Milton Ferguson, 89, the second president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS), died Dec. 21 in Kansas City, Mo., after a brief battle with cancer.
Ferguson’s tenure as president at MBTS began in February 1973, and he served the seminary community in this role before retiring in 1995 at the age of 66.
“Serving as Midwestern Seminary’s president for 23 years, Dr. Ferguson led the institution through a season of great denominational and institutional transition,” said Jason K. Allen, who is MBTS’s fifth president. “He did so faithfully and graciously, seeking to honor the Lord in both word and deed.
“I join the broader [MBTS] community in mourning Dr. Ferguson’s death, thanking the Lord for his life and ministry and in praying for his remaining family, especially his daughters Julia and Jane Ann,” Allen added.
Under Dr. Ferguson’s leadership, Allen said the seminary crossed many milestones including a growing enrollment, expansions in campus housing and leading the seminary to greater financial health.
Some of the specific milestones taking place at MBTS under Ferguson’s guidance include the following:
The graduation of 2,858 students during his tenure; conferring degrees upon the first doctor of ministry graduates at MBTS in 1974; renovating and expanding the faculty-classroom building in 1976; constructing the campus Child Development Center (which now serves as the Department of Worship Ministries Building) in 1979-80; opening the first off-campus extension center in Wichita, Kan., in 1979; initiating the institution’s church music program in 1983; and establishing the “Midwestern Leadership Series” and “C.W. Scudder Lectures” in 1993-94.
In addition to his service as a professor and seminary president, Ferguson served the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) as a researcher for the SBC Committee’s National Student Life Survey, on various SBC and state convention assignments and by conducting Lay Renewal Retreats, curriculum writing and preaching and teaching in denominational contexts.
Prior to his tenure as president of MBTS, Ferguson taught for 17 years as instructor of theology as well as associate professor and full professor of Christian philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) in Fort Worth, Texas. He also served as pastor of Hebron Baptist Church in Hebron, Texas, from 1951-54, as associate pastor at Crown Heights Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and in numerous interim pastorates in Oklahoma and Texas.
A native of Harrah, Okla., Ferguson was born to Robert Homer and Martha Floyd Ferguson on May 8, 1928. He accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized at age 8. He was ordained into Christian ministry in December 1938 at Harrah Baptist Church. Ferguson was also a military veteran, serving in the U.S. Army of Occupation in the Pacific Theater (Korea) from 1946-48.
Ferguson earned a doctor of theology degree in 1956 and a bachelor of divinity degree in 1954 from SWBTS, as well as a bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1951.
In the years following his presidency at MBTS, Ferguson regularly preached and then retired to The Baptist Home in Chillicothe, Mo.
“Over the past five years, Dr. Ferguson constantly encouraged and supported me,” Allen said. “He was a kind, gracious man. He loved [MBTS], was proud of his service here, and always spoke warmly of the growth and health of the seminary.
“In Dr. Ferguson’s final days, we enjoyed two extended visits. In those conversations, he spoke passionately of his faith in Christ, his belief in the Bible and his readiness to meet the Lord.”
Ferguson is survived by his daughters, Julia and Jane Ann, as well as their families. He was preceded in death by his wife, Bettie, and his daughter Jo Catherine.
Final arrangements for a memorial service have not been announced.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)