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TRUSTEES: SWBTS sees enrollment and revenue growth, affirms legal steps

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary board of trustees heard enrollment and financial reports, elected two scholars to the institution’s faculty, approved a new degree program and affirmed the school’s recent legal actions during its Oct. 19 meeting.

The board received encouraging reports from the administration concerning enrollment gains and increased financial stability of the seminary.

In enrollment matters, trustees learned that 594 new students enrolled for the fall 2020 semester, an increase of 29 percent over the fall of 2019.

In financial matters, reports showed a 14.9 percent increase in revenue during the 2019-2020 fiscal year, including a 14.6 percent increase in tuition revenue; and a 215 percent increase in donations to the Southwestern Fund, the school’s annual fund, as well as 467 more gifts to the seminary than in the prior year. In July, the board passed a slightly reduced budget for the 2020-2021 academic year after significantly reducing spending at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Adam W. Greenway expressed his enthusiasm concerning many positive developments at the seminary.

“I have said on a number of occasions that I believe the greatest days of Southwestern Seminary are in our windshield, rather than our rearview mirror, and I have never been more confident in that conviction,” he said. “Our trustees heard reports from across our institution that demonstrate in so many ways how God is blessing richly this institution, from faculty to students to campus improvements. Even in the midst of COVID-19, Southern Baptists’ ‘crown jewel’ seminary is sparkling even brighter today.”

Trustees voted without opposition to affirm the September action of its officers in joining with Baylor University to file a lawsuit against a foundation originally established to benefit the schools.

Filed on Sept. 8, Southwestern and Baylor allege some board members of the Harold E. Riley Foundation led a “secret coup” in an “attempt to seize control of the foundation and its assets” – altering the foundation’s purpose, stripping the schools of their rights and status as charitable members and misappropriating assets worth millions, Baptist Press reported Sept. 9.

The board expressed its “full support for the legal efforts intended to ensure that the stated donative intent of the late Mr. Harold E. Riley is fulfilled by the Harold E. Riley Foundation, and authorizes continued efforts toward a resolution by the President, in consultation with the board officers.”

Related to the lawsuit and other matters, trustees also affirmed the officers’ decision to suspend the trustee rights and privileges of two trustees for “trustee misconduct,” pending resolution of the legal matters, declaring the action “consistent with the seminary’s governing documents and parliamentary authority and not inconsistent with the Southern Baptist Convention’s governing documents.”

Philip Levant, chairman of the board of trustees, said after the meeting, “The board’s resolve to act on behalf of Southwestern’s interests has never been stronger. I am confident we have honored the Lord in both the decisions made at our fall meeting and how we went about them. A spirit of love, humility and unity permeated our time together.”

Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst, Texas, added: “I am proud to serve the Southern Baptist Convention and hold Southwestern Seminary in trust alongside my fellow board members.”

Greenway expressed gratitude for the board’s action.

“I am grateful for the strong affirmation by the full board of trustees for the actions taken by its board officers,” he said. “While we continue to pray and hope for a just resolution of this difficult matter, we are determined to honor the clearly stated intent of Mr. Riley in establishing the foundation that bears his name exclusively to support two educational institutions that were near and dear to his heart.”

In other action, the board affirmed recommendations from its Committee for Academic Administration in electing two members of the faculty, approving a new Master of Divinity in Worship Leadership degree, and renewing presidential appointments for two other faculty members.

Ted J. Cabal, serving under presidential appointment since August, was elected professor of philosophy of religion, effective immediately. Cabal, a two-time graduate of Southwestern, previously taught for the institution from 1995-1998 as well as at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, before returning to Seminary Hill for the fall 2020 semester.

The other newly elected faculty member will be announced at a later date in order to permit him to appropriately notify his current place of ministry.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The other faculty member was announced Oct. 25. Pastor and former seminary professor Ben Skaug was named dean of Scarborough College and associate professor of theology.] 

The Master of Divinity in Worship Leadership in the School of Church Music and Worship is an 86-credit-hour degree, with 36 hours dedicated to courses specific to local church worship leadership and 50 hours focused on biblical, theological and Great Commission and educational ministry studies.

Joseph R. Crider, dean of the School of Church Music and Worship, expressed appreciation for approval of the new degree.

“We believe this new degree will be a pacesetter for theological education, combining rigorous theology with practical church music and worship leadership, which is ideal for the kind of worship pastors needed by our churches,” he said. “The degree also provides an ideal pathway to advanced theological training for worship leaders.”

Jeremiah Kim, assistant professor of theology and director of Korean Doctor of Ministry studies, and Dietmar Schulze, associate professor of missions and associate director of the Master of Arts in Theology program for the Bonn, Germany, extension center, were renewed in their presidential appointments, effective immediately.

In other actions, the board:

  • authorized its Executive Committee to submit the seminary’s response to a motion referred to it from the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting requesting the seminary’s trustees to authorize the president and legal counsel to pursue the lawful recovery of school property that may have been removed from the president’s home;
  • approved a corporate resolution authorizing the president and other officers of the corporation to execute certain legal and financial actions on behalf of the seminary; and
  • received and accepted the 2020-2021 audited financial statements from Guinn Smith & Co., Inc., resulting in a clean audit of the institution.

The board also received reports:

  • of the appointment of Duane J. Danis as associate vice president for facilities planning and management. Danis previously served as executive director of operations for Send Relief, the Southern Baptist Convention’s disaster relief and human services effort; and the appointment of Edward Upton as associate vice president for institutional relations. Upton previously served as assistant to the president of the SBC Executive Committee; and
  • on campus projects addressing various matters of deferred maintenance and improvements to the physical plant.

The meeting was held in executive session and via video conferencing in order to permit the board to address personnel and trustee matters in confidentiality.

The next scheduled meeting of the board of trustees is April 12-14, 2021.

    About the Author

  • James A. Smith, Sr.