Assigned Seats - Gordon Conwell

Assigned Seats

Doctor of Ministry Pastoral Theology in Practice Cohort


Dr. David A. Currie

From the urgency in Curtis’ voicemail asking me to call him, I wondered what was up. A solid student, he had wrapped up the third residency in the Pastoral Theology in Practice Doctor of Ministry track the year before, so I hoped that it wasn’t a personal or program problem. In the midst of a pandemic, I prepared myself for the worst as I sent up a quick prayer while I dialed his number.

I wasn’t prepared for the question he almost immediately asked after saying hello: “Dave, do you pray when you put out our name tents to show where we’ll be sitting during our two-week residencies or is it just random?”

I replied a bit sheepishly, “Actually, I do pray as I put the name tents out, about who the Lord might want to be sitting next to each other, but it’s not like I usually get some kind of ‘word of knowledge’ that leads me to put people next to each other. I try to separate people who already know each other and create a mix of different backgrounds. I do pray for each person by name as I walk around the room before each class, asking that the experience in the residency will be transformative. Why do you ask?”

Curtis exclaimed, “Well, I couldn’t wait to tell you that I’m going to be planting a church in my new hometown of Jacksonville, and it all started in my first D.Min. residency when you sat me next to Doug!”

After listening to his story, I asked Curtis to put it in writing so I could share it:

“During the past twelve months I have come to realize how God has moved in such a way that I could not help but realize that it is truly His intervention that has connected me so well within the Southern Baptist and Jacksonville Baptist Associations. My church planting testimony begins with how divinely God led our Dean, David Currie, in seating assignments as he placed my name tent next to Doug’s name tent for my first two-week cohort at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary–Charlotte.

At the end the two-week cohort, my seatmate gave me a church planting brochure from the North American Mission Board (NAMB). I graciously accepted the brochure but internally felt that God was not calling me to plant a new church in Jacksonville, FL, and I didn’t know what Doug saw or felt in me from those two weeks of sitting next to one another. In my mind I was simply accepting God’s call of pursuing my doctorate and then proceeding with applying to various searches within the community of Jacksonville for a full-time senior pastor position.

Three years later, I realized God had other plans. While reading a prescribed book for my thesis-project, entitled “Developing A Plan for Planting A Multiracial Church in Jacksonville, FL,” I remembered my former seatmate who gave me the NAMB brochure, but I could not remember his name, nor did I have any current contact information. I immediately thought of our dean, who provided Doug with my cell number at my request.

Doug has been phenomenally critical in my NAMB application for church planting, which has included a host of support, advice, and direction in this process. Doug has placed me in contact with various people in Florida, most importantly with a Pastor who was willing to be my sending church sponsor: Rev. David T. Earlier this month (March 2021) my wife and I completed the vigorous assessment program with NAMB and have received a final recommendation of acceptance to proceed with their church planting program.

The expectation is to have the church plant completed within the next six to eighteen months, which will parallel the completion of my thesis-project for May 2022 graduation.”

Pictured: Doug Carver on the left & Curtis Haynes on the right (with cohort mate Dorlan Cartwright in between).

I’ll confess that church planting in Jacksonville was not even in the back of my mind when I sat Curtis and Doug next to each other. If there was any rhyme or reason to their assigned seats, it was because I didn’t think they had much in common–Curtis, a retiring Lutheran seminary administrator and African American Baptist pastor from New Jersey and Doug, a retired Army chaplain now overseeing chaplaincy in the Southern Baptist Convention from Charlotte.

I can’t guarantee that every Gordon-Conwell D.Min. student will discover a new ministry as a result of who they sit next to, or even once they receive their degree. However, I can assure them that the process will be bathed in prayer as we seek to nurture them as passionate, reflective practitioners: informing their spiritual passions by forming a mentored learning community, thereby transforming ministers and ministries for a lifetime.

David Currie is Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program and Vice President of Cohort-Based Education at Gordon-Conwell. To all of his work, Dr. Currie brings a passion to nurture thinking Christian leaders. This passion has grown out of over three decades of ordained ministry. Dr. Currie is currently serving as a priest in the Anglican Church of North America and is the faculty advisor for the Hamilton Campus Anglican Formation Program.