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10/15/97 Southern trustees start college, hear Mohler report on momentum

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–With President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announcing the seminary’s “direction set” and “momentum building,” trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously approved creation of a four-year college, dedicated a new conference center building and addressed other matters of business in their Oct. 13-14 semiannual meeting.
“The narrative of Southern Seminary is correctly entitled, ‘Great Expectations,'” Mohler told trustees in his report on the state of the seminary. He said he believes “the path we have taken and the blessings we now see from God are evidence of the fact that it is indeed great expectations to which we should look as we imagine what the Lord is going to do through this institution in the years to come.”
“If we were to describe Southern Seminary’s current status,” Mohler continued, “it would be appropriately described in these words, ‘The direction set. The momentum building.’ Against the stream of a secular age and a tug and temptation of theological minimalism and compromise, Southern Seminary stands fast.”
Trustees enthusiastically approved Mohler’s recommendation to create the James P. Boyce College of the Bible as the first four-year Bible college associated with the six Southern Baptist seminaries, though two of seminaries have undergraduate-type baccalaureate programs. Named for the founding president of Southern Seminary and set for opening Aug. 1, 1998, the Boyce college will replace the academic program of the seminary’s Boyce Bible School which currently offers associate degrees and certificate programs.
Mohler said the elevation of Boyce to four-year college status with a distinctively biblical studies curriculum will address needs of Southern Baptist churches. “The Boyce College of the Bible is designed to offer a traditional Bible college education of the highest quality to the thousands of Southern Baptists who do not yet hold a college degree, but have been called by God to the ministry of the gospel,” Mohler said, predicting it will “make a difference in the world as its graduates go out to preach, teach, serve and fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Trustees, administration, faculty, students and friends of Southern Seminary participated in dedicating the school’s newest building. The recently constructed Chiles Hall was dedicated with a ceremony and ribbon cutting honoring the family of Walter H. Chiles Sr. whose lead gift “made this facility possible,” Mohler said. Chiles’ widow, Georgia Chiles, represented the family during the ceremony.
Mohler noted during the ceremony the building was also possible because of the generosity of “millions of Southern Baptists” through their contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program.
The $3.57 million conference center project completes the $12 million Honeycutt Campus Center facility which was opened in 1990. The facility houses a cafeteria, presidential dining room and meeting rooms, including Heritage Hall which can accommodate up to 400 people. The conference center hosted its first meeting in September for “Pastor Appreciation Day,” with SBC President Tom Elliff as the featured speaker.
In his report to the trustees, Mohler outlined the manner in which the seminary’s direction has been set.
“There is no debate at Southern Seminary over the great central doctrines of the Christian faith,” Mohler said. “There is no debate at Southern Seminary about the importance of inculcating a Christian worldview in an age in rebellion against the truths of the Word of God. There is no debate at Southern Seminary in terms of the character of the institution and the convictions, the confession indeed, that frame who we are and what we believe and what we teach. We are not absent without leave as an institution on the issues of front-line theological importance.”
Having “anchored” the seminary’s direction in the Bible, Mohler said Southern is now moving forward with momentum. “The energies that have been devoted in recent years to redefinition and redirection are now directed to forward momentum.”
Evidence of the seminary’s new momentum can be seen, Mohler told trustees, in worshipful chapel services, new facilities, newly renovated classrooms and campus gatherings of students and faculty.
The addition of new faculty also demonstrates the seminary’s momentum, Mohler noted. “I believe this faculty is the marvel of the evangelical world. And I can assure you that we have caught the notice of seminaries across the nation and across the world.”
Mohler told trustees the growth in student enrollment at Southern Baptists’ oldest seminary is another evidence of momentum. “For each of the last three semesters we have had a 20 percent increase in the entering class,” Mohler said.
The president reported the seminary has 629 new students this semester, with an on-campus enrollment of 1,292, a 14.24 percent increase over last year. Although some off-campus programs will yet enroll students and other centers have not yet reported, Mohler said total enrollment for the seminary stands at 1,639 students as of Oct. 11. Complete figures for total enrollment will not be available until the end of the semester.
The seminary’s financial standing, Mohler added, is sound. “The 1996-1997 year will go down in history as the greatest year in development income for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” he said. The seminary received more than $4.5 million in gifts, compared to $3.6 million in the previous year.
In addition to finishing the fiscal year “in the black,” Mohler reported strong growth over the previous year in the seminary’s long-term investments, from $68 to $82 million; total assets, from $112 to $131 million; and endowment, from $57 to $67 million.
Mohler told trustees the seminary’s momentum will be accelerated in the future with plans under way for new degree programs, faculty, curricular reform and new facilities.
In addition to hearing reports from its financial board and treasurer, the seminary’s board of trustees voted unanimously to:
— approve responses to three motions referred to the seminary from the Southern Baptist Convention.
— create a Charter Review Committee to study the seminary’s charter in response to a request to all SBC agencies from the Executive Committee. The Southern committee will focus on the charter in light of the seminary’s relationship to the SBC, the size of the board’s membership and the committee structure of the seminary’s governing body.
— approve a recommendation to employ Louis & Henry Group to provide master planning services to study optimum utilization of the seminary’s buildings and facilities. The company will report to the seminary’s administration by March 1, 1998.
— approve an “Energy Services Program,” at a cost not to exceed $1.3 million, funded from the seminary’s funds which function as endowment to be replaced from utilities/operation maintenance savings over six years ending July 31, 2003. The project will replace antiquated and failing heating and air conditioning units in the seminary’s older buildings. Without replacement, the administration anticipates nearly $700,000 in maintenance repairs over the next two years. Under the program, the seminary’s coal-fired heating system would be replaced by a natural gas system.
Trustee Chairman Jerry Johnson, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Littleton, Colo., reported the membership of the Tenure Review Task Force appointed by him and President Mohler in response to the board’s action to create the work group at its last meeting. The task force will study tenure issues related to the seminary and make a report at the April trustee meeting.

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  • James A. Smith
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