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Hemphill says Blaising’s hiring culminates convention-wide search

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–The hiring of a new executive vice president and provost highlighted the trustee meeting at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Oct. 16-17.

Southwestern’s trustees also elected a Louisiana pastor, Rick Byargeon, as associate professor of Old Testament and approved new master of arts in worship and certificate in church music studies degree programs.

Craig Blaising, who will serve as the chief operational officer and chief academic officer of the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, will assume the posts Jan. 1. Blaising, who also will join the faculty as a professor of theology, currently is professor of Christian theology and associate vice president for doctoral studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Hemphill told trustees he was “thrilled and honored to present Craig Blaising to you” as his choice for the provost position. His hiring successfully concludes “an extensive convention-wide search” for a new chief academic officer, Hemphill said.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. described Blaising as “a world-class scholar, a fine administrator and a Christian gentleman. His scholarship is rooted in his deep Christian conviction. He is a skilled teacher and mentor to students.

“Craig Blaising will be a wonderful provost for Southwestern Seminary,” Mohler continued. “He is a great asset to the Southern Baptist Convention and the larger evangelical world.” Mohler said Blaising “has served with distinction, is a cherished friend and colleague, and he will be greatly missed.”

Byargeon, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, La., began teaching as a guest professor in August. The Louisiana native has pastored other churches in his native state and in Oklahoma and Texas since his college days at Louisiana College where he earned a bachelor of arts in 1980.

Byargeon earned a master of divinity and a doctor of philosophy degree from Southwestern Seminary. He served as associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1993-99 and assistant professor of religion at Oklahoma Baptist University from 1988-93.

Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said Byargeon brings great skills to the Old Testament faculty.

“Rick Byargeon has quickly become a very popular Old Testament professor with our students,” Hemphill said. “He is an excellent scholar and is also an accomplished pastor of one of the largest churches in Louisiana. He brings together a unique combination of academic and practical experience.”

Among Southwestern’s academic highlights this year thus far, Hemphill pointed out that the seminary’s international student enrollment of 244, representing 45 countries, is larger than the total enrollments of 70 percent of all U.S. seminaries.

A new compact disc produced by the admissions office was introduced by Hemphill which includes the contents of the course catalog and interviews with faculty and students. Hemphill told trustees the CD will save the seminary about $50,000 in printing and mailing the catalog this year. One of the seminary’s master of arts in communication students assisted in the project.

Hemphill shared six goals for Southwestern with trustees, including being the number one provider of theological education for the evangelical world; upgrading the faculty and continuing to make their compensation more competitive; and pursuing global objectives.

Concerning the global-oriented goals, Hemphill said the seminary is now partnering with the Graduate Institute in Applied Linguistics to provide mission-minded students a degree to enhance their future missions endeavors.

Grant Lovejoy, the seminary’s James B. & Sarah Glover Professor of Preaching and Evangelism, told trustees that Southwestern is training people to share the gospel through “storying.” A seminary graduate is training believers in the Sudan, for example, to share 160 biblical stories in chronological order, some even using the song and dance of their culture, Lovejoy said.

Lovejoy said the International Mission Board has asked him to expand the training for missionaries from around the world. To do so he is taking a sabbatic leave in the spring.

Hemphill’s other goals entail pursuing academic excellence; facilitating the seminary’s campus master plan approved by trustees last fall; and providing adequate financial resources to keep student costs at low levels compared to most seminaries.

Hemphill thanked Southern Baptists for their continued support, totaling more than $11 million through the Cooperative Program in the 2000-2001 fiscal year, accounting for 43 percent of the seminary’s operating budget.

Hemphill also thanked Texas Baptists who gave about $1 million through designated gifts through the Baptist General Convention of Texas and nearly $500,000 through the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention.

Southwestern’s fall enrollment is 3,066 students, a slight increase over the fall of 2000. David McQuitty, dean of student services, said enrollment in Internet and Lay Theological Studies courses has nearly doubled over a year ago.

Hubert Martin, vice president for business services, reported that the value of Southwestern’s endowment is up $60 million from 1992, though it has dropped $20 million this year due to the down year in the stock market.

Martin told trustees the seminary is exploring the possibility of acquiring a site to relocate and expand the seminary’s Houston campus which currently meets at Houston Baptist University. Trustees passed a resolution encouraging the seminary to pursue the possible site. To use the proposed site and make it a self-sustaining seminary, Southwestern has set a campaign goal of $5 million to renovate existing buildings, expand the library, build an endowment and cover operating and maintenance costs.

Bob Mathis, the seminary’s new director of institutional research and planning, reported to trustees on the seminary’s accreditation. A self-study produced for the school’s 10-year reaccredidation site visit was well-received, he said. The Association of Theological Schools, one of the seminary’s accrediting agencies, acted on the report and the recommendations of a visiting committee in their June meeting.

The ATS reaffirmed Southwestern’s accreditation for 10 years, approved a number of new degree programs and granting permission for the offering of M.Div. and MACE degrees at the Houston campus.

The ATS noted five strengths of the seminary: commitment and cohesiveness of faculty; an exceptionally well-maintained and enhanced campus; fundraising as exemplified in the capital campaign; emphases on globalization; and an outstanding school of music, which also is accredited with National Association of Schools of Music through 2005.

Mathis said he is beginning the job of surveying various constituency groups — ministers, laypersons, community leaders, students — to evaluate “the kind of job we’re doing” so that the seminary can build in systematic, comprehensive, ongoing improvement.

Trustees approved a recommendation from the president in response to a motion at the June 2001 SBC meeting asking the seminaries to explore and implement methods to train students to reach homosexuals. Hemphill reported that a task force of faculty members had been formed to examine what the seminary is doing in counseling, social work and pastoral ministry courses. Recommendations will be developed and presented at the spring trustee meeting.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the seminary honored Dr. and Mrs. Richard Baker of McKinney, Texas, and Dr. and Mrs. Lewis Drummond of Birmingham, Ala., with the L.R. Scarborough Award at a luncheon. Recipients are chosen based on their support and participation in the seminary and on their life and witness.

In other business, trustees:

— promoted Al Travis from professor of organ to distinguished professor of organ.

— approved the audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended July 31.

— approved Marjorie E. Baker of Dallas, Thomas F. Bickley of Bedford, Texas, and Mr. and Mrs. Ray Caldwell of Weatherford, Texas, as next year’s recipients of the B.H. Carroll Award.

— elected Anthony George, pastor of Aloma Baptist Church in Winter Park, Fla., to fill the trustee position vacated by Jim Leftwich.

— changed the dates of the spring trustee meeting to April 8-10, 2002.

— passed a resolution of appreciation for Scotty Gray, former vice president for academic administration and institutional planning, who retired July 31 after 30 years of dedicated service to the seminary.

    About the Author

  • David Porter