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‘Dinner on the grounds’ bonds partner agencies

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It was like an old-fashioned “dinner on the grounds.” Tables covered with red checkered cloths. Pitchers of ice tea. Huge baked potatoes topped with choices of butter, sour cream, bacon, tomatoes, cheese and more. Mouth-watering cakes and pies. Lots of fellowship and plenty of food. A group of happy Baptists “eating and meeting.”
But some things were different. The “grounds” for the dinner were the fifth floor of the Southern Baptist Convention Building in Nashville, Tenn. The staff of Seminary Extension hosted the dinner in their office space. The guests — the staff of the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives — came by elevator, not cars, from their offices one floor below.
The Aug. 20 fellowship was the first time the two staffs had gotten together since being incorporated into the new Council of Seminary Presidents, formed June 19 as part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s “Covenant for a New Century” restructuring.
The Seminary Extension workers thought a dinner in their office area would be a good way to let the Library and Archives staff see where they work and learn something of what they do. The guests said they expected to invite Seminary Extension to visit their offices at a later time.
“Seminary Extension has always been an established and respected program of theological education conducted by the six SBC seminaries,” said R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and first president of the Council of Seminary Presidents. “Now the seminaries also have responsibility for the SBC Historical Library and Archives. We are charged to maintain a first-rate archive and library for the entire denomination.”
Ed Thiele, executive director of Seminary Extension, said, “We are happy to be merged with the SBC Historical Library and Archives as a supplement to the work of our six Southern Baptist seminaries. The Library and Archives are preserving history and we at Seminary Extension are attempting to make history — by serving church leaders and members who for some reason are unable to attend seminary. We provide opportunities for theological education either by correspondence or in a classroom setting at more than 350 Extension Centers across the country.
“Our staffs relate well, partly because our offices are on adjacent floors, but mostly because we share a mission of serving our Lord and Southern Baptists,” Thiele said.
Bill Sumners, director and archivist for the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, added, “Our staff is pleased to be with Seminary Extension under the umbrella of the Council of Seminary Presidents. This is primarily due to the good and committed people who serve in the Seminary Extension program.
“In some ways our work is quite different and unrelated. But in one way we are most similar — we both educate through the sharing of information. The users of the library and archives access our information by visiting our collection in person or contacting us by mail, telephone or e-mail.
“We look forward to working with the Council of Seminary Presidents and Seminary Extension as we endeavor to collect, preserve and make available for use Baptist historical materials,” Sumners said.
Mohler said he was pleased with “the spirit of cooperation and energy which has been shown by the staffs of both programs. Bill Sumners and Ed Thiele are two fine professionals who are providing excellent leadership. They have the confidence of the seminary presidents and the loyalty of their staff members.”

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  • Leonard E. Hill