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SEBTS trustees celebrate groundbreaking, commissioning, Akins’ 20 years

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – Monday morning (April 15), Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary welcomed its board of trustees and Southeastern Society (SES) to campus for their biannual meetings. This year, in addition to the plenary sessions and institutional updates, Southeastern celebrated the 20th anniversary of its president, broke ground on a new dining hall extension to the Ledford Student Center and commissioned more than 80 students and their families for service in the mission field.

During his Monday morning address to SES members, President Danny Akin shared his thankfulness for the mission-oriented, theologically driven heart of the school. He emphasized Southeastern’s strong relationship with the International Mission Board (IMB), sharing that more than 200 Southeastern students are currently serving on the mission field through the IMB. Furthermore, students serving with the IMB annually receive more than $600,000 in scholarships at Southeastern, enabling them to pursue theological education while engaged in international missions.

During the Monday morning updates, Jonathan Goforth, director of admissions, shared that institutional enrollment has continued to increase, with accepted applications up 15 percent since last spring.

Honoring the Akins

That evening, trustees, SES members, and close friends of the Akins gathered for the Southeastern Family banquet, during which faculty, staff and the Akin family had the opportunity to honor Danny and Charlotte Akin.

While reflecting on his parents’ years of service, Jonathan Akin said, “My mom and dad have exercised a leadership that looks like the leadership of Jesus, and it’s made a massive impact from this community all the way to the ends of the earth.”

Throughout the night, gifts were presented to the couple, beginning with a video recounting the impact Danny Akin has had on Southeastern in creating and cultivating its Great Commission focus. Charlotte Akin was presented with an endowment for the Charlotte Akin Student Aid Fund, a scholarship established in honor of her and the impact the Baptist Children’s Home had on her life and faith. The fund will provide financial assistance to full-time Southeastern students who have received care from the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia.

At the banquet, all four of the Akins’ sons, as well as daughter-in-law Kari, presented speeches in their parents’ honor. They spoke of the Akins hearts for Jesus and for others, including their children and grandchildren. They commended them for their humble, convictional and virtuous leadership.

At the end of the evening, both Executive Vice President Ryan Hutchinson and Provost Scott Pace thanked Akin on behalf of the institution’s faculty and staff.

“As we reflect on the past 20 years,” Hutchinson said, “we are filled with gratitude for the countless lives that have been impacted at our seminary. Dr. Akin’s leadership has been instrumental in shaping generations of students who are now serving the Church and fulfilling the Great Commission all around the world.”

Pace presented Akin with a resolution of appreciation from SEBTS faculty, which expressed their “gratitude for his exemplary leadership, gracious friendship, and constant support over the past 20 years as president, praying that God would continue to strengthen the work of his hands, bless his ministry and empower him by the Holy Spirit to finish the race well and be tireless in his efforts to lead Southeastern Seminary in ever increasing faithfulness to the Great Commission of King Jesus.”

Board of trustees updates

The next morning, meetings and updates resumed and would be followed later by a ground-breaking ceremony and the commissioning of students preparing to go on the mission field.

During their second plenary session Tuesday morning, trustees celebrated the health and stability of the institution and voted to approve a $33.17 million budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year – a $1.81 million budget increase.

They also approved the first phase of the Ledford Student Center Dining Hall expansion, which involves interior renovations that will significantly increase the building’s seating capacity. The second phase of this expansion project will be voted on in the fall and will include a 7,000-square-foot addition to the Ledford Center, which will function as an event space to host dialogues, conferences and student gatherings.

Trustees approved the election of Seth Bible, vice president of undergraduate studies and dean of The College at Southeastern, to the faculty as assistant professor of ethics. They also approved Bryce Hantla’s election to the faculty as associate professor of education. In addition, Hantla serves as associate vice president of institutional effectiveness and director of education and dual enrollment programs. Scott Pace, provost and dean of graduate studies, was also approved for promotion to professor of preaching and pastoral ministry.

During their session, trustees voted to approve undergraduate curriculum changes, including two additions: a major and minor in political science and a major and minor in communications — two strategic additions to The College’s marketplace degrees, which equip students to advance the cause of Christ in every aspect of society.

Trustees also approved graduate and advanced curriculum changes, including a graduate certificate in biblical languages and a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) specialization in student ministry.

Celebrating the generosity of donors who share Southeastern’s commitment to the Great Commission, trustees approved the following new funds:

  • The Jill Kirkland Cording Memorial Student Aid Fund, which will provide financial assistance for full-time Seminary students
  • The Stephens Endowment for Ledford Maintenance, established to support and provide for the maintenance and operations of the Ledford Center
  • The Charlotte Akin Student Aid Fund, established to provide financial assistance to full-time students who have received care from the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia
  • The Anna C. Borger Memorial Scholarship Fund, which will help provide financial support for full-time international students at Southeastern

During the second plenary session, Carlos Goodrich was elected as new trustee chair and Art Werry, the existing chairman, rotated off after 10 years of service. Following the session, during the commissioning chapel, Akin honored Werry for his time on the board, thanking him for his dedicated service. The board of trustees also welcomed Bob Block as its newest member.

Commissioning chapel

At the commissioning chapel, trustees presented Akin with a resolution of appreciation, thanking him for his Great Commission vision, servant’s heart, doctrinal fidelity and many years of leadership at Southeastern.

Keith Whitfield and Nathan Finn presented Akin with a festschrift in his honor, entitled, “Fulfilling the Great Commission: Essays in Honor of Daniel L. Akin.”

Following Akin’s chapel message, more than 80 Southeastern students and family members were commissioned and prayed over by their Southeastern and church families as they prepare to go on the mission field later this year.

Groundbreaking ceremony

The board of trustees and SES visit came to a close with a celebration on Carson Lawn celebrating both the Akins’ Southeastern anniversary and the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ledford Center’s new dining hall expansion.

Students, staff, and visitors joined together for lunch and conversation on the lawn and had the opportunity to tour the newly renovated Shaw House, which will house the Caskey Center for Biblical Text and Translation.

Faculty stories

SES members had the opportunity to hear from several of Southeastern’s faculty of the ways God has been at work in their lives and ministries.

Director of Persian Leadership Development Kambiz Saghaey shared the story of his ministry in his home country of Iran, his imprisonment for his faith, and the way God miraculous freed him. Kambiz also narrated how he was able to be theologically trained and equipped through Southeastern’s distance learning program before moving to the U.S. where they found a welcoming community at Southeastern. Kambiz helped create Southeastern’s Persian Leadership Development program, which now includes a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry in Farsi.

“I will say thank you, again,” Kambiz told society members. “Because of you, we can continue training people, and they can go and share the Gospel.”

Benjamin Quinn, associate professor of theology and history of ideas and associate director of the Center for Faith and Culture, spoke to SES members about how teaching theology to the local church equips believers to fulfill the Great Commission. God has placed Quinn in a unique position of ministry where he serves as the senior pastor at Holly Grove Baptist Church while also training the next generation of disciple makers at Southeastern.

“We want to weave theology into the everyday and every member of our church,” he explained. “Proper doctrine develops human beings who look and sound and smell more and more like Jesus every day.”

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  • Mary Asta Halvorsen/SEBTS