News Articles

Convocations mark start of fall semester

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Following tradition, Southern Baptist seminary convocations marked the start of another academic semester.

Fall convocation reports from the six SBC seminaries follow:

GOLDEN GATE — Leslie Dodrill, an associate professor of educational leadership at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary’s Arizona campus, spoke during the seminary’s fall academic convocation on the uniqueness of being the wife of a minister.

“In today’s culture, the common marriage vows ‘do you accept … for better or worse’ recognize that each partner brings to the marriage his and her total persona and its consequences,” Dodrill said on the Mill Valley, Calif., campus Sept. 9.

“One feature in a marriage which must be addressed is the spouse’s job and its implications,” said Dodrill, who also serves as associate director for student affairs.

Dodrill has served Arizona churches for nearly 40 years in a variety of lay positions, including discipleship, missions and evangelism roles. She also has served on staff at North Phoenix Baptist Church and currently is a North American Mission Board worker serving with her husband Gary in the Estrella Baptist Association.

“The woman who marries a minister cannot determine the perimeters of her role by herself alone,” Dodrill said. “Although college and seminary training is encouraged and expected for the man who has ‘accepted a call’ into the ministry, frequently the educational needs for his wife are ignored or treated casually.”

In researching the role of ministers’ wives, Dodrill has sought to answer questions such as whether expectations of a minister’s wife have changed over the years as society has changed and whether wives want or need training similar to their husbands’ seminary educations.

In 1988, she initiated a study to investigate the perceived educational needs of wives of seminary graduates during the first five years of their ministries. In 2008, she duplicated the research and compared the results of the two studies.

“Many changes in society had occurred in the two decades since the original study,” Dodrill said. “Technology had exploded, the number of women in the workplace had significantly increased, and models of church life were changing.”

As she further compared the two studies, Dodrill found that the educational needs of wives of seminary graduates during the first five years of their ministry were significantly similar.

“A majority of the wives from both years indicated they wished they had been more adequately educated for the role during their seminary years,” she said.

“All institutions of higher learning recognize the responsibility to create an appropriate program of study to prepare students for future careers,” Dodrill said. “The student begins the degree with the unspoken expectation that the institution has created the appropriate academic content. Based on my research with ministers’ wives, I recommend that all seminaries provide their students with training in areas such as conflict resolution, anger management, confidentiality, stress management, balancing priorities and a God-honoring lifestyle, Christian home and family and biblically based marriage enrichment.

“In addition, the wives of future ministers should be offered curriculum to prepare them for their responsibilities during the first five years of their husbands’ ministry,” Dodrill said.

In a Golden Gate president’s convocation Aug. 26, Jeff Iorg noted that after three years with Jesus, the disciples still were confused about the Kingdom. Iorg, the seminary’s president, identified ways that believers today also are confused.

“Some believers want Kingdom culmination privileges now, including perfect health, wealth, a Christian nation and Kingdom dominion,” Iorg said, adding that a believer instead should be a “witness, not a ruler.”

Witnesses report experiences, he said, and “a Gospel witness is one who shares the story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

“I challenge you to be a witness for God and to reject the tendency to substitute images for words, serving for speaking and ministry for message,” Iorg said. “Yes, it’s important to love, to serve and to represent Christ in our behavior. But a witness tells a story — the story. The Gospel demands it be spoken, communicated, so others can understand and make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”

Jesus clarified the scope of His Kingdom, Iorg said, when He told the disciples to take the news “to the ends of the earth.”

“Golden Gate Seminary sends people to the ends of the earth. That’s what we’re about, even though it’s an overwhelming responsibility,” Iorg said.

Despite the difficulty of the assignment, Jesus provides the power to get the job done, he said.

“Power for the Kingdom was promised to every one of us. This means we have the power to live effectively in the Kingdom and to share the Gospel around the world.”

MIDWESTERN — R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, welcomed students back to campus for the fall semester with a reminder of grace and perseverance. He also celebrated the progress on a new chapel and noted the largest fall enrollment in the seminary’s history.

Roberts, in his convocation address, emphasized the importance of a conversion experience, noting that it is possible to spend an entire life in ministry and never know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

With Acts 9 as his text, Roberts outlined the elements of a testimony and marveled at the grace extended to those who follow Jesus. He encouraged students to think about their calling, drawing a distinction between two parts.

There is “an internal calling that is an awareness, a growing unquenchable sense between you and the Holy Spirit that God wants you in His purpose,” Roberts said. In addition to the internal leading, external activities are evidences of a calling that should be seen by others.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Roberts said, “Never give in … except for convictions of honor or good sense. Never give in to the overwhelming might of the enemy.”

In an update on the new chapel, Roberts said more than 1,400 volunteers from 100-plus Christian organizations and churches have contributed an estimated 70,000 hours of labor to the construction process.

“It’s amazing to see what the dedication and sacrifice of so many of the Lord’s people has produced,” Roberts said. “We are so grateful for all they’ve done. There’s still plenty of work to be done, however, and we gladly welcome any and all groups and individuals willing to help us accomplish this incredible work of the Lord.”

The groundwork for the new chapel began in March, and structural efforts by the volunteer groups began in May. The project is on schedule to be completed by the end of the year.

Roberts also reported an enrollment of 905 students for the fall semester. “In addition to the increase in many of our traditional programs, we’re encouraged with the tremendous growth in our doctoral studies department and the addition of our 100 percent online degree program, the master of arts in theological education,” he said.

“We give the Lord the thanks and all the glory for bringing us these students, who are called of Him to pursue their theological education and become more effective in their ministries,” Roberts said.

The President’s Medallion, a recognition awarded by the Midwestern president to those who support the seminary, was presented to Houston and Mary Ellen Wilson, who have donated to the chapel project.

Roberts said the Wilsons “sacrificially gave of themselves to serve the Lord and help us accomplish our mission for us to move forward.” The two Missouri natives have been consistent donors and volunteers for Midwestern throughout the years.

NEW ORLEANS — Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, urged students to commit themselves to God’s mission for their lives during the seminary’s convocation Sept. 7.

Kelley’s message introduced a seminary-wide focus on the school’s mission for the academic year. The institution’s mission is one of five core values upon which it founds educational practices. The other four are doctrinal integrity, spiritual vitality, characteristic excellence and servant leadership. Of all the school’s core values, Kelley said the mission is the only one that is sometimes questioned.

Those who question it see the seminary primarily as an educational institution, he said, but while “the part of the mission that we spend most time on is the preparation of leaders … all of us, faculty and students, are engaged in the task of making the Gospel known throughout the whole world, calling all to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”

Kelley’s text was John 15:10 in which Jesus teaches His disciples that obedience to the Word of God is the key to abiding in His presence and love. Kelley said people tend to think of missions in terms of what one can do with one’s gifts, but there is more to doing missions than people tend to think.

Having recently marked the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on the seminary, Kelley drew from experience to drive home the importance of staying committed to the mission. Everyone will face a crisis at some point that challenges their understanding of their mission, he said.

“You will have an experience of the bottom dropping out, of life changing quite unexpectedly and not knowing where to turn. And that’s when you’re going to find what you believe about the sovereignty of God.”

Kelley said God impressed upon him in the early days after Katrina that He was still in charge and that “circumstances are no indication of the authority and power of God.” God reminded him that his mission was to serve the seminary. In any life-altering circumstance, Kelley said the first thing to do is to focus on the mission.

Understanding the mission of NOBTS, Kelley said, helped him find a starting place to rebuild. “The first thing wasn’t about getting the campus fixed,” he said. “The first thing was about: Do you understand you are still on a mission? And I knew before the end of that day that we were going to have graduation in December.”

Kelley pointed to Jesus’ example in going to the cross as a model of mission focus. “He was doing what God wanted to do. Therefore, He knew He was in the grip of the Father who loved Him.” For Christians today, Kelley said, “it is as we are doing what God wants us to do that we experience His loving presence.”

Kelley said the mission is not only an agenda of things to do but a pathway into the heart of God.

“You must be committed to the mission of God because it is in that commitment to the mission — it is in the doing of the mission — that God works His deepest work in our hearts and in our souls.”

If students are faithful to the mission, the Kingdom of God will advance and they will experience the love and grace of God, Kelley said, referring to John 15:10.

Also at the convocation service, Kelley honored Bill Warren, professor of New Testament and Greek and director of the H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies, for 20 years of service to the seminary.

Four faculty members were recognized for 10 years of service: Curtis Scott Drumm, associate dean, director of institutional effectiveness and associate professor of theological and historical studies at Leavell College; Norris Grubbs, associate professor of New Testament and Greek at Leavell College; Lloyd Harsch, associate professor of church history at NOBTS; and Laurie Watts, associate professor of educational technology, Leavell College.

Kelley opened the convocation service by introducing three new faculty members who declared their commitment to certain doctrinal beliefs by signing the seminary’s confession of faith: Deok Jae Lee, assistant professor of Christian ministry and director of the NOBTS Korean program; Dan Warner, associate professor of Old Testament and archaeology; and Rhyne Putman, instructor of theology.

SOUTHEASTERN — The first Baptist missionary to a foreign land was not William Carey or Adoniram Judson but a little-known former slave who took the Gospel to Jamaica nearly a decade before Carey departed England for India, Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said.

Speaking to the largest new student class ever at Southeastern as well as returning students, faculty and staff, Akin held up the example of George Leile by preaching from Galatians 6:11-18 in fall convocation Aug. 24.

Leile was a freed slave from Georgia who, in 1782, left his native land for Jamaica to preach the Gospel and plant a church. Though he is underappreciated today, Akin said his work predates Carey, known as the father of the modern missions movement, by a decade.

Akin has made a habit in recent years of wedding the life of a pioneer missionary to textual exegesis in various sermons, the first five of which were published in a book called “Five Who Changed the World.” During this sermon, Akin taught that by looking at the passage and the life of Leile, one could gain insight into a cross-centered ministry.

“In the man George Leile we find the heartbeat for ministry and missions joined to that of the Apostle Paul, who wrote in Galatians 6:14, ‘But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world had been crucified to me, and I to the world.’ Here we find the grounding for faithful ministry and a passion for missions,” Akin said.

In Leile’s life, believers can see several marks of a cross-centered ministry. Looking at verses 11 through 13, Akin said Paul “rips into” those who desire to make a “good showing in the flesh.” Instead, Akin said a cross-centered ministry should be characterized by humility and not pride.

“How contrary the mindset of pride and boasting is to a cross-centered minister. How contrary this mindset is to what we see in the life and ministry of Jesus, of Paul, of George Leile,” Akin said.

Although freed by his Baptist slave owner after his conversion in 1773, Leile consistently considered himself a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ, even willingly working bivocationally throughout his ministry in order that he might humbly give glory to God.

“This man did not want to live a wasted life, but one that was glorifying to Jesus.”

Akin said Leile also modeled Paul’s words of desiring to glory in Christ alone. Quoting a sermon by preacher Charles Spurgeon on Paul’s ministry, Akin said, “‘If he glories in Christ, he must expect to be misunderstood, misrepresented and attacked…. Ask the Lord to give you grace enough to suffer and endure for that precious Savior who will give you reward enough when you see Him face to face, for one hour with Him will make up for it all! Therefore, be faithful, and may the Lord help you thus to glory in the Cross of Christ.’

“As it was to Paul, as it was to Spurgeon, so it was for George Leile,” Akin said, adding that Leile understood he would be attacked as he preached the bloody cross and Christ crucified. He preached to slaves in Savannah, Ga., for two years before he and his family became indentured servants and moved to Jamaica.

“During eight years of preaching, Leile baptized 500 persons and established a strong church in Kingston [Jamaica],” Akin said.

Furthermore, Leile appealed for more missionaries to be sent. By 1814, there were 8,000 Baptists in Jamaica and in 1832 there were 20,000.

“He was not only sent, but a sender as well.”

The convocation service also was a chance for professors to be installed as elected faculty. Nathan Finn, Edward Gravely, George Robinson and Heath Thomas did so by signing the Abstract of Principles and the Baptist Faith and Message. David Hogg, associate professor of theology and medieval studies, was awarded the Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award.

SOUTHERN — Southern Baptists are indebted to evangelicalism and yet are crucial to its future, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s fall convocation.

Mohler, Southern’s president, said evangelicalism now depends on Southern Baptists for the continuation of its identity despite the fact that historically evangelicalism found its identity apart from the influence of Southern Baptists.

“In decades previous it was American evangelicalism that was a necessary witness to Southern Baptists about the inerrancy of Scripture and the necessity of biblical doctrine and of holding fast to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler said. “It now seems that it has fallen upon Southern Baptists to put forth a stalwart witness to what remains of American evangelicalism of those very same truths, of those necessary commitments, of those essential doctrines.

“In this new age, Southern Baptists and Southern Seminary have a particular work to do and a particular witness to extend,” Mohler said. “What we must now pursue is a mode of evangelical engagement that gives witness both to our own denomination and to the larger evangelical world of what is required of us to be both Southern Baptist and evangelical.”

Mohler provided a historical overview of the evangelical movement.

“Southern Baptists were largely unshaped by the fundamentalist-modernist controversy,” Mohler said, “not completely unscathed but largely untouched.”

But the debate over biblical inerrancy in the Southern Baptist Convention stood in much parallel to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy a half-century earlier.

“The fundamentalist-modernist controversy did arrive on Southern Baptist shores,” Mohler said. “It just washed up about a half-century late and when it arrived, amazingly enough, the battle lines and the issues of debate were almost exactly those of the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of mainline Protestantism a half-century before.”

Southern Baptists, much like the evangelicals decades before them, Mohler said, struggled to find a clear identity. Because of having learned much from evangelicalism’s history and scholarship, he said, Southern Baptists owe a certain debt of gratitude to evangelicalism.

“When Southern Baptists needed theological definition and were swimming in a swamp desperate to gain some footing and some theological grounding, it is important to recognize that Southern Baptists were dependent upon an existing core of evangelical scholars and an existing body of evangelical scholarship,” he said.

Now, in a reversal of roles, evangelicalism depends on Southern Baptists for the perpetuation of its identity and doctrine, Mohler said.

“As Southern Baptists and as The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we must simultaneously reflect upon the indebtedness of this institution and this denomination to American evangelicalism and commit ourselves to be a witness back to that movement, to the very emphasis that brought it into being and the very doctrine that shaped its early commitment and of the commitment to truth that was its animating purpose from the beginning,” he said.

Mohler concluded the address by expressing his confidence that God would do something “remarkably evangelical” to the glory of His name in this generation, stating his belief that “Southern Seminary has a role to play, a responsibility to fulfill, a debt to repay and a future to pursue.”

As part of the Aug. 24 convocation, Mohler installed Gregory Brewton as the Carolyn King Ragan Associate Professor of Leadership and Church Ministry for the school of church ministries. Brewton also serves as coordinator for music and worship studies and department coordinator of music studies at Boyce College, a position he has held since 2002.

Mohler also recognized the addition of Owen Strachan to Southern’s faculty as instructor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary. Strachan is the son-in-law of Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern. Mohler noted that this is the first time a father- and son-in-law have served on the faculty together since A.T. Robertson became the son-in-law of John Broadus.

Marvin E. Tate, senior professor in the school of theology, was honored for 50 years of service to Southern Seminary. Mohler presented Tate with a brick from the original Norton Hall building structure to mark the occasion.

Additionally, two professors — Timothy Paul Jones and Shawn Wright — signed the seminary’s Abstract of Principles. Jones serves as associate professor of leadership and church ministry for the school of church ministries, editor of The Journal of Family Ministry and family and children’s ministry coordinator at Southern, while Wright serves as associate professor of church history for the school of theology and is one of the pastors at Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville.

SOUTHWESTERN — Political and social agendas will not ultimately heal the world’s problems, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during the seminary’s convocation chapel Aug. 19.

“Resolve all the social problems you want to, and life is not going to get any better,” Patterson told students. “And the reason for that is that all of politics, all of statesmanship and all of social studies attempt to address nothing more than the symptoms of the problem. The problem that lies at the heart of all of it is the problem that you have been called to address.”

This problem, Patterson said, is summed up in Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

In a world filled with individuals who believe most people are basically good, Patterson said Southwestern students have been called to proclaim the sinfulness of humanity and the solution for that sinfulness: Jesus Christ, who bore the guilt of the world on the cross. At the end of his message, Patterson challenged students to examine their own relationships with Jesus Christ.

Earlier in the convocation service, Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost of the seminary, spoke about the seminary’s purpose before introducing four new trustee-elected faculty members.

“The educational mission of Southwestern Seminary originates in the Great Commission, in which the Lord taught us to make disciples of all nations by teaching them to obey everything He has commanded them,” Blaising said.

“Faithfulness to Christ and His Word are the central principles of the work we do. To carry out our task, Southwestern has assembled a faculty who share a common faith in Christ and in the authority of His Word. It has been so since the beginning of our institution over 100 years ago.”

The newly elected faculty members signed the seminary’s book of confessional heritage, indicating their agreement to teach in accordance with the Baptist Faith & Message. In the College at Southwestern, Donald Kim was elected to serve as assistant professor of Bible. In the school of theology, Matthew McKellar was elected to serve as associate professor of preaching.

Faculty members elected to serve in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions were John Michael Morris, assistant professor of missions, and Matthew Queen, assistant professor of evangelism.

Blaising also introduced three newly appointed faculty members at the beginning of the convocation chapel: Vern Charette, instructor of preaching in the school of theology; Thomas Kiker, assistant professor of pastoral ministry in the school of theology; John Simons, professor of music ministry and associate dean of community relations in the school of church music; and Terry Wilder, associate professor of New Testament in the school of theology.
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; Katie Brosseau of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Suzanne Davis of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren Vanderburg of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Josh Hayes of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Benjamin Hawkins of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    About the Author

  • Staff