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New mission statement adopted by Southern Seminary trustees

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary unanimously adopted a new mission statement and heard an upbeat report from the seminary’s president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., during their biannual meeting Oct. 11-12 at the Louisville, Ky., campus.
“My greatest purpose with you today is to submit for your consideration a new mission statement for this institution,” Mohler said. The statement will govern “what we do, how we conceive our task and how we understand our accountability to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mohler said he and Southern’s executive cabinet wanted to compose a statement that “really, truthfully, genuinely, plainly and unambiguously declares what it is we are here to do.” Then he read the statement:
“Under the lordship of Jesus Christ, the mission of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is to be totally committed to the Word of God and to be a servant of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by training, educating and preparing ministers of the gospel for more faithful service.”
From the Old Testament text of 1 Samuel 3:1, Mohler cited the phrase, “word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent,” as a “chastening passage” and described it as a warning, as well as the motivation, behind the new mission statement.
“This is a reminder to me that the only vision worth having for a Christian institution is a scriptural vision. It must be biblical not only in substance, but in its authority,” Mohler said. “The Bible is the authority by which we teach. We have nothing to say without holy Scripture.
“The seminary can be financially healthy and spiritually ill. It can be institutionally strong … and theologically bankrupt,” Mohler continued. “But I am proud that this institution over the past several years has taken the time and paid the price to say, ‘Here we stand.’
“I believe the Lord has richly blessed Southern Seminary for flying the flag with such bold colors, for saying so clearly and so unapologetically that we stand upon the total inerrancy of Scripture, that we stand for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, that we stand for that continuity of orthodox Christian doctrine Christians throughout the ages have embraced, and we stand as a Baptist institution.”
Embracing these convictions is what has drawn faculty and students alike to the seminary and has fostered a “remarkable sense of community in the dorms and classrooms,” Mohler said, adding, “With the … convictions of the institution so clearly set, you can see a spirit of culture developing on the campus which is so healthy and for which I am very thankful.”
On-campus enrollment is up more than 7 percent from last year, Mohler reported. As of Oct. 10, headcount enrollment at the Louisville campus and off-site extension centers totals 1,759, with more fall enrollment in off-campus centers yet to come.
Mohler listed the numbers and percentages of growth in each area of study at Southern, but he drew special attention to the percentage of students enrolled in the master of divinity program: “You see that is 63.1 percent. … That says something about where our priorities are as an institution in training pastors. … That is central to our calling.
“I look at the students who are here now — not only in terms of their quantity, but in terms of the quality of their calling and commitment — and I have bold assurance of what the Lord is going to do through them in years to come,” Mohler said.
Citing the “sound financial condition” of Southern, Mohler said such is “made possible because Southern Baptists have been so generous through the Cooperative Program.” Trustees’ applause interrupted Mohler as he said surplus funds in the SBC’s total budget meant the seminary would receive considerably more than the budgeted figure of $6.4 million.
“That is God’s doing. And he did it through the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Mohler said. “And I don’t know about you, but I have heard for too long people saying the Cooperative Program is a relic of the past. Well, just look at what God is doing through it in the present. It isn’t so important as a program — programs come and programs go — it is important as it represents a conduit for faithfulness from Christians who believe in tithing and in giving, and whose churches believe in supporting missions and theological education. I just want to say a word of heartfelt appreciation to Southern Baptists through you, their elected representatives.”
Mohler cited Southern’s James P. Boyce College of the Bible as “one of the most exciting developments in the entire history of Southern Seminary. Now we have a fully accredited four-year Bible college serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mohler added that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools conferred accreditation on the Boyce College’s bachelor of arts in biblical studies degree — even before the first class met — and did so based on Southern’s strong academic track record. “That says something about this institution and how it is known around the world,” Mohler said.
Regarding missions opportunities for students, Mohler said, “We are determined that our students will have every opportunity and every encouragement to participate in missions activities during their time here.” In cooperation with the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., Southern Seminary is reorienting budget funds to make that possible. Mohler said officials at both SBC agencies believe this effort may be the single most important factor in raising a world mission consciousness and commitment among Southern Baptist pastors and churches.
“In partnership with the North American Mission Board,” Mohler continued, “we have established at Southern Seminary the very first Nehemiah Project center. … We are the very first to be operational.”
NAMB’s goal for its Nehemiah Project is to put a church-planting center on every SBC seminary campus that will prepare students through education, hands-on training and mentoring for the purpose of starting healthy churches among North America’s unchurched people.
In his report, Mohler noted other categories of increase, such as the number of library resources in use by students, which he said was sparked by a new electronic card catalog. Southern’s income, general budget, development income and market value of its endowments each reflected solid growth, he reported.
Following Mohler’s report, subcommittees of the full board brought brief reports but made no recommendations, as the bulk of Southern’s significant business is enacted in the board’s biannual, spring meeting.

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  • Norman Miller