Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) seminaries noted key initiatives as well as enrollment gains in their reports to messengers June 16 at the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
This year, all six seminary presidents presented their reports jointly. After the report, each president introduced the next and prayed over him.
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, told messengers that the move to a new main campus in 2016 will be completed debt-free and with two new facilities to serve as anchor campuses on the West Coast.
“The [Southern California] facility in Ontario, Calif., is a state-of-art 21st-century educational center with more than 150,000 square feet of usable space,” Iorg said. Meanwhile, “The [northern California] facility in Fremont, Calif., will serve 250-300 commuter students in the Bay Area as we continue our historic ministry near San Francisco. We are spending about $45 million to complete these facilities debt-free.”
As part of its move to new California campuses, the seminary has requested a name change to Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, which received the first of two votes June 16 toward final approval during the SBC annual meeting next year in St. Louis.
Iorg emphasized that the new facilities’ designs would be mission-specific, devoted to the seminary’s educational programs and equipped to handle the educational delivery demands of the future.
Iorg said the move has opened an unprecedented opportunity to “re-imagine seminary for the future … We have endeavored, in response, to seize the opportunity and create a new seminary for the 21st century,” he said.
Jason Allen, in his third president’s report since being elected to lead Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called this time in SBC history “a golden era in theological education.”
“You can be proud of your six seminaries,” Allen said. “Collectively, we are doctrinally sound, Great Commission-focused, and given to serving your churches. As we have done that, God has blessed your seminaries with massive enrollments.”
As part of this success, Allen noted that Midwestern’s story possibly was the most unlikely of all. In spite of past doctrinal challenges and more recent operational challenges, he said the seminary witnessed a year of “unprecedented institutional accomplishment.”
BR photo by Seth Brown
The SBC seminary presidents gives a report during the morning session of the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16-17 at The Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
“This past year has been a record one, with virtually every institutional metric showing robust growth and seminary health,” Allen said, noting that a report by the Association of Theological Schools accrediting agency ranked Midwestern as the fastest-growing seminary in North America among schools enrolling at least 500 students.
Allen attributed the explosive growth to Midwestern’s emphasis on existing “for the Church,” a motto the seminary has begun using. The seminary’s determination to exist for the local church is convictional, biblically mandated and denominationally needed, he said.
“Christ promised to build His church, not our seminary,” Allen said. “However, we are confident that as we strengthen His church, He will strengthen us. … Our biblical mandate calls us to train actual, committed servants for the church.”
Allen concluded his report with the announcement of a Sept. 28-29 symposium, “SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, and Recommitment.”
“This year, Midwestern Seminary is hosting a historic summit on the future of the SBC,” Allen said. “Al Mohler, Paige Patterson, Ronnie Floyd, Frank Page and many, many other SBC leaders will join me in discussing issues facing Southern Baptists moving forward into the 21st century.” For more information about the symposium, visit mbts.edu/events/.
Chuck Kelley, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) president, began his report to messengers by quoting from the call of Isaiah recorded in Isaiah 6: “Whom can I send? Who will go for us? And I [Isaiah] said, ‘Here am I, send me.’”
“New Orleans Seminary exists to serve all of those who hear the call Isaiah heard and are answering the call to serve the Lord,” Kelley said.
Accessibility is one key way NOBTS is helping men and women answer God’s call and train for ministry, Kelley said. Initiatives like the seminary’s extensive extension center system and fully-online undergraduate and master’s degrees are extending the NOBTS campus and allowing students to train for ministry without leaving the churches they already serve. Online learning is giving the seminary a truly global reach, Kelley said, making training available to any God-called man or woman in the world who has a computer and an Internet connection.
One of the newest accessibility initiatives at NOBTS is the Entrust Mentoring Community, Kelley said. Entrust allows a student to earn much of his or her degree while ministering in a local church setting. Study is guided by NOBTS professors and enhanced by weekly interaction with local church mentors. Any SBC church in the United States with a willing mentor is a potential Entrust study location, Kelley said.
Kelley said the seminary not only is teaching about ministry but is actively involved in doing ministry. From community Christian counseling in New Orleans to a ministry partnership with a local drug and alcohol recovery ministry and training programs at five state prisons, NOBTS pairs the theoretical scholarship students expect in the classroom with real-world ministry experiences.
Kelley closed his report with special thanks to the other five SBC seminaries, the SBC entities, the SBC Executive Committee and the convention’s churches for the love and support the seminary received in the devastating wake of Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans will mark the storm’s 10th anniversary on Aug. 29.
BR photo by Seth Brown
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., gives a seminary report during the morning session of the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting June 16-17 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
“It was as hopeless of a situation as I have ever faced in all of my life,” Kelley said. “We would not have been able to survive without your help, but help you did.
“And now, I am delighted to say that this year we will finish with the largest enrollment in the history of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” he said.
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, shared how the seminary is training more than 3,400 students to flood the lands of darkness with the gospel light.
Currently, Southeastern graduates are serving in unreached and underserved areas in North America and around the world as church planters in the Northwest, Midwest and Heartland regions and in 40 countries.
Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative has propelled the non-majority student population at Southeastern to increase nearly 50 percent in the past four years to nearly 14 percent of the total student population.
The seminary would like to see that number continue to grow and build up future leaders of the convention, Akin said. “We hope to see numbers increase so that our seminary, churches and convention look like the church in heaven,” he emphasized. “In God’s grace the nations are coming to us.”
Southeastern’s distance learning program provides theological training to students in 50 countries while its EQUIP internship program has now partnered with more than 300 churches. The seminary’s Global Theological Initiative currently features 15 to 20 international partnerships, with new programs beginning this year in countries such as Cuba, Hong Kong, Brazil and the Ukraine.
“At Southeastern Seminary we take pride in saying it is a dangerous place to come study,” Akin said. “We are going to challenge you to pray the prayer, ‘Why should I stay?’”
Southern Baptist seminaries are “ground zero” for how churches respond to the rapid moral shift in American culture, said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his June 16 report to messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
“We’re living in a world that’s going to demand more and ever more when it comes to faithfulness on the part of our students and graduates,” Mohler said, speaking about the imminent Supreme Court decision on the legalization of same-sex marriage. “There will be no place to hide. And that just reinforces for us how important what happens on our campuses is, and I say that for all six seminaries. It reminds us at Southern Seminary what’s at stake and why it’s so important.”
Mohler said this is an example of why seminary education is “deadly dangerous” business because theological drift in seminaries affects entire denominations. In the face of such danger, Southern is committed to biblical fidelity, he said.
“I just want you to know our commitment is we’re going to stand firm,” Mohler said. “We’re going to stand in the Gospel, we’re going to stand in the inerrancy of Scripture, we’re going to stand in the faith once for all delivered to the saints, and we’re going to stand with you together.”
Mohler insisted the seminary could not carry out its assignment without the prayer and Cooperative Program gifts of Southern Baptists.
“We are now in a situation where there are more young men studying for the pastorate on Southern Seminary’s campus than there has ever been in one place at one time in the history of the Christian church,” Mohler said. According to the newly published “President’s Report,” nearly 4,792 total students are enrolled at Southern, with 1,952 master of divinity students.
In his report at the annual meeting, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson addressed the trustee action taken in response to concern at the 2014 meeting for an exception he granted to allow a Muslim student to study archaeology.
After careful consideration, trustees modified the bylaws article outlining the composition of the student body to allow a modified criteria for admission for limited special circumstances. The new bylaw language clarifies that trustees must approve any modified criteria for exceptional cases, Patterson said.
Patterson explained that the student no longer attends the seminary due to his life becoming endangered after his name and face were made public last year.
In addressing other matters, Patterson recounted a conversation with former International Mission Board President Tom Elliff in which Elliff requested that Southwestern adopt an unreached people group. Patterson explained that he wanted a large people group somewhere in the world that is virtually inaccessible and dangerous to get to with no known believers.
Shortly after the conversation, Southwestern adopted the Antandroy people group of nearly 1 million people on the island of Madagascar. A seminary mission team recently returned from the island where they saw nearly 400 professions of faith among the Antandroy people and two New Testament churches on the brink of establishment.
Southwestern will be involved in world missions – wherever needed, Patterson said.
Patterson concluded by asking for prayer for the seminary, students and faculty, that the seminary would stay true to the Word of God, that students would remain “consistent, personal soul-winners” and that faculty members would continue to set good examples.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by Kathie Chute of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Ali Dixon of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Craig Sanders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Alyssa Martin of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)