“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep His love is.”
Dr. L. Gregory Jones opened last Friday’s Chapel event reciting Ephesians 3:18 in reference to his hopes for Belmont’s future as a Christian University. On Feb. 1, Dr. Jones was announced as the successor to Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher. Jones, who was born in Nashville, is an avid reader and a lover of comedy. Despite his many years of experience and expertise, Dr. Jones and his wife, Rev. Susan Pendleton Jones, have asked that members of the Belmont community refer to them as Greg and Susan. “I have plenty of crazy ideas mixed in with a few good ones,” he noted. “The title of ‘President’ doesn’t make my bad ideas any better.”
Having lived many years in Durham, North Carolina, where he currently serves as dean of Duke Divinity School, Dr. Jones and his wife admitted, “No other city or university in the country could have gotten us to leave Durham.” After spending some extended time on campus and in the city of Nashville, they felt that God was calling them to Belmont. They believe that their career is also their ministry. Their hope is to make Belmont a place where students and faculty can also view their careers as their ministry and adopt it as their vocation.
In addition to loving the music of Belmont students and alumni, the Joneses expressed their excitement for the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that distinguishes Belmont. Dr. Jones has written extensively about a term he coined, “traditioned innovation.” He explained, “It became increasingly frustrating to me that so many people believed the only way to innovate was to throw away tradition and make up something entirely new.”
In these times, the innovation of tradition is the key to success. “These are difficult times for higher education. In addition to COVID-19, students are faced with struggles of mental health, financial burdens and political as well as social unrest.”
One of Belmont’s strategic priorities as part of its Vision 2025 plan is a commitment to “creating a more diverse, inclusive environment.” Dr. Jones shared his belief that the best way to achieve those goals is to practice “humility and a willingness to learn.”
“A consistent trouble we have in our culture is that we continually fail to recognize how much we have in common with one another,” Jones said. He believes that Christians are called to pray with the expectation of being surprised, focusing on the possibilities to be found with God rather than perceived limitations.
Dr. Jones also asked, “How will our faith animate who we are?” He expressed the importance of training, conversation and education, but recognized they are all meaningless without action. With increasing skepticism on the validity of Christian institutions and organizations, it is extremely important that now, more than ever before, “We don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk.”
Adopted from Marguerite “Maggy” Barankitse, a Catholic leader in Burundi, Dr. Jones shared his daily morning prayer is this: “Let your miracles break forth every day and let me not be an obstacle of that work.” He prays the same for Belmont, that as a community the University can actively play a role in living out God’s plan for the city, the nation and the world.