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Midwestern trustees tap ‘Buster’ Brown as chairman, affirm accrediting bodies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees elected new officers, passed a slightly reduced budget, approved early payoff of a mortgage debt and affirmed continued affiliation with accrediting agencies in their April 23-24 meeting in Kansas City, Mo.

Conrad “Buster” Brown, pastor of East Cooper Baptist Church in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., was elected chairman for the coming year by a vote of 17 to 9.

Brown will succeed current board chairman Carl Weiser of Lynchburg, Va., who has served two years in the position. Weiser was nominated by trustee Kent Cochran of Missouri for an additional term. Trustee Reagan Bradford of Oklahoma nominated Brown, citing his leadership with “a fair, gracious spirit.”

Trustee Joe Bunce, pastor of First Baptist Church, Bloomfield, N.M., was elected first vice chairman by a 17-7 vote over Colorado trustee Ken Barnett. Elected by acclamation were Steve Simko, pastor of First Baptist Church, Griffith, Ind., as second vice chairman, and Gwen Newman of Winder, Ga., as secretary-treasurer. Trustee Loretta Bringer of Maywood, Mo., was elected as an at-large member of the executive committee by a 14-12 vote over trustee Gary Peek of Moss Point, Miss.

A $4.7 million budget for the fiscal year 2002 was approved unanimously, with inclusion of a 5 percent raise for faculty, 2.5 percent raise for staff and 2 percent raise for the president. Trustees also approved the early payoff out of capital needs funds for an $840,000 housing debt, realizing annual savings that exceed the amount of interest currently earned on the restricted funds.

In his report to trustees, the seminary’s new president, R. Phil Roberts, spoke of having organized a day of prayer soon after coming to Midwestern, relating the application of the “prayer of Jabez” to enlarge the school’s territory as it fulfills its mission. Roberts said he is confident God will answer such a prayer “as long as our motives are pure, our vision and direction clear, and we are committed to share Jesus Christ with all the world and equip people to do exactly that.”

From various meetings throughout the country, Roberts said he has received encouragement and expressions of support, including a March 1 gathering of area directors of missions, pastors and state convention employees in Kansas and Missouri.

Roberts challenged trustees to give their time in prayer and promotion of the school, identifying people with resources that might be offered. “If we’re going to move forward as an institution, it’s absolutely imperative that we move forward as a team, lockstep, hand in hand, arm in arm,” Roberts said. “I sensed an excitement and unity since being elected and it’s important to maintain that for the health, future and viability of this institution and its mission from God to have that kind of support and encouragement from our board of trustees.”

He also encouraged the trustees to offer their own “treasures” as a part of the sacrificial giving necessary to fund the seminary’s operations. “We cannot run a hundred-meter dash until we learn to walk,” Roberts said, encouraging stronger participation in the annual fund before continued solicitation of gifts to a major building campaign.

Several faculty promotions and contract extensions were approved, including promotion of Mark DeVine to associate professor of theology, Michael McMullen to associate professor of church history and Terry L. Wilder to associate professor of New Testament and Greek. Renewed for one-year contracts were Cherry Stucky as instructor of childhood education and Doug Manley as church music instructor. Roberts also announced the appointment of Ted Cabal, dean of Boyce College of the Bible at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as professor extraordinaire.

DeVine told trustees of his recent experience as a Southern Baptist missionary in Bangkok, Thailand, saying he could now advise students of the opportunities for service overseas and draw from his time there to serve them better. DeVine said he will help students see the practical implications of their theological convictions.

The trustees’ academic affairs committee clarified that consideration of candidates for election to the faculty will follow attainment of necessary academic credentials, prompting them to delay a vote on one prospective professor until completion of his doctoral degree.

Trustees were advised of sabbatical updates and a change of name for its Laotian School of Theology to be known as the Lao School of Ministry in order to better reflect its purpose and constituency.

A report on the accreditation process for self-study was received with approval of a motion to affirm continued affiliation with North Central Accrediting Association as well as Association of Theological Schools. While trustees agreed to a motion by trustee Cochran to vote on each affiliation separately, none of them joined him in opposing continued affiliation with ATS.

“ATS has decided over the years that it’s their chore to tell us how to run our school, not just by our doctrine, but by their agenda,” Cochran said. “NCA has taken the position that we live by our documents. To lump those two institutions together is a mistake.”

Bunce praised the core value describing the Bible as “the authoritative inerrant word of God” while raising suspicion that some of the schools affiliating with the accrediting agencies do not concur with that conviction. “So how are we going to make our belief known?” he asked.

The seminary’s registrar, Dave Richards, serving as co-chair of the accreditation committee, said, “They want to know if in making this statement, are we being consistent with the confessional statement of the Southern Baptist Convention and what we hold as a school. This particular statement distinguishes Midwestern in what it is today and what it was 10 years ago,” he added.

Trustee Charles Sams questioned the reasoning behind the removal from Midwestern’s mission statement of a Midwest/Great Plains focus. The newly affirmed mission statement reads: “Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary biblically educates God-called men and women to be and to make disciples of Jesus Christ throughout the world.”

Midwestern’s campus operations director, Don Hamlin, serving as chairman of the resources committee, explained that the emphasis is addressed within the core values that help define the proposed mission statement. Richards added, “Every time we strayed from a Midwest context, the committee brought us back to make sure that context was a part of what we stated.”

In response to a concern raised by Barnett, the board agreed to state as a core value the school’s intention to prepare men for pastoral roles, while preparing both men and women for supportive Christian vocations. “It seems very clear that the Southern Baptist Convention has made this a core value,” he stated, arguing that Midwestern should do likewise. While committee members identified language within the proposed core values where a Southern Baptist perspective is affirmed, Barnett argued for a clear expression.

“I know this is a nervous issue because we’re criticized about this,” Barnett said, “but we have to be a very biblical people. We ought to march it out in front to say exactly who we are so people don’t have to go through a thousand documents to find out what we believe.” Noting that the Women in Ministry organization had shifted to affiliating with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Barnett said, “They don’t like us because we don’t believe in women pastors. It’s a strong core value of the Southern Baptist Convention and I think we ought to underscore it right out front, not hide it, be embarrassed about it or be ambiguous.”

In other action, trustees approved a motion jointly recommended by their academic affairs committee and Roberts to close the Child Development Center operated by the seminary. Despite an infusion of funds last year, the facility continues to operate at a deficit and has enrolled only six or seven children from among seminary families. Voting by a ballot of 19 to 7, trustees designated June 15 as the date of the closing in an effort to coordinate with area school schedules.

Earlier action by the board required that a plan for a balanced budget be submitted by the CDC at the spring meeting. Roberts said the report of deficit spending and his conviction that the facility “would not reach a break-even point anytime soon” led to the decision.

“I wanted to stay focused on our main assignment while encouraging students to seek other alternatives than professional daycare in light of the need for families to be strengthened and encouraged.” He added, “This is just not part of my vision for Midwestern Seminary with all of the other things that need to be done and all of the time and resources required for its operation.”

In a report from the seminary’s institutional advancement office, trustees heard of plans for increased fund-raising through the school’s annual fund, with a goal of raising $250,000 in the coming year for seminary operations. The committee plans to evaluate establishment of a board of advisers to involve a variety of supporters of the school in helping fulfill the seminary’s purpose.

A previously considered expenditure of $150,000 for roof repairs will come from general endowment funds instead of capital needs reserve in keeping with the restrictions as to how capital needs money may be used. The project calls for reroofing of student apartments.

As chairman of the trustees’ student development committee, Cochran submitted a proposal relating to the use of the president’s home that was referred to a new study committee. Committee members Loretta Bringer and Dennis Woods objected to the report as lacking input from the entire committee. Trustees hope to gain support from volunteer construction teams, local churches, associations and state conventions wishing to assist with renovation of the home.

Two resolutions affirmed Midwestern Seminary’s purpose in educating and training students for ministry, encouraging efforts to recruit more students and assuring faculty, staff and students of the board’s “heartfelt commitment to them and to the Heartland.” The resolution reaffirming the seminary noted a conviction that the seminary’s “best days are ahead of us.”

A bylaw change specifying eligibility requirements for voting privileges on the faculty was approved without opposition. Another bylaw change was tabled regarding a change in the dates of spring trustee meetings, awaiting input from the next academic dean.

Trustees were informed of plans underway for the installation of Roberts as president Oct. 21-22 at First Baptist Church of Raytown, Mo. The fall trustee meeting will be held in conjunction with that event on Oct. 22-23.

Roberts also noted a visit from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Executive Director Jim Richards during lunch and expressed thanks for “the extraordinary effort SBTC is making to assure that all six of our seminaries are not penalized by the withdrawal of funding by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.” He praised a commitment by SBTC to raise $1 million for the defunded entities.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MIDWESTERN TRUSTEES.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter