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TRUSTEES: MBTS breaks ground for student center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Groundbreaking for a 40,000-square-foot student center and a report of record enrollment were key highlights of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustee meeting, April 3-4 at the Kansas City, Mo., campus.

Trustees, the seminary community, MBTS supporters and leaders from around the Southern Baptist Convention ceremonially broke ground April 4 at the site of the future Mathena Student Center.

Following a chapel service in which SBC Executive Committee President Frank S. Page delivered the message, a hearty group braved the cool, rainy weather to initiate construction of the long-awaited project.

President Jason Allen said the morning’s celebration was years in the making. He noted that the seminary’s original documents in 1957 included a statement of the founders’ desire for a student center to be built as soon as possible. Even though it has taken some 60 years, Allen said now is the time God chose for “as soon as possible.”

Additionally, Allen said it is appropriate in God’s eyes for such a celebration.

“We celebrate this project not because of stone and mortar but because of what it represents in God’s faithfulness on this institution and our ability to serve together,” Allen said. “At the same time, if you read the Old Testament, you notice that the Israelites were commanded by God and were to be intentional to commemorate and celebrate certain acts of God — providential deliverances, unexpected provisions, unanticipated military triumphs and many other events.

“So, it is good and fitting and right today that we do just that. We celebrate, we photo, we mark this day, this moment as a public declaration for our era, and every era to come, of God’s hand of favor on this institution in this time and place.”

Allen then invited Harold Mathena, a bivocational pastor and businessman from Edmond, Okla., to the stage. Mathena and his wife Patricia initiated the process of moving the student center from aspiration to reality with a $7 million lead gift for the facility.

Mathena, in his comments, likened the entirety of the student center project to the work of Nehemiah in Old Testament times. He said there needed to be a leader with a plan, workers, those burdened for the cause and much prayer.

“This work certainly is not a solo operation,” Mathena said. “It is not a one-man show…. We are all in this together. I am a very small part of a great project that is brought to fruition by many who have been burdened, and who have prayed, and who have planned.

“One of the greatest privileges of my life,” Mathena said, “has been … to do some small task for our Lord, and I know this is your testimony as well, and I thank God that He is able to use us to accomplish great things for Him. We celebrate together what we are accomplishing in this matter of building this student center.”

The two-story facility, to be named the Mathena Student Center, will house a cafeteria, bookstore and café, recreation areas for family use, a collegiate-sized gymnasium, a walking track, racquetball courts, fitness rooms, conference rooms and staff offices.

Construction on the complex is scheduled to be completed in 2018.

Record Midwestern enrollment

During his report to trustees, in addition to an update on the planning and progress toward the student center, Allen announced record enrollment for spring semester and discussed the operating budget planned for the next year.

In enrollment, both headcount and hours sold had reached record levels, Allen reported.

“We continue to be in a season of incredible enrollment growth,” he said. “If all trends continue, we are on course to break 3,000 students enrolled this academic year. This is up from 1,107 students in 2010-2011.

“Our continued focus is the residential M.Div., but our online, doctoral and master’s degree programs continue to flourish as well,” Allen said. “We are deeply grateful to God for this show of His favor, and we take seriously our responsibility to rightly steward this next generation of students that the churches of the SBC have entrusted to us.”

Also during his presidential report, Allen informed trustees of goals for the seminary’s operating budget for 2017-2018 of more than $18 million. The overarching aim of the institution’s business model, he said, is to properly steward the finances provided by God as provided through the SBC’s Cooperative Program and other revenue streams.

In other business, trustees renewed contracts for seven faculty members: professor of missions Robin Hadaway; registrar and assistant professor of pastoral ministry Michael Hawkins; professor of evangelism Thomas Johnston; assistant professor of pastoral ministry Stephen Thompson; assistant professor of New Testament John Lee; associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew Blake Hearson; and assistant professor of theology, Rustin Umstattd.

Allen reported the appointment of Jeff Kwok as director of Midwestern Seminary’s Chinese studies program and assistant professor of ministry. Originally from Hong Kong, Kwok comes to Kansas City after serving for a number of years with the International Mission Board. He has also previously served as a pastor in Canada and the United States for more than 20 years.

With nominations coming from the trustees’ governance committee, the board elected its 2017-2018 officers: Ken Parker, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kearney, Mo., as chairman; John Mathena, a businessman from Edmond, Okla., first vice chairman; Lee Roberson, a businessman from Hobbs, N.M., second vice chairman. Ben Character, an educator from Oxford, Ala., was re-elected as secretary.

Midwestern Seminary’s board of trustees consists of 35 members and meets biannually in October and April.

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  • T. Patrick Hudson