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New curriculum, faculty highlight Southwestern trustee meeting


FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Revising the curriculum and adding to the faculty highlighted Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s semi-annual board of trustees meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, Oct. 19.
Upbeat reports about the school followed moving tributes to the victims of the Sept. 15 shooting at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Southwestern is making changes that will transform theological education in the 21st century, President Kenneth S. Hemphill reported. Beginning in the fall of 2000, Southwestern’s curriculum will be more student-friendly, including changing from two- to three-hour classes and offering classes from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.
Trustees enthusiastically applauded recommendations from the “Theological Education in the 21st Century” committee. Students will be trained in a new core curriculum emphasizing leadership, evangelism and missions, discipleship and worship, and will participate in spiritual formation groups.
Hemphill told trustees the changes will keep Southwestern “on the cutting edge of theological education in the 21st century.”
Trustees elected Malcolm Yarnell as assistant professor of theology and Mark Taylor as assistant professor of New Testament. Yarnell earned a master of theology at Duke University and a master of divinity at Southwestern. He is completing a Ph.D. at Oxford University.
Taylor received his M.Div. from Mid-America Baptist Seminary in Memphis, Tenn. He is completing a Ph.D. at Southwestern.
President Hemphill said numerous seminaries were recruiting Yarnell, even up to the day before the trustee meeting. He called Yarnell a “major contributor” in writing and teaching.
“There is no question about where he is going to stand in the whole evangelical world,” Hemphill said. “He is a scholar’s scholar, but he has a pastor’s heart.”
Hemphill called Taylor one of the most articulate young New Testament professors Southwestern has seen in a long time. “He’s kind of in the vein of a Tommy Lea and a Curtis Vaughn,” Hemphill observed. “Those were two of his mentors. He’s solid. He’s biblical. He’s engaging. He’s very student-friendly.”
Michael Pullin, seminary archivist and special collections librarian, and William Vinson, director of undergraduate and lay theological studies, were given faculty status.
As Hemphill recommended the new faculty, Florida trustee and chair of the academic affairs committee Jim Leftwich called Southwestern’s faculty “one of the best-kept secrets in the SBC.”
Trustees affirmed the 21st century committee report that included changes to the “delivery system” of education including:
— interdisciplinary core courses that address the four core areas.
— changes from two- and four-hour courses to primarily three-hour courses.
— courses Friday nights and Saturdays.
— placing all incoming students in eight-member spiritual formation groups that will meet with a faculty mentor throughout the first year.
— providing one-third of Southwestern’s courses via the Internet.
Daryl Eldridge, dean of the school of educational ministries and committee chairman, said the changes will help prepare students more quickly and improve the quality of their education.
“I think you have raised the bar, and I think we would be remorse if we did not express our commendation,” trustee Dean Gage said.
Eldridge said that the work has just begun as new course descriptions and syllabi need to be written, the school catalog needs to be revised, core courses need to be developed and the core values need to be transmitted throughout the seminary.
“It’s one thing to have a set of values,” Eldridge said. “It’s another thing to live them out.”
Trustees prepared for the school’s 10-year reaccreditation process by making changes to their bylaws. Hemphill said seminary administrators and faculty have examined other documents to ensure uniformity.
“Our self-study for reaccreditation is a vital component of our preparation for the 21st century,” Hemphill said. “I welcome this opportunity to investigate, evaluate and look at all we do.”
Trustees also heard from Ian Jones on the progress of the seminary’s self-study. Jones, director of Southwestern’s Baptist Marriage and Family Counseling Center, said that the Association of Theological Schools has expanded its accreditation objectives, making the process more involved.
As part of the self-study, Southwestern must collect qualitative and quantitative information, assess the effectiveness of programs and make decisions based on the data.
The self-study committee has sent a professional survey to alumni, faculty and students, is publishing a self-study newsletter, will attend ATS workshops and is planning faculty workshops. The first draft of the self-study is due in November.
Trustees challenged administrators to aggressively expand the school’s presence through off-campus programs. Hemphill said the seminary is seeking to raise money to expand the San Antonio and Houston extension programs. He added a donor has offered to donate property for construction of a new building for the San Antonio campus.
Trustees endorsed a plan presented by faculty member James Spivey to turn Southwestern’s Houston extension campus into “Houston’s seminary.” “A world-class theological institution supported by Southern Baptists of southeastern Texas serving the unique ministry needs of that region” is the goal of the plan, Spivey said.
To achieve this, Spivey said, the Houston campus must become an accredited unit of Southwestern, develop a mature financial base and expand enrollment to its optimum size, which he estimated at 500 students.
The plan calls for constructing a 30,000-square-foot building at a cost of $5 million, hiring seven full-time faculty and developing a library capable of supporting academic research. Spivey estimated the total cost of the project at $10 million, with about $900,000 required each year for operating costs.
“We have had a lot of energy and a lot of excitement when people have captured this vision,” Spivey said.
Jack Terry, vice president for institutional advancement, reported another “magnificent year” in giving. For the second year in a row, cash gifts to the seminary exceeded $6 million. More than $27 million has been raised in the first phase of Southwestern’s 10-year, $100 million “Touch the World, Impact Eternity” campaign. Every donor group — trustees, faculty, staff and students — has exceeded its goal, he said.
Southwestern led the nation in two of the six categories of giving tracked in “Seminary Development News,” Terry said. In a third category, alumni giving, the seminary improved from zero three years ago to number seven in 1998-99, he added.
Austin businessman Harold Riley initiated the Harold E. Riley/Southwestern Seminary Foundation. Riley has already pledged $6 million toward the seminary’s leadership development complex. The foundation will provide the seminary annual gifts of $1 million for each of the next three years, Hemphill said.
The gift Southwestern will get, Hemphill said, “will go in the bank in the future and will make Southwestern Seminary one of the highest-endowed seminaries in the world.”
Hemphill called the new undergraduate program another seminary highlight at the dawn of the new millennium. Vinson accepted Hemphill’s challenge to lead the revamped program, which includes partnerships with Criswell College and Dallas Baptist University.
The seminary has investigated the possibility of adding an accredited undergraduate program for older students, but Hemphill said he sees no need for doing so “at this time.”
After four straight years of 4- to 5-percent growth, Southwestern’s enrollment dropped slightly. Preliminary figures for the fall semester report 3,213 students, about 90 students less than the fall of 1998. Enrollment included students from 41 states and a record 202 international students from 42 countries, Hemphill noted.
International students included Southwestern’s first students from Communist China and Portugal.
Rachel Zhang,the first student from China, shared her testimony. Zhang told trustees she is the fifth-generation of Christians in her family and her great-grandmother died for her faith.
“It is a big encouragement to the Christians in China to know that I am here,” Zhang said.
Hemphill began his report to trustees with a tribute to “our martyred students.” He called Kim Jones and Shawn Brown “effective evangelists.”
“Kim had led many of her sorority sisters to Christ. Shawn had led four or five seniors he drove on his bus to Christ in the last month.”
Hemphill praised Ian Jones, who organized the seminary’s counseling center staff and students to minister at Wedgwood and at high schools across the city. He also praised seminary faculty and staff for exemplary service during the tragedy.
Trustees toured the Leadership Development Complex under construction on the southeast corner of the campus. Phase one is scheduled to be completed in January, with phase two to be completed about a year later, Hemphill said.
“We know that in three years we cannot give every student everything they need to be effective in ministry,” Hemphill said. “So we want to instill in them a lifelong learning strategy.”
The new conference center, the only one of its kind in Southern Baptist life, Hemphill said, will bolster the seminary’s ability to meet that need.
Hemphill told trustees he will present a comprehensive campus plan at the spring trustee meeting. “The vision is in place and we are prepared to move into the 21st century.”
In other business, trustees:
— promoted Gerald Aultman from associate professor of music theory to professor of music theory and C.L.Bass from professor of music theory and composition to distinguished professor of music theory and composition.
— approved the audited financial statements for the fiscal year ended July 31.
— approved an amended supplement to the Southern Baptist Protection Program Convention Annuity Plan.
— allocated $1.17 million from the capital needs budget for construction of a campus heat and air conditioning “chiller” building.
— moved the date of the spring trustee meeting to March 6-8.
— approved James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and his wife, Carol Ann, and Warren C. Hultgren, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church, Tulsa, Okla., and his wife, Wanda, as this year’s recipients of the L.R. Scarborough Award.
— passed a resolution of appreciation for Beverly and Tommy Lea, former dean of the school of theology who died in June.
— passed a resolution expressing condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the Wedgwood shooting and appreciation for Wedgwood and the faculty and staff of Southwestern for their response to the crisis.