|NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Messengers to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention were reminded of the importance of theological education through reports from the convention's six seminaries during the June 19-20 annual meeting in New Orleans.
MIDWESTERN -- Robin D. Hadaway, interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, updated messengers on the school's activities in training men and women for ministry and announcing a special honor in memory of a Midwestern alumnus.
Referencing his years of service with the International Mission Board, Hadaway said he likes rivers -- having worked near both the Nile and Amazon. Now, as interim president and missions professor at MBTS, he expressed his interest in another body of water, the Missouri River, which flows only six miles from the school's Kansas City campus.
Hadaway related Midwestern's mission of educating God-called men and women to be and make disciples of all nations to Psalm 72:8-9, which says, "May He also rule from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth. Let the nomads of the desert bow before Him..."
"I believe this symbolizes the mission assignment of Midwestern Seminary," Hadaway said. "Our campus faces the states of the Midwest. Our slogan is 'from the heart of America to the hearts of the world.' In other words, from the river -- the Missouri River - we go to the ends of the earth."
Hadaway said he was proud to report that Midwestern continues to surpass previous enrollment marks, enrolling nearly 1,200 students in nearly 8,000 credit hours -- "our highest ever."
Speaking of the school's 100-percent online master of arts in theological studies and bachelor of arts in biblical studies, Hadaway said the programs were extremely attractive because "pastors, educators, missionaries and laymen are able to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees in their ministry locations."
Hadaway said one of the seminary's strongest areas continues to be the doctoral studies program, which serves 350 students in English, Spanish and Korean-language tracks.
Midwestern, on April 25, established the fully funded chair of missions and evangelism with a gift of nearly $600,000 from the Missouri Baptist Convention, entering an agreement with MBC Executive Director John Yeats. Hadaway said the chair will be named for the late Gary Taylor, an MBTS graduate a longtime MBC evangelism strategist.
"The Gary Taylor Chair of Missions and Evangelism embodies the ideals of sharing the Gospel in the Midwest and throughout the world," Hadaway said.
"The focus of this year's annual meeting is 'Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations.' Our part in that is 'from the river to the ends of the earth.' We at Midwestern Seminary pledge to witness in our neighborhoods and train the next generation of Christian leaders, so the Midwest, the U.S. and even the nomads in the desert will bow before Him."
NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley used his report to messengers as a testimony of God's provision. Because of that provision, Kelley had good news.
Starting in early 2011 and extending past the 2011 annual meeting in Phoenix, Kelley wondered if he would have good news to share at the New Orleans annual meeting. For it was in 2011 that the grip of the global recession made its way to the NOBTS campus.
The worldwide economic slowdown, coupled with decreased Cooperative Program giving began taking its toll on NOBTS -- a school that was still recovering from blows dealt by Hurricane Katrina six years earlier. The low point for the seminary family came last spring when Kelley had to make the difficult decision to cut three faculty positions.
"The first six months of 2011 were the hardest months we have ever had other than Hurricane Katrina," Kelley said. "It was a heart-wrenching time on the NOBTS campus."
In this difficult time, the seminary family chose to focus on the work and mission that God has given NOBTS, Kelley said. Starting in July 2011 the tide turned and Kelley credits God's provision for what has become a complete turnaround.
Faithful donors stepped up their giving efforts with sacrificial gifts. Several key scholarship funds were strengthened and new scholarships were established. Kelley singled out two of the new scholarships that gave him special encouragement. One new scholarship fund, founded in honor of Fred Luter, the SBC's new president, allocated $100,000 to help African American pastors and church leaders receive ministry training. Another $100,000 was given to establish a scholarship for bivocational pastors.
The blessings continued throughout the summer, including a $2 million gift which allowed the seminary to build an eight-unit student apartment building debt-free. The apartments will be complete and ready for student families to occupy this July.
The good financial news was met by equally good academic news. Enrollment continued to grow and the school celebrated two historical graduations. The December 2011 commencement was the largest fall graduation in school history. In May 2012, NOBTS celebrated the largest graduating class in the school's 95-year history.
"Southern Baptists, you have a seminary with the Great Commission as its daily task," Kelley said. "We live in a city that is very un-Baptist, in case you haven't noticed. We have the opportunity to get our students immersed in a city and a culture that is nothing like the place where they grew up."
Students are actively involved in ministry in the seminary's laboratory for ministry -- the city of New Orleans. NOBTS students are seeing firsthand how God can work, even in a place that is so unique and different, he said.
"We are on mission. We are not waiting to do the Great Commission after our students graduate; we are in the Great Commission right now," Kelley said.
According to Kelley, NOBTS is a seminary with a deep commitment to the local church. Most of the professors who join the NOBTS faculty bring with them extensive church experience as pastors or church staff members. The seminary works closely with local churches in the educational process. Churches host the various extension centers throughout the Southeast and in the master of divinity degree ministry track, church leaders mentor students who gain hands-on ministry skills in a local church setting.
"The real focus of everything we do is keeping theological education accessible," Kelley said. "Geography is no longer essential for theological education. We are doing everything we can to strengthen and improve our on campus program, but doing everything we can to take everything we do and make it available to any God-called man or woman anywhere on the face of the earth."
This commitment to accessibility impacts every level of training at NOBTS, including the highest academic degrees. NOBTS recently launched a creative way for students to earn a doctor of philosophy even if they cannot relocate to campus, Kelley said. The program is available for students majoring in biblical interpretation, Christian education and preaching.
In closing, Kelley shared what he considered the best and most important news to the pastors and church leaders at the annual meeting: "The grip of God is on your life.
"You are in the grip of the same God who has sustained us," Kelley said. "We hope that our story will look an awful lot like your story and you will experience the same grace of God that we have had."
SOUTHEASTERN -- Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin focused on the faithfulness of God, increased enrollment numbers and intentional partnerships for theological education during the seminary's annual report to the SBC.
Akin, elected to preach the 2013 convention sermon, thanked messengers but said he wasn't worthy of such an honor.
Akin told messengers, "Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is a Great Commission seminary and that mission is embedded in Southeastern. … Simply put, our prayer at Southeastern is to send out Great Commission graduates to live Jesus' command to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We greatly believe that every tribe and nation should be represented before King Jesus' throne worshipping Him. Southeastern acts in order to make this possible."
Referring to a major historical transition at Southeastern 20 years ago, Akin said the seminary's enrollment was fewer than 600 when both accreditation agencies placed it on probation and some questioned the school's survival.
"Currently," Akin said, "Southeastern has 2,957 students. We anticipate the best fall semester ever with more than 3,000 students. The seminary and college have a deep love for Jesus, a conviction for the nations and a great reverence for the infallible Word of God."
Speaking about the Great Commission Equipping Network program at Southeastern, Akin said he believes the best theological education takes place between a seminary and a local church.
"The seminary is a place we can teach Greek, philosophy and a few other subjects the church isn't able to teach. As we instruct these students they can then serve the local church utilizing what they learned in the 'laboratory' of the classroom," Akin said.
Southeastern's Equip program currently has partnerships with more than 70 churches and expects over 100 partnerships in the next year.
"Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary loves the Southern Baptist Convention and we desire to serve the SBC in whatever ways we can serve churches and members of the SBC," Akin said.
He noted another important component to Southeastern -- its commitment to expository preaching. Just recently, he said, Southeastern has added to its faculty another valuable asset, Jim Shaddix, former senior teaching pastor at Riverside Baptist Church in Denver.
Akin closed his seminary report by thanking the SBC for its financial giving and prayers.
"I know that being in the center of God's will is not the safest place to be, but it is indeed the best," he said. "We at Southeastern want to continue fulfilling the Great Commission and make great the name of King Jesus."
SOUTHERN -- Southern Baptist Theological Seminary equips men and women to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations, seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told Southern Baptist Convention messengers during his report at the 2012 annual meeting.
"We are doing our best to raise up a generation at Southern Seminary to take the Gospel anywhere, anytime," he said.
To illustrate Southern's heart for missions, John A. Folmar, a 2005 SBTS graduate, told the story of his being a self-absorbed career-minded lawyer in Washington, D.C., before God intervened in his life. Folmar, one of this year's two SBTS distinguished alumnus recipients, is now pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Folmar's church recently began another church in Dubai and called an SBTS graduate to pastor the new congregation. Continued...