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SBC seminary presidents report to messengers

Thursday, Jun 13, 2013
By Staff

HOUSTON (BP) -- Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention were reminded of the importance of theological education through reports from the convention's six seminaries during the June 11-12 annual meeting in Houston.

SOUTHEASTERN -- Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, opened his report on Tuesday morning with a citation from Psalm 96. The Psalmist says that the Lord is greatly to be praised for everything," Akin said. "Well, we are greatly praising the Lord for his faithfulness to us at Southeastern Seminary."

Akin said Southeastern recently surpassed the 3,000 student enrollment mark. Considering its 1992 enrollment of 550 students and its academic probation, Akin said Southeastern has blossomed by God's grace into a fruitful and abounding seminary.

"Southeastern is a Great Commission seminary, which means that every professor is a Great Commission professor, every classroom is a Great Commission classroom, every student a Great Commission student, and by God's grace, every graduate becomes a Great Commission graduate."

Akin said that Southeastern could only take this stance as a Great Commission institution because the seminary rests on an infallible and inerrant Word.

Akin also commented on the declining numbers for the Southern Baptist Convention over the past several years, but he believes it is a great responsibility –- alongside the other five seminaries -- to train "hot-hearted, mission-minded, fervent and evangelistic pastors who expound the Word of God and teach others to do the same."

Southeastern is committed to serving pastors who see their churches as basecamps that help train "green berets for Christ," Akin said, "whether these individuals are going across the street or across the globe to share the Gospel."

"And Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary could not do what we do," Akin said, "to train Great Commission students without the support of you all, so thank you very much!"

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MIDWESTERN -- Reporting for the first time to messengers of the SBC, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen emphasized the school's commitment to serve the convention by training pastors and ministers for the local church. Allen was elected by the seminary's board of trustees last October and inaugurated May 1.

During his presentation, Allen provided an update on recent institutional accomplishments, including a newly completed chapel project on Midwestern's Kansas City, Mo., campus -- a complex with a 1,000-seat chapel, a banquet hall, classrooms and a welcome center.

"I am grateful to the many hundreds of Southern Baptists that have given of their time and financial resources to bring this ambitious project to a close," he said.

The spring semester at Midwestern brought the highest spring enrollment in seminary history, Allen said. The seminary hosted the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission for accreditation reviews, passing "with flying colors."

"Our vision is simple, yet full," Allen, Midwestern's fifth president, said. "Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary exists for the church.

"We bear a moral stewardship to our Southern Baptist forbears and a contemporary stewardship ... to focus our instructional efforts and academic programs to train pastors, ministers and missionaries, especially for Southern Baptist churches," he told messengers.

Allen said he felt an urgency for the seminary to provide pastors to the SBC's 45,000 local churches, especially in light of recent convention statistics showing decreasing numbers in church attendance and membership.

"In light of this, we unapologetically make priority number one to be strengthening the preaching and teaching capabilities of the ministers we train," Allen said. "So goes the pulpit, so goes the church; and so goes these offices, so goes the equipping of the saints for the service of the church, the progress of the Gospel and the fulfilling of the Great Commission."

Looking at denominational demographics, the dearth of pastors accentuates the need to train men for the church, Allen said.

"Our love for the lost, our love for the nations, our love for the Gospel and the spreading thereof through the fulfilling of the Great Commission heightens our urgency to train pastors, teachers and evangelists for the church," he said.

Allen announced significant academic expansion at the seminary, including a new dual major program at the undergraduate level that was developed to prepare bivocational ministers and missionaries for their service overseas on a business platform. He also highlighted a renewed focus on the master of divinity degree with new concentrations in pastoral ministry and preaching, biblical and theological studies and Christian ministry. The seminary added a new doctorate in counseling.

"For the Church. This is the vision that called me to Kansas City. It is the vision that is being renewed and is reverberating across our campus," Allen said. "It is the vision that we, with appropriate institutional self-confidence, are declaring across this denomination and beyond. We are confident because Christ is building His church, and in as much as we are faithful to serve His church, He will be faithful to us."

Allen concluded his report asking the convention's messengers for prayer as well as continued support through the Cooperative Program.

"Pray for us, partner with us, support us, send us your men and women to train for ministry. Stand with us in solidarity of spirit, shared conviction and Gospel aspiration," Allen said. "And, I say, hold us accountable."

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GOLDEN GATE -- Biblical, missional and global are the three watchwords of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, President Jeff Iorg said in his report to the SBC.

"We are your seminary in the American West, but the scope of our ministry touches the world," Iorg said of the multi-campus seminary based in Mill Valley, Calif. "This past month, our 8,000th graduate walked across the stage and into Kingdom service. He was a master of missiology student, personifying the reason for our existence -- getting the Gospel to as many people as possible."

Golden Gate launched several new degree programs in the past year, Iorg said, including bilingual Korean-English master of divinity and master of theological studies degrees, a master of divinity with a concentration in chaplaincy and a doctor of ministry in chaplaincy.

The "changing nature of educational delivery methods" is the biggest challenge in seminary life, Iorg said.

"As a result, Golden Gate continues to expand its online delivery system," he said. "We now offer the master of theological studies degree fully online. We anticipate receiving accrediting approval later this summer to offer the master of divinity fully online. We also offer several certificates -- including youth ministry and Bible teaching -- fully online."

Opposition to the Christian worldview will increase in the coming decades, Iorg said, but Golden Gate will train students to take the Gospel to unreached people amid a hostile culture.

"Thank you Southern Baptists for standing with Golden Gate Seminary all these years," he said. "Next summer we will celebrate 70 years of service to you and for you. Thank you for praying for us, for sending us students and for your steady support through the Cooperative Program.

"We are delighted to be the only Southern Baptist Convention-owned entity in the western half of the U.S. and proud to represent you at our campuses in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Denver and Phoenix. We are committed to doing our ministry in the U.S. and around the world. Thank you for your support and for standing with us for the Gospel."

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NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley delivered a word of determination, innovation and growth to SBC messengers in his annual report June 12.

Kelley challenged Southern Baptists to remain faithful and trusting, even in difficult times, such as New Orleans Seminary faced with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"It doesn't matter what the news might read," Kelley said of hard times. "It's always good, because when the sun sets and the darkness of life falls, we know sunrise is coming. Our God will remain."

New Orleans Seminary has witnessed God's faithfulness firsthand, Kelley said, in the now almost eight years since Katrina.

"Last year, we had one of our all-time record enrollments. In many of our programs, enrollment is right back where it was before Hurricane Katrina," Kelley said. "We had our largest M.Div. enrollment in our history."

Commencement numbers, academic workshop attendance and Internet enrollment are at all-time highs, Kelley said.

"God is showing us that nothing ever finishes the work of God as long as His people remain faithful in their task and in their calling," he said.

New Orleans Seminary now offers a completely online master's degree, Kelley said, as well as options for completing an undergraduate degree fully online. The school also offers a non-residential doctor of philosophy program with a variety of focus areas.

New Orleans Seminary's expansion of its certificate program is helpful for ministers whose responsibilities or callings have changed over the years, he said. Seminary leaders have divided the school's curriculum into concise certificate programs on both the undergraduate and graduate levels. From apologetics and children's ministry to preaching, church planting and missionary service, NOBTS offers focused certificates to fit a variety of callings, Kelley said.

For pastors and other ministers who already have a master's degree but would like to do additional study to help lead a church out of plateau or decline, Kelley pointed to the seminary's professional doctoral program. He believes the doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry degrees are two of the "most strategically important degrees we offer."

"We have to be prepared to do the things God wants us to do," Kelley said, adding, "New Orleans Baptist Seminary is determined to be your partner on that path. We listen to you, we listen to our students and we are shaping what we do in order to fit the context of what God is doing in your life and in your ministry."

Kelley thanked Southern Baptists for faithfully giving through the Cooperative Program and described how one "sweet Baptist family" recently gave $1.5 million to provide for a several existing and new initiatives, including a new community center on campus to house the seminary's homeschool program, which has nearly 100 students.

The gift also will fund a new professor of church and community ministries to train students how "to mobilize a congregation to get involved in meeting the needs of the community," Kelley said.

Updated classroom technology, a new entry point on the east side of the campus and scholarships for bivocational and African American students are among the other projects to be funded by the gift. Two scholarships were named after SBC President Fred Luter: the Fred Luter Scholarship Fund and the Fred Luter Jr. Ph.D. Fellowship.

Considering where New Orleans Seminary was just eight years ago, the story of its recovery and advancement is a testament to God's faithfulness, Kelley said.

"Don't quit. ... The work is hard. Just get your arms around that. There is no easy church. There is no easy field. The work is hard for everybody. Don't quit. Don't be lazy. Don't be afraid," Kelley said. "For our Jesus will prevail whatever the circumstances may be."

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SOUTHERN -- During his report to the SBC, R. Albert Mohler Jr. recounted for messengers several pledges that he made to Southern Baptists at his first convention as the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993. He said that the seminary, then engrossed in controversy, is now the seminary intended at its founding in 1859.

"Twenty years later, I am able to come back to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention and say, 'You gave us a commission, you gave us a charge,'" Mohler said. "I came and made several commitments to you, and by God's grace, I'm able to say as I come back 20 years later that we've kept those commitments. And those commitments are not now fulfilled; they are reaffirmed."

Mohler spoke also about the year of transition at the Louisville, Ky., seminary. He pointed specifically to two executive leaders who each assumed the presidency of a Southern Baptist entity: Jason Allen at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Russell Moore at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Mohler then introduced to the messengers Randy Stinson, senior vice president of academic administration, and Gregory Wills, dean of the school of theology.

He closed by thanking Southern Baptists for giving to Southern Seminary the stewardship of theological education within the convention.

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SOUTHWESTERN -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson addressed messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 11, inviting them to come experience the evangelistic and doctrinal zeal on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus. Patterson said the seminary reflects many of the same convictions held by the Swiss and south German evangelical Anabaptists during the time of the Reformation.

"Nestled in the picturesque valleys of south Germany and Switzerland, there lived a people during the days of the Reformation that have not come to be known nearly so widely as Luther and Calvin," Patterson told messengers.

"The reason they did not come to be known so widely was not because they were far behind in numbers. It's because they were cut off by the sword and other means. These were remarkable people who lived back then."

These Anabaptists, Patterson said, agreed with Martin Luther and John Calvin that salvation is by grace through faith alone but challenged them on the practice of infant baptism and held high the doctrinal conviction of believer's baptism. These radical reformers also advocated for religious liberty and felt "called to evangelize the world" and "reach people with the saving message of Jesus Christ."

"I want to tell you that the vast majority of them died for their faith," Patterson said. "They were cut off, and no one cared enough to write about them in an accurate way for many years. But the spirit of Anabaptism and its very doctrines live on at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary today. We still believe those very same things. We still hold high that witness. If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we are going to introduce you to your Anabaptist forefathers and make you love them profoundly."

Patterson said the Anabaptists' zeal for reaching people for Christ burns brightly at Southwestern.

"If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary," Patterson said, "you're going to come into an atmosphere where every student is expected to share his faith on a regular basis, where every professor is expected to share his faith on a regular basis. As far as I know, there are not many places in the world that require their professors at least once every four years to be involved in an overseas missionary situation, not speaking to another seminary but actually going and rolling up their sleeves beside the students and serving with them there on the mission field."

Patterson told of the seminary's desire to cultivate a biblical view of the Christian home, which is emphasized in classwork and conferences.

"If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, you are going to study the intense theological insights of the Word of God until you know the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, have an understanding of it that is able to be translated into preaching ... with conviction and an invitation given," Patterson said. "If you want to become a part of a great revival movement, we welcome you to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Patterson also recognized Thomas White, vice president of student services and communications, who was elected president of Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, on June 4.
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Based on reports from Michael McEwen of Southeastern Seminary, Tim Sweetman of Midwestern Seminary, Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Seminary, Frank Michael McCormack of New Orleans Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Seminary.

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