FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Seven newly elected faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary participated in a new document-signing ceremony during the seminary’s annual convocation August 29.
The new faculty signed an old-style, leather-bound book containing a six-page history of the seminary’s adherence to the faith statements of the Southern Baptist Convention. By signing the book, the faculty symbolically were signing the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. All faculty agree to teach “according and not contrary to” the faith statement before they are employed.
New professors Jeffrey Bingham, Kevin Kennedy, Sheri Klouda, Eric Mitchell, Calvin Pearson, Teresa Stovall and Scott Swain participated in the signing while sitting in a chair that once belonged to Southwestern’s founding president, B.H. Carroll.
Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill said that seminary officials hope the ceremony will become a revered tradition at the 94-year-old Fort Worth, Texas, seminary.
“This year we are excited to inaugurate a new Southwestern tradition — a public commitment, something Southern Baptists should understand, of our new faculty as they place their name alongside so many others who served nobly before them. As we sign this document, I am reminded of B.H. Carroll’s deathbed request that we keep the seminary lashed to the cross,” Hemphill said.
Craig Blaising, executive vice president and provost of the seminary, said that the signing ceremony is new but “emphasizes a longstanding fact about Southwestern.”
“We are a confessional institution,” he said.
“Southwestern cherishes its confessional nature,” Hemphill said, “because it gives us clear parameters for doctrinal integrity without impinging, in any way, on academic freedom.”
The signing of the book also reminds those within the seminary community of Southwestern’s proud tradition, Blaising said.
“What this says inside the seminary and to future generations of students and to the Southern Baptist Convention is that we are an institution of confessional integrity. We affirm our confessional position. We don’t think that is in any way a problem or disadvantageous. It actually undergirds and supports who we are.”
Hemphill said that some people “do not understand the value of a school that protects orthodox truths of the Christian faith by having its faculty teach in accordance with its statement of faith.”
Maintaining such truths, however, is both the right and responsibility of the denomination and the school, he said.
“Southern Baptists have made it clear that we desire to make the Word of God the rule of faith and practice,” Hemphill said.
“Having a confession is like having a testimony. For a Baptist — a Southern Baptist — to be a believer is to be able to make a public testimony of your faith. That means you are able to state what the faith is. That’s the public nature of the confession for Baptists. The Baptist Faith and Message is a fuller confessional statement of the things we believe and the theological framework in which we teach. This is what the Southern Baptist Convention expects from us, that we will be clear as to what we believe when we are training future pastors, ministers and missionaries in the Convention so that they know where we are with respect to these great issues of their faith,” he said. “In a word, the issue is integrity.”
Klouda, who serves as assistant professor of Old Testament language, said that she was honored to participate in the signing ceremony.
“What a privilege to participate in the inauguration of a new tradition which has such profound significance for our institution. I welcome the opportunity to affirm publicly my deep and abiding commitment to academic excellence and to those tenets of our faith which define our message and our mission to the students of Southwestern. The book signing underscores my personal accountability toward my students, a responsibility that can only be met through prayerful and total dependence on a wise and gracious God,” she said.
Bingham, a professor of historical theology and assistant dean of the theological studies division, also said that by signing the book he was indicating his personal agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
“It is my faith and my message. It is what I believe and proclaim. It is what I confess and teach,” Bingham said.
The signing of the new book was part of the seminary’s annual convocation service. William “Budd” Smith, professor of foundations of education since 1979, delivered the convocation address, “The Church as a Teaching Church.”
“The call to teach belongs to the church. The commissioning of Christ to teach belongs to the whole church. The gifts of the Holy Spirit for teaching belong to the whole church,” Smith said.
He said that individual Christians within the church must develop a commitment to Christ “deeper and more intimate than loyalty to family” and “so deep and so intimate as to give one’s life for him.” Only then can the gathered church fulfill its teaching mission, he said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SIGNING THE BOOK and ENDORSING BF&M.