Posts by Hayley Shoeppler

Trustees of SBTS affirm strategic plan, pledging continued faithfulness in the midst of COVID-19 crisis. April 21, 2020

Meeting for the first time by digital technology, the Board of Trustees of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held its annual Spring meeting on April 20 against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic. The board marked complete attendance and conducted its business understanding the historic nature of the meeting, said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Mohler presented a strategic report to the trustees that highlighted the institution's responsibility to lead faithfully amidst the COVID-19 crisis and that, in Mohler’s words, underlined the administration’s “absolute determination to continue Southern Seminary’s legacy and mission with excellence and faithfulness long into the future.” 

In his report to the trustees, Mohler noted that the seminary has demonstrated leadership and tenacity during times of crisis, from its founding in 1859 until today, through the Civil War, two World Wars, the 1918 pandemic, and the Great Depression. “Since 1859, Southern Baptists have turned to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for pastors, missionaries, and other servants of Christ.” It will continue faithfully training church leaders through the crisis presented by the coronavirus, said Mohler. 

The scale of the crisis, Mohler said, compounds the pre-existing issues faced by American higher education. Financial pressures were already forcing big changes in the business models of universities and colleges, and the coronavirus is likely to accelerate the changes considerably. 

The administration presented a budget and a revised business model that was premised on and anticipated those changes. Mohler noted that the business model will unfold over time and that it is focused on efficiency and commitments that will further enhance the seminary’s stewardship of the mission assigned to it by Southern Baptists. 

“We’ll serve the convention better by adopting these new revisions to our structure,” Mohler said, “and we will continue to make our primary investment into our faculty and building that faculty for the future.” 

The budget approved by the Board of Trustees for the upcoming year is set for a thirty-percent reduction in both revenue and expenditures. As Mohler explained, Southern Seminary has built a large residential enrollment that has now been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of early March, the Seminary and Boyce College had marked one of the largest on-campus enrollments in the history of theological education. “But, just a few weeks ago, we had to send our on-campus students home,” Mohler recalled. “The fact is that the COVID-19 crisis alters the financial landscape, and this is particularly true for higher education.” It is estimated that the non-profit sector of the U.S. economy will face a significant loss of revenue in the coming months. As Mohler said, the higher education sector will not escape that loss of revenue. In that scenario, the seminary aims to maximize its stewardship by making budgetary decisions now, rather than delaying to a future date.

“Our determination is to act responsibly now, so that Southern Seminary continues to lead in the Southern Baptist Convention, fulfilling the mission given to us since 1859 and emerging from this challenge even more faithful than we began.”

“Clearly, this new academic structure and the budgetary reduction will include some reduction in staffing and personnel. These are deadly serious times. We are facing a challenge that is without precedent for anyone living. It is taking a toll on our hearts, even as we understand the very same sense of seriousness and gravity that falls upon our churches, our state conventions, and our common work together. We certainly did not choose to experience this challenge, but the Lord has called us to faithfulness, even in the midst of this crisis and to serve Southern Baptists with everything we have and everything we are as we look to the future. Southern Baptists are in this together, and we will be faithful together.”

Chairman of the financial board, Rick Staab added, “The seminary faces an unprecedented challenge during this pandemic and economic shutdown." 

“The effort to preserve the institution, whose primary mission is to train pastors to spread the gospel throughout the world, requires quick and decisive action.  Under Dr. Mohler’s leadership the entire administration has taken bold steps to reduce costs, consolidate operations, and revise the annual budget, in an effort to position the institution for whatever the near future may demand. The financial board is unanimous in its support of Dr. Mohler and his staff, and we affirm the appropriateness and effectiveness of the actions taken to position the Seminary for the future recovery of normal operations.”

Online education will be central to continuing Southern’s mission of theological training going forward. The seminary began its online program twenty-five years ago and has invested significant capital into developing a robust online experience for the equipping of gospel servants, said Mohler. In light of the current crisis, with on-campus teaching and residential learning suspended, “we now know why that investment was so important,” he said. 

Mohler pointed to the strength and size of Southern Seminary and Boyce College online programs, underlining the fact that the seminary’s programs of study are already available online and with years of institutional experience. “The same faculty that draws students to the campus, draws students online,” Mohler said. “Southern Seminary’s strength in online education is such that we are in a strong position to offer the same academic excellence online as on-campus, with all of our major degree programs and over 100 courses available online.”

In addition, Boyce College has added five new online degree options, including three joint baccalaureate and Master of Divinity programs, beginning fall 2020. The seminary already offers both the Master of Divinity and the Master of Arts in Theological Studies degrees online. This summer, students can take up to 75 classes online, including several live online courses.

The Board of Trustees authorized its financial board to approve adjusting the budget either upwards or downwards, given financial realities the seminary may face. One primary concern will be the question of when and how students can return to residence and instruction on college, university, and seminary campuses. Though the times require online learning, the seminary remains committed to in-person on-campus theological education. While the decision to reconvene on-campus study is in the hands of government authorities, Mohler made clear that Southern Seminary and Boyce College are “just as committed to on-campus theological education and worldview education as ever.” 

“Our commitment to the on-campus program is unbroken and undiminished, but given the COVID-19 crisis on-campus programs of instruction are at this point on hold. We will be absolutely ready to welcome students back to the campus just as soon as we can, but the decision on that timing is out of our hands.”

In his report to the Board of Trustees, Mohler noted his confidence in the future of the Southern Baptist Convention and his confidence in the enduring generosity of Southern Baptists and the Convention’s on-going vision for missions, evangelism, church planting, and theological education, while acknowledging that every area of Baptist life is under stress and will continue to be so for some time. “We want to reduce that stress and not add to it,” Mohler said. 

Responding to that stress, the trustees approved a fee structure for student costs that will significantly lower the cost of a student’s education. “Given financial realities,” Mohler said, “it has become clear that we will serve Southern Baptists best by lowering the costs for students with the goal not only to enable them to continue their theological education, but to do so understanding the changed circumstances many students, families, and churches will find themselves. 

“We are lowering the cost to make the theological education that is trusted for truth even more accessible.” 

During its meeting the board also elected Clint Pressley as the chairman of the board. Pressley is the senior pastor of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he previously served as the first vice chairman of the board. John Montgomery, dean of spiritual life at California Baptist University in Riverside, California, and former second vice chairman, was elected the first vice chairman of the board. Nick Floyd, who serves as the senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and who has been a trustee since 2012, was elected as second vice chairman. Louisville businessman Rick Staab will serve as the chairman of the financial board. Keith Daniels, businessman from Dallas, Texas, was re-elected as the board’s secretary. Trustees also adopted provisions to meet digitally, if required for future trustee board and executive committee meetings.

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New Seminary Track programs added to Boyce College curriculum March 27, 2020

Boyce College will be adding two new Seminary Track programs to its academic offerings. The two new programs will be a bachelor of arts in Business Administration with a master of divinity and a bachelor of arts in Communication with a master of divinity, announced R. Albert Mohler Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The Seminary Track program at Boyce College is a five-year curriculum during which time students receive both a bachelor of arts and a master of divinity.

“One of the programs I believe in most at Boyce College is our joint baccalaureate and master of divinity program, because of its power, stewardship, and opportunity,” said Mohler. “With the Business Administration and Communications tracks, this is going to provide even more opportunities for ministry, not only in the church but also in the workplace. What our world needs right now is a generation ready to go with urgency into the pulpit and into the world, and these two new programs are powerful demonstrations of what it means to maximize stewardship to the glory of God and in service to the gospel of Christ.”

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Boyce College expands online options for high schoolers in light of COVID-19 March 20, 2020

Boyce College is providing additional online curriculum to support high school students who are no longer receiving classroom instruction due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, announced Dustin Bruce, Dean of Boyce College, on Friday, March 20.

The dual enrollment program at Boyce College allows high school students to earn transferable college credit hours, while finishing their high school degrees. The program is open to students 15-years-old and older. The dual credit eight-week courses will be available online beginning Monday, March 30, 2020 through the college’s website.

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At Mullins Lectures, Kuruvilla calls preachers to apply the Word of God rightly March 16, 2020

To apply the Bible rightly to a modern Christian audience, a preacher must do two things, argued Abraham Kuruvilla during the 2020 E. Y. Mullins Lectures on Christian Preaching: privilege the text and understand the thrust of the text. The lecture series, entitled “‘Look Before You Leap:’ Text to Application,” was held March 10–11 in Heritage Hall at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kuruvilla also preached during chapel on March 10.

Kuruvilla currently serves as Senior Research Professor of Preaching and Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He has also served as interim pastor of several churches, and as president of the Evangelical Homiletics Society. He is the author of numerous works on preaching, including Privilege the Text! (Moody, 2013), A Vision for Preaching (Baker, 2015), and most recently A Manual for Preaching (Baker, 2019).

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Boyce College students look forward to being a light in Louisville through 1937 Project March 5, 2020

On Saturday March 7, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College community will work throughout Louisville for a day of service. For the last seven years, in cooperation with the mayor’s office, the seminary and college community has served Louisville to commemorate the great flood of 1937.

Eighty-three years ago, the seminary lent a helping hand to the city, offering food, shelter, and relief from the effects of the flood. This year, the seminary will uphold its tradition by serving the Jefferson County Public Schools.

It is more than just a tradition, though. The 1937 project is an event this community has come to love.

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Students trained in engaging Muslims with the gospel at Jenkins Center conference March 4, 2020

J. Keith McKinley, Associate Professor of Christian Missions, speaking at the Jenkins Center Conference

Walking in grace and forgiveness in Christ is central to faithful evangelism, argued missionary Mike Shipman at a conference at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The conference, entitled “Impacting the World: Islam and Engaging Muslims,” took place February 27–29 in Heritage Hall. It was hosted by the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam. Speakers included Shipman, J. Keith McKinley (Associate Professor of Christian Missions at Southern Seminary), and Gail McKinley.

For twenty years, Shipman has served with the International Mission Board as a missionary in Southeast Asia, and he is the author of Plan A: Abide in Christ, Disciple the World! and Any-3: Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime, a guide to engaging Muslims with the gospel. Shipman focused on how Christian dependence on Christ fuels evangelism even when evangelism might be wearying.

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Jones, Renshaw appointed as VP and Associate VP at Southern Seminary February 26, 2020

Timothy Paul Jones, Vice President for Doctoral Studies
Brian Renshaw, Associate Vice President for the Global Campus

President R. Albert Mohler Jr. announced the appointment of Timothy Paul Jones as Vice President for Doctoral Studies and Brian Renshaw as Associate Vice President for the Global Campus at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jones is currently the Associate Vice President for the Global Campus, and Renshaw is the Executive Assistant to the Provost. They will start in their new roles on March 1.

Jones will oversee the seminary’s doctoral studies, ensuring that men and women are well trained for gospel service in the church, missions, and Christian higher education. Renshaw will lead the online and hybrid program at the seminary, so that those who are not able to relocate receive robust theological training.

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‘Allusive patterns’ fundamental to Christian understanding of biblical theology, argued Garrett during faculty lecture February 21, 2020

Biblical authors often allude to previous moments in the biblical storyline to help readers better understand theological themes, argued professor Duane A. Garrett during a faculty lecture at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, February 19. The lecture, titled “Elijah at Sinai,” was delivered in the historic Broadus Chapel.

Garrett, the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, argued that these “allusive patterns” consist of references to previous passages of Scripture that help make clear what the biblical author wants the reader to learn.

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Be a Bulldog Day provides visiting students a unique perspective on Boyce College life February 17, 2020

Some current Boyce College students who attended the biannual event now volunteer as hosts for visiting high school and transfer students

Last week, Boyce College hosted 19 prospective students for “Be a Bulldog Day,” a unique visit day for prospective students. Twice a year, Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, invites high school and transfer students to spend the day with a current student and stay overnight in the dorms.

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‘Leadership is character,’ says Bingham at Julius B. Gay lectures February 14, 2020

A true leader does not just manage people effectively, but also models a godly life for others, said D. Jeffrey Bingham during the Julius B. Gay lectureship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, February 11-12. Bingham, dean of the school of theology and professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas, delivered three lectures titled “The Soul of a Leader: Acuity from Antiquity” at Heritage Hall. In these addresses, Bingham explored what modern leaders can learn from the thinkers of the past, including the church fathers.

In today’s culture, leadership is often associated with being an effective administrator — being someone who can manage a team to accomplish a common goal. Though good administration is not bad, Bingham said, the heart of leadership must begin with a leader’s integrity.

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