SWI Gala reveals ‘eternal fruit’ of Southern Seminary program
Alumni and students gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Seminary Wives Institute at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a May 4 gala. The event featured testimonies from graduates from 1999 to 2017, representing ministries from all over the world. Each testimony revealed the eternal impact of SWI from Louisville to Zimbabwe.
The history of SWI dates back to Feb. 5, 1997, when Mary Mohler hosted some of the faculty wives to discuss interest in creating a new program to train seminary wives. On May 8, 1997, 85 women attended an informational meeting for prospective students. The result of that meeting launched the SWI program in fall 1997 with 125 students and the vision of Mohler and three co-founders: Sharon Beougher, who still serves as an SWI faculty member; Virginia Walker; and Menda Sue Hatfield.
“People showed up; classes started,” Mohler said at the gala. “And we were on a roll and things were going well, but we needed help … and the Lord so kindly grew this faculty as he grew Southern Seminary’s faculty. And so as my husband’s hiring these wonderful new faculty members, wives were coming along with them, and the amazing fact is God in all this was bringing faculty wives who had an interest in helping us, and each had an interest that was not already being covered.”
Notable SWI faculty who helped set the foundation for the program include Tanya York, who came in 1997; Jodi Ware, 1998; Katherine Magnuson, 1999; Jaylynn Cook, 2000; Nora Allison, 2003; and Caffy Whitney, 2005.
Karen Allen, 2006 graduate and former SWI instructor, shared how her first class immediately challenged her to pray fervently for the lost, including her mom. As she learned evangelism from Sharon Beougher, a co-founder and SWI faculty member, Allen joined with other women to pray for her mom.
“And within those six weeks, I got a telephone call on a Wednesday night at about 11:30 at night — my mom was coming in from church late because she had stayed to receive Christ with her pastor,” Allen said. This is “eternal fruit” from the faithful work and teaching of SWI, she said. Allen, wife of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen, now serves as the director of a similar program, Midwestern Women’s Institute.
“It has been said imitation is the highest form of flattery, and I unashamedly would tell you that I took everything that I could from SWI and copied it where I’m at at Midwestern Seminary because I wanted something that would benefit these ladies like I had received,” Allen said.
Kyndra Moore shared through a video testimony how SWI equipped and impacted her. Moore was unable to attend the gala as she and her family serve as IMB missionaries in Zimbabwe.
“I didn’t know what God had in store for us and this was certainly not on my radar. But God knew. … He knew what he was training me for and he used SWI to prepare me,” Moore said. “But, I would say the biggest thing that SWI did for me was it taught me that I wasn’t just going to be the wife of someone who was trained, but I was going to be trained myself. … SWI helped me to be a partner in ministry with my husband so that we together can do what God has called us to do, to reach our potential and to make the name of Jesus known to the nations. So, thank you, SWI. Thank you, Mrs. Mohler. Thank you, all of the staff who poured into me, and poured into our ministry. And I know that your fruit is endless; it’s reaching Zimbabwe.”
From the first graduating class, Sandy Davis shared her experience of being at the seminary since 1990 and facing the confusion from being taught that God’s Word was not inerrant. However, she credits SWI as God’s blessing to teach her the inerrancy of God’s Word and keep her grounded in the faith.
Helen Logan, 2000 graduate and former instructor, expressed gratitude that SWI taught her that her worldview “needs to line up with God’s Word.” Because of that, she is able to use what she learned as she teaches and trains up her own children, as well as modeling a biblical worldview for church members..
Throughout its 20 years, SWI has continued to prepare student wives for the high calling of being a minister’s wife. The program includes rich biblical studies courses taught from a passionate, world-class team of Southern Seminary faculty and SWI faculty. Since its inception, 309 students have graduated from the program, with an additional 14 graduates this May.
“When I first saw the lineup of the courses that are taught in SWI and I learned about the instructors that were teaching them. I was astounded. I mean we have the top notch; we have world-famous systematic theologians, New Testament scholars, church history professors,” said SBTS professor Robert Plummer in a promotional video. “This is not just a Sunday School class, this is a serious academic exercise to be equipped and prepared to minister in the local church.”
Additional program participants include co-founder Virginia Walker; former instructor Karen Cheong; 1999 graduate Michele Linn; 2001 graduate and former instructor Maria Moore; 2001 graduate Rebekah Jenks; 2015 graduate Monica Sani; and 2017 graduate Jess Crawford.
In closing, Mohler reflected on her time at Southern. She contrasted her experienced as a student wife in 1983, where the teaching in Norton classrooms did not uphold the inerrancy of Scripture nor the exclusivity of the gospel, to being the SWI director in 2017, where the faculty “joyfully teaches by faith alone, in Christ alone, in grace alone, the whole gospel.”
“And on this night we celebrate that for 20 years, for two full decades, in those same Norton classrooms we have had almost 3,000 student wives take classes in a program that celebrates the high calling of ministry wives with no apologies,” she said.
More information is available online at sbts.edu/swi.