PHOENIX — Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern
Baptist Convention were reminded of the importance of theological education
through reports from the convention’s six seminaries during the June 14-15
gathering in Phoenix:
GOLDEN GATE — A school like Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary would not
exist in America’s West apart from the support of Southern Baptists, Jeff Iorg,
the seminary’s president said June 14 during the annual meeting of the Southern
“Golden Gate Seminary is your seminary, with responsibility for training
leaders in the western United States. We currently have more than 2,100
students, meeting on five campuses, in cyberspace and at dozens of learning
centers,” Iorg said. “Because there are few Christians and even fewer Baptists
in the West, a seminary of our size and strength would probably not be possible
without your support. We are profoundly grateful for your Cooperative Program
gifts, your prayers, and for sending us students.”
Iorg said his report was aimed at helping the messengers better understand the
strategy and scope of the seminary’s work. “Golden Gate uses some unique
approaches to meet the special challenges and opportunities in the West,” Iorg
said. “Our key strategy: Golden Gate is a seminary-system, not a seminary campus.
We operate fully-accredited campuses — not extension centers — in five of the
largest cities in the West.” Extension centers offer a few classes, while
regional campuses deliver entire degree programs — culminating in five
graduation ceremonies every spring.
Much of the seminary’s strategy is driven by geography, Iorg said, noting the
West is a vast territory that mandates a multi-campus systemic approach to
cover the region. “Our primary administrative campus is near San Francisco,” he
said. “We also have campuses near Los Angeles, Portland, Denver and, yes, right
here in Phoenix.”
Iorg explained how Golden Gate’s five campuses encircle the West, somewhat like
the other five SBC seminaries encircle the South. The five campuses cover 3,569
miles. “If you made a similar trip to visit the other five SBC seminaries,” he
said, “You would only log 3,056 miles. Our five campuses are more than 500
hundred miles farther apart than the other five SBC seminaries are from each
other. The West truly is a big place!”
Iorg also pointed out that the West’s diversity is another reason for operating
five campuses. “While people have the same basic needs everywhere, they express
those needs quite differently in different locales,” he said. “A five-campus
system makes cultural adaptation more possible in a wide variety of ministry
The president also addressed the question of quality and efficiency, when
comparing a standard campus approach to a system approach.
“We have one academic dean, one faculty, one set of degree objectives, one set
of course templates and one academic policy guidebook,” he said. “We are one
seminary at many locations.”
A significant way to assure quality among the campuses is by sharing faculty,
Iorg said, describing how professors teach at both their home campus and a
“Many of our core faculty — myself included — also teach in
our online learning program,” he said. “This means students have the
opportunity to take classes from almost the entire faculty as professors rotate
to various campuses or teach in cyberspace. During our recent 10-year
accreditation review, one of the assets pointed out about Golden Gate is the
academic strength and educational quality of our multi-campus system.”
The president described another unique aspect of the system approach: the
variety of delivery methods: block scheduling where classes only meet once a
week, intensive classes that meet for one week or for a series of weekends,
hybrid-classes that combine a few days of face-to-face instruction with online
delivery, and fully online courses through the “eCampus” program.
“Another distinctive of our strategy is our close partnerships with state
conventions in the West,” Iorg noted. “Most of our seminary’s strategy has been
developed in response to requests from state convention leaders who depend on
us to train leaders for their churches and ministries.”
“Thank you, western state leaders, for being our partners,” Iorg said. “Thank
you, Southern Baptists for helping make our work possible. We realize we are
not ‘your father’s seminary.’ We have been on the cutting edge — geographically
and methodologically — for a long time. We have had a multi-campus system since
1972. We taught our first online class in 1998. We have often been swimming
upstream against funding challenges and detractors who dismiss our strategy,
but we have persevered because we believe it was and is the right approach for
our half of the country.”
Southern Baptists adopted Golden Gate Seminary in 1950, Iorg reminded his
“Thank you for making us part of the family. We are committed to our
denominational mission of accelerating the fulfillment of the Great Commission,”
Iorg said. “We are doing our part by shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom
around the world. Southern Baptists, you can trust our product — we are
biblical. You can join our focus — we are missional. You can celebrate our
significance — we are global.”
MIDWESTERN — R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary, focused on the impact receiving an education can have upon a singular
person and thus the world, when he delivered his annual report to the
messengers of the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention.
Roberts described a young man from a wealthy family who attended a university
and was strongly influenced by a brilliant professor. The student’s life was
transformed and he became deeply involved in religious activities, including scripture
study and daily prayer. Through his educational experience, this rich young
student found a purpose in life. The institution was the King Abdul-Aziz
University in Jedda, Saudi Arabia. The professor was Palestinian-born Islamic
scholar Sheik Abdullah Azzam and the student was Osama bin Laden.
“What a difference an education can make,” Roberts said. “However, when it’s a
Bible-based education based on the truth and reality of the word of the Lord,
the fruit that the Bible teaches will be evident. When it’s based on anything
else, whether it’s radical Islam or liberalism or an alternative worldview, the
fruit — as in the case of Osama bin Laden — is also, sooner or later, clearly
When people and churches send their students to study at Midwestern Seminary or
any of the other Southern Baptist seminaries, they will get the grounding they
need to change the world for the cause of Christ, Roberts said.
“Students who come to us will not learn about a god who hates, but they will
learn about a God who loves — a God who loved the world so much ‘that He gave
His only begotten Son so that whosoever would believe in Him shall not perish
but will have everlasting life,’” Roberts said. “They will not learn about a
god who demands us to sacrifice our lives or the lives of our children or to
kill in his name, but they will learn about a God who sacrificed for us — ‘for
He Himself is the propitiation for our sins and not only for our sins but for
the sins of the whole world.’”
The president, now in his 11th year at the helm of Midwestern, continued his
report by saying the seminary is “alive and well in Kansas City, Mo., in the
heartland of America.” The seminary is experiencing record enrollment this
semester, with 1,103 students taking 6,877 credit hours, the president noted.
Roberts provided an update on the progress of Midwestern Baptist College, the
100-percent online degree program, which began in July 2010. The master of arts
in theological studies degree offers 15 courses online that are completely
transferrable into the master of divinity degree at Midwestern, he said.
“We are happy to tell you that the master of arts in theological studies online
program is now participated in by students from more than 30 states and eight
countries, to help and equip and provide theological education anywhere in the
world,” Roberts said. “We’re also glad to tell you we have a fully actualized
missions program through not only our regular missions curriculum at the
seminary level, but also through a program called FUSION.”
The FUSION track provides college students a time of training in evangelism and
disaster relief and a semester of credit hours for theological studies. In the
FUSION trainees’ second semester, they deploy overseas to places such as
Angola, Thailand, India and Peru to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. While
overseas, Roberts added, the students serve with International Mission Board
(IMB) workers in various ministry areas.
“In strategic partnership with the IMB, we provided
this year the opportunity for 42 students to serve and evangelize in eight
countries — some of them closed to traditional missionary activity — for the
cause of the gospel,” Roberts reported. “Sharing the Gospel, telling the truth,
deepening their devotion on mission for Jesus Christ — “Veritas, Pietas, Missio”
— lives changed forever and lives forever changed for the cause of the gospel.”
The president’s report continued with a brief update on the progress of the
Midwestern chapel complex project. The construction of the 40,000-square-foot
building is progressing well and is about 80 percent complete, Roberts said. Sixty
volunteers from Southern Baptist churches and organizations are laboring to
accomplish the task at the present time.
Additionally, the endeavor was originally quoted to cost around $12 million,
but spending to date is just over $6 million. About $3 million in savings has
come through the time and efforts of Southern Baptist volunteers, Roberts said.
The presentation concluded with a video that demonstrated Midwestern’s
commitment to its core value of “mission” — taking the great truths of the
Bible and putting them into practice.
“We’re thrilled to be serving you as your Southern Baptist institution in the
Midwest for the cause of Christ, for the glory of God and for the progress of
the gospel,” Roberts said.
NEW ORLEANS — Theological training in the 21st century requires a strong
commitment to the unchanging gospel paired with flexible methodology, New
Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) President Chuck Kelley said June
The days of a “one size fits all” approach to ministry training are gone, and
the lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina helped the seminary find innovative
ways of training students, Kelley said. Now the seminary is working hard to
develop even more access points for God-called men and women to receive
In the aftermath of Katrina, the faculty completely reinvented the curriculum
and found new ways to teach, Kelley said. Now the school is using those lessons
to reshape its approach to ministry training.
“While we will continue doing things we’ve always done, we have now determined
we are going to fit what we do into the circumstances and calling of our
students and the ways that they are best able to learn,” Kelley said.
“Traditional classes are still there. You want to study apologetics? You want
to come to the campus to one of the largest collections of ancient Greek
manuscripts in the United States and study the Greek text in a serious,
scholarly manner? You want to study expository preaching? You want to come and
prepare for women’s ministry, Christian education, discipleship? Come on,”
Kelley said. “We have all the traditional classes that we have always had.”
The seminary’s extension center system, which offers training sites throughout
the Southeast, also is here to stay, Kelley said. But the school is not limited
to main campus and extension center training. NOBTS offers online training that
allows anyone in the world with an Internet-equipped computer to access
The seminary has developed hybrid courses which combine the best aspects of traditional
classroom training and Internet study, Kelley explained. Hybrid courses give
students face-to-face interaction with faculty and fellow students, but with a
limited number of course meetings. The rest of the course is completed online.
Other students are enrolled in hands-on training programs in which they are
mentored by a pastor or ministry leader. Kelley calls these multiple access
points the “ministry training cafeteria.”
“This is what we are doing now, but who knows what the future may be,” Kelley
said. “God has opened up possibilities for us to equip students for ministry
that one could never have dreamed of in the past — and the best is yet to be.”
This year, New Orleans launched its fourth prison-based ministry training
program, Kelley said. The latest program is located in Louisiana’s only women’s
prison. The first class includes 20 women who are trying to reach their prison
“Jesus is going to be able to use them to transform the inside of that prison,”
Kelley said. “We’re just going to unleash the power of the gospel by training
effective leaders for ministry.
“That is the story of theological education today. It is the story of being
flexible in your methodology,” Kelley said. “It is the story of grasping hard
to the biblical content of the inspired, inerrant Word of God and all the
ministry skills that someone needs in the world of this day.”
Closing his report, Kelley urged the messengers to attend the 2012 annual
meeting in New Orleans. He invited two New Orleans pastors, David Crosby of
First Baptist Church and Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, to share
a word on behalf of the city’s Baptists.
“God is at work in the city of New Orleans. It’s a great time to be there,”
Crosby said. “We want you to come and be a part of the convention next year.”
“(New Orleans) is a great mission field,” Luter said, encouraging the
messengers to participate in the Crossover witnessing event next year. “There
are a lot of lost folk down there who need to know about Jesus Christ.”
Luter said he hopes many who came to New Orleans to help with Hurricane Katrina
recovery will come and see how God is restoring the city. “You have shown the
people of New Orleans and the media what churches in our convention can do
through your prayers, your support and coming down and helping us rebuild,”
Kelley echoed Luter’s comments, urging the messengers to come experience the
miracle God is performing in New Orleans.
“There is a greater receptivity to the gospel than we have ever had in my 35
years in New Orleans,” Kelley said. “People are going to come to Christ.”
SOUTHEASTERN — The Southern Baptist Convention heard from Southeastern Baptist
Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin about increased enrollment numbers,
faithful faculty and intentional partnerships for theological education during
the seminary’s annual report June 15.
With a record enrollment during the preceding school year, and another expected
record enrollment in the coming months, Akin said he is greatly encouraged by
God’s faithfulness in bringing students to study at Southeastern.
“In 1992, in the height of the Conservative Resurgence, the school was at 585,”
Akin said. “There were people that were predicting the school would not
survive, but by God’s amazing grace, today more than 2,700 students are at
People are drawn to the seminary because of the caliber of heart for the Great
Commission and of the faculty, Akin said. He pointed out that, as in past
years, the number of students coming to study for service with the
International Mission Board has continued to increase.
aspires to be a Great Commission seminary, and we are now training more
missionaries and church planters than at any other time in our history,” Akin
The heart for sharing the gospel among the unreached and unengaged of the world
comes directly from the faculty, Akin said, many of whom have served overseas
as career missionaries and have come to Southeastern to infuse the Great
Commission into a variety of disciplines.
“God has brought back six former career International Mission Board personnel
who teach — not in the area of missions — but in the areas of Old Testament,
Hebrew, New Testament, Greek, hermeneutics and also theology,” Akin said. “What’s
exciting is those men also bring to their discipline the question of, ‘How do
you teach Hebrew so you’ll further the Great Commission? How do you teach
theology, or Greek so you’ll further the Great Commission? How do you teach
hermeneutics so that you further the Great Commission?
“These are men who not only talk about the Great Commission, but they do the
Great Commission,” Akin said. He told the story of David Alan Black, a
professor of Greek at Southeastern, who along with his wife Becky travels each
year to Ethiopia at Christmastime, in lieu of gifts, to minister among the poor
and share the gospel.
“I could spend hours telling you about these who go on the international
mission field,” Akin said. “Many of them serve on pastoral staffs. They serve
as pastors, elders and deacons. Southeastern does have a remarkable group of
men and women as our faculty.”
Akin also gave an update on Southeastern’s intentional initiative to wed the
seminary to the local church for theological education.
“We call it our Great Commission Equipping Network,” Akin said. “Our goal is
that by 2015 we will have more than 250 churches that we’re in partnership with
in delivering theological education. We recognize that there are some things
the seminary does very well. There are other things that are done best in the
laboratory of the local church. We take great delight in partnering in
providing theological education.”
Questioned from the floor about whether Southeastern Seminary is pushing a “Calvinist”
agenda, Akin said, “Southeastern has one agenda: It is called the Great
Commission. We are committed to the final marching orders of the Lord Jesus
Christ. We believe His last words are meant to be lasting words, so any agenda
other than that would be the wrong agenda.”
Akin said, “As long as I’m there, we’re going to be about joining hands with
Southern Baptists and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth to fulfill the
final marching orders of the Lord Jesus Christ — the Great Commission.”
SOUTHERN — During his report to the convention, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president
of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, pointed to the increasing
secularization of American culture as motivation for continued fervor in
Mohler emphasized the apparent disconnect between what many people claim to
believe and how they apply that belief.
“Even though 95 percent of Americans say that they believe in God, the
secularizing forces that have hollowed out the religious life of Western Europe
are fully in force in American culture right now,” Mohler said.
This loss of biblical fidelity is evident across the academy, where history
professors discount the importance of history, English professors deconstruct
classical literature and science professors seek to inculcate students with scientism.
Southern Seminary finds herself squarely in this context, Mohler said.
“We understand that the hope for the next generation of Southern Baptists is
not merely in programming and activities,” Mohler said. “It is instead in
pastors and church leaders who are able to equip the saints for transformation
through what the Holy Spirit calls ‘renewing of the mind.’”
In a culture where beliefs and standards are constantly changing, Christians
cannot assume the gospel is understood; rather, the gospel message must be “proclaimed,
modeled and guarded” as a matter of stewardship from one generation to the
next, Mohler said. This stewardship represents exactly why Southern Seminary
assembled — and continues to assemble — a world-class faculty that is orthodox,
evangelical and committedly Baptist.
Southern Seminary continues to fight the
good fight for the gospel as she trains others to do the same, Mohler said.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
honored two distinguished alumni whose ministries have impacted Texas during the annual alumni luncheon at the SBC
annual meeting, June 15. Alumni and friends of the seminary also heard a
president’s report from Paige Patterson and elected alumni association officers.
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and David Allen, dean of Southwestern’s school
of theology, were honored with 2011 distinguished alumni awards.
Jeffress has served as pastor of FBC Dallas since 2007, but he also has a
lifelong connection with the historic Southern Baptist church. He grew up
attending the church and put his faith in Christ at age 7 under the preaching
of W.A. Criswell. Later, he served as the church’s youth minister.
Jeffress earned his doctor of ministry degree from Southwestern in 1998 and has
served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Eastland, Texas, and First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls. He makes regular appearances on national radio and
television programs and has authored 16 books.
“I think all of us are glad that we lived to see the renaissance of
Southwestern Seminary under the strong leadership of Dr. Patterson,” Jeffress
said upon receiving his award. He acknowledged the support and contributions of
his family to his ministry, saying, “Any good thing that has happened to me or
through me is simply because of the grace of the God we all serve.”
Allen joined Southwestern’s faculty as dean of the school of theology and
professor of preaching in 2004. He previously served as pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church in Irving, Texas, and as the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository
Preaching, professor of preaching and director of the Jerry Vines institute of Biblical
the Criswell College.
Allen earned his master of divinity degree from Southwestern in 1981. He also
served on the seminary’s board of trustees from 1992-2004. He has authored and
edited numerous books, including the volume on Hebrews in The New American
Commentary series, “The Lukan Authorship of Hebrews,” “Text-Driven Preaching”
and “The Return of Christ.”
“It’s been a privilege to be a part of Southwestern,” Allen said. “I love this
place. It is a joy to serve here.” After thanking his family for their impact
on his life and ministry, Allen echoed Patterson’s comments in his SBC
seminary report to the SBC about an atmosphere of revival on Southwestern’s
“There is something amazing, a revival that is happening on this campus,” Allen
said. “I cannot explain it other than that God is doing it. Our students are so
fired up about evangelism and soul-winning. It is a remarkable thing to see.”
Patterson, in a report of what is happening on “seminary hill,” announced the
date of Dec. 1 as the dedication ceremony of the new chapel and invited
everyone to attend. In addition to a ribbon cutting ceremony, Patterson said
the dedication will include a worship service with the Word of God being sung
“We believe there will be people there that day who need to make a decision for
Christ, and we will see people saved,” Patterson said. “There’s no better way
to inaugurate a building than to see people come to Christ.”
Patterson also announced the six-month exhibition of the seminary’s Dead Sea
Scrolls and other ancient biblical artifacts on campus beginning in July 2012.
The seminary anticipates as many as 500,000 visitors to the exhibition, which
will not only explain the value of the scrolls to biblical studies but will
also present the Gospel.
In addition to sharing about Southwestern’s new bachelor’s program in biblical
studies, new student housing and additions to the homemaking program, Patterson
spoke about the goal of the seminary to train special forces for Gospel advance
around the world.
“(Students) not only come out knowing Hebrew, Greek, the exposition of God’s
Word and theology, but they come out knowing exactly how you translate that
into reaching the world for Jesus Christ,” Patterson said.
In election of national alumni officers, Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., was elected president and Mark Hartman, pastor of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Houston, was elected vice president.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist
Theological Seminary; T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary; Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren
Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Garrett E. Wishall of
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist