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Midwestern trustees endorse planning for 1,000 students

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–After praying “every corner, every brick, every span of stone be utterly pleasing” to God, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees unanimously endorsed continuation of an architectural planning process for new facilities to handle expected growth.

In their regular spring meeting, April 14-15, trustees authorized their executive committee to continue serving as the Campus Planning Committee to oversee and coordinate activities necessary for fund- raising and architectural planning leading to the initiation and implementation of the overall construction project at the Kansas City, Mo., seminary.

Trustees also approved a $4.9 million budget slightly lower than the current year’s and elected a vice president for institutional advancement and an assistant professor of religious education.

In his opening report to trustees, Midwestern President Mark Coppenger noted continued growth in the student population, with 715 students enrolled in the current term at all locations where classes are offered. A year ago, 557 students were enrolled in the various diploma, master’s, doctor of ministry and certificate programs. Particularly strong growth was noted in the master of divinity program where enrollment has increased by more than 30 percent each of the last two years.

Following the president’s report, trustee Charles Kelley of Beaumont, Texas, addressed Coppenger, stating, “You must be doing something right because people are beginning to shoot at you with both barrels as you’re criticized publicly.

“You wouldn’t be worth your salt otherwise,” Kelley said, adding his appreciation for Coppenger’s “steadfastness and courage.”

Trustees received a detailed look at the initial design of a proposed complex to accommodate approximately 1,000 students, with facilities for a chapel, classrooms, library, administration and family life center.

Kansas City architect Steven Abend of Abend/Singleton Associates presented a preliminary design which aims to “nourish and intellectually stimulate people.”

Coppenger compared the work of the Campus Planning Committee in settling on design concepts to “loading up a bus and taking the board to Baskin-Robbins” to select the seminary flavor. “You’d have the Rocky Road crowd, the pralines-and-cream crowd and so forth. When it comes to taste, it’s extraordinary to come to any kind of consensus.”

Having achieved that goal, Coppenger prayed the completed project would not be a monument, but rather “a working instrument for the kingdom’s work.” The board now enters a phase of identifying sources of funding needed to proceed with the individual stages of construction.

In earlier actions, trustees gave unanimous approval to a $4,919,965 budget which entails a reduction of $80,858 from the current year, as calculated in the SBC seminary funding formula based on a rolling three-year average of full-time equivalent enrollments.

Trustees voted for a 3.5 percent cost of living raise to full-time administrative employees who have served the school at least three consecutive years.

Approval was given to adding a $50 per semester registration fee for diploma and master’s students and an increase for the doctor of ministry degree from a total of $3,600 to $4,200.

Trustees elected Harold Poage as vice president for institutional advancement and Robert Vaughan as assistant professor of religious education. Poage already has assumed responsibility for development, and Vaughan is set to begin teaching in May as part of a five-year contract.

Poage most recently served as director of development at Dallas Baptist University for nine years, during which time more than $37 million was raised for the institution from trusts and wills. Poage earlier had pastored churches in Ohio, Michigan and Florida and studied at Wayland Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Texas.

Coppenger described Poage as having done “exemplary work” in estate planning, having developed a means by which estate arrangements could be revoked should the endowed school leave “its theological moorings.” He noted Poage “wants to give it one more big push in support of an unequivocally conservative institution,” believing in “what we’re doing at Midwestern.”

Following the recommendation of Vaughan by the trustee instruction committee, interim Academic Dean Ron Rogers introduced Vaughan as “a godly man who has on his heart the salvation of souls.” Vaughan currently serves as minister of education and administration at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Oklahoma City.

In addition to ministerial experience at several Texas churches, Vaughan has been an assistant city manager in Commerce, Texas, a bank investment officer and a college instructor. He received his B.A. in education from Oklahoma Baptist University, as well as master of arts and Ph.D. degrees in education from Southwestern Seminary.

Vaughan was questioned at length by the instruction committee and later by the full board regarding his doctrinal convictions and religious education methodology in local churches.

Trustees received word of Coppenger’s appointment of Terry Wilder as visiting professor of New Testament and Greek. Wilder is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland who received a master of divinity from Southwestern and both a B.A. and M.A. from Dallas Baptist University.

Coppenger indicated a search is under way for a new vice president for academic affairs to replace Lamar Cooper who resigned in March to assume similar duties at Criswell College in Dallas.

Trustees also approved changing the name of the master of religious education degree to master of Christian education. Further consideration will be given at the fall meeting to changes in requirements for the degree.

In a process begun last fall, trustees finalized changes to their bylaws to conform with Missouri law regarding nonprofit corporations. Instead of identifying vice presidents as corporate officers subject to board employment, wording was changed to grant the seminary president authority to employ them and other administrative staff positions within budget constraints.

A change also was made to allow the full board to elect an at- large member of their executive committee, serving alongside the chairman’s appointed committee chairmen and other elected officers.

Trustees unanimously re-elected chairman Ronnie Rogers, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Ark., and Carl Weiser, pastor of Hyland Heights Baptist Church, Lynchburg, Va., as secretary-treasurer.

Also elected unanimously to serve as officers were Conrad “Buster” Brown, pastor of East Cooper Baptist Church, Mt. Pleasant, S.C., as first vice chairman and Jim Dobbs, a lawyer from Columbus, Ohio, as second vice chairman.

Business Affairs Vice President Mike Whitehead reported changes in accounting procedures that consolidate checking accounts and institute a purchase order system to control spending. Trustees approved a resolution authorizing changes involving the new bank account.

With responsibility for facilities maintenance shifted to the office of student development, Vice President Gary Ledbetter informed trustees of the hiring of Don Hamlin as director of campus operations. Hamlin has served as state Baptist camp director in Indiana for seven years and has received a B.A. from Campbellsville College in Kentucky and a master of arts in camp management from Indiana University.

Ledbetter circulated to trustees copies of a newly developed form which students will complete to certify their involvement in a local church. The process will clarify which students qualify for the tuition discount given to Southern Baptists and encourages membership in a local church while attending seminary.

The trustee development committee presented guidelines to provide a theological basis for receiving donations. The guidelines state biblical giving begins with tithes to the local church and includes a pledge that the seminary will never appeal for gifts that otherwise would have been tithed. In addition to other provisions, trustees agreed that “no positions nor controlling leverage” will be given in return for any donation.

“Donors should not be misled as to the nature and mission of the seminary,” the guidelines state. “We are firmly committed to the inerrancy of Scripture and to the traditional understandings of the faith expressed in the theological statements and resolutions of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In other actions, trustees:

— authorized an expenditure of $104,250 for purchase and installation of interactive video equipment whereby professors at the main campus will teach simultaneously to off-site locations.

— approved a resolution to establish member representation in the Council of Seminary Presidents.

— were advised of the relocation of seminary classes at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, Mo., to nearby Second Baptist Church in Springfield as a cost savings and convenience to students living farther south and west.

— authorized a three-member committee including the vice president for business affairs, finance committee chairman and one other member to act within seminary investment policy to make adjustments in placing funds in the best interest of the institution. Board policy requires that a majority of investments be placed in Baptist foundations.

— honored trustees Richard Proctor of Wynne, Ark., and Stoney Shaw of St. Louis, who have completed their tenures.

— passed a resolution condemning partial-birth abortion for the second year in a row.

Trustee chairman Rogers closed the meeting by praying the seminary “would be a place where men and women would be trained” and their “convictions about the Word of God, the lostness of man, the urgency of message and the seriousness of eternity would be burned in their soul and nothing could quench it.”

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  • Tammi Ledbetter