News Archives: School 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.

HPU to host display of ancient Hebrew scrolls

tanakh-displayBROWNWOOD – October 27, 2016 – Howard Payne University’s School of Christian Studies is partnering with the Christian Heritage Foundation of Cleburne to present “The Tanakh,” a program and display of the scrolls of the Hebrew Bible. There are two opportunities to attend the program – 6 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 3. The program, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Richard and Wanda Jackson Conference Room of HPU’s Paul and Jane Meyer Faith and Life Leadership Center.

The discussion, led by Charles Garrett, executive director of the Ancient Hebrew Scroll Project, is part of HPU’s Lectures in Christian Scriptures series.

The display contains 16 scrolls which Jewish people refer to as the Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh) and which Christians call the 39 books of the Old Testament. The Tanakh is an acronym which stands for Torah (instruction), Neviim (prophets) and Ketuvim (writings). The scrolls are from Poland, Iraq, Morocco, Russia and other countries around the globe. Each is more than 250 years old, with the exception of six scrolls commissioned by the Christian Heritage Foundation when a worldwide search failed to discover those needed to complete the set.

“Those interested in the study of the Bible might find this program to be very informative and of great significance,” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies. “HPU is proud to host this display and we look forward to welcoming members of the community.”

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


Cutline: HPU’s School of Christian Studies will present “The Tanakh,” a program and display of the scrolls of the Hebrew Bible. Photo via

HPU faculty members present at Baptist World Alliance gathering

Dr. Melody MaxwellBROWNWOOD – August 1, 2016 – Howard Payne University’s Dr. Melody Maxwell, assistant professor of Christian studies, and Dr. Derek Hatch, associate professor of Christian studies, presented papers at the annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance in early July. This year’s gathering, which hosted more than 300 Baptist leaders from dozens of countries, was held in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of Baptist conventions and unions from around the world. According to the organization’s website,, the alliance exists to nurture the passion for mission and evangelism; promote worship, fellowship and unity; respond to people in need; defend human rights and justice; and advance relevant theological reflection.

Dr. Maxwell is a member of the BWA’s Commission on Mission, which includes missiologists, missionaries and church leaders from around the world.

“At this commission’s meeting I presented a paper titled ‘Baptists and the Modern Missionary Movement,’ in which I traced the history, strategies and legacy of nineteenth century Baptist missionaries,” she said. “It was an honor to present and learn at this global gathering.”

Dr. Derek HatchDr. Hatch is a member of the Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity which involves ministers and scholars in reflection on theological relationships within the Baptist family and between Baptists and other Christian communions. The group was tasked with examining the relationship between Baptists and the saints.

“My paper concerned the possibilities for Baptists to celebrate the lives of the saints in their worship and practice,” he said.
Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies, said opportunities for faculty members to participate in conversations with Baptists from around the world is beneficial to students.

“Participating in such global conversations not only broadens the minds of our faculty members, but those of their students as well,” he said. “I am pleased with the initiative shown by Drs. Hatch and Maxwell and look forward to seeing them reap the positive results in their classrooms.”


HPU hosts BGCT’s Super Summer camp for Christian students

Super Summer studentsBROWNWOOD – July 1, 2016 – Howard Payne University recently hosted the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ Super Summer camp, a weeklong leadership event for Christian students. Hundreds of youth from Baptist churches all across Texas participated in the camp, as well as many HPU alumni, students, faculty and staff members.

Super Summer is designed for Christian students who exhibit leadership attributes and desire to learn more about how to maximize their effectiveness in sharing the gospel and living a godly lifestyle. Each year’s camp theme is emphasized through all aspects of the camp. This year’s theme revolved around 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

Debbie Childs, HPU’s director of university events, said that she always looks forward to Super Summer each year.

“It reminds me of how grateful we are as a university to have students and leaders on our campus who follow Christ and then step up to be leaders these teens can follow as well,” Childs said. “It’s about relationships and I love that.”

This is the BGCT’s 43rd year to present Super Summer camps. The organization held seven sessions of Super Summer this summer, with the fifth session hosted at HPU. The other Super Summer camps are held at five other Texas Baptist universities throughout the summer.

“HPU has an amazing honor and privilege to host a week of Super Summer,” said Dr. Gary Gramling ’81, professor of Christian studies and director of HPU’s Christian studies graduate programs. “This means that we have the opportunity as a university to be a part of what God is doing in the lives of these students. It’s a joy to get to walk around campus and talk with students who are hearing God speak to them through His word and beginning to own their faith.”

blue school studentsCampers are divided into schools, designated by colors, based on the grade they recently completed in school, from seventh grade up to recently graduated high school seniors. Within these color schools, the students spend time in a very disciplined schedule of teaching sessions, worship sessions, small-group discussions and quiet time for personal reflection. They also get to have fun during recreation time, playing games that help emphasize the year’s theme with a focus on sportsmanship and teamwork rather than athletic ability.

“It is amazing to see these young Christian leaders at Super Summer continue to grow in their faith while having a great time and making lifelong friends,” said Kathy James, HPU’s special events coordinator. “I love having them on our HPU campus each summer.”


Cutlines: Super Summer campers cheer during recreation time on the HPU campus.

Campers in Super Summer’s Blue School have fun on the HPU campus.

Six HPU students honored for servant leadership

Servant Leadership Awards 2016BROWNWOOD – May 3, 2016 – 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.

“We are pleased to be able to honor students who have distinguished themselves through service to others,” said Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies. “Servant leaders do not serve others in order to be recognized, of course, but we are happy to honor those students who have honored HPU and Christ through their acts of service.”

Xavier McFalls, senior exercise and sport science major from Amarillo, and Kelsan Wolverton, senior cross-cultural studies major from Lampasas, were presented the Nat Tracy Servant Leader Award. HPU Servant Leadership Awards were presented to juniors Jaclyn Bonner, communication major from Lytle; Joshua Dykes, youth ministry and Guy D. Newman Honors Academy major from Mount Pleasant; TaShana Hooker, music instrumental major from Carrollton; and Dillon Hughes, youth ministry major from Plano.

The 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 1950-1975.

Xavier McFalls has participated in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes all four years at HPU and as a leader within the organization for two years. He has also participated in the Baptist Student Ministry through which he led the athlete discipleship ministry. He additionally served as captain of HPU’s football team and as chaplain within HPU’s Student Government Association among other leadership roles on campus.

Kelsan Wolverton has also participated in numerous roles and activities on campus including serving with Jacket Ambassadors, the Student Activities Committee, the Student Planning Committee and the BSM. She additionally served as historian and president of HPU’s Ministerial Alliance and as chaplain and president of the Alpha Psi Omega organization. She has been a student worker for the Office of University Services throughout her HPU career.

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.

Jaclyn Bonner serves as a resident assistant in HPU’s Veda Hodge Hall, as president of Gamma Beta Phi, as a columnist for the Yellow Jacket student newspaper and as the HPU representative on the executive committee of the Christian Association of Student Leaders. Additionally, she is active with the Student Government Association, Model United Nations and numerous other organizations.

Joshua Dykes serves as a resident assistant in HPU’s Jennings Hall and is a member of the Student Government Association, Mock Trial, the BSM and several other on-campus organizations. He additionally began a men’s Bible study in his residence hall and assisted with founding HPU’s Spanish Club so that students could be enabled to spread the Gospel to Spanish-speaking people.

TaShana Hooker serves as a student worker for HPU’s School of Music and Fine Arts and as a three-year member of the Yellow Jacket Band through which she was named head drum major. She is the vice president of HPU’s chapter of the Tau Beta Sigma National Honorary Band Sorority and has served on mission trips through the BSM.

Dillon Hughes has participated each semester at HPU with the BSM and the Ministerial Alliance. He has additionally served in the student ministry at Brownwood’s Coggin Baptist Church and Southside Baptist Church and has gone on mission trips with the BSM and Texas Baptists’ Go Now Missions.

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.

“This year, 18 different members of the faculty, staff or student body nominated 12 different students for the awards,” said Dr. Auvenshine. “This is the largest number of people making nominations and the largest number of nominees we have had in several years. We felt that all 12 of the nominees were deserving of recognition. I’m thankful to serve at a university that values servant-leadership qualities among its students.”


Cutline: Six HPU students were recently recognized for their servant-leader qualities. Left to right: Kelsan Wolverton, TaShana Hooker, Xavier McFalls, Dillon Hughes, Jaclyn Bonner and Joshua Dykes.

HPU Youth Ministry Workshop helps prepare students for lives of service

Dr Jackson at ChapelBROWNWOOD – April 12, 2016 – Youth ministry students at Howard Payne University recently participated in the university’s 46th annual Youth Ministry Workshop, an event designed to strengthen their leadership skills and help prepare them for lives of ministry. The students participated in 15 sessions throughout the event, hearing from veteran ministers from the area, throughout Texas and beyond. The workshop began in 1970 under the leadership of Dr. A.J. Turner, who was then assistant professor of religious education.

The students additionally participated in two worship services and completed a short observation paper on their experiences at the workshop.

Dr. Gary Gramling, professor of Christian studies and director of HPU’s Christian studies graduate programs, described the impact of the workshop on students.

“I think the great value of the workshop is the fact that we bring veteran youth ministers each year so that students can hear firsthand about various aspects of student ministry from people who are currently serving,” he said. “Leadership is something that can be taught to a certain degree, but much of it is caught from seeing and interacting with people who are wonderful leaders and excellent role models.”

YM Workshop ParticipantsIn addition to Dr. Gramling, speakers for the event included: Ricky Cavitt, youth minister at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church, Brownwood; Brad Echols, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Midland; Chuck Gartman, adjunct instructor of Christian studies at HPU and president of Go To Youth Ministry Inc., Cleburne; Jeff Howard, youth minister at First Baptist Church, Plano; Chris Hurt, student pastor at First Baptist Church, Frisco; Dr. Allen Jackson, pastor at Dunwoody Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.; Randy Johnson, youth minister emeritus at First Baptist Church, Richardson; Daniel Morrow, student minister at Field Street Baptist Church, Cleburne; Candy Smith, HPU Board of Trustees member, retired minister of education at First Baptist Church, Richardson, and chaplain for Marketplace Ministries; Steve Stege, executive pastor at First Baptist Church, Frisco; Jimmy Storrie, executive director of Life Recovered, Denton; and Dr. Rusty Wheelington, associate professor of Christian studies at HPU.

For more information about the programs in HPU’s School of Christian Studies, call (325) 649-8403 or visit

Applications are still being accepted for the fall 2016 semester at Howard Payne University. HPU offers a variety of financial aid options including the Heart of Texas Scholarship, which awards $60,000 to students from Brown County and surrounding counties. For more information about HPU, contact HPU’s Office of Admission at (325) 649-8020 or by e-mail at


Photo cutlines: In addition to speaking to ministry students as part of HPU’s recent Youth Ministry Workshop, Dr. Allen Jackson addressed the student body at Chapel.

In conjunction with the Youth Ministry Workshop, participants enjoyed an evening at the home of Dr. Gary Gramling, professor of Christian studies and director of HPU’s Christian studies graduate programs. Pictured, from left, are Dr. Gramling, Lubbock Roe, Joseph Flanigan, Ben Fountain, Cris Begay, Nate Rhodes, Andrew Overmiller, Anthony McCarson, Scott Turner, Chuck Gartman and Shawna Rains.

HPU students named 2016 Young Maston Scholars by Logsdon Seminary

Robert Martinez

Robert Martinez

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

BROWNWOOD – March 23, 2016 – Howard Payne University students Robert Martinez, junior from Copperas Cove, and Kelsan Wolverton, senior from De Soto, were among 15 Texas Baptist students recently honored as 2016 Young Maston Scholars by Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon Seminary. The awards were announced during the 16th annual T.B. Maston Lectures in Christian Ethics held on the HSU campus.

Each year Texas Baptist-partnering university officials nominate two students from their university 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.

Kelsan Wolverton

Kelsan Wolverton

Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies, nominated Martinez and Wolverton for the award.

“Bobby Martinez and Kelsan Wolverton are excellent examples of the good students in HPU’s School of Christian Studies,” said Dr. Auvenshine. “We’re proud of their accomplishments and the way they represent HPU.”

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


Photos courtesy Hardin-Simmons University.

HPU honors four students in Christian ethics and theology

Currie-Strickland Honorees 2016BROWNWOOD – February 29, 2016 – Four Howard Payne University students were honored as Currie-Strickland Scholars in Christian Ethics and Theology at the university’s ninth annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics event earlier this month. Those honored include Shaefer Church, senior Bible major from Farmington, New Mexico; Cheney Cover, junior cross-cultural studies major from Troup; J.T. Hurt, a 2015 HPU alumnus and current graduate student from Brownwood; and Tom Kyle, junior cross-cultural studies major from Salado. Dr. Donnie Auvenshine, professor of Christian studies and dean of the School of Christian Studies, presented the awards.

“At these lectures, we honor these good students,” said Dr. Auvenshine. “But, the reality is that they honor the Lord and us every day as they faithfully serve and study with us.”

Each year, the honorees are selected based on an evaluation of achievement in their classes and on the ways that they have excelled in their thinking in the fields of Christian ethics and theology. This year, each student received a certificate and three books: “Do Justice, Love Mercy” by Phil Strickland; “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?” by Brian McLaren; and “A New Religious America” by Diana Eck.

“Our faculty are privileged to teach many fine students at HPU, but these four have excelled above and beyond what is required,” said Dr. Derek Hatch, assistant professor of Christian studies. “We are all very proud of them and happy to honor them.”

The four students plan to pursue ministry-related goals after graduation. Church hopes to go to seminary and then overseas to be a missionary. Cover wants to minister to refugees in an urban environment. Hurt is currently a student in the Master of Arts in Youth Ministry program at HPU and plans to pursue youth ministry. Kyle plans to attend the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics in Dallas to study translation and linguistics. He also wants to work overseas with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

For more information, contact HPU’s School of Christian Studies at (325) 649-8403 or visit

Photo cutline: Dr. Donnie Auvenshine (left), professor and dean of HPU’s School of Christian Studies, is pictured with Currie-Strickland Scholars Shaefer Church, Tom Kyle, Cheney Cover and J.T. Hurt.

HPU to host speaker Dr. Robert Sellers for ninth annual Currie-Strickland lectures

Sellers Formal Press Shot for webBROWNWOOD – January 25, 2016 – Howard Payne University will host its ninth annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics next month with guest speaker Dr. Robert P. Sellers, professor of theology and Connally Chair of Missions at Logsdon Seminary in Abilene. The lectures are Thursday and Friday, February 11 and 12, in the Richard and Wanda Jackson Conference Room of HPU’s Paul and Jane Meyer Faith and Life Leadership Center. The lectures are free to the public and the community is welcome and encouraged to attend.

Thursday’s lecture, which begins at 7:00 p.m., is titled “Love your [Non-Christian] Neighbor as Yourself: Religious Pluralism and the Second Great Commandment.” The second lecture, to be held Friday morning at 10:00 a.m., is titled “Do Not Oppress the Foreigner or the Poor: Religious Pluralism and the Care for the Alien and Stranger.”

Dr. Sellers received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and psychology from Mississippi College as well as a Master of Divinity degree in New Testament and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in theological ethics from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He has done postgraduate work at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, and at Andover-Newton Theological School in Boston, Massachusetts.

For almost 25 years, Dr. Sellers and his wife, Janie, served as missionary student workers and theological educators in Java, Indonesia. Before returning to the United States, he taught ethics at the Indonesia Baptist Theological Seminary and the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary. From 1996 to 1998, he was visiting professor at Truett Seminary and in Baylor University’s religion department before beginning his tenure at Logsdon.

Dr. Sellers is a member of the Board of Trustees and the chair for the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. He serves on the Interfaith Relations Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and is a Baptist member of a joint Baptist-Muslim Task Force that has coordinated two National Baptist-Muslim Dialogues. He is currently serving his second five-year term representing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on the Interfaith Relations and Collaboration Table of the National Council of Churches. Locally, he is the Protestant representative on the board of the Abilene Interfaith Council.

Janie Sellers serves as an officer on the Board of Trustees for the Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio as well as on the Board of Consultants for the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission. The Sellers’ children, Tyler and Marnie, were both born in Indonesia and both currently work for Texas Baptist universities.

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, please contact Howard Payne University’s School of Christian Studies by e-mail at or by phone at (325) 649-8403.


Photo cutline: HPU will host speaker Dr. Robert Sellers during its ninth annual Currie-Strickland Distinguished Lectures in Christian Ethics.