Matthew “Matt” Ledbetter has been called as director of missions for Duck River Baptist Association, based in Tullahoma. He previously served as pastor of Creeksville Baptist Church in Conway, N.C. He has also been serving as the interim director of missions for the West Chowan Baptist Association in North Carolina. In addition to 25 years pastoral experience, he has served two terms as the second vice president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina as well as on their Executive Board. He is currently vice president of the North Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference. He also has extensive experience leading mission trips to Mexico and Central America and promoting Hispanic ministry in the United States
Jeff Cruse is the new director of missions for Grainger Baptist Association, based in Rutledge. He was reared in a Southern Baptist church in Detroit. He served as a journeyman missionary in the Philippines with the International Mission Board. He married his wife, Kim, who also was a journeyman after their term ended. They moved to Texas where he earned his master of divinity in church planting from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served with the IMB as collegiate ministry director and church planter from 2001-2019 in the Philippines, where he led the campus evangelism team ó making disciples, training leaders, supervising summer teams and planting churches in Batangas, a province of less than 2 percent Christian. The couple returned to Tennessee in 2019 where he served as an IMB mobilizer for a year and worked with Tennessee Baptist Adult Homes. Kim Cruse currently serves as a missions discipleship specialist for Tennessee Woman’s Missionary Union.
Chris Enix has been called as pastor of First Baptist Church, Rocky Top. He is vice principal at Lake City Middle School. He formerly served as the youth minister at Clinch River Baptist Church in Rocky Top and at First Baptist, Rocky Top. Enix and his wife, Charity, have two sons.
Kirk Wallace is the new pastor of First Baptist Church, Oliver Springs. He and his wife, Laura, and their two daughters live in Knoxville. He is a graduate of Carson Newman University in Jefferson City. He has served several churches in East Tennessee.
DeAndre Williams, of Centralia, Ill., has been called as the new pastor of students for Lascassas Baptist Church in Lascassas. He currently serves as associate/youth pastor at Eternity Baptist Church in Centralia. He has been a member of that church since his middle school years and has served in many roles though his young adult years in children, youth and pastoral ministry. He and his wife, Nichelle, have two children. He is a graduate of Spurgeon College at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Kaskaskia College. Williams plans to be on the field serving students by late summer.
Brentwood Baptist Church, Brentwood, announces the appointment of Jay Strother as its next senior pastor. More than 99.6 percent of the congregtion affirmed Strother as the new senior pastor. He is currently the campus and teaching pastor at The Church at Station Hill, one of Brentwood Baptist’s nine campuses, located in Spring Hill. He joined the Brentwood Baptist staff 20 years ago as the middle school pastor before serving as the next generations pastor and then as campus and teaching pastor at Station Hill. Strother completed his doctor of ministry degree in leadership from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in December. The appointment follows an extensive search process led by a dedicated team of church members and trustees, started in the Fall of 2022 following the lead of senior pastor Mike Glenn, who initiated the process of transitioning out of his role in 2022. He announced his intentions to the congregation in January 2023. Both men will continue in their present roles until Glenn formally retires in the Fall.
Ronald “Ronnie” Edward Wylie, retired pastor of many Tennessee churches with his last pastorate at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Brownsville, died April 26. He was 88. Other pastorates included Charleston Baptist Church, Stanton, and Southside Baptist Church, Dyersburg. He is survived by his wife Bobbie, and two children.
Gerald Smelcer of Maryville died May 5 at the age of 80. He served as pastor of four local churches in the area at Alcoa, a manufacturing plant. He retired from Village Baptist Church, Maryville, in 2009. He is survived by his wife, Jeanette, three children and five grandchildren.
Union University in Jackson awarded 495 degrees May 5 to graduates during two commencement ceremonies on the university’s Great Lawn. It was Union’s 198th annual spring commencement, and this year’s class was the bicentennial class for the university, which began in 1823. The university has observed its bicentennial during the entire 2022-2023 academic year, with a concluding bicentennial celebration event May 5 prior to Saturday’s graduation activities ó a dinner for the graduating class and a concert and worship service in G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel with Anthem Lights. In his commencement address, Union University President Samuel W. ìDubî Oliver told graduates they should seek the good of others and not their own glory and recognition. Oliver’s address was a version of Joseph H. Eaton’s remarks to the first graduating class of Union University in Murfreesboro in the mid-1800s. Eaton served as professor and president of Union University in Murfreesboro when it began college-level classes in 1847. The institution founded in 1823 as Jackson Male Academy eventually became Southwestern Baptist University, which changed its name to Union University in 1907 in part to honor the legacy of Joseph Eaton and his son T.T. Eaton, who served as a trustee of Southwestern Baptist University.