The Howard Payne University School of Christian Studies’ Graduate Program Advisory Council (GPAC) recently held its annual meeting on the HPU campus.

The council, currently consisting of 16 ministry personnel from Texas, was established concurrently with HPU’s Christian studies graduate programs in 2006. Each year, before the upcoming school year, GPAC members meet to discuss recruiting efforts related to the programs and provide educational suggestions.

 Current GPAC members include:

• Jason Atchley ’98, pastor, Bacon Heights Baptist Church in Lubbock;

• Greg Bowman ’92, pastor, Brock Baptist Church;

• Ricky Cavitt, youth minister, Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood;

• Brad Echols ’98, youth minister, First Baptist Church in Belton;

•  Elias Garcia ’94, pastor of discipleship, Willow Meadows Baptist Church in Houston;

• Chuck Gartman ’72, assistant professor of Christian studies and director of ministry guidance at HPU;

• Dr. Gary Gramling ’81, dean of the School of Christian Studies, director of Christian studies graduate programs and professor of Christian studies;

•  Randy Johnson ’71, minister of youth education emeritus, First Baptist Church in Richardson;

• Scott Lane ’90, executive ministry pastor, First Baptist Church in San Antonio;

• Brett Levy ’96, family pastor, First Baptist Church Georgetown;

• Chris Liebrum ’73, director of cooperative program ministry, Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT);

• Cory Liebrum ’98, minister to families, First Baptist Church in Rockwall;

• Jo Beth MacTavish ’06, youth minister, Kennefick South Baptist Church in Dayton, Texas;

• Jerome Smith ’75, minister to families, Tallowood Baptist Church in Houston;

• Jane Wilson, youth discipleship specialist, BGCT;

• Dr. Russell “Rusty” Wheelington, youth pastor, Southside Baptist Church in Brownwood and professor of Christian studies at HPU.

 “We have an amazing group of advisory council members who have provided and continue provide tremendously valuable input and counsel as we move forward with graduate education in Christian studies,” said Dr. Gramling. “I am grateful to God for the blessing of knowing each of these people.”

 The GPAC’s founding members were Chuck Gartman, Randy Johnson, Chris Liebrum, Wayne McAfee ’74 and Jerome Smith, who approached Dr. Don Newbury, then HPU president, and suggested the university offer more educational opportunities to its youth ministry students. Now, HPU offers two graduate programs to students – Master of Arts in Youth Ministry and Master of Arts in Theology.

 HPU is the only Texas Baptist university offering both a youth ministry major and a master’s degree in the same field. There are more than 30 students currently enrolled in HPU School of Christian Studies graduate programs, with 62 graduates since the programs’ founding.