LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — In order to continue to “attract and retain a first-class academic faculty,” President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees approved updates to faculty employment policies and unified the graduate and undergraduate faculties during its April 14-15 meeting.
Trustees also approved promotions, designations to academic chairs and sabbatical leaves for faculty members, elected new officers and approved a $40.6 million budget for the 2014-2015 academic year, a 5.87 percent increase from the current year.
All actions of the board were unanimous.
New employment policies
Under new employment policies, all elected faculty will serve under a “simple academic instructional contract” rather than a tenure-based contract. Faculty will be eligible for contract terms of between one and nine years. The new policy is effective immediately and applies to all current faculty.
“Southern Seminary is returning to the classic, traditional method of hiring faculty that has marked this institution through most of its history,” Mohler said. “A tenure-based contract was the basis for hiring and retaining faculty from about 1960 to the present. But we have returned to making the election of faculty by the board of trustees the most important issue, and returning faculty to teaching on the basis of a simple academic instructional contract.”
Mohler said tenure “no longer really meets the needs of the faculty or the institution” and it “no longer ensures academic quality, but actually is a major impediment to it.”
Tenure is a “ticking fiscal time-bomb” in the world of higher education, Mohler said. “It is an economically unsustainable model and sooner or later virtually every academic institution is going to have to abandon tenure or face disaster.”
Trustees also approved an administration recommendation to “unify” the faculty of Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate school, with the graduate faculties in the School of Theology and the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.
With this trustee action, Mohler said, the college faculty is now “on par” with the graduate school faculties.
“We want to avoid any artificial, two-tier relationship between the graduate and undergraduate faculty,” he said, noting that full professors of the graduate faculty “eagerly welcomed” the undergraduate faculty in an action taken several weeks ago to affirm the administration’s recommendation to the board of trustees.
Outgoing board chairman E. Todd Fisher, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla., preached a sermon, “I Once Was Blind, But Now I See,” from Mark 10:46-52 in an April 15 seminary chapel service.
Philip Gunn, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, was elected as chairman of the board of trustees. Joining Gunn as officers are: Matt Schmucker of Washington, D.C., first vice chairman; John Thweatt of Pell City, Ala., second vice chairman; Phil West of Warner Robbins, Ga., secretary; and Stanley Craig of Prospect, Ky., chairman of the seminary’s Financial Board. Chad Wilson of Jackson, Tenn., was elected chairman of the Audit Committee.
In reports, trustees learned that Southern’s 2012-2013 total student headcount of 4,567 was the largest in the school’s history. Southern enrolls more master of divinity students than any school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.
Trustees approved the designation of J. Scott Bridger as Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies. Bridger also will serve as director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam, which the school dedicated in February.
Bridger currently is assistant professor of world Christianity and Islamic studies at Criswell College in Dallas. He holds a master of arts in Arabic language and Islamic studies from the University of Haifa (Israel) and a doctor of philosophy from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, with a dissertation on a Christian exegesis of the Koran.
In addition to Bridger, the board approved the appointment of several faculty members to academic chairs:
— Joseph R. Crider as Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of Church Music and Worship;
— Peter J. Gentry as Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation;
— Adam W. Greenway as William Walker Brookes Associate Professor of Evangelism and Applied Apologetics;
— Timothy Paul Jones as C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry;
— Bruce A. Ware as T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology; and
— Michael Wilder as J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship.
Also announced was the appointment of Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history, as director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement, a think tank studying the present and future of American evangelicalism.
In other actions, the board:
— elected Joshua R. Albertsen of Fisherville, Ky., as a temporary trustee to serve in place of Barry McRoberts, who resigned. Albertson is a member of Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Fisherville. The Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Nominations will nominate a permanent replacement during the SBC annual meeting in June;
— approved resolutions of appreciation for outgoing trustees James Owens of Charleston, S.C.; James Blount of Louisville, Ky.; and Paul Garrison of Toccoa, Ga;
— approved a “clean” financial audit for 2012-2013 by auditors Crowe Horwath;
— received an update on implementation of the seminary’s master plan, highlighting a “state of the art” renovation of the seminary’s Mullins Complex, which will house dormitories and administrative offices for Boyce College beginning in August; and
— received a report from its Financial Board that the seminary’s investment fund is at a “historic high” of $82.8 million, with an appreciation in value of $19.4 million since 2011.
James A. Smith Sr. is executive editor and chief spokesman at 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).