During a special service March 4 at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, N.C., Danny Akin told attendees about new developments underway at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and addressed rumors of an alleged leftward shift in the school’s doctrinal commitments. Akin, who serves as president of the seminary, also preached a sermon during the Wednesday night gathering.
Steve Scoggins, president of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and pastor of First Baptist Hendersonville, told the Biblical Recorder that online “rumors and false statements” about SEBTS have heightened tensions among N.C. Baptists. Scoggins said attendees who participated in the Q&A session with Akin came away “certain that things are strong and conservative in the Southern Baptist Convention and in our seminaries.”
Akin addressed specific accusations related to Biblical interpretation, the ordination of women and abortion. He emphasized that SEBTS remains committed to the doctrine of inerrancy, a conservative belief that scripture does not contain errors.
“At Southeastern, without any apology, we affirm four confessions of faith,” Akin said, “the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the Abstract of Principles, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.”
Akin went on to say that all faculty members are not only expected to teach in accordance with these doctrines, but they must also believe them personally.
Akin denied allegations of any movement at SEBTS to promote female pastors.
“Southeastern loves for women to come and study with us,” he said. “We believe God made men and women as equal image bearers of God, so men and women are completely and essentially equal in their standing before God, but God in His providence gives us different functions and assignments.”
Akin affirmed a conservative view known as complementarianism, which holds that leadership roles in the church and home are designated for men. He said in the “rare cases” that female students express a desire to become a pastor, they are encouraged to pursue other ministry opportunities.
Finally, Akin talked about his decision to hire Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor currently teaching at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Prior has faced criticism for an article she wrote in 2015 that discouraged “inflammatory rhetoric” in discussions about abortion. Some critics used the article to call into question her pro-life commitments.
Akin said Prior’s comments had been intentionally taken out of context by many of her critics. “People who do things like that are liars,” he said.
Akin highlighted Prior’s conservative record on abortion, including five arrests for protesting at abortion clinics. He also noted her current faculty position at Liberty, which Akin said, “isn’t exactly a bastion of liberalism.”
The Q&A time also gave Akin the opportunity to highlight Southeastern’s advancements.
Over the past seven years, the proportion of ethnic minority students has increased from 5% to 18%. Akin said the push for more diversity is part of an effort to “build a seminary on earth that looks like the church in heaven.”
SEBTS has also developed partnerships with Cedarville University and Fruitland Baptist Bible College.
The seminary now offers a dual “M.Div. and M.B.A.” degree in conjunction with Cedarville. The College at Southeastern’s partnership with Fruitland allows students to complete two years of study, then obtain their bachelor’s degree from Southeastern while remaining on Fruitland’s campus. Southeastern also offers Fruitland leaders enrollment to their doctoral program at no cost to them.
Akin’s evening at First Baptist Hendersonville closed with a sermon from Revelation 5. He said that while non-Christians often believe mankind is destined to destroy itself, Christians can sum up the future with the simple Sunday School song: “He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Akin drew from the passage to say “Jesus is worthy” because: “He is the Lord of History,” “He is the Lord of Victory,” and “He is the Lord of Glory.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – BR Executive Editor Seth Brown contributed to this report.)