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Technological opportunities get Midwestern trustees’ approval

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–On-line learning opportunities were among various steps to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved by trustees during their April 10-11 meeting. Interim President Mike Whitehead heralded the Internet initiatives as one day providing Computer-Assisted Seminary Education (CASE) “in Judea, Samaria and the remotest parts of the earth.”

When it debuts in July, CASE will permit students to see and hear a video stream of the professor’s classroom lecture, while also permitting dialog with the professor by email or chat-rooms. Students may complete some entire courses by the Internet, up to 30 hours toward a master of divinity degree, without coming to campus. Other courses will include one week of intensive classroom learning, supplemented by Internet-based studies before and after.

The classroom portion of these courses will be offered on the Kansas City, Mo., campus and in other satellite locations where Midwestern has extensions. Internet courses will not be limited to students seeking ministerial degrees, but also to men and women who want to improve their knowledge of God’s Word. A $40 per credit hour technology fee will be added to normal tuition rates for all courses taken through the CASE program.

Praising the work of the seminary’s Distance Learning Task Force chaired by Old Testament professor Gary Smith, Whitehead thanked trustees for making this a funding priority in the budget. He encouraged trustees to spread the word that “at long last, we’ll be broadcasting this teaching” by what he called “a world-class faculty” in order to “train people for the work of the ministry around the world over the Internet.”

Trustees also heard a report from presidential search committee chairman Carl Weiser who told of the development of a profile of the type of man being sought for the position, after receiving input from faculty, staff and students. Weiser said members have received resumes, deliberated through monthly conference calls and interviewed several candidates.

“We want to find the man God has prepared for this seminary for this time. We’re not in a hurry,” Weiser said, adding, “I know you want us to be. We already know God knows all the answers and has him prepared, so we’re trying to get ourselves in a place that we hear what God has to say.”

Weiser reiterated, “We’re looking for a man that can lead us into the future who has a vision for the Midwest and the work here and a sense of God’s calling to this place.”

Trustees approved a budget for the upcoming year totaling $4,774,182, an increase of $188,997 over the current year. A 4 percent cost of living increase is factored into the budget for salaried employees.

In other matters, trustees elected to the faculty two men who have served as appointed professors since 1998 — Kenneth D. Keathley as assistant professor of theology and philosophy and Michael D. McMullen, assistant professor of church history.

Donald S. Whitney was promoted to associate professor of spiritual formation and the contract of W. Buswell McNutt was renewed as appointed assistant professor of biblical studies. The title of associate missions professor Ronald D. Rogers was expanded to include evangelism. In addition, a six-month sabbatical was granted for pastoral care professor Paul Carlisle.

In honor of church music professor A.L. “Pete” Butler, trustees named his arrangement of Fanny Crosby’s hymn “Redeemed” as the official seminary song.

The board approved reorganization and restructuring of various seminary activities and offices as proposed by the interim president, applauding steps to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Changes were announced regarding:

— distance learning to incorporate the CASE program, drawing upon previously approved capital funds of up to $100,000 for start-up costs, initial operating expenses and expansion.

— extension center adjustments deemed necessary by the interim president, including offering CASE studies as an alternative delivery system.

— reopening of the Child Development Center building for childcare ministry to student and community families as a training program for children’s education. Assigned to academic affairs, the action authorizes the interim president to spend up to $30,000 from capital funds as a start-up budget, with progress to be reported in the fall trustee meeting, and a balanced budget proposed next spring.

— designation of the Morton-Seats Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology for the joint display and academic study of the collections of former professors William Morton and Lavell Seats in a location to be determined by the interim president, utilizing up to $20,000 in capital needs funds for remodeling and equipment.

— modification of the operation and administration of the Center for Biblical Revival by the interim president while reclassifying Jim Elliff as consultant of the center. In a letter to trustees, Elliff requested the changes as he follows the Lord’s leading for a broader ministry off campus while still maintaining an advisory relationship with the new president.

— negotiation by the interim president with Briarcliff Development Company for strategic planning services.

Whitehead expressed appreciation for payment of the largest pledge to the seminary capital campaign. Charles and Doris Kelley contributed $100,000 following the recent sale of their house in Beaumont, Texas. Now living in DeSoto, Texas, Kelley was elected a trustee in 1992 and continues in his second term.

Whitehead praised the “passion, desire and drive” of Kelley in “caring so much about the school” that he prayerfully committed to attend the spring board meeting in spite of his battle with cancer and his wife’s recovery from pneumonia. “That’s the right attitude toward doing the Lord’s business,” the interim president said.

In a letter accompanying his check, Kelley said, “I am still excited over our First Step Toward Tomorrow campaign which will help us get the buildings we desperately need.”

Trustees voted to suspend their rules in order to re-elect the entire slate of current officers to a second term, including chairman Carl Weiser of Lynchburg, Va.; vice chairman Bob Collins of Blue Springs, Mo.; second vice chairman Tony Mattia of Wamego, Kan.; and secretary-treasurer Gwen Newman of Winder, Ga.

In making the re-election nominations, Oklahoma trustee Reagan Bradford expressed gratitude for the strong administrative and faculty support of the seminary, urging the board to re-elect current officers as a public expression of affirmation of their leadership. Board members approved his motion without dissent. Trustee Buster Brown later affirmed Weiser’s leadership as “God’s man for this school for this hour.”

In an earlier proposal, the board approved a resolution expressing gratitude to “all Southern Baptists who have faithfully supported our students, faculty and staff, especially during the past six months, both by praying and by giving to the Cooperative Program.” Gratitude also was expressed in the statement to leaders of other SBC agencies, particularly the Council of Seminary Presidents. “We pledge our cooperation with all of our partners in the harvest as we seek to exercise our fiduciary responsibility to provide policy governance for this institution,” the statement read.

The board named a committee to respond to the SBC Executive Committee inquiry into “cooperative endeavors” by SBC agencies with a report due in September. Members include Weiser, Collins and Missouri trustees Kent Cochran and Ralph Sawyer.

A mission statement that elaborates the purpose of the seminary was approved without dissent. It serves as the standard by which accreditors will hold the seminary accountable in an upcoming self-study. The board also heard a report of three master of arts degrees to be offered in the fall, pending ATS approval, with specialization in biblical archaeology, biblical languages and counseling.

Tuition rates were discussed, but no increase was mandated. A motion gave the administration discretion to adjust tuition rates during the next two years, with trustee executive committee concurrence. Trustees also authorized the administration to raise or remove the flat rate cap on tuition currently set at $700.

A facility usage policy was introduced to clarify use of seminary facilities by outside groups. Space is made available to churches on a temporary basis of up to six months. “While we want to accommodate and facilitate churches that want space, we don’t want an official seminary church,” Whitehead said. “We want churches to get established and not become dependent upon seminary space.”

The board also authorized full participation in the Stafford Student Loan Program and other government-sponsored financial aid programs.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter