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MBTS marks record enrollment, donor gifts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Reports of record enrollment and donor gifts and a new Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching were relayed to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustees during their Oct. 20 meeting at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

Faculty elections and re-elections, the announcement of new library leadership and responses to motions referred from the SBC annual meeting in June also were part of the trustees’ fall meeting.

In his report to trustees, MBTS President Jason Allen noted that the seminary’s fall semester enrollment has reached an all-time high.

“In today’s challenging environment for higher education, it is not lost on me that a seminary president rarely has the opportunity to announce an increase in enrollment, much less such a significant influx of new students,” Allen said. “In reflecting on the way God has moved so mightily over this past year, it brings great encouragement to me and to the Midwestern Seminary community to announce an enrollment surge of 19 percent for the fall 2014 semester.”

Total fall enrollment is 1,427, up from 1,197 in the fall of 2013. Allen added that Midwestern’s year-to-date number of credit hours sold, as of Oct. 16, was up nearly 16 percent.

In institutional gifts, Allen reported that the seminary totaled more gifts raised in the fiscal year of Aug. 1, 2013, to July 31, 2014, than in all other years — 1957 to 2012 — combined.

Faculty additions

Allen, who celebrated his second anniversary as Midwestern’s president on Oct. 15, noted to the board that, “The most important thing a board of trustees can undertake, short of electing a president, is to hire faculty members.”

Following interviews with and recommendations from the trustees’ academic development committee, the full board unanimously voted to elect five new faculty members and re-elect two current faculty members to three-year contracts.

Newly elected faculty members are Jason Duesing as provost and associate professor of historical theology; Christian George, curator of the seminary’s Spurgeon Library and assistant professor of historical theology; Matthew Swain, assistant professor of church music; David Sundeen, director of online education and assistant professor of ministry and evangelism; and Sung Jin Park as dean of Korean studies and assistant professor of biblical studies.

David McAlpin, associate professor of biblical interpretation, and Radu Gheorghita, director of the Romanian doctoral program and associate professor of biblical studies, were both unanimously re-elected. McAlpin has served at Midwestern in administration and teaching roles since 2008 and Gheorghita has been on the faculty since 2001.

“It brings me great joy that each of these men have been elected and re-elected to the faculty by our trustees,” Allen said. “The Lord has led each of them to Midwestern Seminary ‘for such a time as this,’ and they bring a wealth of scholarship and ministry experience that not only supplements our strong faculty but will benefit the learning experience for the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders for the church.

“I am particularly proud to introduce Dr. Jason Duesing as our provost,” Allen continued. “He is well-known throughout Southern Baptist life — and the broader evangelical world — as a man with sterling character, as an accomplished theologian and church historian, and as one deeply committed to the local church and the Great Commission. Moreover, he rightly understands the role of theological education is to serve to the local church.” Allen added that this move solidifies the oversight of the academic division and positions the seminary well for the future.

In other academic division announcements, Allen noted that Kennette Harder has been appointed as director of library services and associate professor of library and information sciences. Harder will transition to Midwestern Seminary from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., where she has served as acquisitions/collection development librarian since 2009.

Additionally, Matthew Millsap has been appointed as assistant director of library services and assistant professor of Christian studies. Millsap is a recent Ph.D. in systematic theology graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, where he taught adjunctively in The College at Southwestern. Millsap’s doctoral thesis centered on the intersection of popular culture, technology and theology.

Both Harder and Millsap are due to assume their duties and join the Midwestern Seminary community on Jan. 1, 2015.

Other business

Allen updated the board on construction plans for the new Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching (see Oct. 28 Baptist Press story) and major renovations to the administration building and adjacent courtyard. Allen reported that the $2.5 million construction project is scheduled to begin in January and to be completed by June 1, 2015.

Midwestern’s Spurgeon Library includes Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s personal collection of more than 6,000 books and hundreds of artifacts, letters and assorted materials. The seminary acquired the collection in 2006 from William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. Born in 1834, the famed preacher served as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London from 1854 until his death in 1892.

Christian George, curator of the Spurgeon Library, will head the Spurgeon Center. George, a Spurgeon scholar, holds a Ph.D. in theology from St. Andrews University in Scotland.

In additional business, trustees unanimously approved the seminary’s response to two referrals from the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 10-11 annual meeting in Baltimore.

The first referral requested “SBC Seminaries to Study Biblical Tithing.” The board approved the seminary’s response, which noted that Midwestern Seminary’s professors teach in accordance to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. As such, since biblical stewardship is a recurring theme throughout one’s seminary experience, students are encouraged to practice, model and teach on biblical stewardship in their respective ministries.

The second referral requested “Reduced Fees for Online Seminary Courses.” The board approved the response, which included that, with full awareness of the many financial challenges students and churches face, Midwestern Seminary seeks to provide theological education as inexpensively as feasible. While Midwestern already is one of the least expensive of the SBC seminaries, the administration will continue to monitor all pricing structures, including online courses, and seek ways to make first-class theological education as affordable as possible.

Midwestern Seminary’s 34-member board of trustees meets biannually in October and April.

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  • T. Patrick Hudson