct Scholarship with the university to benefit females studying in HPU’s School of Christian Studies at the Brownwood campus or the New Braunfels extension center. The $1,000 scholarship will be awarded each fall and spring semester ($500 each semester).

The spring 2017 recipient is Elizabeth Allen, a senior from Kempner double-majoring in cross-cultural studies and English at the Brownwood campus.

After graduating from HPU with a Bachelor of Science degree in counseling and psychology, Jespersen served as a journeyman with the International Mission Board in Brazil. She returned to the United States and, in 2006, graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Today she serves as minister to children and families at Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church in Dallas.

Jespersen is married to Dr. Ryan Jespersen, director of urban missions through the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and they have two daughters, Rachel Beth, 6, and Mary Kate, 4.

“I am excited about giving back to HPU through this scholarship that Ryan and I have set up for female ministerial students,” she said. “I am forever indebted to HPU for all that I received during my time there including scholarships, forever friendships, the deepening of my own faith and practice, and the Godly instruction and guidance by my wonderful Christian professors and the helpful staff there.”

Jespersen said she knew, even as a student, that she wanted to give back to the university when she was in a position to do so.

“I feel compelled and responsible to ‘pay it forward’ in this way since so many blessed me on my own journey at Howard Payne,” she said. “My hope and prayer for Howard Payne is that she continues to be a school focused on educating and training up future Christian leaders who will make an eternal impact on our country and world. I am so happy that I am a part of that legacy and I pray that Howard Payne continues to shine for the Lord in these years ahead.”

If you would like to establish a scholarship at HPU, please contact Stephen Sullivan, director of development and alumni relations, at or 325-649-8069.


Cutline: Joanna Jespersen, 1998 HPU alumna, recently established a scholarship with the university. She is pictured with her husband, Dr. Ryan Jespersen, and daughters Rachel Beth and Mary Kate.