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Southern trustees elect Mohler to storied chair of theology

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees has elected President R. Albert Mohler Jr. to the Joseph Emerson Brown Chair of Christian Theology.

The chair has been held by other giants on the landscape of Southern Seminary’s history such as founding President James Pettigru Boyce and E.Y. Mullins, seminary president from 1899 to 1928. Mohler was elected the seminary’s ninth president in 1993.

“It is an historic chair in systematic theology and we believe an historic president like Dr. Mohler deserves to be teaching from this chair,” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration, said after the seminary trustee action April 26. “This will be a great and momentous act in Southern Seminary history.”

The chair is named in honor of Joseph Emerson Brown, who served two terms as governor of Georgia during the Civil War and played a critical role in keeping Southern Seminary from closing on two separate occasions.

The first came during Reconstruction in the 1870s. The seminary, then located in Greenville, S.C., emerged from the Civil War financially destitute and faced closure. Brown, a seminary trustee, donated $50,000 which kept seminary doors open and left the institution in sound fiscal health for many years.

“In the 1870s, $50,000 was worth what is now several million dollars in constant cash,” Mohler said. “It answered the question as to whether the seminary would survive. It actually allowed the seminary to go from a question of survival to the reality of thriving.”

Brown’s donation kept the seminary afloat a second time during the Great Depression. By the late 1920s the seminary had moved to Louisville, Ky., and a few months prior to the historic stock market crash, several new buildings had been constructed. After the disaster on Wall Street, the banks holding notes on Southern’s buildings called them due and Brown’s donation from more than half a century earlier again kept Southern in operation.

“This means more than I can say,” Mohler said of the trustee action. “Especially with Dr. Boyce and Dr. Mullins holding that chair during their presidencies, it is an historical connection that speaks to my heart and to the sense of calling.

“It also is a reminder that the Lord has used significant individuals [such as Brown] to make this institution what it is. Some of these names are inscribed on buildings, some are memorialized in scholarship and professorships, and it is easy for us to forget what they meant and who they were.”

In other business, trustees:

— extended tenure to four faculty members. Moore was elected associate professor of Christian theology. Robert L. Plummer was elected assistant professor of New Testament interpretation. Larry J. Purcell was elected associate professor of leadership and church ministry. M. David Sills was elected associate professor of Christian missions and cultural anthropology.

— promoted Chad O. Brand to professor of Christian theology, Greg Brewton to associate professor of church music and Steve Drake to associate professor of missions, evangelism and church growth.

— elected two faculty members to endowed professorships. Purcell was elected J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Christian Ministry and Duane A. Garrett was elected John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation.

— gave seminary leadership the go-ahead to plan a celebration for the school’s 150th anniversary in 2009. Church history professor Gregory A. Wills will be commissioned to write the authorized history of Southern Seminary.

— approved a $28.89 million budget for 2005-06, representing a 2.9 percent increase.

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  • Jeff Robinson

    Jeff Robinson is director of news and information at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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