FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary officially dedicated and opened the J.W. “Jack” MacGorman Conference Center, an $11 million component of the newly constructed $22 million Ralph M. Smith Leadership Development Complex, in a special ceremony Sept. 10.
The conference center, named for Southwestern’s distinguished professor emeritus of New Testament, “was born out of a vision to enable Southwestern to meet the need for continuing education and training for ministry,” Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said. “The purpose of the conference center is to equip God’s people to stay on the cutting edge of ministry.
“We at Southwestern know that in a few short years we cannot give every student everything they need to be effective in ministry,” Hemphill said. “To enable Christians to continue to be effective ministers in an ever-changing world, a lifelong learning strategy, we felt, was absolutely essential. This is one component of that strategy.”
The conference center features 12 state-of-the-art conference rooms, each capable of accommodating theater-style or conference seating, Hemphill said. With a total of 55,000 square feet of meeting space, the center can accommodate 1,250 people.
MacGorman offered a prayer of dedication for the conference center, thanking his colleagues and family and God for the honor. “Anybody as indebted to the grace of God as I am needs a long life to say thank you,” MacGorman said. “We dedicate this building to the exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord.” Representing the city of Fort Worth at the ceremony were Mayor Kenneth Barr and City Councilwoman Wendy Davis. Barr also read a congratulatory letter from Texas Governor Rick Perry. Also in attendance were Austin businessman Harold E. Riley, the principal donor for the construction of the conference center, and Ralph Smith, for whom the Leadership Development Complex is named.
Barr congratulated the seminary and MacGorman on the special honor. “I think it is good and right that I express to the Southwestern Seminary community our appreciation for your service to Fort Worth. For over 90 years this institution has been quietly and effectively providing theological education right here in our community. And you’re very much a part of our community. The citizens of Fort Worth take great pride in the seminary and the education that takes place here.”
Barr said that before the ceremony he commented to Hemphill on the “tremendous view” from the front porch of the new building, and Hemphill responded, “I think very much this is just one of the seminary’s gifts to Fort Worth.”
“Thank you for your role in making our city and our world a better place to live,” the mayor said, “and thanks to each of you for being a part of the unique fabric that is Fort Worth.”
Barr read a letter of congratulations from Texas Governor Rick Perry. “This grand opening … is about much more than a building. Indeed it signals to all in our great state your commitment to continuing education and to the Texas of tomorrow.”
City councilwoman Wendy Davis said the day’s celebration was less about the building and more about “the people that make up the seminary and all of the contributions that are made by this organization to our community, both to the neighborhoods, to the school district recently with the dedication of [a new city] park, to the churches in the area and to our community in so many other ways.”
Davis said she reflected on a recent trip she made to Italy where she viewed “some of the most spectacular buildings” she had ever seen. “It’s certainly the case that they are the defining feature of the areas that I visited. I hope that someday this building, too, will be seen that way. It is going to be a very signifying feature of the incredible contributions that the seminary makes to our community, and I congratulate you on this wonderful day.”
Hemphill, Barr, Riley, Smith and MacGorman performed the ribbon cutting.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY.