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SBC seminary presidents relay reports to messengers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries reported on their 2018-2019 academic year to messengers at the June 11-12 SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

Iorg: ‘Minorities joining majority culture is not diversity’

By Kathie Chute

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Minorities joining the majority culture is not diversity, Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention June 12. Instead, “true diversity is embracing different cultures and incorporating their perspectives in daily operations.

“Gateway Seminary has been — for more than 30 years — the most diverse ministry entity in the SBC,” Iorg said, noting that more than half of Gateway’s students are non-Anglos, with that commitment to diversity also reflected in the seminary’s staff and faculty. About 30 percent of the student body are women.

“We are a better school because of the richness of the cultural layers which create the Gateway family,” Iorg said. “Southern Baptists, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming a pluralistic denomination which embraces different cultural expressions in creating our denominational tapestry.”

Iorg reported that the seminary’s accrediting agency had given the seminary a full 10-year reaccreditation, the maximum allowed under their policies. They also issued seven written commendations, which included mention of Gateway’s high quality online program that they described as exhibiting the best practices in distance education.

“Our online program is considered a world-class example of how to do it right,” Iorg said. “We were among the first group of seminaries approved to offer the master of divinity degree fully online. We are now offering all five of our master’s degrees fully online.”

Instead of considering itself a physical organization with a digital presence, Gateway is gradually seeing itself more as a digital organization with physical locations, Iorg said.

“The global move to prioritizing digital presence over physical locations seems to be marching inexorably forward. We are trying to stay in step with these changes, while also emphasizing in-person instruction as an important delivery model,” he said.

Iorg told messengers that Gateway Seminary is partnering with the 12 western state Baptist conventions, the Baptist Foundation of California and the Northwest Baptist Foundation in a joint effort named the Call Project to elevate the emphasis on being called to ministry leadership.

“For the next five years, these state conventions will prioritize ‘calling’ in every event that includes high school or college students,” Iorg said. “They will distribute materials, host breakout sessions, share sermon resources and otherwise promote the subject of ‘call.’ This is a long-term investment in developing leaders for the future. While we are focusing in the West, we welcome any other states to contact us about being involved in this project.”

Iorg thanked Southern Baptists for their steadfast support since adopting the seminary in 1950.

“Thank you for your Cooperative Program gifts, for sending students and for praying for us,” he said. “Seventy-five years after our founding, we are celebrating all God has done through us. The most important accomplishment — which we will celebrate soon — will be sending our 10,000th graduate to expand God’s Kingdom around the world. We have grown from a prayer meeting with six deacons and their wives who founded our institution to 10,000 graduates. To God be the glory!”


Allen underscores Midwestern’s dedication to the local church

By T. Patrick Hudson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen’s report to the messengers at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting reflected the institution’s determination to serve the local church.

Allen noted that Midwestern’s primary focus is to constantly evaluate and answer the question, “How do we best equip and serve the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention?”

Reading from Ephesians 4:11-16, Allen explained that the passage clearly points to Jesus’ emphasis on the corporate body of believers, saying, “The main act is not Midwestern Seminary. The main act is not even theological education. The main act is the local church — the body of Christ.

“The magic of this convention is not in its six seminaries. It is that nearly 50,000 congregations, week after week, are winning people to Christ, baptizing believers into the body of Christ, sending missionaries unto the nations for the cause of Christ. Our work at Midwestern Seminary, therefore, is to undergird and support your work in the local church.”

Thanking messengers for their faithfulness in supporting Midwestern Seminary through their Cooperative Program giving, Allen said the past year in the life of the institution had been “unprecedented.”

Among the achievements for which he gave thanks, Allen noted the completion of the Mathena Student Center, the seminary’s significant faculty hires, the transition to a biblical counseling model, the relaunching of Spurgeon College, and school’s record enrollment.

Allen said the $13 million, 40,000-square-foot Mathena Student Center is a spectacular addition to campus, meeting an institutional need that has existed since the seminary’s earliest days.

Significant new faculty hires, Allen told messengers, were Andreas Köstenberger as research professor of New Testament and biblical theology; Jason DeRouchie, research professor of Old Testament and biblical theology; Andrew King, assistant dean of Spurgeon College; and Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of church history.

Allen said the hiring of Dale Johnson as associate professor of biblical counseling has transitioned Midwestern from an integrative counseling to a biblical counseling model.

“We’re really looking forward to seeing how God impacts students through [the biblical counseling model]. Why such a transition? Because, again, we asked how do we best serve the churches of the convention? For us, it became clear that this was the decision God would have us to go.”

In relaunching the seminary’s undergraduate program, Spurgeon College, a little over a year ago, Allen reported that the college’s ministry footprint is expanding, with students coming to Kansas City not just to be trained as pastors, ministers and missionaries.

Students in new degree like business and communications are not only “for the church,” they are “for the Kingdom,” Allen said. “The reason for this is that they will now have the ability to go and serve vocationally in the marketplace at home or overseas — taking the Gospel of Christ to the nations via a business or other platform.”

Regarding enrollment, Allen expressed gratitude to God that Midwestern’s enrollment is on course to reach 3,800 to 3,900 students, which means the seminary’s enrollment has more than tripled over the past seven years. Additionally, he said, all early metrics portend another record enrollment this fall.

Concluding his report, Allen explained the mission of Midwestern Seminary is simple, “It’s not about one man or an entire faculty. It’s not about the brilliance of a team, the eloquence of speakers or the savviness of marketers. It’s about three words: for the church. It’s a mission, a determination, a resolve that continues to resonate with the messengers seated before me and the churches throughout the land.

“We are here to train pastors, ministers, missionaries and church planters for Southern Baptist churches. Three words: for the church.”


Chuck Kelley transitions to Jamie Dew in SBC report

By Gary D. Myers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — During New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s report to the convention two leaders — Chuck Kelley and Jamie Dew — shared the podium and offered a picture of a gracious transition of leadership and the importance of answering God’s call.

Kelley, who led NOBTS for the past 23 years, spent the first half of the report thanking Southern Baptists for their gracious support of theological education and sharing the good news of the school’s minority scholarships and evangelism efforts. Halfway through the allotted time, Kelley yielded the podium to Dew, who was elected as the seminary’s ninth president on June 5. Dew shared his vision for a seminary of committed servants of Jesus Christ.

“My first words have to be, ‘thank you,'” Kelley said. “No other American family of churches is invested in theological education the way Southern Baptists are invested. The truth is, we still need to do more.”

Kelley said the Cooperative Program has provided $172,751,343 in funding to NOBTS during his tenure alone.

“We want to thank you for that and say please keep on sacrificing, keep on sending, keep on supporting the preparation of your next generation of ministers,” Kelley said. “All of us want to see our students graduate without student debt and you can make that possible.”

Presidential transitions usually result in decreases in enrollment and giving, Kelley noted. Bucking that trend, NOBTS experienced a small increase in enrollment this year in spite of Kelley’s retirement announcement. Giving remains strong as well. Since January, $2 million has been given to the seminary’s student scholarship endowment.

Kelley pointed to two important scholarship programs in which donors have given sacrificially in order to keep student debt to a minimum. The Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship is helping the seminary student body become more diverse, while the other, the Caskey Center for Church Excellence, is helping NOBTS become more committed to evangelism.

Since 2011, the Fred Luter Jr. Scholarship has distributed more than $1 million in scholarships to African American students in Atlanta and New Orleans. These funds supplement the general NOBTS scholarships which are available to all students regardless of ethnicity. The family who started the Luter Scholarship recently pledged another $250,000 to the effort.

The Caskey Center provides full-tuition scholarships for nearly 300 smaller membership church ministers in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Not only is the funding helping pay for the cost of theological education, it is fostering local church evangelism. Students who receive the scholarship are required to engage in at least one Gospel conversation every week. Since 2015, Caskey recipients have engaged in 34,732 Gospel conversations resulting in 4,059 new believers.

After these brief updates, Kelley yielded the podium to Frank Cox, chairman of the presidential search committee, who introduced Jamie Dew to the convention. “[Serving on the committee] has been one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Cox said.

Dew said he is “honored to be numbered among these men on this stage and to have the opportunity to give my life in service to you. Everything I have and everything I am is because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ that came to me through the faithful work of Southern Baptists.”

Dew said he had every intention of spending the rest of his life leading the College at Southeastern in North Carolina, but the call of God led him to New Orleans and that call has given him a passion for his new task.

“In a very short time, I have fallen in love with the city of New Orleans and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” Dew said. “I had written a very cute, beautiful story for my life, but through this process I have remembered that God has the right to rewrite our stories and that He writes more beautiful stories than we do. God took something from me that I deeply loved – [the] College at Southeastern — and He put in my hands and my heart New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.”

Dew said that the convention can expect to see a seminary that passionately trains up a generation of servants for Jesus Christ. NOBTS will prioritize preaching and proclamation of the Gospel to a broken, fallen world, he said.

“There is only one name, there is only one man, Jesus Christ, who can redeem and restore,” Dew said. “We have a passion to see that redemption unfold to this nation and the nations around us.”

Dew said the task before believers today will not be accomplished without a commitment to prayer and spiritual fervor.

“We must be a people who walk on our knees and keep our noses on the floor before God begging God to do a great work in us and a great work through us,” Dew said. “So at the beginning of this journey, I offer our students, our faculty, our administration and myself to you as your servants for the century before us.”


Akin celebrates growth at Southeastern

By Lauren Pratt

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin celebrated the growth that has occurred in its enrollment and announced new partnerships, degree programs and staff changes within the seminary.

“If you ever walk on the campus of Southeastern Seminary, you will immediately catch the DNA of our institution, which is the Great Commission,” Akin said.

Southeastern Seminary and The College at Southeastern have seen significant growth with a current non-duplicating headcount of 4,700 students.

Akin also celebrated the recently announced partnership between Church Answers and the Revitalize Network to offer an M.A. in church revitalization, which will be taught by professors such as Thom Rainer, founder and CEO of Church Answers, executive director of the Revitalize Network and former president of LifeWay Christian Resources, and Sam Rainer, president of the Revitalize Network and Church Answers, co-founder and co-owner of Rainer Publishing and pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida.

Southeastern’s Global Theological Initiative office has seen significant development in its Hispanic, East Asian and Persian leadership development programs, Akin reported. GTI works with strategic partners on six continents to create cohorts of selected leaders from their seminaries, mission boards, denominations and key churches. GTI’s goal is to equip these national leaders so they may train local pastors and missionaries within their various contexts. Through this initiative, Southeastern is training faculty and administrators from more than 40 seminaries in Brazil, the third leading country in sending missionaries. Southeastern also is working to train faculty and administrators from seven schools across Ukraine and working to create a partnership with more than 40 theological training entities from 20 separate countries across Sub-Saharan Africa.

“In all of this we are training leaders who we pray will also go out and train leaders as well,” Akin said.

Akin honored Jamie Dew, former dean of The College at Southeastern who has been elected as president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Under Dew’s leadership, the college more than doubled its enrollment to more than 1,200 students. Akin said he counted it a joy to see Dew’s appointment to lead NOBTS in the days ahead.

“We are sorrowful in losing him, but we delight in God’s call upon his life to go to New Orleans Seminary,” Akin said. “He has done a phenomenal job and served us with faithfulness and dedication.”

Akin reported that Scott Pace has been appointed to succeed Dew as dean of the college. Pace previously served as director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership as well as associate professor of pastoral ministry and preaching at Southeastern.

As a part of The College at Southeastern, Akin celebrated the Hunt Scholar Program’s growth, which has doubled since its inception and saw its first two graduates in May 2019. The program is designed to provide both a bachelor of arts and master of divinity in pastoral ministry in as little as five years.

Akin also highlighted the continuation and growth of the North Carolina Field Minister Program, which allows long-term inmates in the North Carolina prison system to receive a bachelor arts in pastoral ministry through The College at Southeastern. In its third year, enrollment has risen to 80 students with a 91 percent retention rate. Through partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing and Game Plan for Life, the program is fully funded to date.

The Kingdom Diversity Initiative at Southeastern, likewise, has grown since its inception in 2013, with the non-white student population increasing by 50 percent and the female student population increasing by 40 percent.

“We have more women studying today at our six seminaries than at any time in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Akin, which was followed by applause from messengers across the area.

With so much growth occurring within the institution, Akin announced Southeastern’s launch of a For the Mission campaign, a four-year campaign addressesing four strategic initiatives for Great Commission effectiveness to be strengthened among Southeastern’s students, faculty and staff.

In closing, Akin, who is celebrating his 15th year as president of Southeastern, thanked Southern Baptists for their prayers, love and support for the seminary.

“We continue to be consumed with a passion that allows us and drives us to be focused outward on the nation,” said Akin, explaining that this is coupled with deep conviction of belief “flowing from a non-negotiable commitment to an infallible and inerrant Bible.”


Mohler: Southern Seminary’s calling remains ‘trust’

By Andrew J.W. Smith

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — As he is about to begin his 27th year as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. emphasized a rich and deep theological training that students are receiving at the school.

Southern Seminary is “unapologetically Southern Baptist” and remains as committed as ever to training men and women for Gospel ministry. Thus, every word of the school’s title carries weight, he said.

“Every single word in the name of Southern Seminary is vitally important,” Mohler said. “We are, without apology, a theological seminary for the training of pastors and ministers.”

Mohler referenced the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 as inspiration for Southern Seminary’s calling.

Jesus prayed that his Father would sanctify His people “in truth” in John 17, thereby defining the nature and focus of theological education, and by extension the mission of Southern Seminary, Mohler said.

“We exist not only that a coming generation would be trained and prepared and educated for service in the churches, pulpit and mission fields … but that Christ’s church, by their ministries, would be sanctified by the truth — the revealed truth of God, the Holy Scriptures,” he said.

In an age of quick-serve theological education, where many degree programs are entirely available online and the requirements for graduation are lowered, Southern Seminary is committed to providing the full depth of ministry preparation.

“At a time in which there are many denominations and many seminaries trying to figure out how little they can offer in order to get the job done most quickly, we are determined to do it most faithfully,” Mohler said.

“In the coming generation, ministers and pastors are not going to need less Bible; they are going to need more Bible.”

Mohler characterized Southern Seminary’s mission as a “stewardship of truth.”

“There is no adventure like training young preachers,” he said. “There is no joy like seeing them go out. There is no satisfaction like seeing a young man who is called to the preaching ministry and see his mind grow full and his heart grow even more full.”

Mohler also gave a report as chair of the Council of Seminary Presidents, telling the convention that both the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives and Seminary Extension programs are thriving.

Both programs are critical to the past and the future of the Southern Baptist Convention, he said, and ensure that every Southern Baptist can know the history of the convention and that any Southern Baptist can have access to theological education.


Greenway presents ‘big-tent’ vision for Southwestern Seminary

By Alex Sibley

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — Adam W. Greenway delivered the report for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for the first time as its ninth president, using the opportunity to present his “big-tent” vision for the seminary.

Before doing so, however, Greenway first took time to say a special “thank you” to the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Thank you for what you have done for so many years through the generous and sacrificial giving through your local, visible, New Testament churches through the Cooperative Program…. Every dollar that comes to our seminaries is a dollar we do not have to charge our students in tuition,” he said.

“And I want you to know my prayer is that we will continue to see a strengthening of our Cooperative Program giving and our partnership together, because in every one of our seminaries, including our seminary in Fort Worth, if Jesus tarries, we are training your grandchildren’s pastors, and we want those pastors to be debt-free; we want them to have every opportunity to succeed, wherever God may call them.”

Greenway then laid out his “big-tent” vision, which consists of four pillars — that is, four commitments and convictions that characterize the seminary: a high view of Scripture; confessional fidelity to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000; the Great Commission; and cooperation.

Greenway clarified this is not a new vision but rather a reinvigoration of the vision of B.H. Carroll, Southwestern’s founder. Greenway noted, for example, that Carroll started the first chair of evangelism in any seminary, “the Chair of Fire,” originally occupied by L.R. Scarborough, later the seminary’s second president.

“Our seminary has had a passion from the very beginning not just to know the Word of God, but to help people encounter Jesus in a saving way,” Greenway said. “Because at the end of the day, what matters is our efforts and labors to do everything we can to take as many sons and daughters to glory as we possibly can, and if we fail in the area of evangelism, then we fail everywhere. Our passion, our joy is seeing people come to Christ, beginning right in Tarrant County, Texas, and going to the nations.”

Greenway concluded his report by acknowledging that Southwestern Seminary, like other institutions, has historically fallen short of certain expectations, but that “it is our resolve to do better.”

“I have had a longstanding love and gratitude for Southwestern Seminary,” Greenway said, noting that he first came to the campus as a student 20 years ago this summer.

“As the first alumnus in 25 years to sit in the president’s chair, I am committed to doing everything I can to see our seminary flourish — not for our name’s sake; not so people will know Adam Greenway’s name or even Southwestern Seminary’s name, but so that they will know the life-changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and [so that] the glory of God will be seen in Fort Worth, Texas, and to the nations.”

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