Dr. Willie J. Newton, Jr., a 2005 Master of Theological Studies (MTS) alumnus, received his call to ministry early in life during his undergraduate studies at the University of Indianapolis. With a foundation in the Baptist church, he felt a strong prerequisite to pursue theological education in preparation for living out this call. He references Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his choice. “Martin Luther King, Jr., understood the traditions of preaching,” he shared. “But he always knew the importance of education and theological training that comes to bear in our preaching.” Willie went on to say that, “God not only wants your heart, but he wants your head too.” This sentiment deeply resonated as he considered his path towards ministry.
With his pathway confirmed, Willie did his due diligence to explore his options for theological studies. In researching CTS, he was immediately impressed. An academic at his core, Willie did a great deal of research on the professors and was impressed with their backgrounds and the quality of their education and professorship. “What drew me to the school was the theological rigor, open discourse, and professors that were the best in their field,” he said.
Once beginning the MTS program, he was directly exposed to this rigor. “I was definitely challenged while at CTS. The academic work was very rigorous. This was a daunting task, but I could not have achieved and overcome without the professors that encouraged me to be more of an auto-didactic learner.” One of the foundational aspects Willie learned at CTS was ability to think critically and write effectively, beneficial skills irrespective of ones calling or specific vocation in ministry.
One poignant connection Willie made while at CTS was with Dr. Rufus Burrow, Jr., Indiana Professor Emeritus of Christian Thought and Professor of Theological Social Ethics. “Dr. Rufus Burrow introduced me to black theology and challenged me to think more critically and sophisticatedly in multiple areas. I recall submitting an assignment to him and truly being reminded that I was a struggling student based on his feedback. However, what I appreciated was that he always invited me to call him. If I couldn’t get above a B-, I would call and he would walk me through his expectations and encouraged me to read books to help my writing.” Dr. Burrow also encouraged him to start building a library, explaining that a preacher is a “mechanic of souls” who needs to be able to go to the “shop” and seek out the specific tools that will minster to the individual needs of those being served.
Dr. Burrow had a profound impact on his life. “Rufus Burrow transformed my life at CTS and beyond. He is a lifelong friend and we communicate to this very day. He was also the editor or my recent book, Life Situation Preaching for African-Americans (2019), for which Dr. Frank Thomas wrote the forward. The relationships I developed while at CTS are really the foundation for who I am and where I am today.”
With his early commitment to be an “intelligent Christian,” Willie went on to obtain a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma (2010), a Masters of Religious Education from Shaw Divinity School (2011), a Doctor of Ministry from Duke University (2017), and a Master of Sacred Theology from Yale University (2019). Theological education is most certainly a foundation for his ministry.
Willie currently serves as a Chaplain and Resident Ethicist in the U.S Army. Obtaining the rank of Major, he is currently based in Lawton, Oklahoma. In his current role, he teaches officers about the army profession and ethical considerations that leaders must make. The model of support that he received while at CTS is something he has replicated in the army, as he continually encourages the officers to persevere and to know that quitting is not an option. He works hard to help them push through whatever obstacles may appear on their way to graduation.
In 2018, Willie joined the CTS Alumni Board with a desire to give back “to an institution that gave so much to me.” He is also hoping to connect more directly with current CTS students to help them along their journey. Having walked in their shoes, Willie seeks to bless them with the same support that was provided to him as he pursued his calling to ministry.
In addition to all his amazing accomplishments, Willie has been married to his high school sweetheart for 22 years and is the father of four children. We sincerely celebrate him for all that he has achieved, we thank him for his service, and we look forward to his support of our CTS students.
Learn more about the Master of Theological Studies degree at CTS.
Also included in the September 2020 Christian Theological Seminary Connection
- A 40-Year Marriage Ignites Alumna Shar’ron Mason’s Call to Ministry - Shar’ron Mason, a 2015 Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) CTS graduate, grew up in Indianapolis surrounded around a large loving and deeply connected family. Her immediate neighborhood consisted of a row of homes including both sets of grandparents, grandmothers that were best friends and even her beautiful great grandmother lived next door. This legacy of […]
- Prof. Beier Featured by the ICA - Prof. Matthias Beier, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Mental Health Counseling at CTS, was recently featured in the Indiana Counseling Association’s (ICA) monthly newsletter for his service to the organization and his ongoing scholarship and teaching. The ICA is the Indiana branch of the American Counseling Association, the world’s largest organization for counselors. Prof. Beier […]
- Alumni Board Profile: Dr. Willie J. Newton, Jr. - Dr. Willie J. Newton, Jr., a 2005 Master of Theological Studies (MTS) alumnus, received his call to ministry early in life during his undergraduate studies at the University of Indianapolis. With a foundation in the Baptist church, he felt a strong prerequisite to pursue theological education in preparation for living out this call. He references […]
- Prof. Thomas Continues to Build African American Preaching Legacy Series - Since joining the faculty in 2013, Prof. Frank A. Thomas has enriched the CTS community in countless ways. Alongside his scholarship, preaching, and teaching, Prof. Thomas, the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics and Director of the PhD program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric, has worked to bring a number […]
- Faith & Action Project September 2020 Newsletter - Read the newest edition of the Faith & Action Project’s monthly newsletter!