Frankfort pastor named Southern theology dean

Published: June 26, 2018

LOUISVILLE—Longtime pastor and New Testament scholar Hershael York will become the new dean of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's school of theology, effective Aug. 1, succeeding Gregory Wills, who is completing a five-year term.

Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler Jr., made making the announcement at the alumni and friends luncheon during the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.

The school of theology is the seminary's oldest and central school, encompassing what Mohler calls a "classic theology faculty" of scholars and practitioners in the Old and New Testaments; biblical, historical and systematic theology; church history; philosophy; ethics; and preaching.

"The school of theology represents the original purpose of the seminary … that has existed since 1859 in a succession of teachers and academic leaders," Mohler said in an interview, describing it as "the very heart of Southern Seminary."

York will be the 11th dean of the school of theology since its formation in 1954. Previous deans include Russell Moore, now-president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Danny Akin, now-president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

SBTS photo

Hershael York

Wills, the outgoing dean, will return to scholarly pursuits teaching and writing. In the next year, Wills intends to finish writing a history of Southern Baptists. He is also under contract to write a two-volume history of Christianity.

Mohler added that Wills' tenure as dean will serve as a model for the future. Because deans of the school of theology typically are not be able to set aside publishing and teaching indefinitely, this led Mohler to change the nature of the deanship of the school of theology.

"We are looking at a model scholar already on our faculty, already serving on the faculty of the school of theology, to take on the responsibility of dean for a term. As we look to the future, we're going to be asking deans to serve for five years," Mohler said.

York's relationship with Southern Seminary began 25 years ago when Mohler became the ninth president of the seminary and York was the 33-year-old pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington.

When Mohler was announced as president in early 1993, York called Mohler and said, "You don't know me, but I want you to know that there's at least one pastor in Kentucky who is glad you're coming."

Mohler hired York in 1997 as one of his first preaching professors. Two years later, in 1999, the seminary's trustees elected York to an endowed position as Victor and Louise Lester Professor of Christian Preaching.

Wills said of York, whom he has known for more than 20 years: "I have immense respect for him as a man of God, as a theologian, and as a leader in theological education. He is committed utterly to the full inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures, and to the power of the Word of God, to evangelism, and to the worldwide mission of the church. In his teaching, he has modeled the way that theological education should be done."

York's educational background includes bachelor of arts and master of arts degrees in classical languages from the University of Kentucky, as well as master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees in New Testament and Greek from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Tonya have two sons, both of whom work in ministry positions. (BP)