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BGCT president derides doctrine of SBC seminaries

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The future of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries looks dim, according to Bob Campbell, president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“Those are no longer Baptist seminaries. … They are renegade seminaries tied to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” Campbell said during a June 28 breakfast sponsored by Texas Baptists Committed and held as an auxiliary meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly.

David Currie, executive director of Texas Baptists Committed, agreed. Some individual professors at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth might be “working hard to make a difference,” Currie said, but Jerry Falwell had named Southwestern and the other five seminaries “fundamentalist institutions.”

“By and large that’s what they are,” Currie said. “They are not traditionally Baptist as I understand it. I would certainly hope that Texas students will not attend Southwestern because I don’t feel that they will get a traditional Baptist education.”

Texas Baptists Committed is a moderate group that has advocated diverting funds from the SBC and also encouraged ministerial students to enroll in one of 12 moderate theology schools, three of which are in Texas.

Campbell, pastor of Houston’s Westbury Baptist Church, condemned in particular Southwestern, the largest SBC seminary, saying that it had been taken over by fundamentalists bent on forcing conformity and ignoring traditional Baptist beliefs.

“You do not need to be in a school where the Baptist Faith and Message cannot be studied critically. That is indoctrination and not an education,” Campbell said.

When asked by Baptist Press to comment further on the condition of the seminaries, Campbell said the criticism was warranted.

“A lot of our seminaries are hiring people who are graduates of Princeton. They are stacking Princeton graduates up at Southern in a big way. Many of them do not have degrees from Baptist schools, but schools like Liberty University, Bob Jones University, Luther Rice Seminary, Mid-America Seminary. These are not Baptist schools. They are owned and operated by private groups who call themselves Baptists, but are accountable to no one,” he said.

However, Southwestern spokesman David Porter said the seminary is upholding the doctrines held by most Southern Baptists and its faculty members are committed to traditional Baptist doctrine.

“I think it is ironic that he would accuse us of being a ‘renegade.’ The word ‘renegade’ means a deserter from one faith to another, from one cause to another. We are committed to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a matter of principle and accountability to Southern Baptist churches,” Porter said.

He also said that Southwestern and the other five SBC seminaries remain committed to missions and evangelism.

As for Southwestern, Porter said that the seminary has continued to strive for excellence in theological education for Baptist ministers and laypeople.

“We are confident that rank and file Southern Baptists are well pleased with what Southwestern and the other seminaries are teaching and invite any Southern Baptist who would desire to come and see for themselves. The support we have received in Texas and around the country shows that we are widely supported. All of our faculty are fully committed Southern Baptists, some of whom have been privileged to study in highly regarded, non-Southern Baptist schools,” Porter said.

Rigorous academic standards and research at Southwestern are undergirded by confessional accountability that Baptists have always practiced, Porter said.

“Our students are challenged to understand the issues of the day and are confronted with the issues they will face in their ministries,” he said. “The proof is in the quality of our graduates.”

Lawrence Smith, vice president of communications at Southern Seminary, also responded to Campbell’s comments and claimed that the “six Southern Baptist seminaries are walking and working together in an unprecedented harmony of conviction and cooperation.”

“Southern Seminary is proud to be held accountable by the churches of the SBC. We take seriously our responsibility to train faithful ministers of the gospel. If Bob Campbell wants to encourage moderate students to attend the BGCT schools, that is his privilege. But he has no right to misrepresent the SBC seminaries in a desperate attempt to make his case. We will continue to do our part to fulfill the Great Commission mandate even as the leadership of the BGCT continues to throw stones,” Smith said.

Although urging students to opt for the CBF’s 12 partner schools, Campbell voiced no comment on the Baptist heritage of those schools, such as Brite Divinity School(one of four seminaries of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), Candler School of Theology (one of 13 official seminaries of the United Methodist Church) and Duke Divinity School (also supported by the Methodist Church).

Also, while condemning the Princeton education of some SBC professors, Campbell did not comment on exploratory talks between Harvard Divinity School and Baylor’s Truett Seminary that may lead to exchanges of faculty and students.

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  • Gregory Tomlin