FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is “making difficult decisions in an effort to protect the institution from future financial crisis,” according to a Dec. 16 news release from the Southern Baptist Convention seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
The seminary is working to cut its budget by approximately 10 percent, or $3.5 million to $4 million. Among reductions being made to the budget are “temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities.”
SWBTS President Paige Patterson was quoted in the news release as saying, “The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that do not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school.” The news release then stated that Patterson “went on to say that current economic trends would make this goal difficult to achieve.”
The news release specifically identified two cutback areas.
— Southwestern is suspending the work of its Naylor Children’s Center for at least 18 months. The center, which annually posts a deficit, according to the news release, is a laboratory school under the direction of the school of educational ministries that provides care and instruction for preschool age children from six weeks to age 5.
— The seminary has also suspended its Oxford Study Program and all of the Traveling Scholar overseas on-site study trips with the exception of those directly related to the 2+2 missionary training program in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.
“We anticipate that other cutbacks in the budget will be necessary to ensure that Southwestern maintains its debt-free operational position and to be certain that revenues cover expenditures,” Patterson said. “This is a most regrettable circumstance and not of our own making,” he said, “but as stewards before God, we are all responsible for handling matters with as much compassion and justice as we possibly can. The goal in the end is to have a strong seminary when the present financial crisis eases.”
Patterson added, “In addition to praying for our own seminary, we also pray for all six of our seminaries, each of which is facing a similar situation. We also share concern for the churches, especially those with heavy indebtedness.”
The news release noted that the cutbacks were being made in accord with recommendations by the seminary’s board of trustees.
“Southwestern achieves its operating budget from four sources of income: endowment income, tuition and fees, charitable gifts and Cooperative Program funds,” the news release explained. “The devaluation of the stock market has affected Southwestern’s endowment similar to many other institutions of higher education. However, Southwestern’s endowment losses have proven to be affected less than other schools…. Southwestern must plan wisely in an effort to avoid tuition increases for the future since indications are that the economic strain on individuals will impact charitable gifts and Cooperative Program funds.” The Cooperative Program is Southern Baptists’ channel for funding international and national missions and other ministries such as the SBC’s seminaries.
“The administration is hopeful that these [budget cuts] will be temporary and that the nation’s economy improves. In the meantime, Southwestern prays these circumstances lead to renewed emphasis on spiritual matters and a national revival. Since its founding in 1908, Southwestern has weathered many financial storms, including two World Wars, the Great Depression and economic recessions. Trusting in the Lord’s providence, the seminary is thankful that the current decisions are precautionary and that Southwestern will continue to provide theological training for men and women for years to come.”
Woman’s Missionary Union announced Dec. 10 that it was enacting measures to reduce its 2009 budget by $1.4 million. Some of those steps included reducing team expense budgets in areas such as travel, projects and activities; implementing four weeks unpaid furlough for each staff member between January and August 2009; a hiring freeze on vacant positions; reducing employer contributions to retirement plans; freezing merit pay increases; and eliminating incentive bonuses in 2009. The organization’s revised budget for 2009 is $9.6 million.
Adapted by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary news release, which is posted at the seminary’s www.swbts.edu website.