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MBTS trustees affirm Roberts, Downing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Trustees of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary meeting in Kansas City, Mo., October 15–16 affirmed seminary President R. Philip Roberts and trustee board chairman Gene Downing, a businessman from Oklahoma City.

Roberts and Downing and other trustees had been at odds regarding Roberts’ handling of the seminary’s business and administrative affairs.

The executive board of the trustees met for four hours Monday morning, with Roberts joining that meeting for the latter two hours. The full board then convened in executive (closed) session shortly after 1 p.m. for five hours, taking three 10-minute breaks. Trustees declined to discuss the matter to the media, although during one such break, two unnamed trustees were heard quoting two Bible verses pertaining to Christian harmony — Galatians 6:1 and Ephesians 4:23 — saying that each was apropos for the occasion.

Twice the trustees excused Roberts and Downing from their afternoon deliberations. The first time they were excused, both men were seen in what appeared to be a conciliatory conversation.

After an opening prayer at their 8 a.m. session Oct. 16, trustees again entered executive session to discuss, among other items of business, a press release drafted by an ad hoc committee of trustees. This reflected action trustees took the day before wherein they voted not to speak to the press as individuals, but to take responsibility themselves to write their own press release.

Following is the press release in its entirety as provided by trustees to Baptist Press:

“Affirming both the integrity and leadership of seminary President, Dr. Phil Roberts, and the leadership of current Trustee Chair, Gene Downing, the Trustees of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary voted to affirm not only these two leaders, but the overall direction and mission of the seminary. Responding to recent concerns and criticisms made public, Trustees rallied to address these concerns and to affirm seminary administrative leadership and the quality assurance processes of the Trustees.

“During the MBTS Trustee meeting of October 15-16, 2007 it was noted that the finances of the school are in good condition. It was also noted that the processes and procedures of the seminary needed to be commensurate with the positive financial condition of the school.

“With the rapid growth of the seminary in recent years in terms of 1) student body enrollment, 2) the addition of an undergraduate degree program through the creation of Midwestern Baptist College, 3) the expansion of the faculty and staff and 4) with increased financial contributions, the seminary trustees acknowledged that its policies and procedures must be as up to date and as effective as possible, enabling both the President and the Trustees to carry out their duties with mutual respect and effectiveness.

“The Trustees encouraged both the administration and Trustee leadership to continue working together in cooperation and Christian understanding. Both President Dr. Phil Roberts and Trustee Chairman, Gene Downing, overwhelmingly affirmed their desire to work together for the good of the college and seminary, promising to apprise the Trustees of the steps taken to improve the processes and procedures of the school as a result of several Trustee directives issued during the two day meeting.

“Located in Kansas City, Missouri, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is in its sixth decade of training ministers and missionaries as a part of The Southern Baptist Convention’s commitment to theological education.

MBTS staff and faculty remain under a proviso that preceded the trustee meeting prohibiting them from speaking to the press.

David Tolliver, interim state executive director for the Missouri Baptist Convention and also a Midwestern trustee, told Baptist Press the “events of recent weeks and days have proven that Midwestern Seminary is larger and stronger than any one person.”

“Midwestern has weathered the recent storm and continues to stand strong on the Word of God and in the training of God-called men and women for the propagation of the Gospel. As interim state executive director, I speak confidently for Missouri Baptists when I say we are deeply pleased with the privilege and honor of being home to this great seminary.”
Norm Miller is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Va.

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