DALLAS (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. provides “the kind of visionary leader Southern Baptists need to communicate a missional conservatism and biblical clarity to the world,” stated Robert Jeffress, pastor of the historic First Baptist Church of Dallas in announcing his intention to nominate the 47-year-old Mohler for Southern Baptist Convention president in June.
SBC President Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., concludes his second term in June and is ineligible for re-election.
In a news release provided to the Southern Baptist TEXAN Jan. 2, Jeffress said his decision is the result of prayer and concern for the future of Southern Baptists’ global witness. He said he believes Mohler would “motivate Southern Baptists to unite around cooperation for global missions and evangelism.”
If elected on June 10 when messengers meet in Indianapolis, Mohler would become the seventh seminary president to serve in the top denominational office.
“When Southern Seminary seemed to be lost to liberalism and irrelevancy, Dr. Mohler put his life and ministry on the line for the truth of God’s word and the urgency of sharing Christ with a lost world,” Jeffress said. “Since that time, he has led Southern Seminary to be a boot camp for young men and women training to take the gospel to the nations — whatever the cost.”
Mohler’s experience as a spokesman for Southern Baptists in the public square is another reason he should be president of the SBC, Jeffress added, noting the seminary president has been recognized by influential publications such as Time and Christianity Today, with Time calling him the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the U.S.”
“For years, Southern Baptists and other Christians have seen Dr. Mohler stand for biblical revelation on programs such as “Larry King Live,” Jeffress said. “And, each and every time, no matter what the issue, Dr. Mohler has been a strong witness, telling lost people how they can come to know Christ. That kind of truth-telling with gospel compassion is the kind of leadership we need in these tumultuous times,” Jeffress added.
“Southern Baptists will be blessed to have a president in Dr. Mohler who can walk into the Oval Office or into the pulpit of your local Baptist church and say the same thing, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ with clarity and conviction,” Jeffress said. “Whether the issue is the family and marriage or Islamic terrorism or the religious liberty of Christians to share the gospel freely anywhere in the world, Dr. Mohler represents Southern Baptists well in pointing to Christ and his word,” Jeffress said.
Mohler served as pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church in Bedford, Ky., and was on staff of Walnut Street Baptist Church in Louisville while enrolled as a seminary student. Prior to his election at the age of 33 to lead Southern Seminary, Mohler edited Georgia’s Christian Index, the oldest of the state Baptist papers. A native of Lakeland, Fla., he earned a bachelor of arts degree from Samford University and both a master of divinity and doctorate in philosophy from Southern Seminary.
In denominational life, Mohler chaired the SBC Committee on Resolutions, and served on the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee in 2000. He currently chairs the Council of Seminary Presidents.
Mohler and his wife, Mary, have two children, Katie, a freshman at Union University, and Christopher, 15. He is a member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville where he serves as a teaching pastor and Sunday School teacher. The most recent information available, Southern Baptists’ 2006 Annual Church Profile Survey lists 174 baptisms and primary worship service attendance of 3,315 for Highview. The congregation gave $167,917, or 3.3 percent, through the Cooperative Program from total undesignated receipts of $5,082,133. According to the ACP, the church’s total mission expenditures were $726,184 with no contributions reported for either the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions or Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. The church is dually affiliated with both the Kentucky Baptist Convention and State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, with campuses in four Louisville-area locations, one in Taylorsville, Ky., and one in Sellersburg, Ind.
In an interview with the TEXAN, Mohler said if Southern Baptists elect him president, he would hope to encourage them as the denomination faces a new era “filled with great opportunities and unprecedented challenges.”
“Our greatest challenge is to recover our passion for the gospel in evangelism and missions and to renew our determination to defend the gospel in an age of postmodern confusion. I would hope to articulate a vision that would unite Southern Baptists and energize us together.”
Mohler also expressed concern for reaching a younger generation with “the unchanging truth” of the gospel, seeking to relate what is at stake in this generational transition. Furthermore, he said he hopes to encourage pastors and help them reconnect at every level to what he called “a great denomination.”
“After all, Southern Baptists must remember that we, of all people, know that the most crucial issue for our future is having healthy churches, reflecting the true vision of a New Testament church — everything else flows from that.”
Mohler acknowledged that the SBC president has a limited term and limited means to help call Southern Baptists together. “We are not a top-down denomination — and for good reason. I promise to do my best to encourage Southern Baptists to be even more faithful, more biblical, more evangelistic, and more thankful for what God has given us in this convention of churches.”
Three former Southern Seminary presidents also were elected to the office of SBC president — James P. Boyce (1872-1879), E.Y. Mullins (1921-1923) and John R. Sampey (1936-1938). Other former SBC presidents who were elected to the office while serving as president of a seminary were Paige Patterson (1998-2000) while at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, W. W. Hamilton (1941-1942) while at Baptist Bible Institute, the forerunner to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and L. R. Scarborough (1939-1940) while at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While there is precedent for a seminary president to be SBC president, Mohler agreed that most SBC presidents have been pastors.
“This is healthy as the norm, and one of my hopes is to encourage more pastors to be deeply involved in the life of our denomination so that they can help to lead Southern Baptists in this new era,” he told the TEXAN. “Given the indirect nature of the trustee appointment process, I believe that Southern Baptists have adequate protections against any conflict of interest. Above this, however, I would pledge to lead in every dimension — appointments included — that would make Southern Baptists proud.”
Mohler is the second candidate to be named for SBC president. William L. (Bill) Wagner, president of Olivet University International in San Francisco, announced Sept. 7 that he would allow his name to be offered for consideration at Indianapolis. The former Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary professor of missions and 31-year Southern Baptist missionary also pastors the San Francisco-area Snyder Lane Baptist Church.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, www.texanonline.net.