Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest has recently hired a special advisor to the president for diversity and a director of Hispanic leadership development in order to make strides toward ethnic diversity.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, has made efforts toward ethnic diversity within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) by forming advisory councils with African-Americans and Hispanic leaders. Page said he believes that true relationships with other ethnic leaders are fundamental to both unity and evangelism.
Acknowledging Page’s action for diversity, Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, desires to serve the church by building an institution that reflects the Body of Christ in heaven.
“Ethnic diversity … is hardwired into the Great Commission,” he said. “If we are to truly be a Great Commission seminary, moving in this direction is really an easy decision and one I wish we had made many years before now.”
Walter Strickland, an African-American and two-time graduate of Southeastern, will occupy the special advisor to the president for diversity position.
“[Ethnic diversity] is not the ultimate goal …,” Strickland said. “The ultimate goal is to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission by equipping students to take the gospel to all nations.”
As the special advisor to the president for diversity, Strickland will advise the president and his cabinet on matters related to ethnic relations and institutional diversity. He will also help provide curriculum and course level strategies for Southeastern.
Edgar Aponte will serve as the director of Hispanic leadership development.
“My prayer is that we will bring glory to Christ by training and equipping current and future Christian leaders among the Hispanic community in the United States and throughout Latin America,” Aponte said.
Serving under John Ewart, associate vice president for Global Theological Initiatives, Aponte, Hispanic himself, will provide direction and administration for Hispanic leadership development initiatives. He will also build relationships with local and national Hispanic ministries for the expansion of a Hispanic student population at Southeastern.
“Southeastern is here to serve the Spanish-speaking church,” Aponte said, “and we want pastors to see us as their ally in serving them as they work to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence, said on the seminary’s Between the Times blog that Southern Baptists need to begin making intentional decisions to train younger generations and attract/reach and welcome ethnic diversity to Southern Baptist church families. He said when Southern Baptists “build a physically diverse [and] spiritually unified community, this presses us forward together for a common mission.” And that common mission is the proclamation of the gospel to all nations.
Akin is trying to make Stetzer’s statement a concrete reality.
“These newly appointed positions at Southeastern are only a first step, but ones I believe are in the right direction,” Akin said. “It is never too late to start doing the right thing. … This is clearly the right thing to do.”