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10/21/97 Trustee actions affirm vision for sought-out ‘Midwesterner’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees dealt with recommendations aimed at accomplishing the administration’s goal of developing students with qualities which prepare them for service in the Great Plains/Midwest region and beyond. They devoted a fourth of their plenary sessions in prayer and testimony of God’s provision of every need.
In the Oct. 20-21 board meeting, Midwestern President Mark Coppenger imagined a day when a pastor search committee that is close to settling on a candidate takes a second look at another resume when told, “He’s a Midwestern grad.”
With the seminary administration noting those things toward which the curriculum, chapel and campus life should aim in order to develop “a Midwesterner” that is sought out by Southern Baptist churches, trustees responded with actions designed to implement that vision. Electing faculty to teach pastoral care, New Testament, Greek and evangelism, the board also received word of three professors retiring or shifting to senior professor status.
In addition, the board endorsed the process for curriculum review and approved concentrated study in the areas of student ministry and Christian writing with the possibility of endowed chairs. Approval was granted to proceed with fund-raising for a comprehensive campus plan to meet the needs of the seminary anticipated with continued growth.
For the third time in recent years, trustees passed a resolution dealing with abortion, specifically appealing to government leaders to “stop the deceit and denial of truth” regarding partial-birth abortion.
In actions recommended by the academic affairs committee, trustees elected Paul Carlisle to serve as professor of pastoral care/ministries. Currently, Carlisle is associate professor of pastoral theology and counseling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., where he has been teaching since coming from Criswell College in Dallas in 1992. Carlisle will finish his teaching term at Southeastern before joining Midwestern’s faculty in the summer of 1998.
Speaking to trustees of the carefulness with which the school should approach studies of counseling models, Coppenger commended Carlisle as “someone who knows the land, who knows the Lord and who is an inerrantist.” Midwestern’s academic dean, Jim Cogdill, who had both served on staff at Southeastern with Carlisle and been his pastor in North Carolina, described Carlisle as having an evangelistic and pastoral heart.
Carlisle, 41, received his undergraduate degree in biblical studies from East Texas Baptist University. He received both a master’s degree and a doctorate in education with an emphasis in counseling from East Texas State University.
During the meeting, Carlisle was questioned by a trustee regarding how he would counsel a young pregnant woman regarding abortion. He responded, “I stand where you stand — I stand for life.” When asked how he would counsel an individual in a homosexual lifestyle, Carlisle said that while he would have compassion, as he would have upon anyone else, there could be “no exception but to lead them out of it.”
Recently, Carlisle’s article, “The Terrors of Teen Suicide,” was featured in the spring 1997 issue of Home Life magazine. He and his wife, Terri, have two children, Chase, 13, and Chelsea, 10.
Alan Tomlinson, 47, also was elected to the faculty, having served as a visiting professor since 1995. A recent New Testament Ph.D. graduate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., Tomlinson was elected to a five-year term as assistant professor of New Testament and Greek. Coppenger described Tomlinson to trustees as “an amazing man with a tender heart.”
Asked to describe his research on the use of Greek terms related to slavery as found in the New Testament application, Tomlinson responded first by explaining his commitment to let the text speak for itself, rather than impose outside ideas upon it. He then described how the Apostle Paul used technical terminology for slaves throughout the Book of Romans, especially in chapter 6. He was also questioned by trustees regarding his ministry in the local church, which Tomlinson described as being primarily to children, noting their hunger for spiritual matters.
Prior to coming to Midwestern, he was an instructor of Greek at Southern Seminary. He holds a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Ginger, have two daughters, Judy, 14, and Lisa, 12.
Midwestern trustees also elected Cogdill to serve as professor of evangelism at the seminary. Since he and his wife, Debbie, moved to Kansas City in June 1997, Cogdill has served as vice president for academic affairs, dean of the faculty and visiting professor of evangelism. His appointment as a professor was affirmed by trustee Bob Lilly of Maryland, who praised Cogdill’s work as dean of the seminary.
Cogdill, 42, holds a Ph.D. in evangelism from Southern Seminary. He was asked to explain to trustees his views on the viability of door-to-door witnessing efforts and traditional revivals. He affirmed that both efforts are useful when churches believe in them and prepare for them. Trustees also asked Cogdill, whose North Carolina pastorate had seen phenomenal growth, to share both positive elements and concerns regarding seeker-oriented churches. Cogdill said that while many churches can learn from the politeness emphasized by seeker-sensitive churches, they must maintain a firm line on doctrine.
“I’m not down on nontraditional models as long as they don’t sacrifice the gospel,” Cogdill explained. “When they sacrifice doctrine, I’ve got a problem — when they go beyond making people comfortable to say, ‘This doctrine offends, so we won’t mention this.’ Or when we are preaching through books, and the Bible speaks of the authority of men in the church, they say we can’t talk about it because it might offend. I think if the Bible says it, you just preach it. I didn’t write it.”
In other faculty matters, the retirements of three professor were approved by trustees. M. Pierce Matheney, 67, professor of Old Testament interpretation and Hebrew, will retire effective Jan. 1, 1998, after which time he will continue to serve the seminary as a senior professor, teaching six to eight hours or less per year, through December 1999. Matheney has taught at Midwestern since August 1960.
Trustees also approved the retirement of John C. Howell, 73, professor of Christian ethics. Howell, who has also taught at Midwestern since August 1960, will retire effective July 31, 1998. He will continue to serve as senior professor at the seminary, teaching six to eight hours or less per year, through July 1999.
The retirement of Kenneth Wolfe, 70, professor of New Testament and Greek, was also approved. Wolfe’s retirement will take effect on July 31, 1998. He has served the seminary since April 1968.
Trustees were advised that the number of regular professors stands at 19, with one senior professor and eight appointed visiting professors. Trustees renewed a contract with Tony Preston as visiting professor of pastoral ministries through July 1999. He also directs diploma studies.
Trustees approved the development of an emphasis on student ministry which will lead to either a center that will coordinate such studies or possibly an endowed chair, honoring Baptist Student Union director Max Barnett who has served at the University of Oklahoma since 1967.
Coppenger described Barnett as “a courageous and effectual BSU director,” praising his approach toward discipleship of college students. Trustees noted the hallmarks of Barnett’s ministry as including a commitment to the authority of the Bible, an emphasis on developing leadership skills for ministers, a model of team ministry, a missionary spirit despite financial limitations and an “ever-learning and creative mind.”
The program to be developed will provide students with two years of experience on college campuses where student ministers who have been discipled by Barnett are serving and a year of studies at Midwestern.
Approval was given to an emphasis on Christian writing that may lead to an endowed chair honoring James C. Hefley, a well-known conservative Southern Baptist writer from Hannibal, Mo. “Whether in cultivating professional Christian writers like Jim or simply developing the writing skills of those bound for the pastorate and other ministries,” Coppenger recommended that a professor of Christian writing would be a strong component of the Midwestern program.
Hefley has authored or coauthored more than 50 books, including the “Truth in Crisis” series about the conservative movement in Southern Baptist Convention and “By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the 20th Century.” Most recently, he has been involved in writing the histories of two SBC entities.
The financial condition of the school was also reviewed by the trustees. Commending a “more balanced approach” emphasizing enrollment growth and expense control, representatives of the accounting firm Jackson & Co. gave trustees a positive report.
Trustees gave the go-ahead for the hiring of personnel for a capital funding program after hearing the report of Carl Hoffman, capital funding executive consultant of the Baptist Sunday School Board. Under the approved measure, $30,000 of funding given to Midwestern from overage in Cooperative Program giving will be used to hire personnel necessary for development of the capital funding program.
The program focuses on a comprehensive campus plan entailing new chapel, music, library, classroom and administrative office facilities, as well as a student center and family life center.
Having completed a feasibility study for the project, Hoffman said the seminary is “on solid ground with the current leadership.” He recommended that Midwestern continue its efforts to draw Southern Baptists’ attention to Midwestern’s distinctives, including its emphasis on family life. Hoffman also recommended the seminary procure at least $1 million in “seed money” before moving ahead with a formal fund-raising effort.
Responding to three referrals from the Southern Baptist Convention, trustees approved responses drafted by the president. Regarding a request that the seminary develop a strategy for the nurture of ethnic scholars, the board pledged to “pay particular attention to the rich potential in the black and ethnic communities for academic service and to take steps to identify and prepare those whom God is calling to move in this direction.”
The response noted growth in the percentage of minority students and encouragement they are given to pursue doctoral studies. Those who are both academically credentialed and committed to the doctrinal and ministerial standards expressed in the seminary faculty questionnaire are welcome as applicants to teaching positions.
Regarding a request that SBC funds not be given to Cooperative Baptist Fellowship ministries, the board noted that the seminary “does not distribute, nor will it distribute” funds to CBF ministries.
Responding to a request for seminary presidents to evaluate the relationship with accreditors, the board noted that the school has sought and received accreditation “both for the sake of credentials and for the healthy accountability that it brings.” In addition, the school has “expressed dismay when it felt that the standards were inappropriate, or inappropriately applied.”
The board stressed that compromise on theological commitments and prerogatives would not be tolerated for the sake of accreditation. But as long as “institutional integrity may prosper within the bounds of accreditation,” the seminary will continue to work with the current organizations.
Among other matters covered by the trustees were:
— An update on the fall enrollment, with preliminary figures indicating a continued increase in full-time student enrollment.
— The continued development of an extension teaching site in Wichita, Kan., which will use interactive video and conference calling. Coppenger said the seminary hopes to develop a system that will allow professors to remote teach accredited courses with as little loss to teaching quality as possible, thus reducing the demand on professors who must otherwise commute to extension sites.
Cogdill noted the seminary had been given a “good bill of health” by both Association of Theological Schools and North Central Association accrediting agencies. He also noted that he expected the remaining two notations regarding assessment and evaluation to be addressed promptly.
“I think we have that well in hand,” he said. Mike Whitehead, vice president for business affairs, also noted the seminary is currently developing a two-year financial plan in compliance with accreditation requirements.
— Curriculum review, which is currently under way at the seminary. “We’re going to look at this curriculum from top to bottom,” Coppenger explained to trustees. Trustee Ron Fullerton of California noted an emphasis on practical matters related to the ministry will be an integral part of the new curriculum.
“I went to seminary and I never learned to baptize or give the Lord’s supper,” Fullerton said. “I never learned the wisdom of how to not self-destruct. We are determined that no one come through here with out these practicalities.”
— Revisions to the faculty handbook were noted, described by academic dean Cogdill as an effort to bring the handbook into line with other documents and practices of the seminary. Cogdill noted the addition of the statement of faith and the faculty questionnaire as documents regulating the hiring of new faculty. Clarification of a “normal teaching load” for professors was also set at 18 hours.
— Trustee Jean Crady of Kentucky reported on the success of the WISDOM program directed by Coppenger’s wife, Sharon. Leading to a certificate in ministry, the 16-hour program has 93 students enrolled this fall.
— A goal of $10,200 was set by trustees for their share of contributions toward the 1997-98 annual fund which has an overall goal of $100,000. Trustee Alan Bartlett of Missouri praised students for being “very responsive and excited about contributing to the annual fund.” He said, “Teaching students to give while they’re in seminary is part of their education.” Trustees also approved a designation of 20 percent of annual fund receipts going to student financial aid, beginning next year with re-evaluation three years later.
— The student discipline policy was revised as recommended by the student development committee. Trustee Buster Brown of South Carolina noted, “The strength of our seminary is that we are able to shepherd the hearts of our students.”
After hearing a report from the business affairs committee, Coppenger was asked to comment on attempts by state conventions like Texas to redefine their relationship with the national body. “They have taken the lead on something I consider unfortunate,” he said. Coppenger told trustees not to “fear what Texas has done,” adding that any fear ought to be centered on the viability of state convention programs in a convention which turns inward.
“They say, ‘Don’t mess with Texas,’ but don’t mess with the national Cooperative Program,” Coppenger responded, adding, “I don’t think the grassroots will stand for it.”

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