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Search committee, capital campaign affirmed by SEBTS trustees

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–As the search for a new president at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary continues, the presidential search committee has communicated to the seminary’s trustees 11 “core values” guiding them in their quest.

Trustee board and search committee chairman Timothy Lewis, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Troy, Ill., reaffirmed the commitment of the search team and the entire board during Oct. 13-14 meetings at Southeastern to finding God’s man to lead the seminary.

“We are in the process of narrowing; we continue to pray, and we just don’t know how long it might be,” Lewis said. “We’re seeking the Lord’s leadership because we know He has somebody for us.”

As Southeastern’s trustees and board of visitors held their fall meetings on the Wake Forest, N.C., campus, one of the primary items on the agenda was excitement about the success of Scholarship on Fire, the seminary’s $50 million capital campaign begun in 2002.

Interim president Bart Neal reported that the seminary is only $800,000 short of reaching its phase one fundraising goal of $16.5 million. The first fruits of the campaign will be the Patterson Campus Center. The ground for the new center already has been cleared, and construction could begin as early as the first quarter of 2004.

While the success of the campaign excited the trustees, they also were eager to hear Lewis’ report of progress made by the search team since Paige Patterson left Southeastern in early August to become president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Lewis reported that the search committee has met monthly since July, gathering input from Southeastern’s faculty and administration, and collecting recommendations from across the Southern Baptist Convention. The team is committed to finding a new president as soon as possible, Lewis said, but they also are being deliberate and prayerful in their discussions.

“From the beginning, we made a covenant to be fair to each other, and to keep integrity throughout this whole search process,” Lewis said.

The trustee board voted to affirm their faith in the search team and the process for finding God’s choice for the next president of Southeastern.

Lewis called the search team’s 11 core values a “distillation” of the profile they had already constructed. The values, he said, identify some of the most important characteristics the team is looking for in a potential president.

The values are:

1. Godly character, consistent with 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.

2. Agreement with, and advocacy of, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

3. Strong courageous leader.

4. Advocates and practices expository preaching.

5. Strong in missions and evangelism.

6. Academically qualified and credentialed; Ph.D. or equivalent academic achievement.

7. Can draw funding and students.

8. Committed to wife and family, and wife is committed to be a partner in her husband’s ministry.

9. Strong interpersonal skills; loves people.

10. Involved with and understands the dynamics of the local church; has pastoral experience.

11. Has a thorough understanding of the seminary’s purpose.

In his report to the trustees, Neal highlighted the “challenges and opportunities” during the transition and also emphasized that the spirit on Southeastern’s campus is one of encouragement and excitement about the future.

“These times remind us to put our faith and trust in God,” Neal said. “It’s often in times like this that God chooses to bless us in an unusual way. He’s going to show us that through His strength, we can accomplish great things.”

Trustee Wendell Estep, pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, S.C., sounded a similar theme during his Tuesday morning chapel message. Estep said the trustee meeting was one of the most exciting he has attended as a board member.

“God protects His interests,” Estep said. “This is His seminary. It does not belong to the trustees. It belongs to God, and He protects His interests.

“The best days are before us, not behind us. We are searching for God’s man to lead this seminary, but in the meantime, don’t be scared. God is with us.”

In other business, board members approved the promotions of four professors and elected four others.

Promotions were given to John Hammett, from associate professor to professor of systematic theology; Emir Caner from assistant to associate professor of church history and Anabaptist studies; Mark Liederbach from assistant to associate professor of Christian ethics; and Sam Williams from assistant to associate professor of pastoral care.

The four professors elected to the faculty are David Jones in Christian ethics; Lawrence Mayo, church music; Steven Ladd, theology; and Al James, missions.

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  • Jason Hall