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Ministerial continuing education underscored by seminary president

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Pastoral search committees in the future should give top consideration to candidates who participate in continuing education, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill speaking at a Aug. 21-22 faculty retreat.
Because of the critical nature of the work, “it is important for church search committees to emphasize ongoing study” in the same way other professionals are required to be re-accredited on a regular basis, Hemphill said. Other denominational leaders have supported his suggestion, Hemphill added.
Major challenges the seminary will face in the 21st century, Hemphill said, involve continuing education, teaching techniques in a 21st-century environment, globalization of the multicultural makeup of both students and faculty, bivocational training, flexibility and customization of degree programs and schedules, and relationship skills.
Hemphill said a new, approximately $21.5-million leadership development conference center under construction on campus will expand opportunities for continuing education and will help address the challenges of first-time training opportunities for pastors/staff currently serving and expanded lay theological training.
Hemphill said globalization is becoming a reality at Southwestern as evidenced by the record 37 international students who began studies this fall — bringing the total number of international students enrolled to more than 180 — and a rising number of African American and Hispanic students enrolling at the seminary.
Hemphill said providing additional housing was a “crisis issue” for the seminary, noting 139 students were placed on a waiting list last May. He reported the seminary bought and refurbished Garrett housing, and other renovation of existing housing is helping.
In his address to the Southwestern faculty, Hemphill said the implementation of recommendations from a presidential committee on “Theological Education in the Twenty-First Century” will help the seminary better prepare ministers for the challenges that will face them. Hemphill said he appreciated the faculty’s enthusiastic response to the recommendations from the presidential committee and challenged the committee to expand its work.
“Southwestern Seminary has a sure foundation,” Hemphill declared. It is reflected “in our great heritage of missions and evangelism, in our theological commitment to teach according to the Baptist Faith and Message and to the inerrant Word of God, and in our relationship to the churches.”
Southern Baptists have a right to know Southwestern will remain faithful to the covenant “One Faith, One Task, One Sacred Trust” signed by the six seminary presidents at the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas. “We will honor the covenant we’ve made to our churches,” Hemphill promised.
“It is, however, one thing to give lip service to Scripture as inerrant and infallible and another to incarnate the truth,” said Hemphill as he urged the faculty to treasure the Bible by hiding it in their hearts, “to know it — not just what others say about it — and to teach and preach it with confidence.
“I want you to be fully involved in your church, association and state activities,” Hemphill challenged. “Encourage churches to be generous to the Cooperative Program in its historical form.”
Speaking from Jesus’ priestly prayer in John 17:18-22, Hemphill reminded faculty of the biblical foundation of their work. “Southwestern’s task has eternal consequences. Forty percent of all Southern Baptist pastors and 50 percent of our missionaries will be trained on this campus,” he said. “The International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board will only do as well as we do.
“Our work requires supernatural empowering,” Hemphill said, warning the faculty not to “get where we think we can do this work with one hand tied behind our backs. We must remember that God’s presence and power are required.”
“Our mission mandates our unity,” Hemphill said, referring to Jesus’ words in verse 22, “Make them one as we are one.” “In our unity we reflect his glory.”

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