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SEBTS trustees elect faculty, approve budget, celebrate Great Commission

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) – On April 16-18, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees and Southeastern Society (SES) gathered on campus for their spring meetings. Trustees received institutional updates, elected faculty, approved the 2023-2024 budget, and celebrated commissioning chapel and the dedication of the Ty Williams Memorial pavilion on campus.

“This is one of my favorite times of the year as we celebrate God’s blessings on Southeastern,” said President Danny Akin. “God has gifted us with a wonderful board of trustees, who serve our institution faithfully, and a precious society of supporters and friends of Southeastern, who pray for us and generously support the work God is doing here to advance his kingdom. Together our mission is to fulfill the Great Commission of King Jesus.”

On Monday, trustees gathered for their first plenary session and met in subcommittees to receive updates from Southeastern staff and faculty. Trustees heard reports of how God has continued to enable Southeastern to equip students, partner with local churches, expand its curriculum, and broaden its global training efforts.

During Tuesday’s plenary session, trustees voted to approve the $31.37 million budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, including a 2.28 percent annual budget increase.

Trustees also approved the renovations of the Shaw House on the corner of South Avenue and South Wingate Street, which will house the Caskey Center for Biblical Text and Translation (CBBT) — Southeastern’s newest center devoted to translating the Bible, researching ancient manuscripts, and resourcing missionaries with translation resources. The CBBT is scheduled to launch this fall and will be directed by Chuck Quarles, research professor of New Testament and biblical theology and Charles Page Chair of biblical theology.

Strengthening The College’s academic offerings, trustees voted to approve several curricular changes, including revisions to the general core curriculum. These revisions increased biblical studies requirements and added courses on introduction to missions and introduction to psychology from a biblical perspective. “Trustees also approved the addition of several advanced degrees concentrations, including a ThM in applied theology with a concentration in theology and worship; a DMin in applied theology with a concentration in worship; and an EdD with a concentration in Christian ministry.”

Following recommendations from the cabinet and academic committee, trustees unanimously elected Scott Pace, dean of The College at Southeastern, as provost of Southeastern, effective June 1.

“I am delighted to announce that Scott Pace will be serving our faculty and our institution as provost,” Akin said. “He is a remarkable preacher and teacher, a beloved colleague, and a skilled administrator. His faithful leadership of The College at Southeastern, his commitment to our faculty, and his passion for our mission make Scott ideal for the role.”

Pace’s election follows Provost Keith Whitfield’s announcement that he will be returning to the classroom full time, starting this summer. After 10 years of serving in various administrative roles, Whitfield informed Akin in January about his desire to transition to full-time teaching.

“Words are inadequate to express my love and appreciation for Keith and the job he has done as provost,” Akin said. “Over the last 11 years, Keith has distinguished himself not only as a theologian and scholar but also as a beloved professor and mentor to our students. I am grateful for his love for our students and his desire to devote more time to their training in the classroom and in the local church.”

Seth Bible, director of prison programs at The College, will serve as acting dean of The College following Pace’s promotion.

During Tuesday’s plenary session, trustees elected three professors to the faculty, recognizing their commitment to the institution and their testimony to God’s calling on their lives:

  • Miguel Echevarria as associate professor of New Testament and Greek
  • Scott Hildreth as associate professor of missiology
  • Ben Holloway as assistant professor of philosophy and history of ideas

Trustees also approved four faculty promotions, commending these professors for their faithful teaching ministry:

  • Tate Cockrell to professor of counseling
  • Ben Merkle to research professor of New Testament and Greek
  • Adrianne Miles to associate professor of English and linguistics
  • Jim Shaddix to senior professor of preaching

Southeastern Society meetings

During their meetings on Monday and Tuesday, SES members received institutional updates, celebrating God’s blessings on Southeastern’s ongoing training efforts.

Akin reported Monday morning that more Southeastern students have signed up for short-term institutional mission trips this academic year than had signed up during any year over the past decade. This focus on equipping students by providing missions experience is a strategic way Southeastern intends to prepare students for Great Commission ministry.

Drew Davis, director of financial and alumni development, shared with SES members that The College celebrated its largest preview day last week with more than 150 guests. Davis added that Southeastern has already accepted more students for fall 2023 than total students who applied last year. The College continues to experience growth, including in its prison programs, which celebrated its first women’s prison program graduation in the fall.

Celebrating God’s faithfulness, Davis reported that Southeastern has received $5.3 million in charitable donations so far this year and is expected to receive more than $6 million for the first time in institutional history. Davis also shared that Southeastern’s four-year For the Mission capital campaign is now 94 percent complete due to the generosity of thousands of Great Commission donors.

Sharing with SES members during a panel discussion on Monday, professors Keelan Cook, Scott Hildreth, George Robinson and John Ewart shared how Southeastern trains its students to prioritize the Great Commission. Focusing on the practice of evangelism, these professors told stories about how they are instilling evangelistic habits and dispositions in their students so that they can lead their churches to be evangelistic.

During the For the Mission banquet Monday night, trustees and SES members heard from Southeastern alumni Glenn and Patti Steen, who shared their journey of faith and how Southeastern equipped them to serve others.

Offering the keynote address for the banquet, Will Graham, executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove and an associate evangelist with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, charged attendees to reclaim the priority of evangelism in the local church. Drawing from Ephesians 4:11, Graham identified evangelism as a neglected emphasis in the Western church.

“As a denomination and as Christians around the world, we talk about evangelism, we do conferences about evangelism, but we don’t support evangelism,” Graham said, who is also a Southeastern graduate. “We don’t train up evangelists or put them on our church staff.”

According to Graham, the church needs to raise up and train evangelists because the Great Commission is the central mission Jesus has given His people. As Jesus’ second coming draws near, the need is urgent for people to hear the Gospel and for workers to be sent into the harvest.

“For the evangelist, timing is urgent,” Graham said. “Harvest time is short. You only get a small time in this window to have an impact for the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. That’s why we need men and women who are trained to bring in the harvest. … This is what we need Southeastern for.”

Commissioning chapel

During Tuesday’s chapel, Southeastern recognized trustees Melinda Delahoyde, Earle Finley, and Israel Kim for 10 years of faithful service, as they rotated off the board following this week’s meeting. Southeastern also reassigned the George Liele directorship of the Center for Great Commission Studies to Keelan Cook, instructor of missiology at Southeastern.

For the chapel message, Graham preached from 2 Samuel 15:30-37, outlining nine traits of a faithful servant of God. Graham reminded attendees that a life of faithful service to the Lord is characterized by daily obedience and surrender. When King Jesus commands his people, they should obey without hesitation — even when obedience requires them to surrender their agenda or self-interest.

“We’re not called to be loyal to ourselves but to be loyal to God,” noted Graham. “He’s the king. We do what he asks. … We’re not called to be famous; we’re called to be obedient.”

After Southeastern also commissioned and prayed for 41 students and families being sent internationally this year and 18 students and families who will be going to serve across North America. These commissioned students join the 94 current Southeastern students who are already serving on missions with the International Mission Board.

Pavilion dedication

Following chapel, Southeastern students, staff and faculty assembled outside for the dedication of the Ty Williams Memorial Pavilion, an outdoor gathering space dedicated in honor of Ty Williams, who died unexpectedly in 2020. Williams is the son of SEBTS Facilities Director Travis Williams.

“I am excited about the addition of the Ty Williams Memorial Pavilion to the campus,” said Ryan Hutchinson, executive vice president for operations at Southeastern. “It is an opportunity to honor the memory of Ty and express our love and appreciation for the Williams family and their service to Southeastern. The pavilion is going to be a place where students can enjoy Southeastern’s beautiful campus and fellowship with one another.”

The Ty Williams Memorial Pavilion, an outdoor gathering space adjacent to Stealey drive, is designed to complement Southeastern’s campus and facilitate Great Commission conversation, study, and fellowship. Completed earlier this month, the pavilion features open landscaping, a fountain, covered space and ample seating for study, fellowship and events.

Ty Williams died at age 11 on Nov. 12, 2020. Filled with curiosity and a love for God’s creation, Ty enjoyed meeting new friends on Southeastern’s campus, spending much of his time playing in the area that is now the site of the pavilion dedicated in his honor. The pavilion celebrates Ty’s lasting legacy of love for others and for God’s creation, inviting the Southeastern family and surrounding community to reflect on the preciousness of God’s abiding love in Christ.

During the dedication ceremony, Akin presented Liz and Travis Williams with a framed resolution approved by Southeastern’s board of trustees, celebrating the life and legacy of their son Ty. Liz and Travis were joined by their extended family, church family and Southeastern students, faculty and staff.

“We just want to say thank you,” Travis said during the ceremony. “There are so many people that made contributions to this project, and there are so many here that love our boy. Our prayer is this place would go a long way in making Jesus known, making him loved in the hearts of people. That is the greatest honor we could ever receive. In this place, we pray that you have gospel conversations, that you invite people who don’t know anything about the Gospel, and that you make much of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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  • Chad Burchett/SEBTS