Campbell University Divinity
School’s new dean appreciates the school’s balance of scholarship with its
desire to serve the church practically.
Andy Wakefield was named
dean in July, succeeding Michael Cogdill who returned to the classroom after
helping to get the divinity school started 15 years ago. Wakefield, who found
his trail to teaching through a forest of other possibilities, will continue to
teach at least one class while adding administrative duties because he is
“passionate” about teaching.
He also is enthusiastic
about living and working in the Campbell community because Campbell values his
scholarship and love of teaching and enthusiastically endorses his “love for
the church and a desire to serve the church.”
“I want to be able to serve
a church and that not be seen as a distraction from my job,” Wakefield said
during an interview in his office. “My church involvement is seen as an asset
rather than a detriment.”
As a young student sorting
out possibilities for life, Wakefield, 50, never pictured himself as a dean, or
even as a professor because he never saw someone in front of the classroom that
he wanted to be, he said.
He worked three years in the
blossoming world of micro computers before he went to seminary, trying to
discern exactly what God was leading him toward.
On his first day in seminary,
he met a missionary kid on her birthday. Because Olivia was just off the field,
her birthday was included on the Woman’s Missionary Union missionary prayer
calendar. He told her, “With millions of people praying for you today, and you
meet me, that can’t be a coincidence!”
He found a love for
preaching while at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “I remember thinking
to myself what would really be wonderful — the ideal, if I had my wishes —
would be to somehow put these together, where I could teach and also serve the
churches. I didn’t realize until much later that was describing what I have a
Wakefield earned his
doctorate at Duke University Divinity School and was teaching Greek and New
Testament adjunctively at Campbell when he was asked to join the faculty of the
new divinity school. Campbell’s divinity school found early success, even
as a new school in the midst of much more established seminaries.
“Each of us is offering
something slightly different and I think that’s valuable,” Wakefield said. For
instance, he felt lost among Southern’s more than 2,000 students. Community is
easier to find among Campbell Divinity’s 220.
“We have very powerfully
been able to model the body of Christ,” Wakefield said. “Students really plug
into this where they experience a sense of community, of acceptance. And it’s
not based on all having the exact same views. We have students coming from a
wide variety of backgrounds. Twenty-five percent of the student body is not
Baptist; the other 75 percent is different flavors. They are different ages,
post-college to their 70s, and ethnically diverse.” They are all committed to
the school’s ministry statement which is: Christ centered, Bible based
and ministry focused.
That statement is more than
a slogan, Wakefield said. It gives students latitude to hold different
perspectives. They “may not be on the same page” in some things, but they’re in
the same book and a part of the same body of Christ.
“Our students then want to
take this model of being the body of Christ out to the churches and say, ‘OK,
how can we as a church embrace one another with our differences?’”
Wakefield recognizes that
Campbell Divinity and Gardner-Webb Divinity were born from turmoil in the
Southern Baptist Convention, whose six seminaries have been the primary
preparatory schools for Baptist church staff. And although the five
universities affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina
(BSC) are changing their relationship to the BSC, “Campbell still views itself
as partners with the Baptist State Convention and we value that partnership
because this is who we’re serving,” he said.
He said Campbell Divinity
graduates “for the most part” find open doors for service and “find themselves
well equipped for ministry.”
“We are rigorously academic
but we are also rigorously practical and we don’t think those two can’t go hand
in hand,” he said.
Most students are in the
master of divinity program, but Campbell Divinity also offers master in
Christian education, a doctor of ministry degree and several certificate
programs, including Hispanic theological education, childhood ministry and
women in leadership.
Wakefield is a missionary
kid himself, having grown up in the Philippines and Singapore, although he
graduated from high school in Richmond, Va., when his father, Bill, became an
administrator with the International Mission Board. He graduated in philosophy
from Wake Forest University and Southern Seminary and earned his PhD at Duke
He and Olivia have been
married 23 years and have two daughters: Natalie and Allison.
His doctoral thesis and
continuing interest is on the Apostle Paul’s use of scripture in his writing
and on Paul’s view of the law.
Maybe unusual for an
academic, but Wakefield’s hobbies are very manual — metal working and wood
working. He says it’s logical to have those interests because “I’m interested
in everything and would like to know a little something about everything.”
He is a part of Baptist
Fellowship of Angier, a four-year-old non-traditional church that focuses on
ministry to young people. Campbell University and Divinity School students are
involved in tutoring Hispanic, black and Anglo children. The church shares an
old funeral home with an Hispanic congregation.
“The thing that keeps
blowing me away is that we are literally a handful of people and we have made
it our focus to basically pour everything we have and do into ministry,”
Although Campbell Divinity
trains students primarily for service in traditional churches, “the church is
evolving and we want our students to connect to that and be at the forefront of
leading the church to wherever God takes them,” Wakefield said.
He says the Southern Baptist
Convention is “at the forefront” of that church evolution. It is struggling
through inevitable change, and no one knows what it is going to become.
Wakefield has “a very high
view of scripture” he said. But he has “a very low view of someone who wants to
tell me what scripture says. I’m committed to scripture. That means I have to
read it; I have to wrestle with it; I have to explore it as honestly as I know
“What I passionately want is
that students have thought it through and they have their own grasp on it,” he
“It is real close to
blasphemy not to force yourself to treat all of scripture as honestly, as
responsibly and as consistently as you know how.”
All the Divinity School’s
faculty are Baptist and Wakefield says the school is intentional about its
identity as Baptist.
“Within that, we embrace diversity,” he said.