Thornbury inaugurated as King's sixth president
Midtown, NEW YORK - On April 3, Dr. Gregory Alan Thornbury was inaugurated as the sixth president of The King's College, eight months after he first took office on August 1, 2013. Thursday's ceremony was held at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. At 5 p.m., King's welcomed students, faculty, alumni and friends of the College into the ornate, historical building, to celebrate the start of a new era at the College. Before coming to King's, Thornbury formerly served as a Professor of Philosophy, Dean of the School of Theology and Vice President for Spiritual Life at Union University in Tennessee. He earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a Bachelor of Arts degree from Messiah College (where he met his wife, Dr. Kimberly Thornbury) and completed additional graduate studies at Green College, Oxford (now Green Templeton College). Thornbury, a writer and speaker on philosophy, theology and education, among other subjects, has spent the entirety of his career in higher education.
Earlier Thursday, King's students congregated in the City Room of the College for a luncheon in honor of President Thornbury's inauguration. Student Body President Peter Flemming ('14) congratulated Thornbury and charged him with a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial."
Thornbury spoke briefly to the student body, calling King's students "the most inexhaustibly wonderful people" he has ever encountered, and expressing his excitement to serve as the sixth president of the College.
Thursday night's inauguration ceremony featured special guest speakers including fifteenth president of Union University and former Chief Academic Officer at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. David S. Dockery, politics professor at Princeton University and founder and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, Robert P. George, publisher of Kairos Journal and Biblemesh, Emmanuel A. Kampouris and president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religion Liberty Commission, Dr. Russell D. Moore.
Moore spoke on the vital importance of "real-deal" Christian institutions, especially in a day and age when many have strayed away from the core beliefs and expectations of the faith. "We must aspire to an evangelicalism that retains the 'evangel.' The King's College must preserve something old and must bring a message that will always be new," Moore said, echoing Dockery's earlier statement that "Neither a new form of liberalism nor a reactionary fundamentalism are an option at this time."
Discussing his first impression of Thornbury, Moore said, "He was almost, as Bob Dylan would put it, a slow train coming down the tracks by reputation." He described Thornbury as "the smartest guy in the room, and yet he is the real deal evangelical."
George said, "Not long ago...we could be comfortable Christians...not all that much was asked of us" before lamenting that "The days of comfortable Christianity are gone." Speaking of Thornbury's presidency, he said, "Today when comfortable is no longer possible...you are charged to form our young people...to be martyrs. The time of Christian witness is over. The time of martyrdom is here. 'To the old rugged cross I will ever be true'...that's what we need our young people to be committed to."
As his installment as the sixth president of King's by Interim President and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Andy Mills, Thornbury took the podium to deliver his first presidential address. Thornbury spoke of the history of King's, noting the impact previous presidents like J. Stanley Oakes and founding president, Percy Crawford. Referring to the strategic location of King's in the heart of New York City's Financial District, he said, "Should there not be a few of us who say with the apostle Paul, 'I must go to Rome?'"
Thornbury spoke of King's commitment to its ideals, principles and mission statement, explaining that "Great institutions are built by going back to the mission...and by bringing this to the zietgiest."
Later in his speech, Thornbury explained the paticularly honorable and challenging nature of the Kingsian mission. He mentioned how he had seen George defend his values concerning traditional marriage in front of a student who had stood up and vehemently protested George's beliefs in front of an audience. Thornbury said, "Do we choose our convictions on the basis of what gives us status? That is the purpose of Christian liberal arts at The King's College in New York City: why do we believe what we believe."
Invoking the help of God, Thornbury pledged his support to students and faculty alike: "Tonight I covenant with you to neither be cruel nor cowardly, to never give up or to never give in." In closing, Thornbury noted the difficulty of the task set in front of him and The King's College as a whole. However, he ended his presidential address by saying, "If not us, then who? If not here, then where? If not now, then when?"
"For The King's College to fulfill its mission, we must depend on the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ," Associate Professor of Theology at King's, Dr. Anthony Bradley, said, asking those in attendance to keep the King's community in their prayers. The event concluded with the benediction, which Bradley delivered.