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No assumptions: Patterson preaches evangelistic sermon at convocation

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Paige Patterson believes that a seminary president should never presume that all of his students and faculty members are actually Christians. In fact, he’s learned through personal experience that such an assumption should never be made.

Patterson preached an avowedly evangelistic sermon before more than 1,500 faculty, staff and students during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual convocation chapel Aug. 26. While he acknowledged that many people would consider preaching salvation to a seminary congregation somewhat unorthodox, he said that he didn’t want take anyone’s salvation for granted.

“God may have called you here to seminary so that you can meet the Savior,” Patterson said.

Prior to Patterson’s sermon, five new members of the seminary faculty signed the institution’s faculty roster, a symbolic act signifying the professors’ agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. All Southwestern Seminary faculty members agree to teach “according and not contrary to” the faith statement before they are employed.

Patterson’s sermon, drawn from 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, emphasized the importance of repentance for salvation through Jesus Christ. He repeatedly encouraged the seminary family to accept Christ if they had never done so, at one point recalling a situation he encountered when he was president of Criswell College in Dallas. Patterson said a professor attempted to resign after receiving Christ as his Savior, but Patterson refused to let him quit.

“I asked him, ‘Did it ever occur to you that I would rather have a saved Old Testament professor than a lost one?”

Patterson also encouraged seminarians that might have been embarrassed to admit that they had never accepted Christ to come forward because they would “never find a more loving, joyful response than the one you will receive here.”

“There is a vast difference between godly sorrow and the sorrow of this world,” Patterson said. “This world’s sorrow leads to death, but the moment you repent of your sins in godly sorrow, your sorrow is replaced by joy.”

Patterson said he hoped through his message to set the agenda for how and what those affiliated with Southwestern communicate to the rest of the Fort Worth community.

“You interact with hundreds of people who are hurting and broken-hearted every day, and they need the Lord,” Patterson said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Among the new faculty members to sign Southwestern Seminary’s faculty roster were Elias Moitinho, Malcolm Yarnell, Greg Welty and John Moldovan. Moitinho, assistant professor of psychology and counseling, is the seminary’s first Brazilian-born faculty member. Moldovan, associate professor of evangelism and intercultural studies, was once imprisoned for his faith and is the seminary’s first faculty member from the former Soviet bloc.

Dorothy Patterson, who was elected by trustees June 24 as professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Seminary, also signed the faculty roster.

Early in the chapel service, Patterson also asked all new students in attendance to stand as he pronounced them “Southwesterners” according to a tradition set forth by Robert Naylor, the seminary’s fifth president.

“You would sooner be dead than to dishonor the name of Southwestern,” Patterson told the new seminarians.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SIGNING THE ROSTER.

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  • Samuel Smith