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FROM THE SEMINARIES: SWBTS Founder’s Day brings reminders of heritage, values

Yarnell exhorts SWBTS to recover three-fold heritage in Founder’s Day address

Encouraging the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary community to recover the “three necessary strands” of its identity, including evangelical faith, soul-winning in all areas of ministry, and “Baptist family ways,” Research Professor of Theology Malcolm B. Yarnell III recalled the foundations of the Fort Worth institution during his Founder’s Day address on March 9.

The Founder’s Day chapel service, which is commemorated annually nearest to the anniversary of the seminary’s March 14, 1908, charter was followed by a luncheon honoring Louie and MeiFeng Lu and David and Marcia McQuitty as recipients of the B.H. Carroll Award and L.R. Scarborough Award, respectively. The awards annually honor persons who have provided significant financial support for Southwestern. 

“We offer thanks to God for every person who has influenced this place, who has invested in this place, who has shaped this wonderful institution that we now have the wonderful privilege of being a part of on this day,” said David S. Dockery, interim president, in his welcome to the gathering that included faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and members of the seminary’s board of trustees.

In his remarks, Dockery introduced a statement of the faculty of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, the seminary’s undergraduate college, that “reaffirms” the faculty’s commitment to the core values of being scripturally grounded and confessionally guided. The values are two of six new core values that will be presented to the board of trustees at its April meeting. The other core values of the institution include being grace filled, Christ centered, student focused, and globally engaged.

The faculty statement on the scripturally grounded and confessional guided core values was distributed to the chapel audience in a booklet and is also available on the seminary’s website.

Reflecting on the seminary’s founding, Yarnell noted the Fort Worth institution’s “theological heritage” includes the three components of “evangelical in doctrine, Baptist in structure or body … with a heart for soul-winning practical Christianity.”

Yarnell said the late James Leo Garrett Jr., Southwestern Seminary distinguished professor emeritus of theology, identified “three areas of doctrinal emphasis differentiate evangelicals,” including “the nature and necessity of justification or regeneration or salvation, the nature and supreme authority of the Bible, and the deity of Jesus Christ together with certain events of His ‘holy history,’ namely virginal conception, atoning death, bodily resurrection, and second coming.”

“The founding presidents, trustees, and faculty of Southwestern taught these three marks of evangelical identity,” Yarnell said, adding the seminary’s first president and founder, B.H. Carroll, “outlined … the requirements for trustees, faculty, and graduates” and required trustees and faculty to “subscribe and not seriously depart” from the “thoroughly evangelical” New Hampshire Confession of Faith, Yarnell added.

Additionally, Yarnell said in 1921 the Southwestern Seminary faculty “crafted a seven-article doctrinal statement” that “began with belief in the Bible as the Word of God” while dismissing the “rationalistic method of dealing with the Bible and evolutionary theory” while also affirming “the Genesis account.” 

Yarnell noted Southwestern’s founders “emphasized the new birth and personal conversion” as they “proclaimed far and wide, ‘You must be born again.’” Echoing the words of the seminary’s second president, L.R. Scarborough, Yarnell said, “Let us see to it that our diplomas are a guarantee of character as well as a stamp of scholarship.”

“The name ‘Southwesterner’ must ensure evangelical integrity,” Yarnell added.

Recalling the “vision” of Carroll, Yarnell said the seminary’s founder “conveyed the heartbeat of our seminary.”

“Our moral responsibility here is to train preachers of the saving Gospel,” Yarnell said, as he recounted Carroll’s words at the founding of the institution: “It is our duty to pray for more laborers. It is our duty, and theirs, to train them for efficient service.”

Yarnell encouraged the Southwestern Seminary community to have hearts “compelled by the living God’s compassion for this world” that are also “emboldened with the Good News that His Son is risen” that “invite sinners to repent, believe, and be born again by the Spirit” and that “which speak truth, always with love.”

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SWBTS faculty affirms scripturally grounded, confessionally guided core values

During his remarks at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Founder’s Day chapel on March 9, Interim President David S. Dockery introduced a statement of the institution’s faculty that reflects on the seminary’s core values of being scripturally grounded and confessionally guided.

Dockery said the statement “shows a reaffirmation and recommitment to two of our treasured core values.”

He noted the statement says to the Southwestern community and those “external” to the Fort Worth campus that “we are committed deeply to the inspiration, truthfulness, full authority, and sufficiency of Scripture and that like our founder, B.H. Carroll, we are biblicists, but even beyond we are confessionally guided,” referring to the seminary’s founder and first president.

The values are two of six newly stated core values that will be presented to the board of trustees at its April meeting. Dockery highlighted the first value, grace filled, during his Jan. 24 convocation address. The other values include Christ centered, student focused, and globally engaged.

Included in its entirety as part of the printed Founder’s Day program received by attendees, the statement was affirmed by the faculty of Southwestern Seminary and Texas Baptist College, the seminary’s undergraduate college.

Recalling the heritage of Southwestern Seminary as displayed through the faculty over the institution’s 115-year existence, the statement acknowledges the institution is now in a “pivotal moment” in its history and a “distinctive moment in the Southern Baptist Convention and North American Christianity.” The statement notes the centrality of the Bible at the founding of the Fort Worth institution, noting that “a commitment to the full inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture has been the hallmark of a faithful Southwestern identity.”

Recognizing “fresh challenges” in modern culture, including issues related to life, human sexuality, marriage, and inclusive language for God, among others, the statement notes these issues “point ultimately to issues of biblical authority and interpretation.” 

“The Southwestern community joyfully affirms the complete truthfulness and absolute authority of God’s Word,” the statement reads while also “stress[ing] both the divine and human aspects of Holy Scripture, while affirming that the Bible, the Word of God written is inerrant and fully trustworthy.” The statement also adds, “We express our full confidence in the inspired and inerrant Scriptures as the trustworthy, reliable, and authoritative Word of God,” while also recognizing, “The Bible is to be seen as the ultimate standard of authority for God’s people.”

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