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Midwestern revises purpose statement to maintain Southern Baptist distinctives

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Modifications to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s purpose statement will allow the Southern Baptist school to accomplish its vision of educating students “to evangelize and congregationalize” without compromising convictions affirmed by the 16-million-member denomination.
In the April 20-21 trustee meeting in Kansas City, Mo., the board unanimously approved the new purpose statement growing out of themes President Mark Coppenger brought to the seminary in 1995. With a broader commitment to the entire world, the statement now states the seminary’s purpose as being “to provide degree programs to educate God’s servants to biblically evangelize and congregationalize the world, with special focus on the Midwest/Great Plains region of America.”
Footnotes attached to the statement are especially significant, Coppenger said. One stipulates that the term “biblically” affirms inerrancy as maintained in The Baptist Faith and Message, the findings of the 1987 Peace Committee Report, the 1993 Report of the President’s Theological Study Committee and the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
“Should the seminary countenance teaching contrary to these clarifying documents, this would constitute disloyalty to its purpose statement,” the footnote reads.
In a notation to the use of the term “congregationalize,” the document states that the seminary “maintains, consistent with Convention resolution and agency policy, that, while a wonderful range of strategic and effectual ministry is open to both men and women, the pastor of a biblical congregation must be a male.”
Coppenger explained the Association of Theological Schools, which serves as one of Midwestern’s accreditors, has favored gender neutrality, but has allowed institutions to draw distinctions in their key documents. “The burden to identify with traditional biblical understanding of the role of men and women fell to us, and we responded,” he said.
Coppenger later said that the revised statement “clearly advances the missionary purpose of the seminary and secures its unequivocal commitment to biblical inerrancy in the explicit detail.”
And with the election of additional faculty, trustees of Midwestern Seminary have insured that “the range of courses will be covered by a professor holding to the inerrancy of Scripture,” Coppenger noted, citing two unanimous votes to call new faculty members to vacancies in the seminary’s Old Testament department.
Steve Andrews, currently an associate professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, was elected as professor of Old Testament and archaeology. Gary Smith will also join Midwestern as professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, having served the past 15 years as professor of Old Testament at Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Tony Preston, director of diploma studies and a visiting professor of pastoral ministries since 1995, was elected to the faculty as assistant professor of pastoral leadership. Trustees also extended the teaching contracts of Terry Wilder in New Testament and Greek and Buz McNutt in biblical studies.
Michael McMullen was named visiting professor of church history with a two-year contract. McMullen was educated at Aberdeen University in Scotland where he received his bachelor of divinity, master of theology and doctor of philosophy degrees.
In commenting on the newly elected faculty, Coppenger said, “Some said that we could not find excellent faculty given our commitment to biblical inerrancy. These appointments should continue to relieve them of that misconception.”
In recommending Andrews and Smith to trustees, Coppenger acknowledged that the seminary, since its founding, “has been identified with a less-than-inerrantist stance regarding the Old Testament.”
“Now some 19 years into the new day in the SBC, Midwestern is bringing on board two men who believe that Isaiah wrote Isaiah. It is shameful that it has taken this long, but better late than never.”
In addition to his professorial responsibilities, Andrews will serve as director of the Morton Collection of Ancient Artifacts of the Bible Lands. The collection, which includes a number of high-quality coin, scarab and terra-cotta lamp specimens, was assembled in the 1940s and ’50s by the late William Morton, a prominent archeologist and professor of biblical archaeology at Midwestern from 1958-84.
Andrews comes to Midwestern with extensive archeological and teaching experience. Since 1994, Andrews has, in conjunction with Hebrew University, assisted in supervising excavations at Hazor, Israel. He has also participated in archeological digs at Tel Dan and Tel Aroer in Israel. Andrews has served as associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern since 1996, having initially joined Southeastern as an assistant professor in 1991. He previously served five years as an adjunct professor with the Ohio branches of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Boyce Bible School. Articles published by Andrews include nine in the forthcoming Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, 17 in the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible and one in the forthcoming Baker Dictionary of Christian Education. He holds the M.Div. from Southeastern Seminary and the Ph.D. from Hebrew Union University.
Just prior to meeting with trustees, Andrews visited with Morton’s widow, who had donated the Morton Collection to Midwestern. Andrews shared with the trustees his desire to continue Morton’s vision to train ministers who can utilize archeology as an effective tool in preaching.
Andrews said that his goal in seminary teaching was to try to foster “a love for the Word.” He added, “I want students to be able to see Jesus in the Old Testament. I want them to feel the power of the Bible and the Old Testament, as it reveals to us God and Jesus the Messiah.”
Smith, before teaching at Bethel, served 10 years as professor and chairman of Old Testament at Winnipeg Theological Seminary in Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada. Coppenger affirmed Smith’s strong conservative scholarship, winsome demeanor and commitment to Baptist principles. “We were taken with his scholarship and his gracious spirit,” Coppenger said of the Iowa native.
Smith’s articles have been published in The International Bible Encyclopedia, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Encyclopedia and the Holman Bible Dictionary. A specialist in the Old Testament prophets, Smith has also served as translator for the New Century Version and the New Living Bible. He noted how he hopes to impart to students a greater sense of their prophetic role in modern society.
“Pastors get caught up in the administrative role,” Smith told trustees. “I deeply feel that we have had too many people preaching to the choir and not enough preaching to our society. I see the prophets calling Israel and the nations to repentance. This is part of my burden to share with students.”
Bob Lilly, pastor of Cantonsville Baptist Church, Baltimore, Md., was elected as the new chairman of the board. Robert Collins, pastor of Plaza Heights Baptist Church in Blue Springs, Mo., is the new first vice chairman and Walter G. Smith, a retired minister from Grand Blanc, Mich., was elected second vice chairman. Carl Weiser, pastor of Hyland Heights Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., was re-elected secretary-treasurer. All were elected by acclamation.
Trustees also asked the SBC Executive Committee to approve “The Journal for Pastoral Writing,” which will study, inform and encourage effectual writing by pastors. Coppenger observed, “While most of the writing that gets done in the SBC is done by pastors, we’ve not given these tasks and opportunities the attention they deserve — whether in church paper columns, guest editorials, letters to the editor, hymns, poems, policy statements, journals or dispatches from the mission field.”
The introduction of the journal is a part of a previously approved emphasis on Christian writing in honor of Southern Baptist journalist James C. Hefley of Hannibal, Mo. Funds are currently being received to endow the emphasis.
Trustees expressed enthusiasm over major curriculum revisions that will take effect this fall. The new catalog will feature dramatic changes not only in the master of divinity but also degrees offered in Christian education and church music. By adding new tracks, a student can specialize in areas as diverse as urban missions or collegiate ministry, as well as domestic or international missions.
“Our goal is to produce the very best pastors and missionaries, whether in a new church start in Des Moines or a church plant in the western Rockies,” stated academic dean Jim Cogdill. “This curriculum prepares that person.”
In contrast to some evangelical seminaries that are shortening and compressing their programs of study, changes at Midwestern will increase credit hour requirements and raise the level of difficulty. The student who begins studies next fall will spend two years studying the biblical languages. (Previous students were only required to take Hebrew Appreciation and Greek Appreciation). Increased hours in missions, expository preaching, the Christian family, pastoral leadership and the history and workings of the Southern Baptist Convention are also included.
Consistent with the seminary’s new purpose statement, the degree plans prescribe for women alternatives to preaching and pastoral leadership.
Changes in Christian education and church music degrees are intended to graduate students with greater versatility for dual assignments in local churches.
Trustee Collins emphasized the unanimous approval which the current faculty gave to the changes. Cogdill said the process reflected “shared governance,” in that the revision began in faculty committee and received unanimous approval at every stage.”
Students entering under an earlier catalog will be allowed to graduate under the old program.
In explaining changes in the doctor of ministry degree as a result of curriculum revision, Cogdill said the faculty will be more involved in student projects. “It has been integrated into the whole life of the school,” he said.
Coppenger reiterated the importance of changes which may prove to be unpopular with those desiring more lenient requirements. “We at Midwestern have said we want to impact the Midwest/Great Plains region,” he said. “We have chosen the missionary edge. It may not be the smartest marketing move, but I believe that it’s God’s Great Commission move for us.”
After hearing a report that the school had responded to requests for institution-wide evaluation procedures and financial plans, trustee Joe Bunce, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bloomfield, N.M., asked whether the school is entertaining any movement to “rethink accreditation.”
Coppenger responded, “The SBC directs that its educational institutions will be accredited. We have taken pains to stay with standard accreditors while avoiding compromise.” He expressed reservation over any movement to “self-accredit,” underscoring the importance of outside accountability.
Academic dean Jim Cogdill informed trustees that evangelism professor Don Hammer, 61, has gone on medical leave and will no longer be able to serve in the classroom or as director of the doctor of ministry program due to further risk to his health. In addition, Dan Rainbolt, 71, has announced his retirement in May.
In other matters, trustees heard a report of a balanced budget for the current year and approved a new budget of $4,257,718 with no significant changes other than a 2 percent increase in faculty salaries. A simplified fee structure will move from matriculation charges to tuition based on credit hours not to exceed $1,000 per semester. Other business-related actions included approval of an auditor, a cash flow management policy, refinancing a campus housing mortgage and funding for capital funds staff
Trustees also approved promotion sabbatical policy revisions in light of the school’s no longer granting tenure on a regular basis. Minor changes were approved to the faculty questionnaire to clarify a candidate’s understanding of 1 Timothy 2:11-14.
Trustees rotating off of the board were honored for their service, including Alan Bartlett, pastor of First Baptist Church, Gallatin, Mo.; attorney James R. Dobbs of Columbus, Ohio; and Randy McHan, pastor of Edon Baptist Church, Stringer, Miss.

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