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Seminaries report to Indy’s messengers

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)–Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting were reminded of the importance of theological education via reports from the SBC’s six seminaries during the June 10-11 sessions in Indianapolis.

Summaries of the seminaries’ reports follow:

GOLDEN GATE — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is the Southern Baptist outpost in the West, Jeff Iorg, the seminary’s president, told messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention June 10.

Every summer at the Southern Baptist annual meeting, people make comments about California, including “our liberal politicians, our liberal social standards, our more casual approach to life and even our pass-happy Pac 10 football teams,” Iorg said. “And this year we know many of you are concerned about the Supreme Court ruling legalizing ‘gay marriage’ in our state.”

Southern Baptists living in California, however, recognize the strategic nature of their assignment, Iorg said. “God has placed Golden Gate Seminary in the midst of a tremendous opportunity for training leaders in a missional setting,” he told messengers.

Golden Gate’s two California campuses — situated in diverse urban settings where people of many nationalities live — give the seminary a unique venue to train pastors and missionaries to reach out to the peoples of the world, Iorg said. Los Angeles is one of the largest Korean cities in the world, while more than 160 languages are spoken in the San Francisco Bay Area in the homes of children who attend public schools.

Iorg urged Southern Baptists to prioritize taking the Gospel to the people of the world who live in their midst. “We must move beyond paternalistic viewpoints about ethnic ministry and learn to live in intercultural, multicultural, multinational Christian communities that demonstrate the power of the Gospel,” he said. “This is the future of ministry in North America, and Golden Gate is leading the way in meeting this great challenge.”

The training methods used to produce leaders for the future must continue to change, Iorg said. He announced a seminary-wide process to help define the seminary Golden Gate is becoming. “By this time next year, you will be hearing about our initial plans and the steps we will be taking to implement them,” he said.

Iorg asked messengers to pray for the seminary, specifically in regard to gas prices. “We expect the price of gas to have a direct impact on our fall enrollment, since more than 80 percent of our students are commuters,” he said.

“You [also] can help us by sending us students,” Iorg continued. “We are looking for students who want to be trained in a multinational setting, students who want to live, study and work in some of the most spiritually challenging settings in North America.”

Iorg concluded by expressing appreciation for Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program gifts, as he acknowledged “we are still dependent upon these gifts for our financial survival.”

In addition to its campuses in Northern California and Southern California, Golden Gate operates campuses in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado and Arizona.

MIDWESTERN — Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president, R. Philip Roberts, brought his report to the Southern Baptist Convention June 11, highlighting the progress the seminary has made since its inception 50 years ago.

“We’re happy to report that the Lord continues to pour out His blessings at MBTS,” Roberts said. “For the second year in a row, there are more than 1,000 students enrolled at Midwestern. We’re also happy to tell you that all our faculty say, ‘Oh boy, we get to — not, oh no, we have to — endorse the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

Roberts also reported on the upgrading and remodeling of classroom facilities and a successful visit from the seminary’s two accrediting agencies.

“We now offer, for the first time in our history, a Ph.D. program at Midwestern,” he said.

Roberts emphasized Midwestern’s commitment to preparing the Christian leaders of tomorrow.

“Seminary education is not about buildings, books, budgets or the bottom line,” he said. “Seminary is about equipping God-called men and women to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation.”

Roberts invited four Midwestern personalities to the podium to illustrate the breadth of the seminaries impact: John Howell, MBTS dean emeritus; Robin Hadaway, former International Mission Board missionary and MBTS professor of missions; Eric Turner, a recent MBTS grad and student pastor of First Baptist Church in Rayburn, Mo.; and Jeremy Johnston, MBTS alum and pastor of First Family Church in Overland Park, Kan.

“I can state confidently that MBTS prepares pastors theologically and practically,” Turner said. “Going into seminary, I had great confidence in God’s call on my life and to the ministry, but coming out of seminary I have great confidence that I rightly interpret the Bible’s truth, that I can counsel with my church members, that I can lead them in outreach and evangelism and that I will be effective and faithful as a servant of Jesus Christ.”

In celebration of Midwestern’s recent acquisition of the personal library of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Roberts presented Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a leather-bound copy of the Spurgeon classic, “Morning and Evening,” and a Spurgeon bobble-head doll.

NEW ORLEANS — In his report June 10, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley said the seminary has made great strides in recovering from Hurricane Katrina. He urged Southern Baptists, however, to keep praying, giving and coming to the Gulf Coast to help the seminary and the entire region fully recover from the storm.

Nearly three years ago, levee failures following Hurricane Katrina left the city and much of the seminary under water for weeks. The school faced a daunting recovery task. Kelley compared the ongoing process to a book with five chapters.

“The first chapter in our story is the ‘crisis chapter,'” Kelley said “In that chapter we had to deal with a very simple question, ‘Are we going to live or are we going to die?’

“In the midst of that crisis, Southern Baptists took us in,” Kelley said. “And this great, passionate generation of students preparing for the mission field and the ministry of our churches wanted to keep on learning.”

The faculty, Kelley said, found ways to continue teaching. And instead of putting off their training for ministry, Kelley said 85 percent of the students continued with their studies during the semester following the hurricane.

“The bottom line: We lived,” Kelley said. “We made it through that crisis by God’s grace and your generosity.

“The next chapter in our story is the ‘recovery chapter,'” Kelley said. “And the question we had to address was, ‘Can we restart normal operations after a year of being without a campus?'”

The answer to that question was a resounding “yes,” Kelley said. The seminary will finish this year with approximately 3,600 students — one of the highest enrollments in its 91-year history.

“God has done a miracle,” Kelley said. “In other words, the recovery mission is accomplished. Wow! What a mighty God we serve.”

Kelley said the total recovery bill for Hurricane Katrina will reach $75 million. The school’s insurance settlement totaled around $33.4 million. Southern Baptists gave $12 million to the recovery cause and gave an additional $3 million worth of volunteer labor.

“Thank you, Southern Baptists, for all you have done,” Kelley said. “Thank you for the Cooperative Program. The largest single gift we had was from the Cooperative Program — $6.2 million. We want to tell you, it does matter. Thank you so much.”

Kelley said NOBTS the seminary currently is in the “challenge chapter,” as the seminary digests the many changes brought on by Katrina.

Post-Katrina changes include lost income, added expenses and a changing student population. Pointing to the added expenses, Kelley said insurance and utilities now comprise 15 percent of the seminary’s budget. In 2000, these costs accounted for only 6 percent.

The two greatest needs facing the seminary at this stage of the recovery are financial, Kelley said. To offset the spike in insurance and utility rates, $500,000 is needed, while another $17 million is needed to replace student housing lost to the storm.

“In next year’s report, we’re going to deal with the last two chapters of our story — the ‘opportunity chapter’ and the ‘future chapter,'” Kelley said. “I’ll better be able to speak about those after a little more time goes by.

“Thank you Southern Baptists for all that you have done,” Kelley said. “I would also say on behalf of all our churches and people in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, please don’t forget us.”

The entire region will need 10 years to fully recover from the damage, Kelley said. He asked Southern Baptists to do three things for the seminary and the region: keep praying, keep giving and keep coming.

“The wonderful news is that we are going to have the greatest harvest of souls in the history of New Orleans sometime in the next five to 10 years,” Kelley said. “As you and your people have come, you have done more than work. … You have also loved on the people of New Orleans … and shared your hope in Jesus with them.

“No city in the United States has been more sown down with the seeds of the Gospel than the city of New Orleans,” Kelley said. “Pray for the harvest that is going to come.”

SOUTHEASTERN — Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, called for unity among Southern Baptists in his report to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Echoing a call to unity he gave at a “Building Bridges” conference this past fall, Akin challenged the Southern Baptist Convention to come together under the umbrella of a “Great Commission Resurgence.” As more than 7,000 Southern Baptists came together for the annual convention, Akin encouraged them to come together for the sake of the Gospel and specifically for the sake of the Great Commission.

Akin recalled an address delivered to the convention by the late W.A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, in 1985, in which Criswell said Southern Baptists were faced with a decision whether to live or to die as a denomination.

“I believe Southern Baptists are facing a similar scenario a little more than 20 years later,” Akin said. “I am convinced in this new day and context we need men with a vision for what can be called a Great Commission Resurgence. Building on the conservative resurgence, we need a new passion and commitment to the final marching orders of the Lord Jesus.”

He said there are a number of things Southern Baptists agree on, including the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of the Bible; the exclusivity of the Gospel; the necessity of a regenerate church; the reality of sin and the lostness of humanity; the necessity of salvation through faith alone to redeem humanity; and the need for all people to be Great Commission-minded.

Akin spoke on one of the ways Southeastern is pushing ahead with the goal of reaching all people for Christ. “I am delighted Southeastern has entered into a partnership with the International Mission Board where missionaries can pursue a Ph.D. in missions without having to permanently leave their fields of service,” Akin said. “I believe this can be an impetus for an explosion of people to go where God is leading them to share with the 1.6 billion people who have yet to hear the name of Christ.”

More than just casting an abstract vision for a Great Commission Resurgence, however, Akin detailed how all Southern Baptists can unite under Christ’s last mandate of going into all the world, making disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Balancing both biblical and systematic theology with a Great Commission theology is vital to bringing Southern Baptists together, Akin said. In a very tangible way, Southern Baptists need to join hands over the issues that are agreed upon rather than fighting over the issues that are not, he said.

Specifically citing the example of arguments over Calvinism versus Arminianism, Akin said: “One of the problems I have seen is what I call semi-Arminians with an attitude and Calvinists with a chip on their shoulder. The shrill rhetoric, sloppy history and theology, and un-Christian words and actions on both sides of this issue have resulted in a number of unnecessary misfortunes.

“Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to put that away and move on,” Akin said. “There is room enough in our denomination for all of us who can agree on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and who have a heart to see the Gospel go to all the nations.”

Akin closed by saying: “We may not agree on everything, but we agree on more than enough to work together for our Lord Jesus in fulfilling the Great Commission. So, will we live or will we die? Will we come together for life or fracture apart in death?

“I make my choice for life,” Akin said. “It is my hope and my prayer that you will join me. That’s what our seminary is about.”

SOUTHERN — As Southern Baptist Theological Seminary approaches its 150th year in existence, it continues to focus on the goal of passing on “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” in service to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 11.

Mohler asked the question posed in Luke 18:8: “When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” The question is not if Christ will have a church, but if that church will be faithful, Mohler said.

“Will He find a demonstration of faith? Will He find the faith once for all delivered to the saints embraced, taught, articulated, handed down? Just look at the New Testament and how much of the emphasis, the imperative of the New Testament is about handing down the faith intact, in full, in joy to successive generations,” he said.

Mohler said the purpose of theological education, and thus the purpose of Southern Seminary, is to follow Paul’s exhortation to pass on the treasure of the Christian faith.

“We take as our mission exactly what Paul instructed Timothy [to do],” he said. “We take as our charge being able to give an answer to the Lord when He asks, ‘When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?'”

Southern is devoted to training men and women sent from local churches whom God has called to ministry, Mohler said, and he exhorted church leaders to continue sending out such persons.

“I want to thank you for exercising the ministry of your church,” he said. “I want to encourage you in that ministry to understand that in a fully thriving, fully faithful ministry God is going to be calling out those who will be the servants of the Gospel, those who will be the preachers of the Word, those who will be church planters and missionaries. If that is not happening in your church, I want to urge you to ask why.”

Mohler said Southern is grateful for the opportunity to train the more than 4,400 students currently enrolled at the seminary. Southern prioritizes theological scholarship among its faculty and in its ministry training, he said.

“We have an emphasis on our campus on scholarship for the cause of the Gospel,” he said. “We want to make sure that those men who have the assignment to teach and preach the Word of God will do so faithfully and will hand down the faith intact, in full, in joy.”

Mohler said Southern also exhorts its students to be fervent for evangelism.

“Right now, there are student groups with [Southern Seminary] faculty all over the world, employed in student missionary efforts this summer, and that happens all around the calendar year at Southern Seminary,” he said. “I am glad to tell you that right now we have graduates of Southern Seminary serving in places the names of which we cannot even identify for cause of safety.”

The next generation will be either deeply and convictionally pagan or deeply and convictionally Christian, Mohler said, and he prays that the churches of the SBC will foster the latter.

“In this post-Christian secular age, we now face the challenge of recognizing that we are going to know who the Christians are and we are going to know that pretty quickly,” he said. “We are going to know where the faithful churches are and we are going to know that pretty quickly. We are going to know where the faithful denominations are and we are going to know that pretty quickly. I pray that when the Lord comes, He will find the churches of this denomination faithful.”

For nearly 150 years Southern Seminary has served local churches, which Mohler said could only be so because of the mercy and grace of God. He said it is the seminary’s goal and joy to train the next generation to defend the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

“I am glad to tell you that there are thousands of students on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the vast majority of them studying to be pastors of your churches,” he said. “They are filled with biblical conviction because they have been swimming against the tide. They are taught from the full treasure of Christian truth because they deserve nothing less. And they are aimed toward the world to see the glory of God demonstrated and the name of Christ declared among the nations.”

SOUTHWESTERN — God is doing amazing things in the lives of Southern Baptists and at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Paige Patterson said June 10 during his seminary report at the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Mr. President and fellow messengers, it is my delight to tell you today that while there are a few secular vultures that have landed on the boughs over what they thought was the carcass of the Southern Baptist Convention, they are doomed to disappointment,” Patterson said.

“Our convention is not dead, and as a matter of fact, like the wind that blew through Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones, there is a fresh wind blowing in all of our institutions and in all of our agencies and in all of the churches of our Southern Baptist Zion.”

Patterson told of a recent trip during which he and a seminary professor visited a house church filled with 180 former drug addicts and prostitutes. After preaching the Gospel during one of their meetings, 28 people put their faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized at a nearby beach.

“Southwestern Seminary professors and students and graduates are literally all across the globe, repeating that house church situation, as well as many others, wherever the Gospel needs to be known,” Patterson said.

“Our students are literally sold out to the task of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” he said. “You’ll find no wimps at Southwestern Seminary. You will find the men and women who come there are taking the Great Commission of our Lord seriously as never before.”

Patterson also noted Southwestern is celebrating its 100th year in 2008, and he invited Southern Baptists to “come on to Fort Worth and see what God is doing at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
Based on reporting by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; Brian Koonce of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention; Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Garrett E. Wishall of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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