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Southwestern trustees approve $1 million budget increase

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In the face of a possible $1 million decrease in funding at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, the seminary’s trustees approved a $1 million budget increase during their spring meeting March 6 at the Fort Worth, Texas, school.

Southwestern President Kenneth S. Hemphill called the 3.4 percent budget increase “a normal increase.”

“We are budgeting conservatively,” he said of the $29.6 million budget.

Last year, the Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to redirect approximately $4 million from the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries to three seminaries in Texas. Southwestern stands to lose about $1 million, or about 3.4 percent of the seminary’s total budget.

While he’s not anticipating a major loss in funds from the potential BGCT budget reduction, Hemphill said, “It’s too early for us to try to project that. I don’t know how all of these things will sort out.”

Calling the seminary “financially healthy,” Hemphill added he does have faith that God will continue to meet the financial needs of Southwestern through local churches.

“The key issue is the generosity of the local church,” he said. “We are confident that God is going to meet our needs and that churches believe in Southwestern and want to continue to support us.

“The administration and the board [express our] confidence in the churches of the SBC to continue to fund theological education in a generous way,” Hemphill said. “Thank you, Southern Baptists, for your continued generous support.”

The new budget includes an average 2 percent raise for seminary faculty and staff. Tuition and fees will increase $5 per hour for master’s students, $125 per semester for Ph.D. students and $15 for matriculation.

In their March 7 session, trustees approved a resolution commending the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention for its “Partner’s Plan,” which will promote a one-time offering this year for financial support of the seminary.

In their afternoon session March 6, trustees elected Larry Ashlock to the faculty as associate professor of pastoral ministry. Ashlock has a master of divinity and doctor of ministry from Southwestern and did his undergraduate work at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He currently is pastor of Crestview Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, and is completing his Ph.D. at Oxford University in England with ethicist David Cooke.

Hemphill said Ashlock brings “tremendous pastoral experience, a real scholar’s mind and a passion for the Lord and for students.”

Bert Dominy was promoted to distinguished professor of theology, and Al Fasol was promoted to distinguished professor of preaching. Paul Gritz was promoted to professor of church history, and R. Allen Lott was promoted to professor of music history. Doug Blount in philosophy and Karen Bullock and Stephen Stookey in church history were promoted from assistant professors to associate professors in their respective disciplines.

The president reported that all but two of the 86 elected faculty members have signed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“We fully intend to manage the institution by our bylaws, which require the signing of our articles of faith,” Hemphill said. “We consider this a privilege and an issue of stewardship to our Southern Baptist constituency. I appreciate the integrity of the men who felt they could not sign and appreciate their contribution to the school. We will work with them in a biblical and gracious way to make any necessary transition a good one.”

Regarding retired faculty who continue to teach adjunctively and distinguished professors, the president said the trustees will allow the school to work with them on a case-by-case basis.

“I am delighted that a large number of these men have voluntarily signed the new Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” Hemphill said. “The trustees have expressed confidence in the administration to deal with each professor individually who will agree to teach ‘according to and not contrary to’ the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“Our integrity in covenant relationship with our SBC constituency mandates that we use only professors who agree to teach ‘according to and not contrary to’ the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

In presenting the budget to trustees, Hubert Martin, vice president for business affairs, also reported $3.8 million in earnings on the seminary endowment. He said that the endowment corpus has grown from about $40 million in 1992 to about $120 million.

“We’ve been blessed not only by gifts but by very significant returns on our investments and a very sound spending plan that we operate under,” Martin said.

Trustees also approved the seminary’s continued development of a baccalaureate degree.

In their morning meeting March 6, trustees elected Michael Dean, pastor of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, as their new chairman. They also elected David Allen of Dallas to be vice chairman and re-elected Matthew McKellar of Tyler, Texas, as secretary.

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  • Matt Sanders