D. Jeffrey Bingham, interim president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), began his report to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) June 13 with an acknowledgement that, though he came to talk about the future of Southwestern, “as a Baptist and as a Christian, I cannot speak to you about the future of the seminary without reflecting responsibly upon its past and what our intentions are in relationship to the past.”
Photo by Van Payne
Jeffrey Bingham, center, interim president of Southwestern Seminary, is prayed over by fellow Southern Baptist seminary presidents Jeff Iorg, left, of Gateway Seminary, Danny Akin of Southeastern Seminary and Jason Allen Midwestern Seminary after his report to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in Dallas.
“Let me state without any lack of clarity: My intention, my priority, is to create a safe environment and a campus culture that protects and cares for the victims of abuse,” Bingham said, though making no direct reference to former SWBTS President Paige Patterson’s termination in part over the handling of a student’s sexual abuse report involving another student.
“At Southwestern, we denounce all forms of abuse, all behavior that enables abuse, all behavior that fails to protect the abused, and all behavior that fails to protect those who are vulnerable to abuse. We pray for the abused, and we agonize for them.”
Bingham said he has instructed SWBTS faculty and staff to retake and complete a course in sexual harassment by July 31. Furthermore, seminary leadership is meeting with third-party agencies and ministries “that will help us to move forward in the ways in which we need to move forward in recognizing conditions that contribute to abuse and helping us to grow in our manner of how we respond to allegations of abuse and how we shall care for the abused.”
While such matters are his priority, Bingham declared that some things “have not changed and will not change” at the seminary.
“By the grace of God and by His might, [SWBTS] has weathered world wars, financial recessions and eight presidential transitions,” Bingham said. “We have not moved physically, and I guarantee you we have not and will not move doctrinally.
“Our board of trustees, our faculty and our administration are completely committed with integrity to the inspiration of Holy Scripture, to the inerrancy of Holy Scripture and to the identity of Holy Scripture as the authority for our rule of faith and practice.”
Bingham assured messengers that SWBTS remains committed to world evangelization, to personal evangelism and discipleship, to the teaching and mentoring of students, and to the entire Baptist Faith and Message. He noted Southwestern students’ recent involvement with Crossover and with international mission trips throughout the summer.
Bingham also noted that SWBTS is a “welcoming campus,” highlighting the diversity of the student body.
“In Revelation 7, you will find the apostle John receiving a vision of women and men from every nation, every ethnicity, every language gathering before the Lamb of God to worship and adore Him, and it is in that vision that we find our model at Southwestern for our student body,” Bingham said. “Currently, we have students that represent 46 of the 50 United States and 45 different countries.”
Additionally, Bingham said SWBTS welcomes “the diversity and the breadth that exists within our Southern Baptist churches, and within evangelicalism at large.” He added, “We refuse to be a seminary that defines itself in opposition to this difference or to that difference within the SBC.”
Bingham concluded his report with the affirmation that, though “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly places,” the Lord Jesus Christ is exalted above every principality as He sits at the right hand of the Father. Furthermore, Bingham said, the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer, and one day, Jesus will return, and the Kingdom of God “will be ours to enjoy.”
“And so Southwestern moves forward,” Bingham said, “with the Son of God above us, with the Spirit of God within us, and with the Kingdom of God before us.”