FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary owes its 100 years of existence to the support of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Since its founding on March 14, 1908, the seminary has in return supported the SBC through its administration and faculty, lending guidance to the theological direction of the SBC, and through scores of alumni in prominent denominational positions and obscure mission fields, responding to any call of the convention through monumental times.
Current SBC President Frank Page is a Southwestern alumnus, and Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman is one of seven current SBC entity heads who are alumni. For both presidents of the SBC’s mission boards, Jerry Rankin (IMB) and Geoff Hammond (NAMB), the Texas seminary helped fuel their passion to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world’s 7 billion people.
From coast to coast, seminary presidents Danny Akin (Southeastern) and Jeff Iorg (Golden Gate) are leading their institutions to train the next generation of Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries and denominational leaders. O.S. Hawkins serves as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, which aids churches and denominational entities with insurance and annuity programs.
In addition to these influential men, Paige Patterson, Southwestern’s president since 2003, has been an integral part of Southern Baptist life for more than 40 years. Along with Paul Pressler in 1979, Patterson was one of the architects of the “Conservative Resurgence” grassroots movement to return the SBC to confessional fidelity in the inerrant Scriptures. In 1992, Patterson became president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and was given the task of revitalizing the North Carolina campus through a commitment to evangelism and conservative biblical theology. As president of the SBC from 1998-2000, he appointed the committee that proposed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.
Southwestern’s cooperation with the SBC began in 1908 when B.H. Carroll’s vision for a seminary in the Southwest was realized. A staunch defender of the inerrancy of Scripture, Carroll recognized there were not enough preachers to support the region’s churches. Some in the convention questioned the need for a second Southern Baptist seminary, but he defended its necessity, explaining that the new seminary did not intend to rival Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Ownership of Southwestern Seminary was transferred from the Baptist General Convention of Texas to the SBC in 1925, extending the SBC’s opportunities to train more men and women for ministerial service.
Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology and director of the Center for Theological Research at the Fort Worth campus, believes that Carroll’s creation of the first chair ever dedicated to evangelism helped encourage the practice within the convention. “B.H. Carroll established an ethos that has furthered the Great Commission outlook of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Yarnell said.
“Indeed, Southwestern’s evangelistic fervor, by God’s favor, has never yet been broken,” Yarnell noted. “This consistent evangelical zeal has brought Southwestern’s evangelism and missionary programs into special prominence. From L.R. Scarborough to Roy Fish, many pastors, evangelists and missionaries have attributed the success of their ministries in great part to the zeal and knowledge of Southwestern’s evangelism professors.”
L.R. Scarborough, the seminary’s second president, also advanced the seminary’s relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention, spearheading the “75 Million Campaign” in 1919 to raise $75 million in five years to be given toward foreign missions, home missions, ministerial education, ministerial relief and state causes. Although the campaign fell short of its goal, it served as a precursor to the present-day Cooperative Program. Always championing an intense spirit of cooperation in denominational work, Scarborough served as president of the SBC (1939-40) and led an evangelism program for the convention and an evangelistic tour of South America for the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) in 1936.
Many prominent theologians from Southwestern have contributed to Southern Baptist thought and practice in the past 100 years on such topics as systematic theology, inspiration of the Bible, missions and evangelism. Additionally, more than 40,000 graduates have been deployed to local churches, various institutions and mission fields around the world.
Throughout its history, Southwestern’s alumni have made up a substantial portion of missionaries serving through the IMB, comprising nearly 30 percent of those currently in active service. One example of these dedicated individuals is Judy Robertson. Robertson, a 1974 graduate from the school of educational Ministries, is a single woman who ministered for many years in Taiwan before retiring from the IMB. In 2007, she was honored by Southwestern with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of its founding, Southwestern has released a centennial edition of its Southwestern News Magazine, capturing the history of the seminary and its eight presidents and casting a vision for the next 100 years for equipping the next generation of preachers, musicians, educators and missionaries to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The online version of the magazine will be available soon at www.swbts.edu/swnews.
Keith Collier is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.