Since its founding, one of Reformed Theological Seminary’s strengths has been its board of trustees. Over the years, there have been more than 50 members, each offering different perspectives, areas of expertise, and above all, a common desire to see the expansion of the Kingdom of God. Many of the trustees have served extensive terms, and therefore have an in-depth knowledge of the seminary’s history. Two such members are Jim Moore and Larry Edwards, both of Jackson, Mississippi.
Moore joined the RTS Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee — a group of up to 12 board members — in 1980. Edwards would join the board six years later. Prior to their elections, both Moore and Edwards attended meetings as trainees.
“I used to tell people ‘I’m an eating member. I can’t vote, but I can eat,’” Moore joked, referring to the bi-monthly lunch meetings he attended prior to joining the board.
Moore began attending meetings as a trainee in 1976 — 4 years prior to joining the board. Bob Cannada, the chairman of the board at the time, saw the trainee role as an on-ramp to full board participation. “Bob wanted a new board member to be up to speed on all issues and opportunities on day one and able to cast their vote,” Moore explained.
Spending time as trainees also allowed prospective members to determine whether they felt called to invest their time, energy, and resources in the ongoing development of RTS. In addition to the practicality of getting new board members “up to speed,” starting as a trainee tested the strength of new board members’ commitment. In the late 70s and early 80s, the Executive Committee met twice a month for multiple hours at a time. Cannada wanted to make sure that serving on the board would be a top priority for each potential member.
The RTS Board of Trustees “has always been very hands-on,” Edwards explained. He said that while the Executive Committee’s meeting schedule and other duties have evolved over the years as the seminary has grown, the Executive Committee and board continue to be actively involved in the governing of RTS.
The significant level of commitment required from board members cultivates a committed group of trustees, many of whom choose to serve for long periods of time, including Moore and Edwards’ decades-long tenures.
Currently, the Executive Committee meets on a monthly basis. All board members are welcome and encouraged to attend the monthly meetings, even if they are not currently serving on the committee. Various subcommittees report to the Executive Committee, providing research, insight, and knowledge to help the Executive Committee in their decision-making processes. The committee is accountable to the larger board of trustees, which is responsible for interviewing and hiring faculty, as well as setting the seminary’s budget.
Edwards, who joined the board in 1986, encourages new board members to get involved beyond the minimum requirements. “You cannot learn the ethos, and what we do, and what we’re facing from two to three board meetings a year,” he remarked.
The trainee role no longer exists, but the board now prioritizes educating new trustees about the history of the seminary — in fact, the longer-serving board members just walked them through the seminary’s timeline at their meeting in October 2019.
“[The history] is not like ‘A, B, C,’ Moore explained. “You have to work your way through it…We tried to let them know what we had been through and what lessons we had learned — sometimes the hard way — that they can benefit from.”
[The history of RTS] is not like ‘A, B, C.’ You have to work your way through it… We tried to let them know what we had been through and what lessons we had learned, sometimes the hard way, that they can benefit from.”In addition to emphasizing commitment and a robust understanding of RTS’ history, the board of trustees also prioritizes a diverse vocational makeup across its members. Nearly all of the trustees since RTS’ founding have been laymen, while only a few have been pastors and theologians. At the time he started as a trainee, Moore was a vice president of communications at one of Mississippi’s largest utility companies. Edwards’ career has been in real estate.
Both Moore and Edwards’ backgrounds have served them practically during their time on the RTS Board of Trustees. Moore served as chairman of the board during the late 2000s economic recession. He remembered feeling thankful for a board made up of members who had careers in the business world as the school navigated various financial issues. As for Edwards, his real estate expertise has been invaluable as RTS has acquired property for various campuses.
Over the course of their time serving on the board of trustees, both Moore and Edwards have seen their share of changes and challenges at RTS.
“We were living hand-to-mouth for a while,” remembered Moore. “We were totally dependent, which kept us on our knees. We prayed an awful lot in the early years. But we were convinced that if we were doing the Lord’s will, he would get us through. And that turned out to be the case.”
As the seminary has expanded geographically, so has the board. Since RTS was founded in Jackson, Mississippi, many of the original board members were from the area. With the founding of the Orlando and Charlotte campuses, trustees from Florida and North Carolina joined the board, followed by others across the southeast as RTS has continued to add campus locations.
We were living hand-to-mouth for a while. We were totally dependent, which kept us on our knees. We prayed an awful lot in the early years. But we were convinced that if we were doing the Lord’s will, he would get us through. And that turned out to be the case.Despite the challenges, the changes, and the growth of RTS, some things have stayed very much the same. Edwards remarked on the fact that RTS has been and continues to be committed to “the inerrancy of Scripture” and “the raising up of pastors.”
Moore believes that seminaries influence every Christian, whether directly or indirectly. Theological education, he explained, “is the basis on which everything is done, whether you’re in the pulpit, teaching Sunday school, or in the pew.”
The founding mission of preparing pastors, counselors, missionaries, educators, and other Christian leaders flows from the board, to the faculty, to the students. Both Moore and Edwards commented on how key the faculty are in fulfilling RTS’ mission. Their pastoral and ministerial experiences provide students with a model for uniting a strong theological foundation with sincere shepherding care, which equips the student body to serve in various fields of ministry.
Moore and Edwards, along with many other trustees, initially joined the board because of what they call “the multiplying effect” — the expansion of the Kingdom through the graduates of RTS. Both are quick to clarify that RTS’ growth and worldwide impact is not a product of their involvement, or of the board as a whole, or the efforts of anyone else who has been involved with RTS over the years. Instead, as Edwards put it, “This is not something man can do. It’s only something that can be done because of the work of the Lord.”
“God has truly blessed us,” Moore said with a smile. “And it’s been fun to watch.”