Alumni and students celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Seminary Wives Institute (SWI) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with testimonies from graduates from 1999 to 2017.
Photo by Ali Marsh, SBTS
A gala to celebrate the Seminary Wives Institute on its 20th anniversary at Southern Seminary featured current and former instructors, alumni and students.
Each testimony revealed the eternal impact of SWI on women who have served in ministries from Louisville, Ky., to as far away as Zimbabwe.
The history of SWI dates back to February 1997 when Mary Mohler hosted some faculty wives to discuss interest in creating a new program to train seminary wives.
On May 8, 1997, 85 women attended an informational meeting for prospective students. The result of that meeting launched the SWI program that fall with 125 students kindled by the vision of Mohler, wife of SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr., and three cofounders: Sharon Beougher, who still serves as an SWI faculty member; Virginia Walker; and Menda Sue Hatfield.
“People showed up; classes started,” Mohler said at a May 4 gala to celebrate SWI’s 20th anniversary. “And we were on a roll and things were going well, but we needed help … and the Lord so kindly grew this faculty as He grew Southern Seminary’s faculty.
“And so as my husband is hiring these wonderful new faculty members, wives were coming along with them, and the amazing fact is God in all this was bringing faculty wives who had an interest in helping us, and each had an interest that was not already being covered,” Mohler recounted.
Notable SWI faculty who helped set the foundation for the program include Tanya York, who came in 1997; Jodi Ware, 1998; Katherine Magnuson, 1999; Jaylynn Cook, 2000; Nora Allison, 2003; and Caffy Whitney, 2005.
Karen Allen, a 2006 graduate and former SWI instructor, shared how her first class immediately challenged her to pray fervently for the lost, including her mother. As she learned evangelism from Sharon Beougher, Allen joined with other women to pray for her mother.
“And within those six weeks, I got a telephone call on a Wednesday night at about 11:30 at night – my mom was coming in from church late because she had stayed to receive Christ with her pastor,” Allen told the gala attendees.
This is “eternal fruit” from the faithful work and teaching of SWI, said. Allen, wife of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen who now serves as the director of a similar program, Midwestern Women’s Institute.
“It has been said imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I unashamedly would tell you that I took everything that I could from SWI and copied it where I’m at Midwestern Seminary because I wanted something that would benefit these ladies like I had received,” Allen said.
Kyndra Moore shared through a video testimony how SWI equipped and impacted her in now serving with her husband and family as IMB missionaries in Zimbabwe.
“I didn’t know what God had in store for us and this was certainly not on my radar,” Moore said. “But God knew. … He knew what He was training me for and He used SWI to prepare me.”
Moore said the “biggest thing that SWI did for me was it taught me that I wasn’t just going to be the wife of someone who was trained, but I was going to be trained myself. … SWI helped me to be a partner in ministry with my husband so that we together can do what God has called us to do, to reach our potential and to make the name of Jesus known to the nations.
“So, thank you, SWI. Thank you, Mrs. Mohler. Thank you, all of the staff who poured into me, and poured into our ministry. And I know that your fruit is endless; it’s reaching Zimbabwe,” Moore said.
From the first graduating class, Sandy Davis shared her experience of coming to the seminary since 1990 and facing the confusion of being taught that God’s Word was not inerrant. She credited SWI as God’s blessing to teach her the inerrancy of God’s Word and keep her grounded in the faith.
Helen Logan, a 2000 graduate and former instructor, expressed gratitude that SWI taught her that her worldview “needs to line up with God’s Word.” Because of that, she is able to use what she learned as she teaches and trains up her own children as well as modeling a biblical worldview for church members.
During SWI’s 20 years, 309 students have graduated from the program, with an additional 14 graduates this May, for the high calling of being a minister’s wife, prepared through biblical studies courses taught by a world-class team of Southern Seminary faculty and SWI faculty.
SBTS professor Robert Plummer, in an SWI promotional video, said, “When I first saw the lineup of the courses that are taught in SWI and I learned about the instructors that were teaching them, I was astounded. I mean we have the top-notch; we have world-famous systematic theologians, New Testament scholars and church history professors.” It’s “not just a Sunday School class, this is a serious academic exercise to be equipped and prepared to minister in the local church,” Plummer said.
Additional gala participants included cofounder Virginia Walker; former instructor Karen Cheong; 1999 graduate Michele Linn; 2001 graduate and former instructor Maria Moore; 2001 graduate Rebekah Jenks; 2015 graduate Monica Sani; and 2017 graduate Jess Crawford.
In closing, Mohler reflected on her time at Southern, contrasting her experience as a student wife in 1983, when the teaching in Norton classrooms did not uphold the inerrancy of scripture nor the exclusivity of the gospel, to being the SWI director in 2017 with a faculty who “joyfully teaches by faith alone, in Christ alone, in grace alone, the whole gospel.”
“And on this night we celebrate that for 20 years, for two full decades, in those same Norton classrooms we have had almost 3,000 student wives take classes in a program that celebrates the high calling of ministry wives with no apologies,” Mohler said.
For more information on the Seminary Wives Institute, click here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Annie Courser writes for The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)