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Seminary presidents share successes; pledge continued training of leaders

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Southern Baptists’ six seminary presidents shared reports of success stories involving their faculty and students during their combined report June 10 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center.
The seminary presidents also pledged to continue efforts to effectively prepare the church leaders of tomorrow.
“I’m firmly convinced that no greater responsibility or privilege can come to any institution than to serve the church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the training and education and preparation of her ministers,” R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., said.
He noted seminaries bear responsibility for what the students “are taught, models which are presented, the doctrines that are inculcated and the duties for which they are prepared.”
Mohler said God has blessed the seminary in recent years with a world-class faculty of evangelical scholars.
Kenneth S. Hemphill, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas, told messengers Southwestern has trained 50 percent of Southern Baptists’ missionaries over the years.
“While heritage is important, we are not content to remember the past but must be involved with missions in the present and pressing toward the future,” he said.
He noted faculty and students are encouraged to be involved in missions and evangelistic activities. Activities involving Southwestern faculty and students have resulted in hundreds of professions of faith over the past year, Hemphill said.
He thanked Southern Baptists for their support through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ channel of funding national and state causes. “Your students are the future of Southern Baptist mission causes and they make this investment a wise one.
“Through the seminaries, you can literally touch the world and impact eternity,” he affirmed.
William O. “Bill” Crews told messengers the mission of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Mill Valley, Calif., is to shape effective leaders for the churches of tomorrow.
He cited a seminary couple who organized a group of students into the Golden Gate Evangelical Society. They travel into San Francisco on Friday nights to pass out tracts. Their goal is to win that city for Christ, Crews said.
“These are the kind of students you are sending to our campus. We simply want to be a part of what God is doing to shape them in being more effective in leading our churches of tomorrow.
Crews also cited the seminary’s new church planter training program, which has been under development for three years. The purpose is to assist students in planting healthy, lasting, effective churches in the West and the world, he said.
During the field testing, they have planted 17 new churches with combined attendance ranging from 1,230 to 1,437 on any given Sunday, Crews said.
“We believe that God has started not only a church planter trainer program but a church-planting movement,” he said.
Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said the seminary was started in New Orleans in 1917 when the city had only five Southern Baptist congregations. The city was chosen for the new seminary because “the very best training for ministry (is) doing ministry and seeing the impact Jesus Christ can make, not simply talking about it in the classroom.”
“Throughout all of our 80 years this has been the hallmark of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary: learning by doing and doing to learn,” Kelley said. “No student walks across the stage to get a diploma without going door to door in New Orleans, telling people about Christ for at least a semester.”
That commitment to personal evangelism translates into changed lives, he said.
A team of short-term volunteers from the seminary went to Romania earlier this year and led a professor of atheism to faith in Jesus Christ, Kelley said. And he told about a seminary student participating in the Crossover evangelism effort in Salt Lake City who led a newlywed couple to Christ in the laundry room of his hotel.
“Your seminary students are learning to share their faith,” he said. “They are learning a passion for the mission of the church and getting a heart for the church. They are understanding what we seminary presidents all believe: The local church is the center of the Christian universe and we will prepare our students to serve it with excellence and effectiveness.”
Revival has come to the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Paige Patterson, president of the seminary and newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said.
“If you have an aversion to miracles, and revivals make you uncomfortable, please stay away from Wake Forest, N.C.,” he warned.
Students and faculty members involved in missions and evangelistic outreach at Southeastern have reported more than 32,000 professions of faith in Christ this past year, Patterson said. Twenty-eight new congregations were started in New Hampshire and eight countries overseas, he said.
“Southeastern students are serving in New Hampshire and are spread out all over the globe, many in restricted access areas, risking their lives today in order to present the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he said.
While the seminary continues its emphasis on biblical languages and expository preaching, it also is launching a four-year Bible college and a master’s program in women’s studies, he said.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., is located “in a no-nonsense land, … an area that demands our very best,” said President Mark Coppenger.
“In response to that, we have revised our curriculum,” he said. “We have tripled the language requirements in Hebrew and Greek. We have raised the requirements for the master of divinity degree from 88 to 94 hours.
“This may not be the best marketing strategy for attracting students, but the kingdom of God is not built on marketing but on soundness and integrity,” he said.
That commitment to soundness and integrity is reflected in two specific ways at Midwestern: faculty members committed to biblical inerrancy and the conviction that the pastorate is intended for men, Coppenger said.
“This fall for the first time, we will have biblical inerrantists teaching in every discipline at Midwestern,” he said, adding, “the seminary maintains … that while a wonderful range of strategic and effectual ministry is open to both men and women, the pastor of a biblical congregation must be male.”

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