For the first time since October 2019, President Jason Allen and members of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (MBTS) administration hosted the institution’s trustees April 12. The meeting provided a context for key seminary updates and essential institutional business.
Trustees received an array of seminary updates and conducted business at the committee level before the board convened for its plenary session in the late afternoon. Spring enrollment and financial updates were the focus of Allen’s report, where he underscored the seminary’s strong position even amid the persistent challenges and limitations of COVID-19.
“The challenges of the past year have been plentiful and varied,” Allen said. “Yet, our prayer has been to come out of the COVID crisis in a stronger position than when we went into it. By God’s grace, thus far we have been able to meet our goals in this regard.”
Allen framed the Spring 2021 updates by asking and answering three questions before the board: 1) How do we maintain our doctrinal faithfulness in the midst of a rapidly changing culture? 2) How do we ensure that we are most effective in our mission of being For the Church? and 3) How do we ensure that we are an ever-strengthening seminary in the ever-weakening context of theological and higher education?
Allen stressed Midwestern’s continued emphasis on financial stewardship in all areas of operation.
“Last year, amid the many COVID-induced uncertainties within higher education and in our culture at large, we curtailed our normal operating budget, making adjustments to account for potential shortfalls brought on by the pandemic.
In light of improving circumstances, Allen presented a 2021-22 budget of $29,808,000. The new figure represents an overall increase of $4,639,000 over the school’s 2020-21 COVID-adjusted budget of $25,169,000.
“We will continue to monitor the pandemic’s impact and its ongoing ramifications both within our community and in our broader contexts,” Allen said. “That said, we could not be more optimistic as we look toward the future and the opportunities before us. We look forward to fully resuming institutional activities and to operating as we were pre-COVID. Full speed ahead is our intended course of action.”
On the financial front, Allen added, “The circumstances of the past year have made us even more grateful for the Cooperative Program. Though the economic circumstances have been challenging, Southern Baptists have been resilient in their generosity over the past 12 months. This generosity doesn’t go unnoticed by our faculty, administration and students.”
Regarding enrollment, Allen told trustees that overall headcount and the total number of hours sold have surpassed previous highs.
“This spring, we’ve once again enjoyed a record enrollment as we continue forward in our mission to train men and women for service in and through local churches,” he said. “Our total headcount is up 11.6% from this time last year, and the number of hours taken is up 16.1%. Though early, we are also encouraged by how enrollment for the fall semester is shaping up. …
“I am thankful for the enrollment gains that God has given us. According to a recent ATS report, of the nearly 300 ATS schools, only seven have experienced consistent enrollment growth over the previous five years. By God’s grace, we are one of those seven schools.”
In addition to the 2021-22 budget, the Business Services Committee recommended to the full board the adoption of the 2021-22 Schedule of Tuition & Fees, which held tuition and fees flat for the upcoming academic year. Also originating from the Business Services Committee was a motion to pay off the seminary’s remaining indebtedness of approximately $2,800,000. All three motions passed unanimously.
“Though, in relative terms, our indebtedness was minimal and short-term, it’s still a significant institutional achievement to be entirely debt-free,” Allen said. “We are thankful for God’s ongoing provision on the financial front.”
In other business, during the plenary session the trustees reelected and promoted faculty members and selected board officers for the upcoming year.
In recommendations coming from the Academic Committee, the trustees reelected Alan Branch as professor of Christian ethics; Andreas Köstenberger as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology; Michael McMullen as professor of church history; and Rustin Umstattd as associate professor of theology and ministry.
Additionally, the committee recommended the promotion of Daniel Chong from assistant professor to associate professor of counseling, Korean studies; Blake Hearson from associate professor to professor of Old Testament and Hebrew; and Matthew Millsap from assistant professor to associate professor of Christian studies.
Finally, with recommendations from the Governance Committee, the board completed its meeting by electing the 2021-22 officers: Lee Roberson from Hobbs, N.M., will serve as chairman; Chad McDonald, from Lenexa, Kan., as first vice-chairman; and David Meany from Collierville, Tenn., as second vice chairman. Bryan Pain from Duncan, Okla., will continue as secretary.
Midwestern Seminary’s Board of Trustees consists of 35 members and meets biannually in October and April.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Michael S. Brooks is content strategy manager at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)