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Prominent evangelical seminary cuts staff

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in response to the national economic downturn, has reduced its administrative staff by 35 positions: 20 full-time and 15 part-time, effective Jan. 30.

Each person will receive a severance package, including placement assistance, according to a Jan. 15 news release from the seminary.

No faculty members were included in the staffing reductions.

The workforce reduction, combined with budget cuts made in December, are designed to close a projected $3.2 shortfall in the seminary’s $30 million budget, the news release stated, and will “place the seminary in a stronger financial position for 2009.”

Tuition for the 2009-10 academic year will increase by just under 10 percent according to current projections, SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in a letter e-mailed to the Louisville, Ky., seminary community. The increase, he said, is akin to the tuition increase for the current academic year.

Work will continue on capital projects that already have been contracted and funded, but no new projects will begin until economic conditions improve, according to the news release. On Dec. 18, the seminary announced that it had reduced its budget by $1.7 million, including the halt in various capital projects along with reductions in travel expenses.

“The national economic downturn has resulted in reductions in Southern Seminary’s primary revenue sources, a situation common to higher education at this time,” the Jan. 14 news release stated.

SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr., in a letter to the seminary community, said of support from Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program:

“There is good news to report in that we have experienced good support from our churches channeled through the Cooperative Program. We are certainly watching the Cooperative Program income as directed through the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention into Southern Seminary’s budget. We can never presume upon the performance of the Cooperative Program in troubled times, but I am confident that our churches will do everything possible to maintain their own stewardship and investment in this important work and mission.”

As of Dec. 31, the SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget, the year-to-date total of $47,257,976.70 was 91.89 percent of the $51,429,208.50 budgeted to support Southern Baptist ministries globally and across North America. The SBC operates on an Oct. 1-Sept. 30 fiscal year.

Mohler, though not citing a dollar amount, added that he is “particularly pleased to report that we experienced strong donor support as the month of December came to a close. As a matter of fact, our donors gave both generously and sacrificially in this time of economic challenge, and this is a matter of great significance and cause for our thanksgiving.”

To date, the North American Mission Board, another of the SBC’s six seminaries and Woman’s Missionary Union also have announced budget cuts.

On Jan. 8, NAMB President Geoff Hammond asked NAMB team leaders to operate at 90 percent of their approved budgets during 2009. However, Hammond said funds committed to God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), the denomination-wide evangelism emphasis, would not be affected. State cooperative budgets also will operate according to normal state funding practices.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, announced Dec. 16 that it will be cutting its budget by approximately 10 percent, or $3.5 million to $4 million. Among reductions being made to the budget are “temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities.” SWBTS President Paige Patterson was quoted in a seminary news release as saying, “The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that do not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school.” The news release then stated that Patterson “went on to say that current economic trends would make this goal difficult to achieve.”

On Dec. 10, Woman’s Missionary Union announced it was enacting measures to reduce its 2009 budget by $1.4 million. Some of those steps included reducing team expense budgets in areas such as travel, projects and activities; implementing four weeks unpaid furlough for each staff member between January and August 2009; a hiring freeze on vacant positions; reducing employer contributions to retirement plans; freezing merit pay increases; and eliminating incentive bonuses in 2009. The organization’s revised budget for 2009 is $9.6 million.

On Aug. 1, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer told employees the ministry was reducing its workforce by 5 percent and cutting expenses throughout the organization. He cited the pinch of economic tough times leading to lower discretionary spending by consumers, resulting in lower-than-projected revenues for LifeWay, which receives no Cooperative Program support and is completely funded through the sale of its resources. Those whose jobs were deleted received severance pay, some benefits and outplacement services. In addition, a number of employees were able to take advantage of retirement benefits.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.

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