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Seminary in transition, Hemphill tells faculty

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–“Texas Baptists gave less than $40,000 to Southwestern Seminary through the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ preferred option giving plan,” Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill told a faculty retreat at the Fort Worth, Texas, school.

Hemphill quoted from a story in the Texas Baptist Standard which reported $39,978 had been given to the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries through the BGCT’s preferred giving plan, the “BGCT 2001 Adopted Budget.”

Texas Baptist churches which send their funding gifts through that plan will not support seminaries the rest of the year now that a BGCT-initiated funding cap has been met.

Hemphill said he was criticized earlier in the year for telling alumni that the BGCT’s funding plan would greatly reduce gifts to the seminary. He said he wrote a retraction after being told his comments in the seminary’s alumni magazine were incorrect.

“It turns out it was true,” Hemphill said.

Hemphill called the funding decrease and changes in Texas Baptist life indications that the seminary is in a period of transition. The retirement of two vice presidents as well as professors who have retired or left the faculty in the past eight months are other indications that this is a time of transition, Hemphill said. But God knew these things were going to happen; “they didn’t surprise him,” he said.

Scotty Gray, vice president for academic administration, and Lawrence Klempnauer, vice president for student services, were the two vice presidents who retired.

Citing the life of Abraham in Genesis 12 in his message during the Aug. 16 faculty retreat, Hemphill observed that “all of life is an issue of transition.”

“But there is going to be a consistent God behind all these changes,” he said.

One of the names of God mentioned in Genesis 22:14 is “Jehovah Jireh,” which means “the Lord provides.”

“God’s pre-vision leads to his pro-vision. He will provide for us during this time of transition,” he said.

Hemphill said he looked at all the events taking place and wondered what God was up to. He then set several goals for the new school year, noting that his first goal for Southwestern is to be the number one provider of theological education.

“The churches are changing and in transition. The seminary cannot stay static but must stay a step ahead” by being creative and looking for a “connective strategy” of lifelong learning, Hemphill said.

His second goal is to continue to excel as the global seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention in its involvement with international students.

His third goal is to upgrade the faculty. “I want a faculty that is conservative, compassionate and courageous,” Hemphill said. “They’ve got to be genuine and relational. We’ve got to have faculty who believe the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

The fourth goal is to refine the seminary’s curriculum to produce people who have a passion for evangelism and know how to lead someone to Christ, who have leadership abilities, who know how to study and teach the Bible and who can function in the local church, Hemphill said.

His fifth goal is for the faculty to creatively speak out about issues important in society. “The seminary needs to exercise a prophetic voice in the Dallas-Fort Worth community,” he said.

Hemphill then prayed that God would do a mighty work at Southwestern during this period of transition and that “people would not see us or bring glory to us” but to himself.

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  • David Porter