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Seminary luncheons draw alumni, guests

HOUSTON (BP) — Campus updates and award presentations highlighted the alumni luncheons hosted by Southern Baptist Convention seminaries June 12 during the SBC annual meeting in Houston.

Following are reports from the luncheons:

MIDWESTERN — A highlight of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s annual alumni luncheon was a special discussion between the school’s newly inaugurated president and a key Conservative Resurgence figure.

Before some 150 alumni and friends, Jason Allen, Midwestern’s president, and Judge Paul Pressler, a former Texas Appeals Court justice, discussed Pressler’s instrumental role in turning the SBC from liberalism to its conservative biblically-based roots.

Introducing their time of dialogue together, Allen said of Pressler, “I and my generation stand on the shoulders of giants, and one of those men sits in the room with us today.”

Prompted by Allen’s questions, the judge retold the story of the Conservative Resurgence from his vantage point. He divulged several behind-the-scenes accounts of crucial moments and events that ushered in the resurgence, which began with Memphis pastor Adrian Rogers’ election as SBC president in Houston in 1979.

Pressler also recounted how he, Paige Patterson and other denominational leaders met together, prayed to and petitioned God, cried and rejoiced over the subject. He particularly expressed the many evidences of God’s faithfulness as he and many others sought to bring back biblical faithfulness into a convention that had fallen into theological liberalism.

“I’m a lover, not a fighter,” Pressler said of his typical disposition in life. “But sometimes there are things you have to fight for.”

Concluding their conversation, Allen asked Pressler to share his thoughts about the future of the SBC, especially in light of increasing cultural degeneration.

“The opportunities are great, and I see churches being formed where there’s been no Gospel [preached] in a long time. I see bright, fabulous young people pastoring churches and people responding,” he told those in attendance. “Where the seed is sown, God will give the increase.”

Pressler added that he was excited about the future of theological education in Southern Baptist life.

“For the first time, we have [many of] our students getting a theological education that grounds them on the Word of God and teaches them to preach expositorally,” Pressler said.

Following the dialogue, Allen presented Pressler the seminary’s first For the Church Award. The special recognition honored the judge for his service to the convention and its churches during the Conservative Resurgence.

In Allen’s presidential report to alumni and friends, he said that while it had been an incredible week filled with joy, it was also a time for concern especially in light of the recent LifeWay report, low messenger totals at the convention and national and cultural concerns. He summed up the state of Southern Baptists and the local church in three words: “But if not.”

The term originated in the King James Bible but was the three-word cable to London about the British Expeditionary Force’s dire situation as the German military closed in on them at Dunkirk in France.

“But if not” represented that unless divine intervention occurred, the British soldiers there would perish. Two things then took place — London’s marketplace became silent and the churches were filled with people praying for the situation. Remarkably, the Germans stalled in their pursuit and over the next many days, 338,000 British soldiers were evacuated and lived to fight another day.

Allen said the stakes are high “for our culture, our nation, our denomination, and most especially for our churches; ‘but if not’ for the grace of God, Midwestern Seminary would not succeed.

“As a seminary, we must abide under a Romans 10 logic, and that logic frames for us our vision of For the Church. There is a sense in which our ministry and mission at Midwestern Seminary is conditioned by these three words — ‘But if not,'” Allen said.

“Our role is to exist for the local church — producing the pastors, ministers and evangelists who will be the next generation to carry out the Great Commission mandate, and it is by God’s grace that we accomplish the task and mission before us.”

Allen presented two other awards during the luncheon’s activities. Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, was presented the Denominational Service Award, and John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, was honored with the Alumni of the Year award. Allen said both men were invaluable leaders in the denomination and dear friends of Midwestern Seminary.


GOLDEN GATE — Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary honored Pearl Dee Chiu, Willie Simmons and Roger Barrier with Distinguished Alumni Awards at the seminary’s alumni and friends luncheon.

“Three roles that depict our distinguished alumni are missionaries, pioneers and pastors,” Jeff Iorg, the seminary’s president, said. He noted that they were being honored because of the significance of their contributions in spreading the Gospel.

Pearl Dee Chiu, a missionary, was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. She graduated from Golden Gate with a master of religious education in 1968 and a master of church music the following year. While attending Golden Gate, she served at UC Berkeley in the international student ministry department, where she met Wah Chiu, her husband of 41 years.

After graduation, Chiu served as minister of education and music at Chinese Baptist Church in Berkeley, Calif. In 1999, she founded Mission Hope Ministries, a fundraising organization which supports four mission projects in Thailand. The projects provide housing and/or education, job training and religious teaching for various groups including orphans and children in poor families, children of prisoners and newly released prisoners, and inmates.

Willie Simmons, a pioneer, is a native of Louisiana who graduated from Golden Gate in 1983 with a doctor of ministry degree. While attending seminary, he was the first African American called to pastor First Southern Baptist Church in Compton, Calif. During this time, Simmons also trained people to work with Hispanics.

After graduation, Simmons received a call from the Foreign Mission Board to work with African American churches and pastors to stimulate interest in foreign missions. He was the first African American pastor to be called at the management level of the FMB. In 1993, he co-founded the African American Korean American Christian Alliance, which traveled to South Korea on a goodwill tour.

In 2001, Simmons was appointed to a two-year assignment as a staff missionary and served in Brazil through the International Mission Board’s Masters Program. He was the director of Golden Gate’s Theological Field Education program and served as a TFE mentor for international students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Today, Simmons lives with Marva, his wife of 56 years, and leads a cross-cultural community Bible study at Hillcrest Baptist Church in Cedar Hill, Texas.

Roger Barrier, a pastor, is a native of Dallas who received a doctor of ministry from Golden Gate in 1992. He has been the pastor of Casas Adobes Baptist Church in Tucson, Ariz., for 35 years. The mega-church is known for its well-integrated and multigenerational ministry. Barrier was called as pastor in 1975 when the church had 70 members, and it now has approximately 10,000 members.

Barrier founded “Preach It, Teach It” in 2008 as the result of a burden he had for overseas missionaries with few resources. The website (preachitteachit.org) provides Bible training, questions and answers and other resources. It is translated into various languages and offers sermons, articles, devotionals and advice. Contributors include Francis Chan, Andy Stanley, Beth Moore, Max Lucado and John Piper.

Barrier is a featured pastor on Crosswalk.com, the largest Christian website in the country. He partners with Intimate Life Ministries and regularly teaches national leaders for Campus Crusade for Christ and other missions organizations. Barrier lives in Frisco, Texas, with Julie, his wife of 38 years.

Also at the luncheon, Iorg reported on the work of the seminary by reiterating five trends he shared in his earlier convention report. The first trend is that opposition to the Christian worldview is on the rise and will continue to increase in North America. “This reality mandates Golden Gate hold fast to the Word of God,” Iorg said.

A second trend is to reallocate resources. “Churches and seminaries must reorder their priorities,” Iorg said. “We must take a strong look at what we have and how we’re using it and what is really essential for our seminary.”

A third trend is the acknowledgement that the digital world is here to stay. “Information storage and retrieval, resources and information access are changing, and our seminary has changed and is changing as a result,” Iorg said. “We are working hard to create an educational delivery model for the 21st century, meeting the needs of students in the digital age.”

Iorg said a fourth trend is a result of digital access to information. “We are becoming an international seminary as we embrace the digital world,” he said.

“Finally, and perhaps most importantly, churches are emerging as more vital partners in seminary training,” Iorg said as he explained the fifth trend of partnership. “Internships, apprenticeships, mentoring and other training programs all provide opportunities to work hand in hand with churches to bring to bear the best of both worlds — seminary and church — on fulfilling our mutual mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s Kingdom around the world.”

Golden Gate continues to live by three watchwords, Iorg said: biblical, missional, global.

“Your seminary in the west has just graduated its 8,000th graduate and is looking ahead to the future,” Iorg said. “We hope you will continue to stand with us for the Gospel.”


NEW ORLEANS — Graduates of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and their families packed a Hilton Americas Hotel ballroom for the seminary’s annual alumni and friends luncheon.

Chuck Kelley, the seminary’s president, presented four former graduates with the distinguished alumni award. Recipients included Ron Herrod, who received a master of theology in 1968; Chris Machen, master of church music, 1980; Mike Shaw, master of theology, 1973, and doctor of ministry, 1976; and Don Stewart, bachelor of divinity, 1960, and doctor of theology, 1965, converted to a Ph.D. in 2002.

Each distinguished alumnus was a tribute to the diverse ministry paths many New Orleans Seminary graduates take in life.

Herrod spent a total of 36 years serving as a pastor, including a decade at First Baptist Church in Kenner, La. In 1995, he left the pastorate to start the Ron Herrod Evangelism Ministries Association, a Tennessee-based nonprofit organization that focuses on evangelistic crusades, mission projects and leadership training.

Kelley said that while Herrod served at First Baptist Kenner, he was a household name for New Orleans Seminary students because of the church’s reputation for evangelism.

“Every one of those years, [the church] led the Louisiana Baptist Convention in baptisms,” Kelley said.

Machen has spent more than 30 years in the music ministry as a singer, songwriter, publisher, actor, studio musician, choir specialist and worship leader. He currently serves as worship pastor at Preston Ridge Baptist Church in Frisco, Texas. Notable choir anthem titles Machen has written include “Bow the Knee,” “God is Able,” “And God Cried” and “God Still Moves.”

Kelley said he met Machen when they were students at Baylor University.

“Chris was one of the most talented musicians we had on the entire Baylor campus,” Kelley said. “He broke the hearts of the music faculty because he had this magnificent voice and great musical talent and he was going to waste it doing worship and praise. But it says a lot about Chris that he never let his talent take him off the track God had for his life.”

Machen and his wife Diane performed several songs during the luncheon and led attendees in singing hymns and the seminary’s alma mater.

“God’s given us music over the years,” Machen said. “We’ve always wanted it to be for His glory and to elevate the church and lead people to Jesus. We’re just very grateful, and thank you for this wonderful honor.”

Shaw has served as pastor of First Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala., for 34 years.

Besides serving as pastor of First Baptist Pelham, Shaw is a volunteer chaplain for the city. He has served on the board of directors for The Alabama Baptist newspaper and on the State Board of Missions for the Alabama Baptist State Convention. Shaw was president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention from 2010 to 2012. Last year, he was elected to serve as a trustee of NOBTS.

Of Shaw’s long ministry at First Baptist Pelham, Kelley said, “I don’t think there are many things God cherishes more than a long obedience in the same direction.”

Shaw, fighting back tears, offered one key to his long ministry at Pelham.

“I can tell you how to go somewhere and stay a long time,” Shaw said. “You marry your sweetheart who’s the sweetest woman and the best Christian you’ve ever known, and folks will put up with you to keep her.”

Stewart is professor emeritus of New Testament and Greek at New Orleans Seminary. He served as executive vice president at NOBTS from 1978 to 1990, directed the school’s professional doctoral program from 1991 to 1997, and was professor of New Testament and Greek from 1997 to 2003.

A highlight of Stewart’s extensive ministry experience is the 36 churches where he’s been interim or transitional pastor. From teaching at William Carey University from 1963 to 1978, to serving under both Landrum Leavell and Kelley, to his church ministry, Stewart has built a legacy of faithfulness, Kelley said.

“Dr. Stewart, you are a faithful man of God. That’s just who you are. It doesn’t matter what the job description might be. It doesn’t matter what the role might be. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, you are just a faithful servant of God.”

Also during the luncheon, Kelley described for alumni and friends of the seminary the $1.5 million gift an anonymous family gave to NOBTS this past spring.


SOUTHEASTERN — Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary held its annual luncheon to celebrate God’s faithfulness — past, present and future.

Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., shared their experiences as students at Southeastern.

“We love our school and want to make a difference in the world, but that difference begins with investing in the lives of students,” Hunt said.
Daniel Akin, Southeastern’s president, said equipping students is a great opportunity aimed at Kingdom investments.

“The 21st century culture is looking more and more like the first century,” Akin said. “In response to this, biblical inerrancy must be reclaimed in order to proclaim Christ faithfully today.”

Southeastern, then, is going to love God’s Word so that it might love His world, Akin said.

Looking toward the future of the school, Akin said Southeastern is building both the greatest missionary seminary and a more ethnically diverse seminary committed to serving Christ Jesus.

“In a world satisfied with a convenient and comfortable Christianity, we are building a seminary that proclaims Christ to the ends of the earth and we want to build a school that looks like the church in heaven where every tribe, people, tongue and nation are represented,” Akin said.


SOUTHERN — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced Thom Rainer as distinguished alumni of the year at the Southern Seminary alumni luncheon.

Rainer, a master of divinity graduate from Southern in 1985 and doctor of philosophy graduate from 1988, is president of LifeWay Christian Resources, the publishing ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention. Before assuming leadership of LifeWay, he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary.

Rainer thanked seminary leaders for the award and expressed gratitude in particular to the Mohler family for their investment in him and his family.

Rainer is the author of 22 books, including “Breakout Churches,” “Simple Life,” “Simple Church,” “Raising Dad” and “The Millennials.”

Mohler surveyed the happenings at Southern Seminary during the past year and spoke of a transition time on campus. Two executives from the seminary were tapped recently as heads of SBC entities: Jason Allen as president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Russell Moore as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Mohler introduced to alumni Randy Stinson and Gregory Wills as senior vice president of academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at the seminary, respectively. He also introduced Adam Greenway as dean of the new Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, Matt Hall as vice president of academic services and Jarvis Williams as associate professor of New Testament interpretation.

Mohler, who this year will mark his 20th year as Southern’s president, expressed gratitude to the seminary community for their contribution to his time at Southern. He recounted several pledges that he made to Southern Baptists at his first convention as president in 1993 and said the seminary, which was then engrossed in controversy, is now the seminary intended at its founding in 1859.

“Twenty years later, I am able to come back to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention and say, ‘You gave us a commission, you gave us a charge.’ I came and made several commitments to you, and by God’s grace, I’m able to say as I come back 20 years later that we’ve kept those commitments.”

Southern Seminary will hold an event in honor of Mohler’s tenure during Heritage Week in October.


SOUTHWESTERN — Evangelism took center stage at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s alumni luncheon.

Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., were honored as distinguished alumni, and Southwestern President Paige Patterson updated alumni on the evangelistic atmosphere on campus.

“Frank Page and his wife Dayle have made immeasurable contributions to the Southern Baptist Convention and to the work of the Kingdom of God,” Patterson said. He applauded Page for his courage to write a book about his daughter’s suicide and for his commitment to evangelism and prayer.

“When you wrote me the letter about [the award], I wept,” Page told Patterson. “It meant a lot to me because I love Southwestern. I remember being pronounced a Southwesterner by Dr. [Robert] Naylor.”

Page added, “One of the primary things that is a deep burden to me is the denigration of evangelism across our churches and in our land. In fact, we’re seeing less personal witnessing than ever before. But there is a bright light coming out of Fort Worth where soul winning is not only encouraged but it is exampled by faculty, staff and students and also by our dear president.”

In recognizing Gaines, Patterson said he took on the unenviable task of following legendary Southern Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers and has done a remarkable job.

“You have kept the exposition of Scripture and the mandate of evangelism and leading people to Christ side-by-side,” Patterson said.

Gaines expressed gratitude for the award, saying, “God used Southwestern to change my life, and I will forever be grateful.” He said he cherished the opportunity to study under great men like evangelism professor Roy Fish.

Patterson gave alumni an update about what God is doing in and through Southwestern. Among the programs and events mentioned, Patterson told alumni about the ongoing evangelistic spirit on campus as seen through professors leading students in door-to-door evangelism; the seminary’s annual spring break revival program, which sends revival preachers to churches in nearly every state; and the recent report from Southwestern’s short-term mission team to the unreached Antandroy people group of Southern Madagascar, where they witnessed more than 400 professions of faith.

Patterson encouraged alumni with one of his standard evangelism axioms: “Never pass a solitary figure who seems to be all alone in the world. You see them everywhere. They just don’t register with you. You see them sitting on a park bench. Maybe they’re fine, but chances are that a lot of trouble is surrounding that person’s life. He’s sitting there on the park bench, sitting at the bus stop, sitting somewhere by himself, wondering what is next.”

Patterson challenged alumni never to pass someone like that without attempting to share the Gospel. He recounted the story of Keith Eitel, dean of the School of Evangelism and Missions at Southwestern, who several years ago took time to witness to a young Australian man in such a state on the streets of Thailand. After listening to the young man, Thai, share about his feelings of emptiness, Eitel shared the Gospel, and Thai placed his faith in Christ.

Thai subsequently moved to the United States and enrolled in the College at Southwestern, where he recently graduated. Now pursuing a master of divinity at Southwestern, he also serves as a chef on campus.

Patterson traveled to Australia earlier this summer, and while he was there, he visited Thai’s family and shared the Gospel with them. Although they did not place their faith in Christ, Patterson said the seeds have been planted, and he hopes that one day Thai will have the opportunity to lead them to faith.

Patterson, who served on the advisory committee on Calvinism appointed by Page, also addressed the topic during the luncheon.

“I want to promise you something,” Patterson said to any at the luncheon who hold to Reformed theology. “If you adopt Reformed theology, you will never be persecuted at Southwestern Seminary…. I want you to know you’re welcome at Southwestern Seminary, and I’m glad to have you there.”

Patterson also clarified that Southwestern will continue to demonstrate the evangelistic and doctrinal zeal of the Swiss and South German evangelical Anabaptists, who lived during the time of the Protestant Reformation. This type of Gospel passion, Patterson said, can be felt all over campus.

“Thanks to the leadership … of our evangelism professors and literally the whole faculty,” Patterson said, “our students are winning people to Christ at unprecedented rates all around the school. When they leave, they are soul winners. They know what it means to witness and share their faith.”
Based on reporting by Tim Sweetman of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Frank Michael McCormick of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Michael McEwen of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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