FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Paige Patterson officially stepped into the role of the eighth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a strong reaffirmation of the standards set by the founders of the seminary.
“We are headed to a full and thorough reaffirmation of the doctrine of B.H. Carroll and the founders of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Patterson said during his inaugural remarks Oct. 21 at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.
Trustees unanimously elected Patterson as president June 24, following the retirement of former President Kenneth Hemphill.
Southern Baptist leaders from across the country met to encourage and challenge the new president during the inauguration. The evening culminated with Patterson publicly signing the Baptist Faith and Message.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that from Southwestern’s very beginning it has always been a confessional institution. Patterson, he said, has always supported the BF&M and even led the Southern Baptist Convention to adopt the BF&M anew during his tenure as president of the convention from 1998-2000.
“He has not only received it; he has taught it,” Mohler said of Patterson and the BF&M. “He has not only taught it; he has defended it.”
SBC Annuity Board President O.S. Hawkins challenged Patterson with the life of Southwestern founder B.H. Carroll and the example he set. Hawkins said that Carroll was a man of courage, conviction and consistency.
Patterson said he heeded the “admonition that has been given to me tonight” and outlined where he believes the seminary is now headed — toward the same convictions it was founded upon.
“We are headed to the reaffirmation of the centrality and of the incarnation of the atonement of Christ as the essential bedrock of Christianity,” Patterson said.
The seminary also is headed to a reaffirmation of the Anabaptist reformation principles, he said, of a church of “twice-born” men and women who bear witness of their faith through believer’s baptism by immersion and a disciplined church membership.
The sanctity of marriage and the home, along with the preservation of appropriate gender relationships in the home and church, will be reaffirmed at the seminary as well, the new president said.
The teaching of “missionary and evangelistic zeal that so characterized Lee Scarborough, B.H. Carroll, George W. Truett and other founders of the institution” will be advocated to the “best of our ability,” Patterson said.
The seminary will continue to uphold an emphasis on religious liberty and the absolute autonomy of every local church, he continued.
The faculty of the seminary will accept the responsibility of producing literature for both the church and the academy on a regular basis. At the same time, the seminary will reaffirm its determination for its three schools to honor Christ.
“We shall, in the program of church music, reaffirm our determination to have music that honors Christ, avoiding both high church formalism and the embrace of worldly styles and emphases in church music,” Patterson said. “We shall attempt in our program of Christian education to have a cutting-edge program that will instruct people in how best to effectively teach the Bible, Christian witnessing, Baptist history and Baptist missions.
“We shall, by the grace of God, teach the clear, unadulterated, exciting exposition of God’s word as the appropriate and desperately needed method of preaching in our day. We shall continue to foster a program of compassionate counseling of the hurting and confused which recognizes the sufficiency of the Scriptures in all aspects of life,” he said.
Patterson said that the seminary will continue to hold its faculty and students to the highest standards of morality and ethics. Additionally, the seminary will never be ashamed of its Baptist heritage, Baptist name or Anabaptist heritage.
“We will labor in the constant hope and confidence of the return of Christ at the end of the age for his church,” Patterson said, “and above all else, we shall seek the approval of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church. This, my brothers and sisters, is a tall commitment, but it is one which we must keep for the sake of Southwestern Seminary, but more especially for the sake of the 6.5 billion lost people on the face of the globe.”
A native Texan, Patterson, 60, served for 11 years as president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., prior to accepting Southwestern’s presidency. He became the second Southern Baptist statesman to serve as president of two SBC seminaries. Duke McCall served at both New Orleans and Southern seminaries.
Patterson is a third-generation Southern Baptist preacher. His father T.A. Patterson served as the executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He was ordained at First Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, at age 16.
He received his bachelor’s of arts degree from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, and Th.M. and Th.D. degrees from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
After serving as pastor to churches in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, Patterson became president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, now Criswell College in Dallas. He left Criswell College for Southeastern Seminary in October 1992.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: AFFIRMING ACCOUNTABILITY, PASSING THE TORCH, SURROUNDED BY SUPPORTERS and SHARING A LAUGH.