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Seminaries report to Louisville messengers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention were reminded of the importance of theological education through reports from the convention’s six seminaries during the June 23-24 sessions in Louisville, Ky.

Summaries of the seminaries’ reports follow:

GOLDEN GATE — Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, began his June 23 report to messengers by quoting a newspaper article about another seminary which was facing major cutbacks.

“Despite the economic downturn, we thank God this article wasn’t about Golden Gate,” he said. “We are open for business.”

All academic programs are fully operational, the faculty is fully staffed and administrative employees are working hard, preparing for about 1,800 students who will enroll for classes across the five-campus system this fall.

“The economy is down, but our commitment to our mission is as high as it’s ever been,” Iorg said.

Golden Gate has been able to stay strong in a weak economy by reducing next year’s budget more than 4 percent or $450,000. Iorg said the seminary remains fully operational as a result of dedicated employees, especially the faculty, who are sacrificing to accomplish the seminary’s mission of maintaining a strong Southern Baptist seminary in the western United States.

“This past academic year has included two significant achievements at Golden Gate,” Iorg said. “The first is the 50th anniversary of our location in Northern California.”

He described the two-day celebration of those who were in the earliest graduating classes at Golden Gate, from 1949-59.

“These events remind us what a young seminary we are,” Iorg said. “Many students from our first graduation class in 1949, the very first class, are still alive. One of these, Rev. A.L. Davis, will be honored as one of our distinguished alumni at our luncheon tomorrow for his significant ministry.”

In light of the convention celebrating Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s 150th anniversary by meeting in Louisville, Iorg invited the Southern Baptist Convention to San Francisco in 2020 to help Golden Gate celebrate its 75th anniversary.

“The other significant achievement this past year has been successful progress on our reaccreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools,” Iorg said.

Golden Gate was commended for excellence in several areas and was called “a healthy institution that is providing a sound education for its students.”

“The most exciting and most daunting challenge we face at Golden Gate is discerning God’s future plans for our school,” Iorg said.

He explained the seminary’s extended planning process and discussed his anticipation that the trustees will adopt the “Diamond Plan,” a blueprint to guide the school through 2020 when the seminary will celebrate its diamond anniversary.

“One of our fundamental challenges is discerning the future of educational delivery systems and schedules,” Iorg said. “Golden Gate long ago abandoned a traditional seminary model and traditional class schedule in favor of the block schedule — meaning each class only meets once per week.”

Many classes meet in the evenings or on weekends, and many intensive courses meet for three or five days.

“We have a growing number of fully on-line courses as well as hybrid courses which combine classroom instruction with those that are partially taught online,” Iorg said.

The president reiterated the seminary’s confidence in the content — God’s Word and sound ministry practices based on the Bible.

“Content is not in question, but delivering that content across a multistate region with ever-changing electronic delivery options to an increasingly diverse student body is our challenge,” he said.

“We believe technology is redefining the concept of a learning community,” Iorg said. “We are on the cutting edge of understanding how to apply these advances in seminary training and look forward to the future.”

Iorg also expressed appreciation for Cooperative Program support.

“As always, if you know someone who wants to train for ministry in a multicultural, urban environment far from Southern Baptist homeland, send them to Golden Gate. We will train them in the West and send them on mission to the world,” he said.

MIDWESTERN — During his report to SBC messengers, R. Philip Roberts honored the family of a slain alumnus, introduced the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s core values for the coming years and acknowledged a unique contribution to the school’s exhibit.

Roberts, the seminary’s president, prayed for the family of Fred Winters and the congregation at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., where Winters was shot and killed in the pulpit in March.

“We want to take a moment to pray for Cindy, Alysia and Cassidy as well as the church family back in Maryville,” Roberts said. “We pray for God’s peace and blessing on you, and we know that Fred is in heaven today wearing the martyr’s crown and rejoicing in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Following his presentation to Cindy Winters, Roberts introduced the seminary’s core values and theme — “Veritas, Pietas, Missio” — Latin for “Truth, Devotion and Mission.” He emphasized that Midwestern is thoroughly dedicated to teaching its students devotion to the truth of Scripture.

“We must stand by the truthfulness of God’s Word because it is by the preaching and teaching of His Word that faith comes,” Roberts said. “It is imperative that we teach God-called men and women to exemplify a love and appreciation for the Word of God.”

Roberts was accompanied onstage by Harold Rawlings, whose collection of ancient Bibles was displayed throughout the convention at the seminary’s booth in the exhibit hall. Rawlings was holding a first-edition Geneva Bible, printed in 1560.

Referring to another Bible on display, the Great Bible, Roberts explained that during the Middle Ages such Bibles had to be chained to pulpits because they were so rare and valuable. He recalled an earlier conversation with Calvin Wittman, pastor of Denver’s Applewood Baptist Church. Wittman said what today’s church desperately needs is for the pulpit to be chained to the Bible — for preachers to renew their commitment to proclaim a Bible that is absolutely authoritative.

In a video presentation, five Midwestern professors spoke about the importance of truth in Scripture and how Christians can continually find rich nuggets of truth revealed through the study and living out of biblical principles.

“I see a crying need for applying the truths of God’s Word in the right context, so we don’t misapply them like Satan did,” said Alan Tomlinson, professor of New Testament and Greek.

Ron Huggins, who teaches New Testament and Greek at Midwestern, emphasized that even after all the years people have studied the Bible, Christians are still discovering new truths and answers.

“We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of God’s Word,” Huggins said. “We really have no idea how the combination of future experiences, walking with God and reading the Bible is going to answer the needs of the future.”

Roberts concluded his report by calling for help in accomplishing the goals of a capital building project.

“I’m sending out an S.O.S.,” he said. “We’re seeking your help in supporting us as we plan to break ground on a chapel complex with a library and administrative expansion. We plan to find ways to stretch the money you’ve entrusted to us, and we feel this addition will help us accomplish our mission and make the best use of your support.”

In keeping with a tradition that started last year, Roberts presented Johnny Hunt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, with a Charles Haddon Spurgeon bobble-head doll so Hunt “wouldn’t be jealous that Frank Page, the previous SBC president, received one last year.” Midwestern houses the personal library of Spurgeon on campus in Kansas City, Mo.

NEW ORLEANS — In his report to the messengers at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention June 23, Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said the days of one-size-fits-all seminary training are a thing of the past.

New Orleans, he said, has created a cafeteria approach to address the changing educational needs of God-called men and women. Increased costs, new technology and changes in the ways students approach theological training have put enormous pressure on seminaries and colleges to find new models for theological education, Kelley said.

Kelley said technology is creating models for education that were neither possible nor conceivable when he was a seminary student, and the physical classroom is no longer the only way to deliver training. Students now may meet in the physical space of a classroom or in the virtual space of the Internet.

“The cost of theological education and the opportunities made possible by technology have resulted in students insisting on new models for theological education and training,” Kelley said.

Many of today’s students would have to go without theological training if traditional models were the only type available, he said, adding that Southern Baptist students might seek nontraditional models for training at non-SBC schools if innovative approaches are not offered through the convention’s seminaries.

“To fail to explore new paths in theological education is to begin unmaking our identity as Southern Baptists,” Kelley said.

Instead of lamenting the issues facing theological education, Kelley sees God at work.

“All these factors coming into play at this point in space and time are merely ingredients in a new gumbo of theological education being whipped up by the Holy Spirit of God,” he said. “The Lord is using this fresh landscape to guide us into the new educational models so that we will be able to make theological training more accessible to more God-called men and women.”

New Orleans has a conviction that theological training, while not required, is crucial for ministers. Kelley said ministers with training will be more productive than those without training. Out of that conviction comes a goal to make some form of theological education available to every God-called man or woman in the world.

The seminary is developing a pick-and-choose approach to provide training on a global scale with a goal of equipping leaders to start or develop healthy churches to reach the lost, nurture believers and minister in the name of Jesus.

Kelley said the cafeteria plan is being designed to serve a wide range of students. Some will choose an immersion approach to theological education by coming to the seminary’s main campus in New Orleans, an approach that is still the fastest, broadest and deepest to prepare for ministry, Kelley said.

Others, he said, will take the marathon approach by attending an extension center. This option takes longer but allows students to keep serving in their current ministry positions throughout the training process.

The Internet provides potential students with a third option — the as-needed approach to ministerial training. Kelley said this flexible option is open to anyone in the world with a computer and access to the Internet. He believes many students at New Orleans will use a combination of the three options to receive training.

“The day of one-size-fits-all theological education is definitely over at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” Kelley said. “[God] stands ready to lead us into the future that He desires, and we stand ready to follow.

“We are going to reinvent seminary in light of the needs, opportunities and mission of Baptists in the 21st century,” he said. “We will do whatever it takes to provide quality, accredited theological education for anyone called of God to ministry on the face of the earth.”

Kelley closed by saying that the ministry cafeteria he described is already open and students are enrolled in all three options as the seminary continues to seek new ways of training men and women for ministry.

SOUTHEASTERN — The Gospel is relevant not only for those overseas who have not heard its message, but also for those unreached people groups within the United States who have not heard of salvation through faith in Christ.

Jan Vezikov, a recent graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, is trying to reach one of those unreached people groups — Russian-speaking Jews living in Boston.

He is one of many graduates of Southeastern that have the nations on their hearts, Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president, said in his report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Akin spoke about several alumni serving domestically and internationally who answered God’s call on their lives while studying at Southeastern.

“Our Great Commission passion extends beyond the borders of North America,” Akin said. “We can track 460 graduate units serving around the world.

“We want to raise up Apostle Pauls. At Southeastern, we believe you can’t be a good missionary without being a good theologian. We also believe that to be a good theologian, you have to be a missionary.”

Akin said Southeastern is seeing more students every year answering God’s call to give their lives in service to Jesus, serving as missionaries at home and abroad.

“It’s a joy to see how God indeed is pouring out His blessing at our seminary,” he said.

“There’s never been a greater day than to see what God is doing in our six seminaries, giving students the finest theological education at the most bargain basement price,” Akin said. “That is possible because of the generosity of Southern Baptists. Thank you for believing in what we’re doing and for supporting us.”

SOUTHERN — As the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship seminary celebrates its 150th anniversary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told attendees of the annual meeting that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s story is one of truth, legacy and vision.

In the annual seminary report to SBC messengers, Mohler, Southern’s ninth president, said the institution is foundationally built upon a commitment to the truthfulness, inerrancy and authority of Scripture.

Southern seeks to preserve that commitment to biblical orthodoxy, Mohler said, by having faculty members agree to teach “in accordance with and not contrary to” Southern’s confession of faith, the Abstract of Principles. This requirement was a part of founding president James Petigru Boyce’s original vision.

“Nothing could be more dangerous than a theological seminary that is not clearly and explicitly and continually and always grounded in truth,” he said. “Southern Seminary from its very conception was an institution that was designed to be a confessional institution.

“That means that it was not just a theological school from the beginning, it was a theological institution that was held by the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention in a sacred covenant to certain sacred truths that define the Christian faith and Baptist conviction.”

The seminary’s sesquicentennial anniversary comes at a fitting time, Mohler said, because 2009 also is the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC, a recovery of the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture that began in 1979.

“This is a 30-year-reminder of what it cost this denomination to regain its institutions and to reassert its theological integrity,” he said, “and to reclaim and clarify that it expects its theological institutions to be uncompromisingly tethered to the truths upon which they were established.”

Under Mohler’s administration, which began in 1993, Southern has undergone a transformation similar to that of the SBC, a recovery of biblical fidelity after decades of dominance by liberal theology.

“Thank you, Southern Baptists, for loving Southern Seminary enough to correct her and bring her home, and home she is,” he said.

Mohler said Southern is once again faithfully executing the orthodox theological legacy of its founding faculty, Boyce, John Broadus, Basil Manly, Jr., and William Williams.

The support of Southern Baptists has helped to put the seminary back upon a solid theological footing, Mohler said, and Southern Baptists have provided profound support for the institution throughout its history.

“We look back with a great sense of gratitude, first to God, and then to all those believing men and women, those Baptists who supported us throughout all those years, all those who gave their lives for the establishment of this school,” he said.

“Let us remember that there are millions of Southern Baptists who are not here, millions who have never attended a Southern Baptist Convention and have never set foot on the campus of the seminary,” Mohler said. “But they have given generously and sacrificially of their funds to make certain that the Gospel will get to the ends of the earth and that the pulpit will become a place where the church of Jesus Christ is watered by the Gospel.”

In the future, Southern will continue to operate out of a commitment to Boyce’s confessional vision for theological education, Mohler said.

“The vision that marked the founding of Southern Seminary is no less than the vision that will be required as we look to the future of unprecedented opportunity on the fields of ministry around the world,” Mohler said. “The opportunities that the Lord has given us now are richer than the founders could have ever known.”

SOUTHWESTERN — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trains men and women to engage lostness “wherever we can find it with the unchanging message of Christ and His Kingdom, and with your help, we’ll continue to do it,” Paige Patterson told more than 8,700 messengers at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky., June 23.

Patterson, the seminary’s president, began his report with a video highlighting the evangelistic efforts of Southwestern students and alumni from a variety of backgrounds, including a North Texas cattle rancher, a wounded military veteran who served in Iraq and a church planter in Aruba. Patterson said the students represent a passion for evangelism that consumes the entire seminary.

“It frankly does my heart good. It lights my fire. It rings my bell … when they get to talking about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He’s done,” Patterson said.

“I thank God for the opportunity that you Southern Baptists have provided through your seminaries to train a generation of young men and women for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Patterson invited messengers to get a copy of the seminary’s recent “Southwestern News” magazine, which features several prominent Southern Baptist pastors who are alumni of the institution.

“The whole issue is on preaching because we still believe at Southwestern Seminary that it is the foolishness of preaching and the message of the Gospel that transforms men and women everywhere,” Patterson said.

Patterson concluded by telling of a recent experience he had with some of his students. This past spring, he took a group of students and professors to a Baptist association in West Texas to do personal evangelism and preach in churches that had reported no baptisms the previous year.

In addition to a number of salvations, one student’s parents came to hear him preach, and at the invitation time, his mother came forward and made a profession of faith in Christ.

“Folks, those students will never forget, not what they heard in class, but what they experienced side-by-side with a professor witnessing for the cause of Christ,” Patterson said.
Based on reports by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Pat Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Jeff Robinson of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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