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Executive Committee: SBC seminaries faithfully training future leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries “continue to faithfully discharge their responsibilities to the Lord and Southern Baptists,” the SBC Executive Committee proclaimed in a resolution Sept. 19.

The Executive Committee, in its unanimous adoption of the resolution, noted that the SBC seminaries “have been unfairly criticized and threatened with withdrawal of support by certain leaders in the Baptist General Convention of Texas.”

The 10-paragraph resolution called on the BGCT “to reject the unwarranted and unfair attacks upon the seminaries and to defeat the proposal that seeks to remove their funding.”

The resolution was prompted by a proposed $4.3 million funding cut for the seminaries stemming from a theological education study committee created during the BGCT’s annual meeting last fall. The proposed cuts were expanded by more than $1 million in early September to include the SBC’s Executive Committee and Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. BGCT executive board deliberations on the proposed defunding are scheduled Sept. 26, with any final recommendations to be presented during the BGCT’s Oct. 30-31 annual meeting.

Among other actions taken by the Executive Committee during its Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., were votes to “receive as information” reports from the SBC’s various entities that Baptist distinctives have not been compromised in their various joint initiatives with other evangelical groups.

The reports range from a one-page response from the Annuity Board; two-page responses from several seminaries; a seven-page response from LifeWay Christian Resources; a 21-page response from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; to a 43-page response from the North American Mission Board.

The International Mission Board, meanwhile, will submit its report at the Executive Committee’s February 2001 meeting, President Jerry Rankin said in a letter.

Responding to a motion referred from the SBC annual meeting in June asking that SBC entities “not require their employees to sign the Baptist Faith and Message” statement of Southern Baptist beliefs, the Executive Committee framed the matter within traditional SBC practice.

The BF&M, as revised during the meeting in Orlando, Fla., is “the accepted confession governing [the SBC’s] work,” the Executive Committee said, then noting that “the responsibility of each Southern Baptist Convention entity” is to utilize the BF&M “consistent with its Southern Baptist Convention ministry assignment.”

The Executive Committee action will be reported to the June 2001 SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.

In affirming the SBC seminaries, the Executive Committee resolution made no reference to any specifics in the Texas Baptist theological study committee’s recent report.

SBC President James Merritt, however, in his message to the Executive Committee Sept. 18, made several references to key issues the SBC has faced in theological education.

Merritt dismissed any possibility of the SBC seminaries “going back to the days when [SBC] seminary professors defended abortion and homosexuality, denied biblical miracles and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and declared a universalism that substitutes sincerity of faith for salvation through Christ.”

“Our churches can send their men and women to any of our six seminaries, knowing they will get a first-rate theological education,” said Merritt, pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church of Snellville. “But even more important, they can be assured that their faith in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God will be built up and not torn down. They can be assured that they will be taught the whole counsel of God.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in his report to the Executive Committee, noted that the crucial nature of theological education is evident in “one tragedy after another … in denomination after denomination” across America during the last two centuries.

Once the seminaries moved beyond accountability, “inevitably those institutions become the instruments of ruin for the denominations they serve,” Mohler said.

“There are some who would have you to think that those who teach on our faculties are recalcitrant rebels who are drawn by the chains of a repressive confession of faith,” he continued. “There are those who would imply that the seminaries have a difficult time finding those who are willing to teach within the parameters of what Southern Baptists believe … .

“That is hardly the case,” Mohler said, “and we would not hire [such professors] if they so existed.”

He noted “there are godly scholars who would not teach anywhere but in an institution that stood by these convictions and made [their] accountability plain. They teach not because they have been constrained to teach, but because they have been called by God to teach. And they want to stand where we so publicly stand as a convention.”

Concerning the Texas theological education study committee’s visit to Southern’s campus in Louisville, Ky., Mohler noted that the delegation “forfeited and declined the opportunity to actually meet with the faculty and meet with students.” Mohler issued an invitation to “any Southern Baptist to come and visit our campus, sit in our chapel services, sit in the classroom, hear what is taught, meet our students, feel their passion, see the evangelism on their hearts, see the Great Commission in their eyes, see the love for the Scripture as they hold it in their hands, see their passion to serve the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Executive Committee, among its affirmations of the six SBC seminaries, noted:

— the involvement of the students “in hands-on evangelism, church planting, and missions as an integral part of their seminary experience.”

— a growing enrollment, surpassing a head count of 12,000.

— a commitment to “the inerrancy of the Bible which is the foundation of their doctrinal confessions including the Baptist Faith and Message.”

The Executive Committee pledged “to take all appropriate steps to insure continued financial support for their staffs, faculties and students.”

In action on other referrals from the June 2000 SBC annual meeting, the Executive Committee:

— declined to take action on a motion that 60 percent of SBC board and committee members be from churches of 300 members or less. Current selection methods, the Executive Committee said, “have resulted in SBC board members and trustees from a wide array of church sizes” while at the same time “providing qualified candidates without reference to church size.”

— agreed to initiate a feasibility review of Cleveland as a possible future site for an SBC annual meeting. The motion at the SBC annual meeting had called for the city to be selected for the June 2005 meeting.

— declined to establish a committee to study the feasibility of satellite/regional annual meeting sites “because of the complexity of implementation and negative impact on the group dynamic.”

— agreed to add a “layperson” category in the messenger survey taken at each SBC annual meeting.

— responded to a motion for restricted solicitation of non-Cooperative Program funds from local churches by noting that the Executive Committee has “initiated an ongoing evaluation of methods to ensure that SBC entities are in compliance with the SBC Business and Financial Plan.”

— declined to implement two motions calling for Pentecost and Ascension days, respectively, to be added to the denominational calendar.

In other action, the Executive Committee:

— adopted resolutions of appreciation for two state convention executive directors who are retiring Dec. 31: Clyde Billingsly of the Montana Southern Baptist Fellowship and Jere Allen of the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.

— deleted the overseas travel stipulations in the Executive Committee personnel manual to allow more flexibility in overseas travel planning whenever needed.