NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (July 3, 2013) The Overseas Ministries Study Center Board of Trustees appointed missiologist, author, and missionary J. Nelson Jennings as executive director, effective July 1, succeeding Jonathan J. Bonk, who retired after thirteen years.
Jennings and his wife, Kathy, joined the OMSC staff on July 1, 2011, he as director of program and community life and she as the English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher. In 1999 Jennings joined the faculty of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, where he was professor of world mission; he was also editor of Missiology: An International Review and president of Presbyterian Mission International.
A native of northern Alabama, he graduated from Vanderbilt University with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and mathematics in 1980, having had four years of varsity baseball scholarships. In 1985 he earned a Master of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary.
Raised in Miami, Florida, Kathy Jennings attended Vanderbilt University, where she and Nelson met. She taught ESOL for more than ten years before coming to OMSC.
From 1986 to 1999, they were church-planting missionaries in cooperation with the Presbyterian Church in Japan, and he was assistant professor of International Christian Studies at Tokyo Christian University. During those years of international service, he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, studying under Professor Andrew F. Walls, Kwame Bediako, John Parratt, and others at the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World. Nelson and Kathy are parents of three daughters and grandparents of twin girls.
Jennings, who also succeeded Bonk as the International Bulletin of Missionary Research editor, is author of God the Real Superpower: Rethinking Our Role in Missions (2007) and Theology in Japan: Takakura Tokutaro, 1885–1934 (2005, the subject of his doctoral dissertation), as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. He is coauthor of Philosophical Theology in East-West Dialogue (2000).
Bonk and his wife, Jean, have moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. As OMSC’s executive director emeritus and senior mission consultant, he will continue to encourage the work of OMSC. To honor the Bonks, trustees established the Jon and Jean Bonk International Fellowship Fund, which Jennings says “will enable beleaguered Christian leaders to come to OMSC from challenging situations. Currently OMSC has to turn away many worthy candidates due to lack of funding.” The fund provides friends of the Bonks, OMSC alumni from around the world, and others who have admired their ministries from afar, a “concrete way of honoring Jon and Jean on the occasion of their retirement,” adds the new executive director. Jon and Jean Bonk have wanted to find a way after they retire and return to Canada to perpetuate their longtime commitment to serving marginalized church leaders and missionaries.
A missionary in Ethiopia and professor of Global Christian Studies at Providence College and Seminary, Otterburne, Manitoba, before joining the OMSC staff, Bonk said “OMSC’s international community of church leaders, missionaries, and scholars is unique in its ability to encourage church leaders in countries where restricting, inconveniencing, and persecuting Christians is the legal and political norm. OMSC’s practical commitment to these individuals and families through this fund,” he adds, “is deeply heartening. To have our name associated with OMSC’s assistance of those whose ‘sandals we are not worthy to untie’ is as humbling as it is heartening.”
OMSC has been serving God’s servants from around the world since 1922. OMSC provides residential programs for the renewal of missionaries and international church leaders, research, publications, and scholarly forums for the advancement of mission scholarship, and continuing education in cross-cultural Christian ministries. For details, go online to www.omsc.org.
Photographs and additional details are online at www.omsc.org/staff.shtml.
J. Nelson Jennings
Jonathan J. Bonk