Southern Seminary trustees elect new faculty, celebrate historic enrollment
Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary elected two new faculty members and received President R. Albert Mohler Jr.’s report summarizing historic student enrollment metrics during the board’s April 20-21 meeting.
In the harmonious meeting held on the seminary’s Louisville, Kentucky, campus, trustees unanimously approved all recommendations.
Elected to the faculty, effective Aug. 1, were Douglas K. Blount, professor of Christian philosophy and ethics, and Joseph R. Crider, professor of church music and worship.
Mohler told trustees that both scholars “are spectacular additions to the faculty.”
Blount has taught since 2008 at Dallas Theological Seminary, with prior teaching posts at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Criswell College. He earned Doctor of Philosophy and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Baylor University.
Crider has taught since 2011 at Southern Seminary as Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of Church Music and Worship and executive director of the school’s Institute for Biblical Worship. He is pastor of worship at LaGrange Baptist Church in LaGrange, Kentucky, and previously held the same position at other churches in Kentucky and Missouri. Crider earned a Doctor of Arts in performance from the University of Northern Colorado, as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Bowling Green State University.
Mohler told trustees the seminary is experiencing historic levels of student enrollment.
“We have the strongest enrollment in the theological world,” he said, calling it a “sign of God’s blessing.”
Mohler reported the seminary had a record enrollment of 4,792 and full-time equivalents of 3,425 for the 2013-2014 academic year, the most recent complete data available.
Further, the Master of Divinity headcount of 1,952 far outpaces peer institutions accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, he said.
Noting that training pastors is “the central reason the institution exists,” Mohler said the unparalleled strength of M.Div. enrollment is “deeply, deeply humbling.”
Also in 2013-2014, Southern welcomed 1,639 new students. “That’s massive,” he said.
Mohler’s report on the enrollment was set in the context of the 20-year anniversary of major tension on the school’s campus in response to his early efforts to return the seminary to confessional integrity. Elected president in 1993, opponents of institutional changes held a candlelight vigil during the spring 1995 trustee meeting attempting to influence the board not to adopt new hiring policies that solidified Mohler’s efforts to return Southern to the confessional integrity of its founders.
Contrary to the predictions of his critics, Southern Seminary has thrived in the wake of Mohler’s reassertion of the school’s historical commitments to inerrancy and conservative theology.
“This was something God alone could have brought about,” he said.
Trustees also voted to revoke its prior acceptance and decline the gift of a Wisconsin Christian university campus, as well as to decline to establish an extension campus of Boyce College, the seminary’s undergraduate school.
Mohler said he has “great disappointment” that the gift of Northland International University campus in Dunbar, Wisconsin, had to be declined.
“We had entered with energy and hope in anticipation that we would be able to have a successful transition in terms of receiving the campus and then opening a Boyce College Northland campus this fall,” he said. “We knew from the beginning that it would be a difficult challenge, but we also saw it as a great opportunity.”
Mohler added that the seminary “is no less committed to work in partnership with the state conventions in the upper Midwest to try to do everything possible to encourage church planting, theological education and every other good work.”
The board approved the recommendation of its Financial Board for the 2015-2016 budget of $43.7 million, an increase of 7.7 percent over 2014-2015 budget.
In other actions related to the faculty, trustees approved sabbatical leaves of one year for Eric L. Johnson, Lawrence and Charlotte Hoover Professor of Pastoral Care, and M. David Sills, A.P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology; and of six months for Gregg R. Allison, professor of Christian theology, Theodore J. Cabal, professor of Christian philosophy and applied apologetics, Jonathan Pennington, associate professor of New Testament interpretation, and Brian Vickers, professor of New Testament interpretation.
Promotions in faculty rank were granted to Randy L. Stinson, provost and senior vice president for academic administration to professor of leadership and family ministry, Barry C. Joslin to professor of Christian theology, and Jeremy P. Pierre to associate professor of biblical counseling.
Trustees granted additional three-year teaching contracts to Kevin Smith, assistant professor Christian preaching, and Michael Wilder, associate professor of leadership and discipleship.
The board also:
-- re-elected without opposition the 2014-2015 slate of officers: Philip Gunn, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives and attorney from Clinton, Mississippi, as chairman; Matt Schmucker, executive director of Cross Conference from Washington, D.C., as vice chairman and chairman of the Executive Committee; John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pell City, Alabama, as second vice chairman; Phil West, retired pastor from Warner Robbins, Georgia, as secretary; and Stanley Craig, retired financial planner from Prospect, Kentucky, as chairman of the trustees’ Financial Board;
-- accepted the 2014 financial audit report conducted by independent auditors Crowe Horwath, which offered an “unqualified or ‘clean’ opinion” concerning the seminary’s financial statements and no recommendations for changes in the school’s financial practices;
-- approved amended and restated bylaws of the Southern Seminary Foundation;
-- adopted a policy prohibiting employment of persons who are “first-degree relations” of current trustees, with certain exceptions; and
-- recognized six outgoing trustees whose terms of service end in 2015: T. Scott Eanes, from Statesville, North Carolina; D. Steven Gouge, from Wilkesboro, North Carolina; Bill Haynes, from Somerset, Kentucky; Danny Lambert, from Westerville, Ohio; John Temple, from Meridian, Mississippi; and Frank Broadus, from Louisville, Kentucky.
In response to requests from several trustees, Gunn led fellow members of the board to conclude the meeting by encircling Mohler to lay hands on him and pray for his leadership of the institution.