JACKSON, Tenn. – March 2, 2006 – Gregory Alan Thornbury has been unanimously elected as the first dean of the School of Christian Studies at Union University.
Thornbury, 35, has been on the Union faculty since 1999, and has directed Union’s Carl F.H. Henry Center for Christian Leadership since 2000.
“Greg Thornbury is perhaps the brightest young theologian in Baptist life today,” Union University President David S. Dockery said. “His deep commitments to the church, to Baptist life, to Union University, to the orthodox Christian faith and to the vision of this institution make him an ideal person to lead the expanding work of the School of Christian Studies.”
The recent growth in the number of Christian studies students required changing the department to the School of Christian Studies, Dockery said.
Over the past decade, the number of Christian studies majors at Union has grown significantly, from less than 100 to about 225, plus another 50 minors. In addition, Union now offers Bible and theological preparation programs for almost 150 students at the associate degree level, as well as a master of Christian studies degree to another 40 students.
Dockery said the Christian studies department’s faculty has more than doubled and the budget now exceeds $1 million for the more than 400 students.
“It was much larger than any other department on campus and starting to more resemble the schools of education, business and nursing in its structure than any other department,” Dockery said. “Thus we needed to change the structure and find the right leader to give direction to this thriving area of our work.”
Union trustee Jerry Tidwell said Thornbury will not only be a great leader for the School of Christian Studies, but that he is an example of the kind of person Union University wants to produce.
“He brings a mind of academic excellence combined with a deep and abiding faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Tidwell said. “I am convinced that the School of Christian Studies at Union is now postured to become an institution producing even more world changers for the kingdom of God.”
Thornbury graduated from Messiah College with a bachelor’s degree in communication. He earned a Master of Divinity degree and a doctorate in philosophical theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
He has also completed additional doctoral studies at Oxford University’s Green College and at Beeson Divinity School.
“It’s a deeply humbling experience to be chosen as the leading representative for what is, by any accounting, the finest undergraduate Bible and theology faculty in America,” Thornbury said. “We have a well-rounded, brilliant and culturally-engaged group of scholars here who are doing important work in the kingdom of God. To be their representative, and more broadly, a representative of Union, is an incredible opportunity and an amazing responsibility.”
Thornbury said he envisions the School of Christian Studies being a facilitator of the university’s discussion and dialogue about the implications of the “great Christian intellectual tradition.”
“Obviously, every single discipline in the university has its own unique contribution that it brings to that table,” Thornbury said. “What we can do is help continue to foster that discussion. What does the great Christian intellectual tradition mean in our challenging times?”
He sees Christian colleges like Union as playing a pivotal role in how the Christian community engages the culture.
“If you think through church history, it was usually through the universities that cultural renewal and reformation got started,” Thornbury said.
Ray Van Neste, assistant professor of Christian studies at Union, said the school’s faculty members are fully supportive of Thornbury’s appointment.
“Greg knows well the university, the school and our denominational setting, and this will serve him well as he leads our continuing service to church and community,” Van Neste said.
Thornbury has co-edited two books: “Who Will Be Saved? Defending the Biblical Understanding of God,” published by Crossway Books in 2000, and “Shaping a Christian Worldview: The Foundations of Christian Higher Education,” published by Broadman and Holman in 2002. He has also written dozens of articles for various journals, magazines and other publications.
Thornbury serves as senior fellow for the “Kairos Journal” and is a fellow with the Wilberforce Forum and the Research Institute for the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He and his wife Kimberly, who is the dean of students at Union, have two daughters – Katherine, 4, and Carolyn, 2.