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Mohler to Texas Baptist leadership: ‘Southern Seminary is not for sale’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–A recommendation by a Baptist General Convention of Texas study committee to reduce funding to Southern Baptist Convention seminaries comes with an intent to harm and illustrates a vast theological difference between the two bodies, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said in chapel Sept. 12.

Mohler made his comments to the seminary community on the heels of a BGCT committee proposal that would drastically reduce funding to the six Southern Baptist seminaries from approximately $5 million to $1 million. The $1 million would be split among the seminaries, although funding would be tied to how many Texas students from BGCT-affiliated churches attend each seminary. The remaining $4 million would then be sent to three non-SBC seminaries, which enroll about 300 students. Approximately 10,000 students are enrolled in Southern Baptist seminaries.

Southern Seminary would lose about $1 million, which is six percent of its budget.

“The money is significant, but Southern Seminary is not for sale,” Mohler said. “We are going to do what the Lord has called us to do. We are going to stand by the gospel.”

Mohler said the proposal’s aim is to damage the six seminaries.

“It is intended to cause injury, and it will,” he said. “Should it be adopted by the convention, roughly one million dollars of our operating budget will simply disappear, and that is no small thing.”

Mohler, though, made it clear that Southern Seminary will remain faithful to God through the situation.

“The Lord has called us here to do his purposes, to his glory,” he said. “We will seek to do it in a way that will please him and we will do so with the confidence that he will provide the resources. So, we will be here, doing what the Lord has called us to do, confident that the Lord will give us what we need and will see us through this.”

The 16-member BGCT study committee recently made a tour of all six seminaries, where members conducted interviews with presidents and administrators. The proposal will be voted on by the executive board Sept. 26, then by messengers to this year’s BGCT annual meeting in Corpus Christi, Texas, Oct. 30-31. The committee was formed by messengers at last year’s annual meeting in El Paso, Texas.

“This [the proposal] is not a total surprise, but it is a very grave disappointment,” Mohler said. “… There are two very different and contrasting views of what theological education should be and what a seminary should do. That is what much of the controversy in our denomination has been over for the last 30 years or so.”

Several Texans attending Southern Seminary expressed disappointment at the study committee’s recommendation.

“What the BGCT is doing is they are differentiating between Christians and Texas Christians,” said Student Government Association President Chris Spradley, a master of divinity student from Nacogdoches, Texas. “Texas has the unique opportunity — because it’s so big and because there are a large number of Baptist churches — to help other states and to help students who are in other states. I don’t think they’re looking at the big picture. I know that my church would disagree with [the proposal], because they strongly support me being here. They know that this is the Lord’s call on my life.”

Rebecca Alexander, a master of divinity student from Houston said it’s important for the seminary community to trust in God.

“It’s a lot of money, but personally as a seminary student I feel that God will provide,” she said. “… I feel like churchgoers in Texas — most of them — do support Texans being able to go to seminary wherever they feel led. I think they do support the SBC.”

Another Texan, master of divinity student Michael Withers, agreed.

“If the Lord can feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish, then he certainly can and will provide for those who are committed to serving him by preaching the gospel,” said Withers, who is from Houston. “The Word of God is far more precious than money.”

Southern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention will not compromise their beliefs in the face of lost funds, Mohler said in his chapel comments.

“We fly our flag clearly and publicly,” he said. “We want to be known for what we believe and we take our stand upon the total truthfulness of God’s Word, upon the faith once for all delivered to the saints, upon the fact that this is a confessional institution, and we would have it no other way to serve with faithfulness the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Mohler ended his comments by stressing the importance of prayer in the situation and requesting prayer for Texas Baptists.

“This is a test of whether we are going to trust the Lord, and as we know there is no other way,” he said. “So, we are going to move forward in that trust. … We need to pray that the right thing be done in a way that will honor God’s Word and honor the gospel, and honor our Christian testimony as Baptists, as Southern Seminary, as Southern Baptists, and we have to pray the same for our Texas Baptist brothers and sisters. The one things that would be most injurious out of this is if we allow this opportunity to become a stone of stumbling before the watching world. By our attitudes and by our statements, let’s be very careful not to allow that happen.”

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  • Michael Foust