In 1995, Southern Baptists marked their 150th anniversary and apologized for the convention's racist past. In 2000, they adopted a revised version of the Baptist Faith and Message.
"Yet these events, even though great, pale in comparison to Luter's election," Akin said. "Look around this room. It is too white. I want to be a part of a convention and a network of churches that reflect the ethnic diversity of the Kingdom."
Addressing past and present discussions of Southeastern's supposed Calvinistic agenda, Akin said, "Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is not going to be dragged down in a street fight over Calvinism. We're going to love everyone on all sides of the issue."
Referencing the Baptist 21 luncheon the previous day, Akin said the panel was an example of the theological diversity reflected at Southeastern.
"More than a 1,000 people gathered for the luncheon to hear from the panel -- Fred Luter, Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, J.D. Greear, David Platt and myself," Akin said. "Each of us has differences on the particulars of theology, but we're all together for the proclamation of the Gospel. Southeastern models this diversity and unity as well.
"The only agenda at Southeastern," Akin said, "is the Great Commission agenda."
Enrollment numbers, Akin said, indicate Southeastern has 2,957 students, and the seminary expects to surpass 3,000 in the fall.
Akin shared a story of a friend who came to visit him and the Southeastern campus and said, "Danny, this is a very happy campus."
Speaking to the attendees, Akin said, "I can tell you all here today at this luncheon why Southeastern is a 'happy' campus. It is because our faculty, staff and students love Christ and worship Him. What a novel idea that a seminary would be happy because they have King Jesus as their Lord."
SOUTHERN -- R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced Bryant Wright and John Folmar as distinguished alumni of the year at the Southern Seminary alumni luncheon.
Wright, a master of divinity graduate from Southern in 1979, is pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and the immediate past president of the SBC. Folmar, who earned his M.Div. from Southern in 2003, is pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Mohler also announced that Southern Seminary has identified the Meskhetian Turks as a people group to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Meskhetian Turks, despite their name, are not from Turkey. They are about 300,000 people who lived in the Russian Federation. World War II scattered the Meskhetian Turks, and they have since remained an especially elusive group to engage, with a number of attempts seldom progressing beyond the information gathering stage in the past.
Louisville, Ky., where Southern Seminary is located, houses a community of 60 to 80 Meskhetian families -- somewhere between 500 and 800 individuals. Efforts to reach the Meskhetian Turks will begin by reaching out to the Louisville community, Mohler explained.
Also at the luncheon, Mohler outlined the seminary's adoption and implementation of a comprehensive master plan to repurpose and refocus the seminary's physical campus.
During the next 10 years, the master plan will dissolve $52 million in deferred maintenance and position the campus for immediate and future structural and financial sustainability. Phase one will repurpose the historical Mullins Complex as a state-of-the-art facility for Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.
The SBC Executive Committee June 18 approved a $20 million loan for phase one of the SBTS master plan. Phase two will advance the learning community of Southern Seminary, primarily through renovation of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library. Phase three, without requiring any firm commitments, anticipates future development.
At the end of his address, Mohler emphasized the increasing need for faithful theological education in a time that requires well equipped pastors, missionaries and teachers.
"We're up to this," he said. "But we need each other. It is moving to imagine how the lives gathered together, gather to become a part of that long line of faithfulness that came before us at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."
Mohler affirmed Southern Seminary's commitment to the seriousness of its task, the urgency of its vision and the credibility of its alumni.
The commitment, though, is only a means to an end. He explained: "We have a job to do, and it's not done when we graduate. It's not done when we retire. It's not done until Jesus comes. It's not done yet."
SOUTHWESTERN -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary recognized former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and retired pastor Tommy French as distinguished alumni at its annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon. Both were honored for their commitments to the Lord and contributions to the church and the world.
Before campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, before serving as governor of Arkansas and before hosting a top-rated show on Fox News Channel, Huckabee was a young student at Southwestern Seminary. Upon receiving his distinguished alumnus award, he explained how God used his time at Southwestern to heal his brokenness and prepare him for the future.
"I'm truly honored, and few things that I have ever received in my life have meant more to me," Huckabee said. He explained that when he and his wife Janet arrived at Southwestern, they were financially broke and spiritually broken. Janet was recovering from cancer treatments which had taken a toll on her physical strength and on the young couple's emotional strength.
"What wonderful days," Huckabee recalled of his time as a student on campus. He remembers going to chapel regularly, where he heard President Robert Naylor quote long passages of Scripture and other speakers challenge students "not just to be intellectually prepared but to be on fire." He said friends at other seminaries used to refer jokingly to Southwestern as the "three-year camp meeting."
"I considered it a badge of great honor," Huckabee said. " was known as a hotbed of evangelism and missions."
Huckabee completed more than half of the required hours for a master of divinity degree before leaving seminary to pastor churches in Arkansas for 12 years. During that time, he also became the youngest ever president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Huckabee was elected as lieutenant governor of Arkansas in a 1993 special election, and he then served as governor of Arkansas from 1996-2007. The following year, he campaigned for the Republican nomination for U.S. President. Afterward, he formed the HuckPac to help Republicans running for office nationwide.
Huckabee has authored nine books, including three New York Times bestsellers. He hosts the hit show "Huckabee" on Fox News Channel and the Cumulus Media Networks' syndicated radio program "The Mike Huckabee Show." He also is heard three times each day on The Huckabee Report, which is syndicated on nearly 600 stations.
Despite his success, Huckabee remembers his days at Southwestern as an unknown.
"I was a nobody," Huckabee said. "Many were the times when I would go to chapel and then afterward go to the prayer room, which was down in the basement. My heart would be so filled with what I had heard in chapel, and I would go to that prayer room and say, 'God, if there is a place for me, use me.'
"I think that prayer is answered every time we ask God to use us, and He chooses to use us in very different ways."
Huckabee added, "The one lesson I learned at Southwestern was to love the Word of the living God, to believe that it is absolutely, 100 percent true, and then to believe that the purpose for reading it was not for what we have up here but for what we would do from here out there in the world."
Tommy French, pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., pastored the church for 50 years until his retirement in 2009. During that time, he also served as president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and chairman of the board of trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Today, he serves as a trustee at Louisiana College.
"Southwestern gave me a set of tools with which to work, they gave me that evangelistic fervor that everybody needs when they go out into the world to tell people about the Lord Jesus Christ, and then they gave me a set of principles by which to live," French said.
After 50 years of pastoral ministry, French said, "I found that what Southwestern had prepared me to do helped me get it done along with the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."
In addition to his faithful service in the local church, French established the Mary French Priscilla Scholarship at Southwestern in honor of his late wife Mary, who, he says, made his ministry possible and effective. French set up a similar scholarship at NOBTS.
In addition to the presentation of awards, Southwestern's president, Paige Patterson, updated alumni and guests on the many exciting things going on at Southwestern.
To watch a video of Huckabee's award acceptance speech, visit www.swbts.edu/huckabee.
Based on reports by Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, Pat Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Michael McEwen of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Aaron Cline Hanbury of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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