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Southern Seminary trustees affirm school’s direction, urge CP support

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees showed their support for the seminary’s changes in recent years by unanimously passing a resolution Oct. 11 that asks Texas Baptists and all other Southern Baptists “prayerfully to continue supporting” the convention’s six seminaries through the Cooperative Program.

The resolution passed during the semi-annual board of trustees meeting, comes in response to a budget proposal by the Baptist General Convention of Texas that would drastically cut the approximately $5 million SBC seminaries currently receive. Southern Seminary would lose nearly $1 million, which amounts to about six percent of its budget. The BGCT will vote on the proposed budget during its annual meeting Oct 30-31 in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The trustees further showed their support for the SBC by unanimously passing a motion in support of the newly revised Baptist Faith and Message, which was adopted by the convention in June in Orlando, Fla.

Seminary trustees passed the Texas Baptist resolution following a closed executive session with Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. to discuss the BGCT proposal

The resolution, offered by William Haynes of Sweetwater, Fla., reads in part, “… we, the trustees of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary call upon Texas Baptists, and all other Southern Baptists, prayerfully to continue supporting our Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and the Cooperative Program for the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom of God through obedience of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Mohler spoke about the Texas situation during his report to the trustees.

“I believe what Texas Baptists are doing is basically a revolt against the Cooperative Program,” he said. “It is taken in anger against the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is taken with a sense of vindictiveness to take money away not only away from the institutions, but from the support of the students within those institutions.”

If the BGCT budget is adopted, Mohler said the seminary’s financial priorities will be its faculty and academic programs.

“We will take budgetary steps to make certain that we are good stewards of the 94 percent — such that the 94 percent is maximized and the loss of six percent is minimized in its impact in so far as that is possible,” he said. “But I do not want to insinuate that it (budget cuts) will not have an impact. It will have a very serious impact.”

Mohler, though, said he believes Southern Baptists will remain faithful to the convention and its six seminaries.

“Long term, I am confident that Southern Baptists will support us,” he said. “I am confident that where the Lord gives the vision, the Lord will provide the resources. Even if the BGCT seeks to defund us, I do not believe that Southern Baptists in Texas or anywhere else are going to defund us. So given time, I believe as the dust settles and as the issues are clarified, Texas Baptists want to stand with the gospel. They want to stand with the truth.”

Mohler said renovation of Rice and Judson Halls has been put on “an indefinite hold.” Groundbreaking took place in April, and construction had not begun. When completed it will contain conference meeting space and guest housing.

“The business plan was sound, but it was predicated upon the budget we adopted, rather than the revenue that may now be expected,” he said. “Because of that I believe it is responsible stewardship for us not to cancel the project. We’re not even officially postponing the project. Everything is ready, but we simply are not going to move ahead in a contracting phase until we are certain we will have the revenue.”

During his report Mohler used text from Deuteronomy 6 to outline three “irreducibles” for any theological seminary: doctrine, diligence and discipline.

Mohler said the command to hold firm to Christian doctrine with diligence and discipline can be found in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, where Moses commanded the Israelites concerning God’s law, “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

Mohler told the story of a recent conversation with a person who told him, “You conservative evangelicals are hung up on doctrine. Eventually you will mature out of it.”

But Mohler told trustees that such an attitude is not biblical.

“I want you to contrast that to the approach taken in the Bible,” Mohler said. “Moses never outgrew it (doctrine). Paul never outgrew it. We can never outgrow it. Doctrine is the first issue. By that, I do not mean merely the formal doctrinal formulations of the church. I mean the total task, the comprehensive task of Christian teaching.”

Mohler said the teaching of doctrine is especially important in today’s world, where many Christians know very little about biblical truth.

“We now face the least catechized generation in the history of American Christianity — certainly since the Great Awakening,” he said. “There is so little knowledge of the content of Christian truth (by) many of the young people in this land. … A measure of our faithfulness as an institution will be seen in generations to come when that trend is reversed.”

It is just as important to remain diligent when teaching biblical doctrine, Mohler said. He compared teaching doctrine at a theological seminary to teaching right and wrong to children. He said every moment must be seized.

“How do we teach right and wrong (to children)?” he asked. “It takes absolute diligence. It’s not like we can sit them down at one point and say, ‘Here’s the list. Go out and live.'”

The same principle applies to a seminary, Mohler said.

“You can’t simply say, ‘Here’s the systematic theology. Here’s the doctrine. Here’s the list. Here’s the confession of faith. Go and do likewise,'” he said. “It takes time. It takes diligence. It takes commitment. … For a theological seminary, it means also giving priority. It means investing in the faculty. It means taking the time in the curriculum.”

A third non-negotiable at theological seminaries, Mohler said, is discipline. This is required, he said, because Christians live in a postmodern world that embraces moral relativism and seeks to censure evangelical beliefs.

“We’re no longer seen as a cultural oddity” by non-Christians, he said. Instead, unbelievers see Christians “as dangerous, because we are subversive of the worldview by which they live. We are subversive of the culture they’re seeking to build. We are dangerous because they see us as theological termites eating away at the foundation of what they’re seeking to build.

“Southern Seminary’s ambition is to create a generation that looks and sounds and is dangerous. (It should be) a dangerous generation against the worldview of the age, a dangerous generation against the rebellion against truth, a dangerous generation against the moral relativism of the day, a dangerous generation that will look to be a threat to the culture and will genuinely be a threat.”

The reason Christians should remain disciplined, Mohler said, is because “We believe there is a higher calling. We believe there is a higher good. We believe there is a higher law. We believe there is a higher standard.”

In other trustee action:

— Trustees approved sabbaticals for four professors: Daniel Block, Thomas Nettles, T. Vaughn Walker and Bruce Ware.

— Trustees elected William Haynes of Sweetwater, Fla., and Joe Cox of Oklahoma City, Okla., to fill vacancies on its executive committee. The executive committee elected David Allen High of Paragould, Ark., and Robert E. Winckler of Houston, Texas, to the Seminary Foundation Board.

— Trustees received the report of the financial board indicating the seminary’s financial soundness.

— Trustees approved the temporary appointment of Ruth C. Thomas Wong as instructor of Church Music and Worship. Wong is a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Long Beach, Calif.

The complete text of the trustee’s resolution follows:

WHEREAS, we the trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are grateful to God for the redirection and renewal of theological education through the leadership of Dr. R. Albert Mohler and the administration of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and;

WHEREAS, we believe that the direction is soundly Biblical and in line with historic Southern Baptist theology and practice, and;

WHEREAS, we believe the unified mission giving of the Cooperative Program has been, historically, the most effective and efficient means of carrying out our Lord’s Great Commission.

THEREFORE, be it resolved, we, the trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary call upon Texas Baptists, and all other Southern Baptists, prayerfully to continue supporting our Southern Baptist Convention seminaries and the Cooperative Program for the glory of God and the advancement of the Kingdom of God through obedience of the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    About the Author

  • Michael Foust