HOUSTON, Texas (BP)–Leaders of the Houston Baptist community and officers of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, dedicated the seminary’s newly renovated Houston campus during a special chapel service and ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 13.
Two years ago, Southwestern Seminary’s Houston extension moved from its previous location at Houston Baptist University to Park Place Baptist Church after the church voted to deed its $5.7 million facility to the seminary. Under the agreement, the congregation continues to use the campus for regular church activities, while the seminary provides for the upkeep and renovation of classrooms and office space.
The seminary named the facility the J. Dalton Havard Center for Theological Studies Park Place Campus in honor of the Houston-based evangelist. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson said that Havard kept “a stellar record of faithfulness in the service of God.”
Patterson likened the dedication of the facility to Solomon’s dedication of the temple he built and his father, David, envisioned. Solomon said the purpose of what the Israelites had done was to honor God’s name.
“As great as B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Seminary, was, this is not a place to honor his name. In spite of all of our great leaders, this is not a place to honor their names,” Patterson said. The Houston seminary was, instead, established to honor God, he said.
The people who study in the seminary should seek God’s face, just as Solomon and the people of Israel, Patterson said. “This facility, only bricks and mortar, must be known as a place where men and women come to seek the face of God,” he said.
The seminary also should be a place where “the fire falls,” Patterson said. In the account of the temple dedication found in 2 Chronicles 7, Patterson said the fire of God fell from heaven. “When the fire fell, the people of God fell.”
Patterson prayed that the Houston campus might be a place where “God would come visiting and that it might be known that He is in regular attendance … that on the campus of this school people might see God at work.
“Schools do impart facts. They do and must or they are not worthy of our support, but God’s school must set the student ablaze. It must be a school of righteousness and godliness in an unrighteous and ungodly world,” Patterson said.
Kenneth S. Hemphill, national strategist for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Empowering Kingdom Growth initiative and former president of Southwestern Seminary, said he is glad to see the dream of a freestanding seminary in Houston come to fruition. The agreement between Park Place and Southwestern Seminary was signed under his tenure.
He reflected on the manner in which the Houston campus found its home at Park Place Baptist and said the campus is well on its way to being the premiere provider of theological education in the Houston area, adding that he hopes its enrollment soon would exceed 1,000.
He also offered a word of challenge to the congregation at the church prior to Patterson’s address. “This is a faith venture for Southwestern. … We need you as laypeople to get behind this venture and claim it,” Hemphill said. “This is God’s doing, beyond anything any of us could have dreamed for. This day is a day for the glory of God.”
Park Place pastor James Clark said the newly renovated facility is an example of God’s grace and the faithfulness of his congregation. The church had pursued God’s will with singleness of devotion, awaiting His command at every turn and giving selflessly, he said.
Portions of the Houston facility also are named in honor of Houston area-pastors such as Remus Wright and Ralph West. Wright is pastor of The Fountain of Praise church. West is pastor of The Church Without Walls.
The Houston seminary’s development office is named for W. Edwin Crawford, Southwestern’s director of development under former President Robert Naylor. Crawford’s son, Dan, currently is a professor of evangelism and missions and associate director of Scarborough Institute for Church Growth at Southwestern.
“He raised the money to get the Houston campus started under Dr. Naylor,” Crawford said of his father. “He practically moved to Houston, got an apartment there and raised what was needed to build the seminary extension on the campus of Houston Baptist University. That was nearly 30 years ago. So it’s appropriate that the development office be named for him.”
Bob Overton, director of the Houston seminary campus, said he was at first skeptical that the church would give its property to the seminary, but that he is now amazed at the faith of the congregation. “You have given a gift with eternal impact. It will be here until Jesus comes again,” Overton said.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: NEW CAMPUS CELEBRATED.