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Seminaries launch online study, report progress on 6 campuses

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s six seminaries have strategized to best meet the needs of 21st century students, their leaders reported to messengers of the SBC June 13-14 annual meeting at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla.

Under a new reporting format, three of the seminaries — New Orleans, Golden Gate and Southwestern — presented 15-minute reports during business sessions. The other three — Southeastern, Southern and Midwestern — gave two-minute reports. Report times will be reversed for 2001.

“We have all agreed that the Internet is going to be a fixture of theological education in the future,” said New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley Jr. He also is chairman of the SBC’s Council of Seminary Presidents.

All six seminaries already are accepting up to 30 hours of online academic credit toward the master of divinity degree, Kelley said.

Reporting about developments at New Orleans, Kelley said the seminary will stay at its present location but rebuild the aging and termite-embattled campus.

“The future of the church is an urban one,” Kelley said. “The best thing we can do is to use the laboratory of New Orleans to train people how to reach people for Christ.”

Kelley said seven competencies have been identified after dialogue with faculty, pastors and denominational leaders: biblical exposition, Christian theological heritage, disciple-making, interpersonal relationship skills, servant leadership, spiritual and character formation and worship leadership.

“We are doing this in a context of a very hard place,” Kelley said, yet noting that student involvement in special evangelism programs and ministries has strengthened Baptist ministry in the city.

Golden Gate also views its geographic location as an asset, reported President William O. Crews.

“We’re strategically located on the West Coast of the United States but the East Coast of the rest of the world,” Crews said. “In the places we operate our five campuses — Vancouver, Wash., Mill Valley, Calif., Los Angeles, Phoenix and Denver — we believe we have accessible to us a laboratory that reflects the cultural and ethnic diversity of the whole world.

“Into this laboratory our students have the opportunity of being trained for effective leadership in the midst of cultures that can be found anywhere in the rest of the world,” he said.

Crews said Southern Baptists have given $79,694,098 from the Cooperative Program to help train leaders during the CP’s 75-year history. Crews thanked Southern Baptists “for your significant, continuing life-giving support.”

“Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is shaping leaders who influence others to accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission to the churches,” Crews said.

In the last year, Southwestern Seminary suffered four deaths — a beloved dean, Tommy Lea, and the martyrdom of two students and a graduate in the shootings at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, noted President Ken Hemphill, noting that the faculty and students at Southwestern’s Marriage and Family Counseling Center who ministered to people throughout the city after the shooting at Wedgwood.

Also in 1999, Southwestern went through its reaccreditation process, which included a new vision statement: “A community of faith and learning that develops spiritual leaders with a passion for Christ and the Bible, a love for people, and skills to minister effectively in a rapidly changing world.”

Eight core values were derived from the vision statement, Hemphill said: Christ-centered, globally strategic, biblically based, lifelong learning, loving relationships, godly character, professional excellence and church-supportive.

During the abbreviated reports, Michael Whitehead, interim president of Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said the seminary “is poised to become one of the strongest seminaries in the world.”

Whitehead said as the seminary looks for a new president to lead the school into its fourth decade, its future couldn’t be brighter. “As long as we are yoked to the power of Christ we cannot fail,” he said.

Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., said that school is experiencing a spirit of revival. He said he intends on following the admonition he received recently from an elderly woman on the coast of North Carolina. She told him, “Don’t mess it up.”

R. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, Louisville, Ky., said that school remains committed to upholding the undiluted truth of God’s Word” while honoring the “full authority of God’s Word.”

— Karen Willoughby, Shannon Baker, Matt Sanders, Lee Weeks