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Southern Seminary moving ahead on 2 major construction projects

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Six months after putting a major construction project on hold, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is moving “ahead in faith” to meet the seminary’s housing needs.

The action was taken during the seminary’s spring trustee meeting April 2-4. President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced at the time that a multi-million-dollar project to renovate Rice and Judson Halls had been put on indefinite hold following the Baptist General Convention of Texas’ proposal to slash funding of the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries. That proposal eventually passed at the BGCT’s annual meeting, leading to a potential 6 percent shortfall in the seminary’s projected income.

But Mohler announced April 3 that the $6 million Rice and Judson project — which will provide much-needed guest housing and conference rooms — will go forward, and that construction will begin as soon as this month.

“Though the impact of the BGCT is still uncertain, we have decided that we should go ahead with the project, due to its urgent need and financial soundness,” Mohler said.

In another move, trustees approved a major construction project that will add a total of 104 apartment units to the seminary property through a privatization arrangement with Louis and Henry Development. The project will actually come in the form of two apartment complexes — a $4.9 million, 70-unit complex on the south side of Grinstead Drive and a $2.7 million, 34-unit complex on the north side. Grinstead Drive provides the back entrance to the seminary campus.

The seminary will retain ownership of the property but will contribute the lease to Louis and Henry Development. The apartments on the south side will be reserved primarily for students, while the units on the north side will be open to the community. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall, with the apartments set to open in the fall of 2002.

“Many of the buildings on our campus are now over 70 years old,” Mohler told trustees. “We face the dual challenge of building new facilities to meet an expanding student body, even as we must invest considerable funds in older buildings that require continuing attention and renovation.”

Mohler said the Grinstead Drive project should be “highly successful.”

“Both [apartment complexes] will be leased at market rates, and the seminary may gain significant income from the partnership on an annual basis,” he said. “The seminary also retains the option of buying the entire project should we decide that this in our best interest.”

In announcing that the Cooperative Program will comprise 35 percent of Southern Seminary’s 2001-2002 academic budget, Mohler said the seminary community remains confident that future budget needs will be met. The trustee-approved budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year is $19,655,922 — an 8.1 percent increase over the current budget. Mohler also told trustees the seminary had received an all-time high of $900,000 in gifts.

“We are confident of the support of faithful Southern Baptists — in Texas and throughout the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “We are also confident of the stewardship of the SBC Executive Committee, charged with oversight of the Cooperative Program and the SBC Program Budget. We are moving ahead in faith, and plan our budget for 2001-2002 on the assumption of full Cooperative Program income from the SBC.”

Mohler said some of the new funds have come from the conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“Special friends have stood in the gap for the SBC and its seminaries,” he said. “Of particular note is the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which had pledged a special effort to assist the entities defunded by the BGCT action. We are deeply thankful for their eloquent and generous affirmation and financial support, and we are proud to be in partnership with them.”

Mohler said one of the future priorities is construction of a building to house the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

“We desperately need these new classrooms, faculty offices and seminar facilities as this school continues its growth,” Mohler said. “As it stands, the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth is the largest Great Commission school in the world. This school has the largest evangelism faculty found in any theological institution worldwide. For this we are thankful, even as we are determined to build on its accomplishments as we move into the future.”

Mohler also announced the addition of Katheryn Webb to the faculty as associate professor of Christian education. Webb, who had previously been serving as an instructor, has 16 years of administrative experience in both public and Christian schools. She earned her master of arts degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and her doctorate of philosophy from Southern Seminary.

“Dr. Webb brings an incredible background in education and Christian school administration,” Mohler said. “She is uniquely qualified to provide direction in the area of children’s ministry and in our master of arts in Christian school administration degree.”

In other action trustees approved:

— two renovation projects to campus housing. The Mullins complex, which houses female students, will have its bathroom facilities improved. Springdale Apartments, which houses married couples, will have its external stairs replaced.

— tenure for three professors: Ted Cabal, James Parker and Sandra Turner. Cabal was elected professor of Christian philosophy, Parker professor of worldview and culture and Turner associate professor of church music and worship. Cabal was previously dean of Boyce College, but voluntarily resigned from that position because of an illness.

— resolutions of appreciation for outgoing board members J.D. Cutrer, Melvin Elam, William Hann and Timothy Piland. All four were serving on the board when Mohler was elected president in 1993.

— election of new officers: chairman, David Wilson, Lubbock, Texas; first vice chairman, Buddy Gray, Birmingham, Ala.; second vice chairman, Virgil Dugan, Cedar Crest, N.M.; secretary, E. Byron Boyer, Louisville, Ky.

Sketches of the Rice-Judson project will be posted on the seminary’s website later this week at www.sbts.edu/news.html

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  • Michael Foust