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SBTS enrollment gains prompt trustees to revise master plan


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–To accommodate continuing growth, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees approved a revised master plan Oct. 14 to add classrooms and parking spaces within the next year.

President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told trustees the seminary’s growth requires difficult decisions regarding campus facilities. Because of the need for classroom space, Southern will renovate and reassign two existing buildings for academic use.

Rankin Hall, which now houses the seminary’s child development center, will be transitioned into a classroom facility for Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate school. The center, which provides daycare to 72 student, faculty, staff and community children, is scheduled to close at the end of the academic year in May 2004.

The seminary also will convert a 76-year-old gymnasium into two high-technology classrooms.

Mohler said the changes are necessary because the seminary must keep its mission of preparing Gospel ministers as the main priority.

“The moves reflect a concentration on our core assignment,” Mohler said. “We are forced by enrollment gains to make difficult choices and must look to other options for childcare needs. We are very concerned for the well-being of the children and families currently using the child development center. We will work with staff and families over the next several months to develop a transition plan.”

Southern Seminary’s enrollment exceeds 3,500, including more than 600 students at Boyce College.

Mohler told trustees that Southern must remain on a “wartime footing” because of the urgency of its call to proclaim the Gospel amid a culture that is becoming increasingly secularized, he said.

“An institution that is called to a wartime footing will make different decisions than an institution that thinks we are at peace with the world and our future is secure,” Mohler said.

“It means as we look to the future and as we are operating in the present, we have got to ensure that we are doing what the churches have called us to do. Actually, our assignment is not just to mobilize students. It’s not just to build a seminary. You need to re-conceive this seminary as a West Point or an Annapolis [whose purpose is] to train those who will go out and lead the church for the battle.”

The master plan includes several projects, totaling more than $3.2 million in the first year. The entire revised master plan is scheduled for completion by December 2006.

Under the plan:

— Levering Gymnasium, built in 1927, will be converted into two high-technology classrooms in 2004. Each of the two classrooms will seat 160. The gym currently serves as an auxiliary to the Honeycutt campus center, which features a modern gymnasium facility.

— Rankin Hall, which houses the school’s child development center, will be converted into eight new classrooms for Boyce College.

— Parking capacity will increase with the addition of 136 spaces in 2004 and an additional 86 in 2005.

— Twenty-four residential units will be added to Fuller Hall in 2005, along with cosmetic improvements, a sprinkler system and other amenities.

— Alumni Memorial Chapel will receive an upgrade in technology.

— Sprinkler systems will be installed in Carver and Mullins halls. Mullins also will receive a cosmetic renovation.

— Boyce Library will receive improvements including high-density book shelving and floor-by-floor refurbishing. Dated or worn aesthetics will receive a cosmetic facelift.

— Village Manor Apartments will be sold to a “friendly buyer” in 2004. The private entity buying Village Manor will renovate the 251-unit complex and maintain it as a low-income facility. The renovated apartments will continue to be available for student occupancy under private ownership.

Mohler said the master plan’s current projects are only the beginning of changes the seminary will undertake to allow for continued growth. The changes will not only help more students benefit from the seminary but also will increase Southern’s ability to carry out its stewardship in the way it uses campus space, Mohler said.

Churches are seeking ministers from Southern Seminary at a rate that exceeds the number of graduates annually going out from the school, Mohler said, noting that the master plan is aimed at meeting that demand.

“We’ve had the opportunity over the last several years, in a number of very different ways, to make certain we are doing what the churches want us to do,” Mohler said.

“But the proof is always in the pulpit. And the good news is that churches demand our graduates. We have no trouble placing our graduates. We have more requests for our graduates than we yet have graduates.

“The time is short. We need to do everything possible to equip those who are currently studying at Southern Seminary to be readied in every way that we can possibly make possible for them to go out in the churches to be faithful servants of the Word and under-shepherds of the flock.”

In other business, trustees:

— Elected with tenure Duane Garrett to the faculty. Garrett presently serves as Old Testament professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass. He will begin as professor of Old Testament at Southern in the fall of 2004.

— Unanimously approved a resolution denying that open theism is a viable evangelical view. Open theism contends that God does not have exhaustive definitive foreknowledge (see accompanying article).

— Approved the repair of Southern’s swimming pool. The pool has been out of service since earlier this year and will undergo extensive repairs at a projected cost of $215,000 and completion date of summer 2004.
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  • Jeff Robinson