(RNS) Greg Thornbury, dean of Union University’s theology school, was named Thursday (July 11) as the new president of The King’s College, a New York City evangelical school whose previous leader resigned in controversy.
Thornbury, 42, succeeds conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza, who last year acknowledged a relationship with a woman who was not his wife.
The new president, a Southern Baptist living in Jackson, Tenn., will start his post on Aug. 1. The King’s College enrolled 564 full-time students last fall.
“We think that his vision for the future of the college is exactly what the Lord has intended,” Alice Handley, a board and search committee member, said during the live-streamed announcement.
Thornbury, bespectacled and wearing a bow tie, said the school’s location in the world’s center of culture and finance is important — a goal evangelical leaders such as Billy Graham and Carl F.H. Henry dreamed of but did not attain.
“This is historic Christianity’s last and best shot to lead from the center of culture with Christ at the center,” said Thornbury, who recently authored the book, “Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry.”
Thornbury’s appointment relieved some leaders worried about the future of the urban institution as a model of Christian higher education.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said Thornbury’s leadership will clarify the school’s commitment to an evangelical Christian worldview, which was less clear under D’Souza, in part because he had a Catholic background.
“Its cultural engagement, I think, will change under Greg — a very eager and winsome cultural engagement that will include political analysis but go far beyond it,” said Mohler, who supervised Thornbury when he was a doctoral student at his seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Evangelical author and speaker Eric Metaxas said his friend will be able to bridge the Christian college realm and the city life of the media capital.
“I think that he’s somebody that understands both worlds very, very well,” said Metaxas.
The King’s College was founded in New Jersey in 1938, closed in the 1990s amid financial troubles, and was revived with the help of the late Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright in 1999 when it began leasing space at the Empire State Building. D’Souza moved the school to the financial district of lower Manhattan, overlooking the New York Stock Exchange.
Thornbury is described by colleagues as a guitar-playing public intellectual.
His contemporary Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, compared Thornbury to an 18th-century theologian, tweeting that he “is Jonathan Edwards meets Rolling Stone magazine.”
In an interview, Thornbury said he would like to partner with evangelical Christian and Catholic colleges as well as “Christian thought and life institutions” such as Gabe Lyons’ Q Ideas.
He also will continue a working partnership with Kimberly, his wife of 20 years, who has been dean of students at Union. She will be a paid special assistant to the president for strategic planning at The King’s College.
“She’s really the Mickey Mantle of policies and systems so I need her on the team,” he said. “Even if she wasn’t my wife, I’d definitely want her on the team.”
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