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SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights
SBC Seminary staff
June 19, 2017
19 MIN READ TIME

SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights

SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights
SBC Seminary staff
June 19, 2017

Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) six seminaries noted growth in ministry, enrollment and financial support in their reports to messengers June 14 at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix.

Gateway Seminary celebrates first year in new locations

By Kathie Chute

Photo by Adam Covington

Gateway Seminary President, Jeff Iorg, delivers the seminary’s report June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. During the report, he highlighted the move of Gateway’s main campus from northern California to Southern California and shared that the seminary has received nearly $2 million in recent months.

Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, told messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention that the past year was one of celebration and success with a new name in two new California locations, Ontario and Fremont.

“Built on the legacy of Golden Gate Seminary, we continue to be your seminary in the West delivering theological education and leadership training at our five campuses, including one here in Phoenix,” Iorg said.

In addition to the two new facilities, Gateway launched Gateway Live, a video conferencing system that makes live classroom participation possible from virtually anywhere in the world, and expanded Gateway Online, a delivery system offering multiple degrees in an online format.

“We truly are a global seminary in more ways than ever,” Iorg said.

He announced that a new academic program to train Mandarin-speaking leaders – a Chinese-English bilingual program – will begin this fall and will eventually use all the seminary’s delivery systems to train Mandarin-speaking leaders around the world.

Gateway also has retooled the Contextualized Leadership Development program with a simplified curriculum and a new name, Advance.

“This program continues to be a vital entry-level program for students with limited English language skills as well as a key source for training bivocational ministry leaders across the West,” Iorg said. “We are grateful to announce we have received nearly $2 million in special gifts this year to support our work and launch these new initiatives.”

Iorg said the biggest celebration was the number of new students who enrolled at Gateway.

“We pushed hard for students to graduate so they would not have to relocate when the seminary moved,” he said. “Now that we are fully operational in our new locations, we are seeing large numbers of new students enroll, including an all-time record of new applicants approved for this coming fall. We are rebuilding our student body and expect it to grow to its former strength and beyond in the next few years.”

Iorg said that the seminary also experienced sadness in the death of President Emeritus William O. Crews, who died in February after a brief illness.

As Iorg was sorting through Crews’ presidential papers, he came across a letter from Harold Graves, former Golden Gate president. It explained the presence of a small plaque over the door of a classroom at the former campus in Mill Valley, Calif., that read “William Conover Chapel.” No one knew Conover or how the room had received its name.

The letter from Graves explained that the seminary had had difficult months following the 1950 decision of the SBC to accept it as an institution to be owned and operated by the convention. The summer before the SBC would assume control on Jan. 1, 1951, it was apparent they must act sooner if the school was to survive. The seminary’s chairman of the board wrote the SBC Executive Committee and asked for a special allocation of $50,000 to allow classes to open for the fall semester.

“Almost simultaneously with this exchange of letters, the Executive Committee received a letter from an attorney concerning the settlement of an estate,” said Iorg, reading from the letter. “[In 1932] a Mr. William Conover had died, leaving his estate in trust for his children and grandchildren. They were to be paid income until their deaths, and then the residue was to be given to a Southern Baptist seminary.

“The heirs had all died, leaving $51,839.81 in the estate. After due consideration, the Executive Committee sent a check to Golden Gate Seminary for $53,000.”

Iorg noted that Graves had concluded the letter with the exclamation “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”

“William Conover died in 1932, Golden Gate was founded in 1944 and was adopted by the SBC in 1950. Now, 85 years after Mr. Conover’s death and 65 years after his gift saved our school, Gateway Seminary stands strong as a Southern Baptist sentinel in the west for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Iorg expressed thanks to the Executive Committee in the 100th anniversary of its work for their support of the seminary.

“Thank you for your skilled leadership today and the history of your work in our school. The Executive Committee saved our school in the 1950s and you continue to sustain us in our work today.”

He also thanked Southern Baptists for their support.

“Thank you, Southern Baptists, for standing with us. Thank you for supporting us through the Cooperative Program, for sending us students and for praying for us. We are proud to be a seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

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Allen reports MBTS ‘sweet season of growth, health & vitality’

By T. Patrick Hudson

Photo by Adam Covington

Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivers a report June 14 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. He emphasized the seminary’s “for the church” theme and said enrollment has increased from 1,200 to 3,000 over the past five years.

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen’s report to the messengers at the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting reflected on God’s goodness to the institution over his now nearly five-year tenure in Kansas City.

“Southern Baptists have six institutions, and each have proven themselves to be perennially strong, healthy and more than worthy of the support of Southern Baptists,” Allen said. “Yet, in Kansas City, God has been good to bless us with an especially sweet season of growth, health and vitality.”

Midwestern’s enrollment stood at 1,200 students approximately five years ago, he noted; now, the seminary is about to surpass the 3,000 mark.

Allen noted a key reason for the marked increase: “I believe it goes back to three words: For the Church.

“Our vision is clear … we are committed to serving Southern Baptist churches. … This is not part of our mission; it is our mission. This is a testimony not to human agency, but of God’s work. It is also Southern Baptists who are sending us their students.”

Not only is the quantity of students remarkable, Allen said, but the quality of students coming to Kansas City is impressive as well. Students are arriving on campus with a drive and motivation to serve the local church – both locally and internationally, he said, noting that it bodes well for the future.

Allen also reported that God has blessed the seminary through financial support, with nearly $20 million in gifts and pledges having been given over the past four years, which is more than all the support raised from 1957 until 2012 combined.

Updating the messengers, Allen said that construction is underway toward a 40,000-square-foot student center that will include a gymnasium, cafeteria, bookstore, café, seminar space and workout facilities. The planned completion date is June 1, 2018, and thanks to the generosity of the Mathena family of Oklahoma City and many others, the construction will be accomplished with no long-term debt.

Allen further noted the seminary’s strong financial position is paying dividends for incoming and existing students, “The financial strength that God has blessed us with through generous contributions and enrollment growth, we are especially using to keep tuition low so that those who come to study at Midwestern Seminary can graduate unencumbered by debt.

“They can also graduate as quickly as possible … so they can deploy for local church service. Affordability is, indeed, a spiritual issue. Thank you, Southern Baptists, for enabling us to make theological education so very affordable.”

Concluding his report, Allen spoke of two new initiatives taking place at Midwestern Seminary, and praised one existing program.

Allen explained the Timothy Track M.Div., which pairs incoming M.Div. students with Kansas City-area churches in internships. The program provides these students with personal, hands-on mentorship opportunities with Southern Baptist pastors and also enables them to exercise their spiritual gifts while in seminary. Allen added that those participating in the program can earn a 50-percent scholarship.

Allen also noted the Residency Ph.D. track, which is especially geared for those who sense a calling into Christian theological higher education. This track, for those who study in residence, will offer special classes and mentorship opportunities with faculty and guest lecturers, so they can obtain the best preparation possible to serve in Christian seminaries and colleges and prepare the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders.

Lastly, Allen praised the seminary’s Fusion program, which partners with the IMB in training incoming college freshmen for service in the mission field. Personally witnessing these students’ gospel efforts in difficult Middle Eastern locations, Allen noted, “This is the very best of what Southern Baptists, your seminaries and Midwestern Seminary are all about. To be ‘For the church’ is to be ‘for the nations.’”

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Kelley: NOBTS centennial to focus on gospel & missions

By Marilyn Stewart

Photo by Adam Covington

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report June 14 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. The seminary is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, he reported. The New Orleans Seminary family will seek to have 100,000 gospel conversations in the next year, he said.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley greeted convention delegates with a good news/bad news scenario in his seminary presentation June 14.

“Are you ready for some good news?” Kelley asked. “Today, we are 100 years old at NOBTS.”

Centennial events launch Oct. 3 with special activities and emphases on campus and at extension centers continuing throughout the year.

But the NOBTS 100th birthday celebration must not be like any other celebration, Kelley said, “because of the present state of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Kelley referenced findings by the NOBTS Leavell Center for Church Growth and Evangelism on the continued decline in baptisms in Southern Baptist churches. Presenting a chart of the findings to messengers, Kelley called the statistics “stunning.”

Kelley said church plants are “absolutely essential” but the drop in baptisms demands Southern Baptists’ attention, with the NOBTS centennial being no exception.

“We need to celebrate in a way that will strengthen our seminary and our churches,” Kelley said, issuing a challenge to the convention to join with the NOBTS family in a centennial initiative goal of 100,000 gospel conversations and 100 mission efforts.

The call for action is in keeping with the charge given the seminary at its founding, Kelley said.

Kelley recounted the seminary’s history that began with a resolution at the 1845 convention in Augusta, Ga., calling on the Board of Domestic Missions, now the North American Mission Board, “to direct its effective attention to aid the present effort, to establish the Baptist cause in the city of New Orleans.”

Established by vote of the convention in 1917, NOBTS was directed to have as its “primary purpose the object of missionary propaganda,” Kelley recounted.

Through the NOBTS Caskey Center for Church Excellence, student scholarship recipients share the gospel weekly, Kelley noted. In the three years since its founding, the Caskey Center has reported 17,973 gospel conversations, with 6,987 asking for a response and 1,766 coming to faith in Christ.

Kelley echoed an observation made by NOBTS Caskey Center director Mark Tolbert that believers “drift” away from evangelism and that gospel conversations must be intentional.

To remedy the drift from evangelism, Kelley suggested a “Monday morning prayer” asking God for the opportunity to share the gospel during the week and courage to ask for a response. A special app for reporting gospel conversations and mission efforts is available at caskeycenter.com.

Along with centennial events, a $50 million capital initiative is underway to help fund scholarships for students, strengthen endowments and provide needed campus renovations, Kelley said.

Continuing through Oct. 2, 2018, the centennial celebration will center around three focal points: celebrating the past, embracing the present and casting a vision for the future. Details are available at nobts.edu/100.

In a heartfelt aside, Kelley recounted a “stain” on NOBTS’ history in which the seminary established a separate school to train African American students early in the 20th century. Today, that “dynamic has changed,” Kelley reported as steps toward a better relationship have been laid. Kelley pleaded with messengers to stand united against racism at every front.

Kelley concluded with, “May God use the occasion of our 100th anniversary to prepare NOBTS for the future and to prepare the SBC for a mighty movement of God.”

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Akin celebrates Great Commission efforts at Southeastern

By Lauren Pratt

Photo by Adam Covington

Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report June 14 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. He highlighted Southeastern’s commitment to fulfill the Great Commission by “training and equipping disciple makers.”

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, began his presentation to the Southern Baptist Convention quoting 18th-century missionary Henry Martyn who said, “The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.”

Akin highlighted the Great Commission as the heartbeat of Southeastern throughout his June 14 report as he spoke of numerous initiatives that the seminary has begun throughout the world.

“We are to serve the churches of the SBC by training and equipping disciple-makers who will make disciples among the nations here in America and around the world,” Akin said.

Southeastern is making disciples through its Global Theological Initiatives, he said, by providing theological training on five continents throughout the world. These efforts to provide seminary training include the Persian Leadership Program, Hispanic Leadership Development Initiative, starting a new Vietnamese Baptist seminary and providing strategic theological training in Sub-Saharan East Africa.

Another way Southeastern is making disciples within the state of North Carolina is through its North Carolina Field Minister Program, which seeks to disciple long-term prisoners through theological education through The College at Southeastern. Akin noted that this will be provided in Fall 2017 in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Joe Gibbs as well as Game Plan for Life.

Chuck Lawless’ new role as vice president of spiritual formation was described as an effort by Southeastern to more effectively emphasize the spiritual formation and prayer of its students.

“We’re known as a Great Commission seminary but we also want to be known as a praying seminary as well,” Akin said.

Southeastern’s Kingdom Diversity Initiative, which was launched this year, has helped the seminary expand its minority enrollment, moving from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 18.1 percent in 2017, an 18 percent gain.

In relation to the vote on amendment 10 to oppose the alt-right movement, which messengers passed overwhelmingly Wednesday afternoon, Akin said emphatically of Southeastern, “We will be there and we will vote.”

Akin noted some of Southeastern’s key academic programs, including expository preaching on the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels as well as a master’s degree in Christian marital and family counseling and a Ph.D. in biblical counseling.

Akin concluded by thanking the messengers for their support of Southeastern.

“We could not do what we do without the love and support of Southern Baptists,” he said.

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Mohler: Southern prepares leaders for secularized culture

By Aaron Cline Hanbury

Photo by Adam Covington

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., gives a report June 14 during the second day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. The seminary enrolled close to 5,500 students this year, constituting the largest seminary enrollment in SBC history, Mohler said.

The urgency and complexity of missions in the 21st century propels the work of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during his June 14 report to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Mohler, the seminary’s president, opened his remarks pointing to the fourth chapter of Book of Acts, where the apostles Peter and John face the Sanhedrin. The two, despite threats from the religious leaders, declare they “cannot but speak of what [they] have seen and heard,” referring to the life and work of Jesus Christ.

Mohler then asked, “What does it take to produce that kind of conviction?”

“We recognize we are in a very different age than Southern Baptists knew in the second half of the 20th century,” Mohler said. “We are now facing the headwinds of an increasingly secularized culture.”

This urgency, Mohler said, is a constant, which faced Peter and John as well as contemporary believers. But that doesn’t mean it looks the same today as when Southern Seminary began training pastors in 1845.

“We are sending out pastors and missionaries and evangelists into a world where a recent [Barna Group] study categorized American cities – metropolitan area by metropolitan area – in terms of the ‘churched,’ ‘the unchurched,’ ‘the dechurched’ and ‘the post-Christian,’” Mohler said. “That’s not a world that was envisionable in 1845; it’s not a world Southern Baptists would have recognized in 1965; it’s not a world most of us thought we’d see even in the year 2000. …

“We recognize that we used to come together to talk mostly about the mission field ‘out there’ – and now we’re dealing with the mission field right here.”

Mohler pointed specifically to two actions Southern Seminary takes to prepare students to meet this shifting global context: the seminary’s Bevin Center for Missions Mobilization and the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam. He noted, too, that currently a team of Southern students and faculty members are in North Africa ministering to missionaries who work predominantly with Muslims.

Mohler also reported to messengers that Southern Seminary now trains 5,500 students on campus and online, including 2,000 men in the master of divinity degree program studying to be pastors and hundreds of students scattered around the world.

“What Southern Baptists dreamed of doing in 1845 has been far exceeded by what the Lord has allowed Southern Baptists in this generation to do.”

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Southwestern highlights global theological education

By Alex Sibley

Photo by Adam Covington

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report June 14 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. He highlighted the seminary’s efforts to train pastors in 146 locations across the globe, including a program to train pastors in Ecuador. The seminary’s archeology department is conducting digs in five countries, Patterson said.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson updated convention attendees on the ongoing work of the Patterson Center for Global Theological Innovation (GTI).

Patterson showed a video highlighting the recent graduation of 11 Ecuadorian pastors and church leaders from Southwestern’s Maestría de Estudios Teológicos (MET) program.

The graduation was the result of a three-way partnership between GTI, PESCA Baptist Theological Seminary in central Ecuador and Tabernacle Baptist Church of Ennis, Texas.

The partnership began in 2015 and saw 11 students from across the country enroll in Southwestern’s online MET program with the purpose of eventually becoming PESCA seminary’s faculty. Tabernacle was then recruited as a “Champion Church” to support the students and the seminary with prayer and financial aid. Now, just two years later, all 11 students have completed their master’s degrees and will now train future ministers to further God’s Kingdom in Ecuador.

Patterson said things like this are happening in 146 locations around the globe through GTI.

“There has never been a time when Southern Baptists, through their seminary education, have circled the globe like we have now,” Patterson said. “Thank God for what you have done to make that possible in a thousand different ways.”

Patterson also highlighted Southwestern’s archaeology program. “Biblical archaeology was on the verge of just dying out,” he said of the diminishing role of archaeology in seminaries in years past. “By the grace of God, we have seen that revived today, and we [Southwestern] have archaeological digs going on in five different countries now.”

Patterson specifically cited the discovery of an ancient city in Kazakhstan along with its adjacent graveyard, where tombstones were found bearing crosses. As stated in the report from Southwestern’s Tandy Institute for Archaeology last fall, this is the first archaeological evidence for a Christian community in the borders of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“This discovery supports the understanding of ancient Kazakhstan as a multicultural center between the East and West, with Muslims, Buddhists and Christians living among the local herdsmen and nomadic tribes,” the report stated.

Patterson ended his report by inviting messengers to attend the SBC’s annual meeting in Dallas, “that little bedroom community next to the thriving metropolis of Fort Worth, Texas,” in 2018. The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, the newly unveiled lane of Southern Baptist martyrs and Lottie Moon’s actual house from P’ingtu, China will make the Southwestern campus a worthy place to visit next year, Patterson said.

Moon’s house will be located in Mathena Hall, the new home of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions and Scarborough College at Southwestern.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Reported by Kathie Chute of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Marilyn Stewart of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Lauren Pratt of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Alex Sibley of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights
Compiled by Art Toalston
June 17, 2016
18 MIN READ TIME

SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights

SBC seminary presidents recap campus highlights
Compiled by Art Toalston
June 17, 2016

Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) six seminaries noted growth in ministry, enrollment and financial support in their reports to messengers June 15 at the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.

Photo by Matt Miller

Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention (formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary), gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Gateway

“We are welcoming Dr. Jeff Iorg who got a new job yesterday as president of the Gateway Seminary in the state of California,” SBC President Ronnie Floyd said June 15 as he introduced Iorg for the seminary’s report to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The seminary’s name change from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary was affirmed by SBC messengers the previous day, after a first vote in 2015. SBC bylaws require two consecutive years of messengers’ approval for such a change.

Iorg called the seminary’s transition over the past two years “one of the most significant relocations in American history.”

“Today the first moving trucks transporting our equipment from northern California are being unloaded in Ontario [in Southern California]. Starting next Monday, we will begin moving into our new primary campus near Los Angeles. We will open that campus on July 5 and be ready to go as Gateway Seminary.

“By the end of this year, we will have two new campuses in Ontario and Fremont to anchor our work on the West Coast,” Iorg continued. “We will have relocated dozens of families, employed about 50 new people, created two new student bodies, transitioned all technological functions, opened new student housing, created new student housing options, established a new organizational plan and implemented a new compensation plan.

“To say the least, it has been quite a ride over these two years.”

Iorg told messengers that God has enabled the seminary to do these things without rancor or division.

“The Gateway Seminary family has displayed remarkable discipline, institutional humility, personal sacrifice and divine patience,” he said. “Former employees are ending service graciously, new employees are taking on tasks with enthusiasm and relocating employees are experiencing God’s blessings as they find houses, churches, schools and jobs for their spouses.”

Iorg said enrollment at the former Bay Area campus in Mill Valley declined as its closure became imminent, but the regional campuses and the online enrollment increased so that the seminary’s overall enrollment remained steady.

“This progress, while largely positive, has not come without cost,” Iorg said. “The spiritual, emotional and financial toil of our employees and students has been significant. The remarkable response so many have made does not discount the difficulty they have been through. Our employees and students have been remarkable models of the truth that the mission matters most. While they have made this determined choice, it has not been easy.

“Our employees and our students who have made this great transition possible are the heroes of this process, and I salute them this morning for their hard work.”

Iorg reported that Gateway Seminary has multiplied the $85 million received for the sale of the Mill Valley property to more than $100 million in assets for future use, including about $70 million in real estate, without any deferred maintenance – and designed for ministry in the 21st century – all debt-free.

“When we conclude the construction process, we will own two debt-free campuses in prime locations in California worth over $52 million,” Iorg said. “We will also own a development lot in Ontario worth $4 million. We will own a building in Brea, Calif., worth about $4 million. We will own two student apartment complexes worth over $8 million and the new Casey and Doris DeShon Missionary House in Ontario worth $500,000.”

Iorg said the decision was made to build a campus equipped with essentials to accomplish the seminary’s mission, including classrooms, faculty offices, administrative offices, library, chapel and community gathering space – and not other facilities like gyms, childcare centers and bookstores.

“When millions of people have not yet heard the name of Jesus Christ and our mission force is being slashed, Gateway Seminary has chosen to model frugality and simplicity to prioritize future resources for global missions.”

Iorg said Gateway Seminary is built on the foundation of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, healthier than any time in its history.

“We are battle-tested and ready to go forward,” he said. “We thank you for your support, your gifts over the years and for your prayers. Keep sending us your students, and thank you for all you’ve done to make this relocation possible.”

Photo by Matt Miller

Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Midwestern

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) President Jason Allen reported to messengers that its mission of existing for the church is the reason for a dramatic enrollment increase and other signs of God’s favor over the past four years.

Noting an enrollment surge of almost double since 2012, a report by school accreditors of MBTS being among the fastest growing seminaries in North America and stories of key financial contributions to the school, Allen said all are signs of God’s evident blessing upon the Kansas City-based school.

“I have told people in recent weeks that I believe Midwestern Seminary is the most remarkable story of theological education in North America,” Allen said. “That’s a big, bold statement, but … what God has done at Midwestern Seminary is nothing short of spectacular.

“To what do we attribute all of this? I believe from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet that God is choosing to bless Midwestern Seminary because of three words – ‘for the church.’”

Allen said God has called the seminary’s leadership, faculty and staff specifically to devote their best energies and full resources toward serving the church.

Allen took the messengers back four years to think about the seminary’s condition, when enrollment hovered at approximately 1,200 students. There are now just over 2,300 students. He added that expectations for next year are to officially exceed twice the size of what it was in 2012.

“In fact, so remarkable is our growth that our accrediting agency, ATS [Association of Theological Schools], notified me about a year ago … that Midwestern Seminary is one of the fastest growing seminaries in North America,” he said.

“By the criteria that matters most,” he added, “they labeled us the fastest growing seminary in North America.”

Allen continued, saying that financial gifts to the school continue to be a source of blessing and encouragement.

He noted that he stood before messengers last year and announced that over the previous two years, MBTS had received more gifts and near-term pledges financially than the total accumulation of gifts and near-term pledges since the school’s founding in 1957.

“I stand before you today to give an even more remarkable word,” Allen said. “This past year, our gifts and near-term pledges have actually surpassed the total I announced last year.”

One specific example Allen noted was the generosity of the Mathena family from Oklahoma City who gifted the seminary $7 million as a lead gift toward a campus student center.

Of the project, Allen said, “Given the growth of our residential community, we have chosen to fulfill the ambition of this seminary since 1957 to have an established student center on this campus that meets the needs of our students, of our spouses and families, and of the collective seminary community.”

Relating back to God’s favor toward Midwestern Seminary, Allen admitted his favorite part: “The sweetest development for me the past few years has been to see this vision, ‘for the church,’ go from being my vision … to being the vision for Midwestern Seminary.

“Who do I thank for a school roughly twice the size, for financial blessings coming day to day? I thank God for kind providence and, under God, I thank you, Southern Baptists, who are placing your confidence in us.”

Photo by Matt Miller

Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

New Orleans

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley addressed the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention for the 20th time in his current role as an entity leader. He took the opportunity to express thanks for the SBC’s Cooperative Program for the $149 million given to NOBTS during his 20-year tenure as president.

“We are so grateful for our partnership,” Kelley said. “We are grateful for what God is doing in the School of Providence and Prayer.”

When the seminary was created in 1917, only a few Southern Baptist churches existed in New Orleans, Kelley said. The city was anything but a Baptist stronghold.

“We were put there to be a lighthouse as well as a schoolhouse,” Kelley said. “From that day when we started with five or six Southern Baptist congregations, there are more than a hundred Southern Baptist congregations in New Orleans now, nearly all of them started by students and faculty of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. New church plants are still going on today.”

The task of NOBTS is to prepare students to answer the call of God, Kelley said. The curriculum blends classic theological training – biblical studies, theology, church history and preaching – with the practical – interpersonal relationship courses and evangelism training.

“[Every student] must spend at least one semester going out door-to-door in the city of New Orleans sharing Jesus Christ and learning how to bring people to Christ,” Kelley said. “We simply have to get the gospel out from behind our pulpits into the streets and neighborhoods of our cities and communities.”

Kelley lauded an anonymous donation given to establish the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship for African-American students, which will provide $150,000 per year for African American students studying in New Orleans and Atlanta.

“We know we have to raise up a generation of leaders who can lead not only in African American churches, but who can bring that African American voice into the affairs of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Kelley said. “That is a very high priority for us.”

Another anonymous gift in 2014 established the Caskey scholarships for bivocational ministers and those who serve smaller membership churches. The full-tuition scholarships are available for students serving in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. The program places a high value on biblical exposition and evangelism. Students receiving the scholarship are required to engage in at least one gospel conversation each week. The results have been phenomenal.

“In the past two years, these students have had 7,585 gospel conversations with people who are lost,” Kelley said. “Four thousand, seven hundred and eighty-seven of them got to the point to ask someone to give their lives to Jesus Christ and 1,061 people were born again.”

New Orleans Seminary was voted into existence by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1917 and held its first classes in 1918 and will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017 and 2018. As a part of this centennial celebration, the seminary will prioritize evangelism, Kelley said.

“Our goal is for the New Orleans Seminary family to have 100,000 gospel conversations to celebrate our 100th anniversary,” Kelley said. “We think lifting up Jesus is the best way to celebrate what God is doing at NOBTS.”

Photo by Matt Miller

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Southeastern

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) President Danny Akin, in his report to messengers June 15, spoke on the seminary’s mission and vision to work with churches in making disciples of all nations.

“We are a Great Commission seminary,” Akin said. “We love to partner with churches in doing theological education under the umbrella of the Great Commission.”

A new way SEBTS is partnering with local churches is to make theological education accessible to lay leaders. Starting this fall, Southeastern will offer new GO Certificates for Christians at any level. “We’ve been praying and thinking for several years, how is it that we might also serve our local churches even better, in a more direct kind of way,” Akin said.

The certificates are completely online and provide a flexible schedule for students to work at their own pace. The classes can help Bible study leaders, Sunday School teachers and others to go deeper in their understanding of Scripture so that they can better serve in their ministries.

“We also believe that we are called to partner with the churches in doing theological education. In fact, we believe that the best theological education takes place in partnership with local churches,” Akin said.

Because of this, Southeastern has redesigned its master of divinity degrees to strengthen the core curriculum and reduce the total hours to 81. In addition, the seminary created several new master of arts degrees and now has six fully online degrees that can be completed from anywhere.

Akin also reported that the seminary, located in Wake Forest, N.C., is in its sixth year of record enrollment with more than 3,500 students. The Kingdom Diversity Initiative, an effort to make the SEBTS student body more reflective of the church in heaven, made significant strides, going from 8.3 percent in 2011 to 15.5 percent in 2016, growth of more than 137 percent in the non-white student population.

One way that SEBTS is making an impact on the nations is through its Global Theological Initiative program, which seeks to enhance theological education in at least 15 different locations around the world through strategic partnerships.

Akin told of his recent opportunity to attend the graduation of 23 master of theology students from Brazil. He brought back a message of thanks to Southern Baptists from Pastor Fernando Brandão, president of the Junta de Missões Nacionais, or the Brazilian Baptist National Mission Board.

Akin repeated Brandão’s message with these words: “My great, great, great-grandfather was brought to faith in Jesus by a Southern Baptist missionary. My entire family can trace its religious origins back to the witness of a Southern Baptist missionary, and I am doing what I do today because Southern Baptists came and gave. And our family met Jesus through their efforts.”

In closing, Akin mentioned the new official SEBTS hymn, “For the Cause,” written by Keith and Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend. After reading a few lines from the hymn, Akin said, “When students come to Southeastern, from the very first convocation service until graduation, they will be reminded on both ends. We are committed to being obedient to the final marching orders of King Jesus until he comes again.”

Photo by Matt Miller

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Southern

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SBTS) record-setting enrollment numbers testify to an ideological paradox of the cultural revolution, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during his June 15 report to messengers in St. Louis.

Despite the supposed death of conservative theological education foretold by mainline liberalism 50 years ago, the confessional seminaries of the SBC are healthier than ever, Mohler said. Although experts in theological education said only seminaries that adopt a secularized message would survive, that has not been the case, he noted, pointing to the fact that SBTS’s enrollment exceeded 5,000 students for the first time in its history during the 2015-2016 academic year.

“Here’s the great paradox: The seminaries that followed that methodology and adopted that trajectory are the seminaries that are dead or are dying,” Mohler said. “It is the seminaries that have refused to bend the knee … that are not only surviving but by God’s grace, thriving.”

Mohler said more is now required of SBTS, located in Louisville, Ky., and the other SBC seminaries than any other time in the history of the convention. Although the gospel message itself never changes, the challenges before the graduates of Southern Seminary are dramatically different than when the seminary was founded in 1859.

“We are on the hinge of history right now, of such massive change,” Mohler said. “The secularization that is going on in the society around us, the massive intellectual worldview challenges we now face, the moral revolution that now so characterizes our times is producing a context of ministry that is not only markedly different than that experienced by previous generations, it is one that is increasingly marked by hostility toward the cause of Christ and His gospel.”

Concluding his report, Mohler thanked messengers for their support and for funding the seminary through the Cooperative Program, which helps prepare ministers to face the rising cultural challenges concerning gender identity and sexual orientation.

“There are more young men training for the gospel ministry and to pastor churches on the campus of [The] Southern Baptist Theological Seminary right now than have ever been at any place in the history of the Christian church. And for that we are so very, very thankful,” Mohler said.

Photo by Matt Miller

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, gives a report on the seminary during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.

Southwestern

Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), noted to messengers how the theology of all six SBC seminaries leads to evangelism and missions.

“Today, we have a gracious theological bequest from our heavenly Father. We have done everything we can to return these six seminaries to a testimony for Christ,” Patterson said in this report to the annual meeting in St. Louis. “When the theology is right, it will produce a waterfall of evangelistic and missionary involvement.”

Patterson told of the evangelistic zeal of Southwestern’s 75 students and faculty who participated in the door-to-door evangelism efforts of Crossover St. Louis. After five days, 105 people had made a profession of faith.

Patterson specifically noted an interaction between M.Div. student Kim Whitten and a troubled woman she met in a hospital. After a student participating in Crossover became overheated and required medical attention, Whitten used her time in the hospital waiting room to intentionally seek out people with whom to share the gospel. After praying, a woman sitting across from her caught her attention. She told Whitten, “Today is the worst day of my life.” After the woman shared many of the tragedies that had taken place in her life recently, Whitten led her to faith in Jesus Christ.

“Now that is what ought to happen coming out of a theological institution,” Patterson said.

Additionally, Patterson noted another recent evangelism initiative by the seminary that resulted in the salvation of 192 men and boys. Patterson, who has spoken at multiple wild game and sports banquets across the United States, said the seminary held a similar event on Southwestern’s campus in Fort Worth, Texas, hosting 2,000 men and boys.

Patterson addressed the ongoing work of Global Theological Innovation (GTI) – an initiative developed at Southwestern to cultivate and develop networks of partnerships to influence theological education worldwide. Since its beginning, GTI has formed 96 international partnerships. GTI partners with each seminary to review curriculum, send Southwestern professors and SBC pastors to teach courses, and train its faculty members.

“Everywhere in the world, theological education is facing major difficulties. The involvement of our seminaries, which you have made possible, is making a difference,” Patterson said. “In many cases we are restarting a seminary that has gone out of existence, and in some places, establishing a new one. But everywhere, [GTI] is providing theological preparation for the church ministry. We are very grateful to God for what you have made possible.”

Patterson concluded, thanking the messengers for their continuous prayer and support through the Cooperative Program. “We as your six seminary presidents never take for granted that we are serving on your behalf and for your best interest, and, above all else, for Christ’s sake and for the Kingdom of God,” Patterson said. “Thank you for your Cooperative Program support and for all that you do.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston with reporting by Kathie Chute of Gateway Seminary, T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Harper McKay of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Andrew J.W. Smith of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Katie Coleman of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)