LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) — Trustees of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary received a report of record student enrollment for the recently concluded 2014-2015 academic year and record fall enrollment for the current academic year during their Oct. 12-13 fall meeting.
In other business, the Board of Trustees responded to a referral from the Southern Baptist Convention, designated a new professor to an academic chair and approved faculty sabbaticals.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, summarized for trustees enrollment data for the past academic year and the fall 2015 semester, which are new records for the seminary.
For the 2014-2015 academic year, there was a record non-duplicating headcount of 5,067 students — 3,546 in the seminary and 1,235 in Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school (as well as 286 visiting students) — surpassing the previous record of 4,792 during the 2013-2014 academic year.
Among the total number of students during 2014-2015, 1,985 were enrolled in the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program, Mohler noted. “We exist to train pastors,” he said, of which the M.Div. is the core degree — the “gold standard” and “sine qua non” for Southern Seminary. Southern’s M.Div. enrollment last year was 33 more students than in the prior academic year when it far outpaced peer institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.
Mohler said the school’s record enrollment is “an incredible stewardship and a sign of God’s good pleasure,” which is especially noteworthy considering enrollment challenges for higher education, especially post-baccalaureate education.
In addition to headcount, Mohler said the fact that Southern Seminary experienced a 10 percent growth for 2014-2015 in total credit hours sold is “a matter of great satisfaction” and an important indicator of health of the institution.
For the fall 2015 semester, the seminary has a record high of 2,755 students, a five percent increase from last fall, of which 1,640 are M.Div. students, 2.56 percent larger than a year ago. For the fall, there are 980 Boyce students, a 23 percent increase over last fall, with 304 new students, 35 percent larger than a year ago. Mohler also noted that, contrary to national trends, the majority — 57 percent — of new Boyce students is male.
During its Oct. 13 plenary session, trustees unanimously approved a response to a referral from the 2015 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention requesting the Executive Committee and all SBC entities to make a “stand in our culture for the truth and lead the way to repair the moral fabric of America, by using all means possible, including the media.”
In their response, trustees noted the mission and ministry assignment of the seminaries, while adding that Southern Seminary and its president are “at the forefront of social media witness, through various digital platforms, including The Briefing,” Mohler’s daily podcast. Noting students and graduates lead their churches and other Christian ministries to take a moral stand, trustees also said the seminary is committed to working with “other SBC entities on initiatives that address and seek to bear Christian witness to urgent moral issues.”
Trustees also approved without opposition the designation of Ayman S. Ibrahim as Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies. Ibrahim joined the faculty in June as assistant professor of Islamic studies in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry and senior fellow of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam.
An evangelical scholar of Islam with two decades of experience of ministry in the Muslim world, Ibraham earned his doctor of philosophy with an emphasis on Islamic studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and his master of divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he is currently pursuing a second doctorate from University of Haifa in Israel. Prior to his appointment at Southern, Ibrahim taught courses at Fuller, Southwestern, and Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut.
In other business, trustees:
— approved unanimously sabbatical leaves of six months each for Michael A.G. Haykin, professor of church history; Timothy Paul Jones, C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry; Stephen J. Wellum, professor of Christian theology; and Jarvis J. Williams, associate professor of New Testament interpretation;
— received a report from the seminary’s Executive Committee of its election of three new directors of the Southern Seminary Foundation: David Bains of Mountain Brook, Ala.; James Perrine of Ocean Springs, Miss.; and Marvin St. John of Louisville, Ky.;
— received positive reports of the seminary’s financial position, including the recently concluded 2014-2015 budget year ending with $1.2 million more in revenues than expenses; and
— received upbeat reports from board committees on progress in the School of Theology, Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, and Boyce College, as well as the committees on Institutional Advancement and Student Services.
The next meeting of the board of trustees will take place April 18-20, 2016, in Louisville.