Logsdon Seminary Professor Elected to Parliament Chair
A Logsdon Seminary professor is the new chair-elect of an international organization dedicated to cultivating harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities.Dr. Rob Sellers, professor of theology and Connally Professor of Missions, was recently elected to serve as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Parliament of World Religions; he is only the second Baptist to serve in the position.“I feel challenged, energized, excited, and hopeful,” said Sellers about being elected. “At the same time, I feel humbled, and a bit overwhelmed. At the core, I feel incredibly fortunate and positive about the privilege that has been granted me to serve in this way.”“Rob has strong qualifications for leadership in this international organization,” said Dr. Donald Williford, Dean of Logsdon School of Theology and Seminary. “His selection is a tribute not only to his tireless efforts to keep the lines of dialogue open between the world’s religions, but to his love for people of all cultures and religious backgrounds. I am proud to be associated with Dr. Sellers in the work of preparing young women and men to bear faithful witness to God in every culture.”
As Chair, Sellers will work closely with the Executive Director of the organization, employed by the Parliament to oversee the daily operations of the Parliament. His role will be more to lead in vision-casting, representing the Parliament externally, networking with other interfaith organizations, fundraising, speaking and writing on the interfaith movement, and coordinating the Parliament’s efforts.“It is my intention, when I am Chair, to share these leadership responsibilities with our very gifted trustees who bring, from their various positions in religious fields, academia, business, the legal professions, and non-profit work, a richness of experience and wisdom,” said Sellers.The Board of Trustees includes several international religious figures, including Rev. Andras Corban Arthen, spiritual director of the EarthSpirit Community; Rev. Dr. Shanta D. Premawardhana, former director for the program of Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation at the World Council of Churches; and Robert C. Henderson, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, headquartered near Atlanta, Ga., said her organization “celebrates the election of Dr. Sellers” to his new role.“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship welcomes his voice and guidance into deeper participation with the Parliament of World Religions,” said Paynter. “The mutually enriching work of interfaith engagement is considered an important priority for CBF and we will both pray for and support Dr. Sellers in his role.”
Dr. Roy Medley, Moderator of the National Council of Churches, USA, applauded Sellers’ election to the Parliament Chair position, and said it will signal to a world-wide audience that Baptists are fully committed to respecting and fostering the religious rights of all persons.
“Rob’s gracious approach to people of other faiths and his genuine interest and skills in building bridges with them will enhance the work that he has been involved in through the National Council of Churches on interfaith relations through the expanded network that he will now be leading,” said Medley.
Kyle Tubbs, lead pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Round Rock and a Logsdon graduate, said Sellers’ teaching about interfaith dialogue in the class, “Christian Approaches to Other Faiths” had an impact on his ministry.
“I also attended a local interfaith group with Dr. Sellers and began to form personal relationships with people from other faiths,” said Tubbs. “These experiences started with a heightened sense of curiosity and then forged friendships over the next couple of years. Now, the church I pastor presently has monthly interfaith dialogues which are integral to our ministry.”
“For Christians in general, many of whom are unsure of what to think about the increasingly religious plurality of our nation or concerned about religious conflict around the world, it is important to have someone of their own faith tradition to be vocal about the beauty of religious diversity, the need to treat persons of other faiths as neighbors, the wisdom of other spiritual teachers that can enrich us, and the value of working together across religious boundary lines,” said Sellers, who assumes his new duties later this year.
The 2015 Parliament will be held Oct. 15-19 in Salt Lake City, one of the first times the Parliament has met in the United States in its more than 20-year existence. For more information, visit www.parliamentofreligions.org.