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FROM THE SEMINARIES: SWBTS prison program; SBTS installs VP, deans

EDITOR’S NOTE: From the Seminaries includes news releases of interest as written and edited from Southern Baptist seminaries.

Today’s From the Seminaries includes:
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southwestern prison program changes inmate culture
By Keith Collier

ROSHARON, Texas — At 7 p.m. every Tuesday, a buzz can be heard throughout the living quarters at the Darrington prison unit as more than 200 inmates discuss the Bible and pray for one another.

Started by inmates enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Darrington extension program, the Bible studies contain both students as well as inmates from the general population. They represent the growing culture change within the Texas penal system anticipated by seminary administrators, program organizers, Texas Department of Criminal Justice leadership and lawmakers. These leaders gathered with inmate students at a chapel service Aug. 26 to celebrate the start of a new semester and to welcome the third class of students into a program that already is changing lives.

“This is a true partnership and one that we value tremendously,” Brad Livingston, TDCJ executive director, said at the chapel service at the maximum-security unit within the Texas prison system. “We already have a lot of success behind us, and I know we have future success in front of us as well.”

In 2011, Southwestern Seminary launched undergraduate classes in Darrington, offering a bachelor of science in biblical studies to 40 inmates. An additional class of students has been added each year since, and the current number of enrolled students stands at 114, with the first class expected to graduate in May 2015.

“Very clearly,” Livingston said, “it’s a program designed to change lives so that offenders who one day are released do not come back. In addition to that, the real unique component to this is so that they can minister to other offenders while they’re here within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. It’s a fascinating and unique program not found in many other places, and we are committed to it.”

The privately funded program was modeled after a similar program at Angola Prison in Louisiana, which is led by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Texas State Sen. John Whitmire, who serves as dean of the Texas Senate and chair of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, visited Angola four years ago and was immediately impressed by the impact the program had on inmates and the culture within the prison. He returned from that trip convinced that the program could be duplicated in Texas.

Whitmire addressed students during the chapel service, challenging them to continue to work hard.

“Juniors, guess what — we are already talking about when you graduate in the class of 2015, the plan is for you to go and minister to other inmates, often younger inmates who will be released sooner than later,” Whitmire said.

“You know when you got into this program that it is largely not to minister to the free world; you’re assignment — and you’re already doing it, I understand, in your cell blocks — you’re going to change the culture of this system. It’s already happening in Darrington.

“Gentleman, I need your help. The other inmates, approximately 150,000 at 109 locations this afternoon, need your help. They’re looking to you for leadership.

“We are out of space already. We met earlier this afternoon about how we can turn the gymnasium into classrooms. We are ready to receive approximately 40 more students. The Lord is going to use you to carry His message and change the whole penal system of the state of Texas.”

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson preached the chapel sermon from 2 Samuel 16, which gives the unusual account of a man named Shimei hurling rocks and curses at King David as he escaped Jerusalem when his son Absalom declared himself king. David’s mighty men asked if they should kill Shimei for his insolence, but David refused to allow it.

Patterson asked inmates how David could have responded to Shimei in this way when man’s natural tendency is to fight back.

“David was not a weak man but a meek man,” Patterson told the inmates; David recognized God’s sovereignty and trusted the Lord.

“I can absolutely trust the future to [God] because He is just, He is merciful, He is all-knowing and He is all-powerful,” Patterson said, adding, “You can trust a God like that.”

Classes at Southwestern’s Darrington program are taught by faculty from the seminary’s Houston campus. This semester, professors are teaching three classes per day, five days per week, inside the prison.

To watch a video and read more about Southwestern Seminary’s Darrington extension program, go to www.swbts.edu/Darrington.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).


Southern installs
VP, 2 deans
By RuthAnne Irvin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Installation services have been held at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for Randy Stinson as senior vice president for academic administration and provost; Gregory A. Wills as dean of the School of Theology; and Adam W. Greenway as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.

Randy Stinson

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary must prepare students not only in academics but also for hardships in future ministry, Stinson said in his installation address as senior vice president and provost at the Louisville, Ky., campus.

Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., who named Stinson to the post earlier this year, noted, “This is a responsibility of tremendous importance and a position that requires much stewardship of the entire seminary. As we think about how God has provided for us in the future we come with great gratitude.”

Stinson preached from 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 at the Aug. 29 service, noting the apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthian church to commend themselves to God through endurance of trials.

In today’s world, Stinson noted, “We’re expecting that the students who come to us will have more personal challenges, not less.”

Stinson, who served eight years as dean of Southern Seminary’s School of Leadership and Christian Ministry and was the founding dean of the School of Church Ministries, talked about young ministers who leave churches because they think the congregation will not endure sound doctrine. He emphasized the importance of biblical expectations of pastoral leadership and how the people accept such leadership.

“It’s all about expectations,” Stinson said. “What do you expect? It’s easy to say that they wouldn’t endure sound doctrine, but it’s hard to look in the mirror and see that they won’t endure you.”

Exhorting students and pastors to endure the difficult ministry situations that make the temptation to run appealing, Stinson said pastors need to commend themselves to the people they serve.

“The thing that will commend you to the people you are serving is how you endure in Christ with patience, kindness and love,” he said.

Life isn’t only about academics or how many people fill the church pews each week, Stinson said. Rather, the Christian life is about people living according to what they know and believe, patiently and in a godly manner.

“You’re learning things here that are important that will serve you well if you live according to what you know,” Stinson told the seminary audience. “Patience ruled the day for Paul.”

Southern Seminary will always be vigilant about the content taught in the classroom, Stinson said, because administrators want students to be prepared for ministry in a sinful world.

“I want our students to be a certain way and have a certain ministry,” he said. “There’s a type of minister of the Gospel that we’re trying to create here to send out — a minister of great endurance and great expectation of trial and difficulty who will face those in God.”

Stinson called the patient endurance of trials “true grit,” but not the Hollywood, John Wayne kind.

“True grit is rooted in the eternal God and His eternal reward,” Stinson said. “What commended Paul is his endurance.”

Stinson also called students to endure difficult circumstances by purity.

“There’s a way to walk through challenges and hardships and that’s by living a life that is above reproach,” he said.

Ministers, students and laymen will experience tests of faith and strength in life, but Stinson said God brings hardships because they are part of His plan to sanctify His people

“The will of God is your sanctification, or God making you more Christ-like, because there’s something on the other side of this hardship that you need to know about,” he said.

Gregory A. Wills

Faithful Christian scholars must be prepared to accept the scandal of the Gospel, even at the cost of academic reputation, Wills said in his installation service as dean of the School of Theology.

Mohler introduced Wills at the Sept. 3 service by noting, “It is right to step back and hear from the one who will take this office about what he sees in the future of the school and the reason it was established.”

Wills preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 about the scandal of the Gospel and its relation to Christian scholarship.

Wills, professor of church history and the author of several books, including “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: 1859-2009,” called the seminary community to suffer the scandal of humility in the service of the Gospel.

“I want us to reflect upon this message and its role in our scholarship and in our study of Scripture, the truth of Scripture and all things that belong unto the study of Scripture,” Wills said. “The scandal is inescapable. The scandal of the Gospel is that we must repudiate our confidence in glorious human knowledge. We must acknowledge Christ’s righteousness and abandon our own. We must die if we would live.”

Wills applied this scandal to scholarship, specifically in seminary training, noting that no scholarly evidence can compel sinners to repent and trust in Christ, but only the Gospel.

“It is crucifixion above all that scandalizes sinners. Christ crucified, Paul says, was ‘a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). It is the cross itself that offends the heart and the conscience of man,” he said.

In 1879 Southern Seminary faced the “momentous” question of whether it would stand committed when professor Crawford Toy challenged the seminary’s commitment to divine truth, Wills said, recounting that Toy was dismissed as an “act of Gospel fidelity and courage that has bolstered Southern Baptist commitment to Scripture to this day.”

“Southern Baptist life rightly established this seminary for the promotion of divine truth,” Wills said. “And we must never relinquish this task, though at great cost of labor, at great inconvenience and great grief. We must never relent in our determination to promote and defend Gospel truth. And so we repudiate tampering with the Word of God.”

Wills noted, however, that the Gospel is not about scholarship, but about Jesus Christ.

“We are content that our scholarship is employed in the statement of open, divine truth,” he said. “This means, among other things, that we do not long for the recognition of the academy, but for the ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ We are trophies of grace, not learning.”

Scholarship must serve the Gospel, Wills said, and the purpose of God’s truth is to produce love, resulting in godly living and godly dying.

Wills, setting forth a vision for how Southern Seminary desires to train ministers, said, “We are seeking to produce theologians whose theology makes them evangelists.”

He charged seminarians to be relentless in their commitment to the task, citing Southern’s founders who, in the aftermath of the Civil War, resolved that they would die before they allowed the seminary to die.

“May we do our duty and change history. Until Christ returns we must attend zealously to theological scholarship for teaching biblically sound and courageous ministers of the Gospel,” Wills said. “The church will always need such faithfully trained ministers who are trained in the scandalous scholarship of the Gospel. We believe theological education is an obligation. As long as God sustains us, we will never give up.”

Adam W. Greenway

If not careful, even seminary students can hold a deficient understanding of the Gospel, Greenway said during his Oct.1 installation address as the new dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at Southern Seminary.

Greenway, 35, is the first dean of the school since it expanded as the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, combining the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, established in 1994, and the School of Church Ministries, which began in 2009.

Mohler introduced Greenway, giving background to the Billy Graham School.

“The Billy Graham School will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. It was 20 years ago that Dr. Billy Graham was present here in Louisville for the announcement of the establishment of that school as a part of my inauguration,” Mohler said. “The Lord has greatly blessed this school over the years. This is the Lord’s timing that as the Billy Graham School enters into its 20th year and as it’s aimed toward the future, Adam Greenway would be its dean.”

Greenway, associate professor of evangelism and applied apologetics, preached from 2 Corinthians 5 about “A Full Gospel Ministry.” This era may be the “golden age” for theological uncertainty and Gospel compromise, he said, so students must confidently profess their beliefs about the Gospel.

“If ever there was a time that we need a recovery of the Gospel message mandate and mission, it is in our day,” said Greenway, who also is chairman of the trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Greenway cited four aspects of a “full Gospel ministry,” emphasizing that students who will enter ministry need to comprehend the greatness of the Gospel.

First, he said the Gospel has a “divine origination”: Everything has its source in God, and He is the hero of the redemption story of Scripture who delights in reconciling people to Himself.

The Gospel also involves a “divine declaration,” Greenway said.

People are corrupted, and each time they sin, it is like swiping a credit card that needs to be paid, he said. God would be just to charge a person’s sins to his or her account. But, he said, if God did that, humans would be doomed.

Greenway said that because of the declaration, the Gospel’s third aspect also is necessary: a “divine transaction.” People need someone to pay their debt of sin, and Jesus accomplished this on the cross. Citing 2 Corinthians 5:2, he encouraged students to contemplate what it means that Christ became sin in order to reconcile sinners to God.

Greenway’s final aspect of a full Gospel ministry is its “divine mission,” reflecting the importance of obeying the Great Commission mandate of declaring the Gospel.

Students disconnect theology from evangelism too often, he said, noting that the Billy Graham School exists to help students apply theology to life, resulting in a full ministry of the Gospel.

“Theology never finds its full expression until it becomes the driving force and passion that leads us to proclaim to sinners that there is salvation in Jesus Christ,” Greenway said.

He concluded his address by expressing thankfulness for the seminary and its faculty who work together for the same goal in training students.

“I believe at Southern Seminary in general and the Billy Graham School in particular, there’s never been a greater assembling of God-called individuals who are passionate about the full range of the Great Commission: worship, evangelism, discipleship, leadership and missions,” Greenway said. “We’ve got the family together in the Billy Graham School, and we believe it is at the very heartbeat of God that our mission and mandate is to see the nations come to worship Christ.”

Audio and video from the three installation services are available at sbts.edu/resources.
RuthAnne Irvin writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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