Month: November 2003

SBTC praised by SBC leaders for leadership

CORPUS CHRISTI?Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers and guests heard expressions of gratitude from Southern Baptist entity leaders, grateful for the state convention’s commitment to send more funds beyond the state than are retained for Texas ministry.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Charles Kelley Jr. led off with praise to the SBTC and Executive Director Jim Richards “for the incredible work you are doing in setting aside 52 percent of state Cooperative Program receipts to give to worldwide ministry. No state convention has ever done that before. Thank you for your vision to touch the world for Christ.”

The great challenge among Southern Baptist seminaries is not in finding faculty committed to the inerrant word of God, enlisting students to be trained, nor in offering groundbreaking, innovative curriculum, stated Kelley. “The greatest challenge we have is providing adequate funding for those seminary students.”

Despite a 10 percent increase in enrollment in the past 20 years, students are taking fewer courses because of the need to work to pay for their education. “Seminaries are working extremely hard at keeping costs under control, but the task gets ever more difficult to do,” he said.

Kelley described the extended ministry of NOBTS as “the sun never sets” on the graduates of the seminary. Inmates at “the bloodiest prison in America” have heard the gospel proclaimed by other prisoners saved and then discipled through the outreach of the seminary. Volunteer teenagers, college students and senior adults utilize campus dormitory space to offer ministry in the French Quarter.

“God put Baptists in New Orleans to show his gospel can flourish in any kind of setting if only his people will be brave and courageous enough to let that gospel loose.”

Told by a former Southern Baptist leader that “the seminaries are in ruin, devastated, with virtually nothing left of the great seminary system we once had,” Kelley said, “I had to pray and ask God that he would ruin us some more.” He praised the faculty at each Southern Baptist seminary for teaching the Bible “as the word of God, inspired, inerrant, infallible and sufficient for every need of the world today.”

Kelley urged churches, “Work harder than ever before to be faithful to the Cooperative Program God has given to us.”

“We are not to wait until we reach everyone in Jerusalem to go to Judea and Samaria,” said Southern Baptist missionary Randal Pegues in his report on behalf of the International Mission Board. “We do all of those at one time.” With 1.5 billion people having never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and 220 people groups with no access to that message, Southern Baptists are striving to share the gospel with all unchurched people groups with a population of 100,000 people or more by the year 2005.

“Southern Baptists are answering God’s call to missions, but must wait for financial support to catch up,” Pegues said. In spite of an 8.7 percent increase in the number of mission candidates responding, giving has risen by only 1.5 percent. As a result, the number of field personnel will decline from 5,510 to 4,800 by the end of next year.

In a videotaped message, IMB President Jerry Rankin appealed to SBTC churches to prayerfully consider increasing their gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions by 33 percent over last year. At that level of giving Rankin said Southern Baptists would surpass the $130 million goal and open the floodgates to send all of the candidates prepared to go. Without such a strong response among Southern Baptists, he said, “We’ll continue the status quo and send those 4,800 missionaries.”

Reminding Texas Baptists that the work of LifeWay actually began in Texas, President James T. Draper said Southern Baptists established the Baptist Sunday School Board in 1890 at the annual meeting in Fort Worth. Over a century later, LifeWay is partnering with the SBTC to provide $215,948 for student ministry, field service, training and promotional materials.

Draper described LifeWay as the largest publisher of religious resources and materials in the world with 119 retail stores, 188 monthly periodicals and more than 300 undated periodicals. That ministry has extended around the world as resources and training are provided globally. In 2002, Southern Baptist churches reported 109,000 professions of faith and 300,000 prospects through Vacation Bible School.

“VBS is still the best evangelistic tool Southern Baptists have,” Draper remarked.

As the only entity in Southern Baptist life whose primary focus is not on the message, but rather the messenger, Annuity Board President O. S. Hawkins said the Dallas-based entity seeks to assist pastors who often lack an advocate, partnering with them to enhance financial stability throughout life. By enrolling in a retirement plan, Southern Baptist ministers automatically qualify for matching funds that provide for disability and survivor’s benefits. “It’s a no-brainer. Every church ought to have its pastor and staff in the Annuity Board.

SBTC Executive Board honors Richards,

CORPUS CHRISTI?The Southern Baptists of Texas Executive Board celebrated the five-year mark of the convention in its regularly scheduled meeting the morning after the SBTC’s sixth annual meeting, electing new officers, approving job responsibility shifts for three ministry staff members and welcoming a new ministry associate.

Steve Cochran, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Longview, was unanimously elected board president. The board elected Joe Stewart, pastor of First Baptist Church, Littlefield, as vice chairman, and Sally Tillman of Exciting Immanuel Baptist Church in El Paso, as board secretary, both unanimously.

The board also recognized Jim Richards, SBTC executive director, for five years of leading the convention by presenting him with a book of letters and photos.

“Not very often do words fail me, but this is one of those times,” Richards remarked. “I am absolutely humbled by your graciousness and the expression of love that you have shown, not only this morning but also during the last five years.

“It’s been a tremendous journey, it’s been an incredible journey. And it would not have been possible had it not been for the pastor of the little church out in the country, the layman who was willing to take of his resources, the lady who was willing to pray, and all of those faithful Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Southern Baptists of Texas who said we need to have a ministry in this state. It’s because of them.”

Richards said he was given the opportunity to “raise the banner” and is thankful for those who have prayed for him and for the SBTC, adding he hopes others will continue to pray. He also thanked the SBTC ministry and support staff for its faithfulness, as well as the Executive Board for its support and vision for ministry.

“May the next five years be even greater than what we’ve experienced in these first five years,” Richards said.

The board approved the following staff reassignments: Robby Partain, from missions and evangelism senior associate to director of missions, beginning Jan. 1; Casey Perry, from director of minister/church relations to area ministry coordinator, effective Jan. 1; and Deron Biles, from minister/church relations associate to director of minister/church relations, effective Jan. 1.

Also, the board unanimously called, upon recommendation, Troy Brooks as minister/church relations associate, effective Jan. 1. Brooks is pastor of First Baptist Church, Groesbeck, where he has served since March 1986.

Upon accepting the call, Brooks commented, “Paula and I are deeply saddened at the thought of leaving First Baptist Church of Groesbeck, Texas. They have been our family for the past 18 years, We are, however, greatly excited about working with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and her more than 1,380 churches as we partner to reach Texas together.”

Brooks earned his bachelor’s degree at Dallas Baptist University, a master of divinity at Southwestern Seminary and a doctor of ministry from Louisiana Baptist Theological Seminary.

Joe Davis, SBTC chief financial officer, reported to the board that the convention has garnered $1.4 million of net operating revenue through Sept. 30 and estimated that figure to be $1.86 million at year’s end. When reduced by a $492,000 building fund allocation, the figure will be an estimated net operating income of $1.37 million, Davis noted.

“We’ve had a good year, receipts wise,” and “Cooperative Program receipts continue to be strong,” Davis said.

Receipts for Reach Texas, the state missions offering, are $700,299, compared with $672,091 last year, and the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions yielded $3,509,412, compared with $3,091,775 last year, Davis reported.

The board also approved up to $300,000 in surplus funds to be used for SBTC ministry projects among the convention and its ministry partners. Specifically, the breakdown would be up to $100,000 for the SBTC Hispanic Initiative, up to $25,000 for the 20/20 Connection Project, and up to $75,000 for ministry in partnership with Houston Baptist University. Up to $100,000 was approved for special projects, which likely will involve the establishment of an SBTC foundation to support new ministry projects.

Richards reported that “we are very close” to calling someone to lead the Hispanic Initiative, a stepped-up effort to meet the rapidly expanding Hispanic culture in Texas. “Our desire is to reach the people that God is sending our way,” he noted.

Empower conference to feature Blackaby

Henry T. Blackaby, author of numerous books including the popular “Experiencing God” study, will be among the speakers at the emPOWER Conference, sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Feb. 9-10 at the Arlington Convention Center.

Blackaby will be among other well-known Christian leaders at the conference?formerly known as the State Evangelism Conference?such as Zig Ziglar, Jack Graham and Larnelle Harris.

Formerly the director of prayer and spiritual awakening at the North American Mission Board of Southern Baptists, Blackaby is president of Henry Blackaby Ministries in suburban Atlanta, an organization he founded in 2001.

The Canada native has served churches in California and Canada. He was president of Canadian Baptist Theological College for seven years and president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Conference from 1977 to 1978. He has provided leadership to thousands of pastors and laymen across North America and has spoken to missionaries and other groups in more than 80 countries.

Blackaby is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and earned a doctorate at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in San Francisco. He holds four honorary doctorate degrees.

In 1970, Blackaby became pastor of a tiny church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Faith Baptist Church, which grew to many times its original membership and helped found 38 new churches and became a center for pastoral training.

Blackaby later served at the North American Mission Board and also served as special assistant to the presidents of the International Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources. Although he is now officially retired, Blackaby continues to consult numerous evangelical leaders.

He has written many spiritually influential books, most notably “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God,” which has sold 4 million copies and has been translated into 50-plus languages. His “Experiencing God Day by Day” devotional won a Gold Medallion Award from the Christian Booksellers Association.

For more information on the emPOWER Conference, call the SBTC office at 972-953-0878 or toll free at 877-953-7282.

Super Bowl evangelism project

HOUSTON?The team roster is just beginning to fill for the Super Bowl Evangelism Project and organizers are praying for thousands more Texans to suit up for what is arguably the most visible event in sports.

The goal is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hundreds of thousands of people from around the world in Houston Feb. 1 for Super Bowl XXXVIII.

A kick-off rally was held Oct. 2 at Houston’s First Baptist Church to inspire interest in the project, coordinated by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and in partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“It is our hope and prayer that this will culminate in thousands of volunteers working throughout the venues to witness,” said project coordinator David Fannin, pastor of Nassau Bay Baptist Church in Houston, a church affiliated with the SBTC.

“The purpose we have for this effort is mainly to reach people where they are, at the Super Bowl,” said Tom Cottar, Sbtc youth evangelism associate. “We need literally hundreds of people for tailgate parties in church parking lots and other events beginning 10 days prior to the Super Bowl. The vision is to fish while the fishing is good.”

Working in concert with NAMB, evangelist Tim Knopps said the project truly is a grassroots effort that could reap thousands of souls.

NAMB has retained Knopps, president of the Timothy Institute of Evangelism in Oklahoma City, to help coordinate the volunteer effort in Houston. He has organized similar undertakings during seven previous Super Bowls.

Although only 73,000 people can actually get into Houston’s Reliant Stadium to see the big game, Knopps said anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 people will come to the city just to be a part of the Super Bowl atmosphere. The event will not only attract football fans, but reporters and revelers worldwide. All of those people, in addition to the 4 million people who live in Houston, make for a huge mission field, Knopps said.

He emphasized the key to reaching as many people as possible with the gospel is to get Christian volunteers working in as many different venues as possible. There will be activities organized and manned by area churches and in addition to those sponsored by the Super Bowl Host Committee?church and secular opportunities in which Christians can involve themselves. The volunteer work won’t get anyone into the game, Knopps said, but the results of their work are far more rewarding.

That work, Knopps added, does not begin the day of the game but several days out as people begin to converge on Houston. Individual Christians and entire congregations can be involved in the church-sponsored ministries which will include street evangelism, block parties, family-oriented sports events featuring Christian professional athletes, food distributions, watch parties, and “stadium stuffing.”

The latter project is usually assigned to area college students. Their job will be to stuff the tens of thousands of gift bags to be given to every attendee of the game. Knopps said those students then get to place the bags in the stadium seats and as they do they pray for the person who will occupy that seat.

An S.O.S. prayer is sent up, he said. The students ask God for the salvation of the individual, for the person to be obedient to their newfound faith, and that they be given safety in their travels.

“Everything we do is geared to getting people saved,” he said.

Knopps emphasized the importance of the Christians involving themselves in all areas of the project. Coordinators for the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee are trying to secure 10,000 volunteers to operate the venues hosted by the Super Bowl. The “NFL Experience” exhibit will need 6,000 volunteers. This “1.5 million square feet of fun,” Knopps said, is a playground where kids and adults can put themselves through the rigors of mock football training in addition to other fun and games.

Organizers of the evangelism project anticipate volunteers from outside the city and state to suit up for the team effort. Super Bowl Evangelism Project Volunteer Coordinator Roy Guel said he has already received calls from churches around Texas and as far away as Virginia. One task of local churches will be to play host to those mission groups.

Guel said he is still in the process of compiling a volunteer database for the project, beginning with those who attended the Oct. 2 rally. Of the 100-plus people who came to the informational meeting, Guel believes at least half of them represented leadership from area churches. That, he said, is 60-70 churches interested in being a part of the evangelism project.

Once the database is complete, he said, more information and registration materials will be sent out. Preparation will then begin on the volunteer training due to take place in 2-3 months.

During the project, the city of Houston

Seminary trustees affirm new offering suggestion

FORT WORTH?The intentionally light agenda of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s trustee board was interrupted by a unanimous resolution asking the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to launch a seminary offering in honor of the late W. A. Criswell. In their Oct. 20-21 meeting, trustees affirmed the newly elected president’s proposed solution to alleviate rising costs in a way that would avoid shifting more of the financial burden to students.

No other major actions were taken in the regular board meeting scheduled amidst presidential inauguration festivities. The proposal of a special offering benefiting Southern Baptist seminaries arose during President Paige Patterson’s report to trustees at the first plenary session. While Patterson’s pledge to reverse a 20-year enrollment decline will provide increased Cooperative Program funding, a new source of revenue is needed to handle rising costs and significantly increase faculty salaries.

“If you’ve looked at faculty salaries you now this is one of the most astonishing and heartbreaking situations imaginable. What we pay our faculty is just unthinkable,” he said. “Southern Baptists are going to have to give an account to God for what we have not done in that regard.” In suggesting the SBC establish the W. A. Criswell Offering for Seminary Education, Patterson said the money could be designated for faculty salaries, alleviating the current budget crunch.

Patterson said the SBC Executive Committee responded to his proposal by appointing a special committee in the spring of 2002. While the proposed offering was among the various items discussed in seeking ways to increase support for SBC entities, other ideas relating to seminary education have also arisen. “I regret to say [that committee]may have taken on a life of its own,” Patterson said without elaboration.

Texas trustee Michael Dean of Fort Worth added, “Part of their thinking on this is that they want seminaries to retool and change the format of traditional theological education to take on more of an MBA approach,” he said, referring to an increased use of distance learning. He said consideration was given to moving away from a traditional approach to seminary education by scaling down campuses. “Is that what is driving this?” Dean asked Patterson.

The president acknowledged that Dean had “a most remarkable capacity to open up a new can of worms,” drawing laughter from the audience. “Yes, a fundamental distinction in how you do seminary education is very much involved in this. There are strong elements at least within the Executive Committee staff and even involving a few Executive Committee members who believe that the age of electronics has dawned, that the seminary campus is antiquated as an idea and we need to move to a primarily electronic delivery system” to reduce overhead. “There are even elements within the Executive Committee staff that advocate having one seminary with a super board operating in various other locations” utilizing media-driven instruction.

“I am forever the opponent of that,” Patterson declared. “When the day comes that you train your cardiac surgeons” and “the United States SEAL team is trained on an extension campus by means of electronic media, then I’m ready to do it in a seminary.” Convinced that would never happen, Patterson insisted that some assignments require on-the-job training as individual professors impact the lives of future ministers. By way of example, Patterson described the influence of former Southern Seminary Professor Wayne Ward in teaching him how to preach expositionally as the two interacted across the years. “I am arguing you can’t reproduce that. You can do some things by media, by internet and by extension campus, but you can’t put Craig Blaising on every extension campus. It would be sinful to put him with electronic media,” Patterson quipped, referring to the executive vice-president and theology dean.

“We are in severe danger right now of dumbing down the future,” Patterson continued. “We’re not training occupation troops here, folks.

SBTC, Taiwanese Baptists plan for 2004 mission

Plans are being developed for Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to be able to send mission teams to Taiwan next July for a week of evangelism in the Buddhist-dominated island nation off mainland China.

Dub Jackson, the SBTC’s partnership missions consultant, said the Taiwan Baptist Convention has invited the SBTC to send 50 teams of 4-10 people?one for each of Taiwan’s 50 Baptist churches?to lead in preaching, music and outreach July 18-25. The teams will leave Texas July 14 and return July 26.

Of 23 million people in Taiwan, only 3 percent are Christians, according to information from the Taiwan Baptist Convention.

“We want to take advantage of the opportunity while we have it,” Jackson said. “We know we have the freedom (to share the gospel) now. We have the invitation now. We have the command to go?now. That ll adds to the urgency of it. ? We really have to consider this as if it’s the only opportunity we have to witness in Taiwan.”

Jackson said because of Taiwan’s proximity to mainland China, the freedom to preach the gospel might cease soon.

A veteran of international missions work, much of it in east Asia, Jackson said invitations from native people groups are necessary in such partnerships. Nehemiah Tsai, executive director of the Taiwanese Baptists, initiated the partnership, Jackson noted, because of the Taiwanese Baptist Convention’s desire for a greater evangelistic emphasis in 2004.

He said a similar mission effort in which he participated at the invitation of Japanese Baptists in the early 1960s yielded more than 25,000 conversions among Buddhists. He said through prayer and participation something similar could occur in Taiwan.

“Dub Jackson has been involved in more international Crusade Evangelism projects than perhaps any Southern Baptist,” said Jim Richards, SBTC executive director-treasurer. “The SBTC is blessed to have him coordinating the effort in Taiwan for 2004. The Baptist convention leaders in Taiwan have expressed a passionate plea for help. Theyfeel an abundant harvest is near. If you have an interest in cross-cultural crusade evangelism, I encourage you to go. People will be saved if we are obedient.”

Under the supervision of the local churches, the Texas teams will likely present the gospel in schools, service clubs and jails and have opportunities to address the news media and civic leaders.

Many of the Taiwanese are Buddhists, and many Westerners believe wrongly that a straightforward gospel presentation is inadequate in witnessing to Buddhists, Jackson said. The partnership needs people “with the faith to believe that a person can receive Christ by just a simple prayer of faith, asking for forgiveness and accepting the eternal life that is promised.”

The estimated cost will be $2,795 per person, which includes travel, lodging in a quality hotel, and meals, Jackson said.

For more information, contact Ronnie Yarber, SBTC interim director of evangelism, at 972-953-0878.

Stanley remarks draw response

FORT WORTH?Former Southern Baptist Convention President Charles Stanley’s remarks in an Oct. 18 newspaper article that Southern Baptists are wrong for not ordaining female pastors and for including a phrase in the Southern Baptist Convention’s confessional statement that wives should submit to their husbands drew rebuffs from SBC leaders.

Stanley‘s comments to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram were that the SBC’s inclusion in the Baptist Faith and Message that a “wife should submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband” was inappropriate and “just ridiculous.” Stanley said the phrasing reflected a misreading of Scripture, which he said “leans more toward” mutual submission.

Stanley, longtime pastor of the First Baptist Church in Atlanta, also said he was saved at age 12 by the preaching of a woman, “and I’m still saved.” Stanley offered that he disagrees with the Baptist Faith and Message statement on pastoral leadership as limited to men only, the Star-Telegram reported.

SBC President Jack Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, said Southern Baptists’ intentions on addressing the family and husband-wife roles have been clear.

“The issue of the husband-wife relationship is critical to the culture in which we live, where there is so much disintegration of the family and questions regarding what constitutes a family, Graham said.

“I’m disappointed that Dr. Stanley would not see this as an important issue. I certainly respect Dr. Stanley and his viewpoint, but our beliefs are not based on the culture or on experiences but upon the clear testimony of Scripture.” Graham said most Southern Baptists would disagree with Stanley.

“That the Bible teaches mutual submission in the body of Christ does not dilute the fact that the roles of the marriage relationship are different,” Graham noted, adding that the “role of husband and wife is always uniquely in the context of a mutual loving relationship.”

Susie Hawkins, a Prestonwood member who served on the committee that revised the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000, remarked: “I’m just very disappointed in Dr. Stanley’s statement. Anyone who has a problem with the Baptist Faith and Message regarding those two portions really has a problem with the Bible because that’s all the Baptist Faith and Message is. We sought to uphold the scriptural boundaries and that seems to be where his issue lies.”

The other female who served on that committee, Heather King, Women’s Program director at Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said Stanley “is free to profess that which he believes; however, as Christians we must look again an

Elisabeth Elliot to speak at Criswell College

Dallas?On Nov. 14, The Criswell College will present “Ancient Words, Ever New,” a conference for ministers and their wives that is expected to draw participants from Texas and surrounding states.

The full-day event will feature noted pastors and Bible teachers, including renowned author and speaker Elisabeth Elliot, widow of missionary Jim Elliot, upon whom the book “Through the Gates of Splendor” was based.

Other guests include David Allen, pastor of MacArthur Boulevard Baptist Church, Irving; Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, and his wife, Debbie; worship leaders Ron and Patricia Owens, and members of The Criswell College faculty.

Topics will include Investing in Your Mate; Passion on the Bayou; How to be Happy Where You Are; Preaching Christ in the 21st Century; Balancing Family Life and Ministry; Gifts to Go: Using Your Spiritual Gifts; Empowering Kingdom Growth, and Youth Ministry in Cultural Crisis.

“‘Ancient Words, Ever New’ will be an encouraging and inspiration-filled day,” said Lamar Cooper, acting president of The Criswell College. “Everyone associated with this conference is an encourager to fellow believers and especially to those serving in a ministry. We are especially blessed to have Elisabeth Elliot to challenge all who join us for the day to go ‘Beyond the Gates of Splendor.'”

Elliot will share her dramatic life story during the evening session of the conference. There will also be a private screening of “Beyond the Gates of Splendor,” a feature-length documentary debuting in theaters next year. The conference?excluding the documentary screening?is open to the public.

Elliot was born in Belgium to missionaries, graduated from Wheaton College and later, in 1953, married former classmate Jim Elliot. Together, they worked on translating the New Testament into the Quichua Indians’ language. In 1955, their daughter, Valerie, was born, and 10 months later, Auca Indians killed Jim while he attempted to take the gospel to the primitive tribe. After Jim’s death, Elliot remained and continued her work among the Quichuas and Aucas.

Elliot is a speaker and author of many books including “And When You Pray” and “The Glory of God’s Will.” For many years, she hosted the nationally syndicated radio program, “Gateway to Joy.” Today, she lives north of Boston with her husband, Lars Gren.

“Beyond the Gates of Splendor” captures the lives and work of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, the fateful event that took place while serving among the Aucas, and the many miracles that would follow. It traces the lives of five North American missionaries in 1955?Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Roger Youderian?who ventured out to peacefully share the gospel with one of the most violent tribes in the Amazon?the Auca Indians. Their attempts were not in vain?they were encouraging in the beginning?though tribesmen murdered them on January 7, 1956.

The documentary attempts to explain that in the darkest places of the world, the brightest miracles can be seen. “Beyond the Gates of Splendor” features narration by the missionaries’ families and the Waodani tribes people. Through the film, the audience witnesses the fruit of the five missionaries’ work. It also depicts the strength of the widows who would resume their husbands’ work in spreading the gospel, and of one missionary’s son who would come to soon after regard that same tribe that slew his father as “family.”

The conference segment “An Evening with Elisabeth Elliot” will be from 7:30-9 p.m.

Conference registration is $35 for singles and $50 for couples. The Friday evening event alone is $10. After the evening session, Elliot will be available for book signings. This event is expected to be one of Elliot’s last speaking engagements, The Criswell College officials said. For a registration form or more information, contact Kathy Sibley at 214-818-1318 or 800-899-0012.

The SBTC at five years


Patterson installed as 8th SWBTS president

FORT WORTH?Paige Patterson, a key architect in the conservative theological resurgence among Southern Baptists, was inaugurated Oct. 21 as the eighth president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary amid family, students, friends and colleagues. Majestic hymns and fiery exhortations from Baptist leaders?rife with historical references to past champions of biblical integrity?characterized the service.

The son of the late T.A. Patterson, a pastor and leader among Texas Baptists, Patterson and his platform guests entered the formal environs of Travis Avenue Baptist Church adorned in academic robes and regalia.

New Orleans Seminary President Charles Kelley and O.S. Hawkins, Southern Baptist Convention Annuity Board president, charged Patterson with presidential responsibilities. Patterson’s son-in-law, Mark Howell, delivered the inaugural message.

The program included Baptist leaders such as SBC President Jack Graham and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Executive Director, Jim Richards, who greeted Patterson on behalf of the SBTC’s 1,370 congregations.

“The churches of the SBTC believe in you, Dr. Patterson, and believe in Southwestern. Our shared core values make us spiritual partners,” Richards said.

Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, citing the faith of the church fathers and later Baptist forebears, exhorted Patterson in his signing of the Baptist Faith and Message confessional statement. Kenneth Hemphill, Patterson’s predecessor, presented Patterson the seminary’s Presidential Medallion.

Hawkins’ charge to Patterson drew applause and was defined by a rousing historical account of seminary founding President B.H. Carroll’s doctrinal beliefs.

“President Carroll, Bible in hand, did more than standardize orthodoxy in Texas; he rallied the host of Baptists to the Bible doctrines of the Holy Scripture,” Hawkins said in quoting J.B. Gambrell, Carroll’s friend and contemporary.

“Southwestern has always been known as a conservative place. Why? Because we have always sought to conserve something: the trustworthiness of the word of God, the dreams and visions of those founders.

“So we come this evening to celebrate a president of Southwestern Seminary” characterized by the courage to fight for the inerrancy of Scripture, the conviction to use confessional accountability, the consistency to hold to the Bible amid cultural change and a belief in denominational cooperation.

Hawkins then quipped, “And lest anyone in here this evening misunderstand, and lest you (Patterson) get too puffed up, I’m not speaking of Dr. Paige Patterson. I’m speaking of Dr. B.H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Seminary.”

Hawkins said Carroll’s writings are documented in “hundreds of printed pages that leave us the answer” as to how Carroll might respond to current theological debates.

“B.H. Carroll, though he is dead, still speaks.”

Patterson said Carroll believed in the “verbal, plenary (complete) inspiration” of Scripture.

” ‘One part is no more inspired than any other part,'” Hawkins said, quoting from Carroll’s book “The Inspiration of Scripture.” “‘It is perfectly foolish to talk about degrees of inspiration. What Jesus said in the flesh as we find it in the four gospels is no more his word than what the inspired prophets or inspired apostles said.

” ‘In other words,’ Carroll said, ‘we cannot pit the words of Christ over the words of Paul, as some seek to do today.'”

Continuing his quoting of Carroll, Hawkins said, “‘The modern cry (of) less creed and more liberty is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish and it means less unity and less morality and it means more heresy. It is a hurtful sin to magnify liberty at the expense of doctrine.’

Alluding to debate about SBC views on female pastors, Hawkins said Carroll believed in women’s ministry and even had deaconesses who served women at First Baptist Church, Waco. But, Hawkins said in quoting Carroll, “The custom in some congregations of having a woman as pastor is a flat contradiction to the apostolic teaching and is an open rebellion against Christ our king and is high treason against his sovereignty.”

Hawkins said Carroll immersed himself in denominational controversy, in Carroll’s words, “for one purpose ? to promote unity.”

Hawkins continued. “It’s not hard when we take time to read our forefathers in their own words to see who the real denominational loyalists and preservers of Baptist heritage truly are. One must ask, ‘Who has moved from Baptist roots?'”

Howell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Little Rock, Ark., delivered the inaugural sermon, “Why Do We Do What We Do?” from Acts 20:17-38.


© 2021 Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. All Rights Reserved.

As our Southern Baptists of Texas Convention completes its fifth full year, it is a good time to note our progress and look at the principles that brought us to our current place. Many have noted the blessings of God, but he has provided some specific things that were used to build the mature convention we are today.

Our core values?theological agreement, missiological activity, and methodological approach?have been distinctive and foundational to our fellowship. Their straightforward simplicity allowed us to build ministries in harmony with our stated purpose. They have also provided a plain-spoken explanation of our convention. Within the SBTC, we are reminded of why we exist. Outside our convention, people know what we’re about. It’s made a big difference.

Part of the reason our core values have been so instrumental in our progress has to do with the time in which we were born. By 1998, most existing organizations had developed mission statements, core values, and the whole gamut of business-speak accoutrements. Most struggled to apply defining, guiding principles to already-existing organizations. It was painful, destructive, and more often than not, defeating. Our founders understood the value of defining statements and were able to start fresh with these in mind. It’s often easier to start something than change something.

Another blessing of our time was the mindset of our founding generation. Ours is a baby-boomer convention, at least at the beginning. By habit, this makes us think more carefully about institutions and traditional forms of ministry. By temperament we resist doing things because others do them or because we always have. This bias has made it easier to start something new and distinct.

Our birth coincided with an age when user-friendly technology is not only available and affordable but widely used in churches and ministry. For the first time in generations, many small churches and groups of churches are able to stay current in information technology. It allows a new convention to work smarter and more efficiently. We can deliberately build our staff without the difficult decisions of downsizing an outdated organization.

The Southern Baptist Resurgence was an important precursor to the foundation of the SBTC. Southern Baptists see the value of confessional fellowship today because of what we experienced during the past 20 years. There was no need for a new convention that would start well and then drift or struggle with essential issues formerly taken for granted. Our fellowship is based on principles designed to settle those issues up front in our relationship with one another.

A high level of agreement within our fellowship has followed commitment to our core values. Some scoff at the low level of dissent present in our business meetings. That should not be mistaken for apathy or herd thinking. Debate and discussion do get lively in our committees and on our board but those are not about the direction of our convention or the nature of our mission. That spares us from “divided house” issues many older conventions will face this year. Our confessional nature is a blessing in this way. We don’t have CBF churches hostile to the traditional vision of Southern Baptists. We don’t and won’t have affiliated churches experimenting with innovative theology because being a part of our body is defined by commitment to orthodox doctrine. It would be nearly impossible for an older convention to adopt a confessional approach because of the already-existing diversity of their churches. Even churches engaged in clearly unbiblical practices are not in violation of the constitutions of most state conventions. Again, God blessed us in the timing that birthed our convention.

Our ministry has grown at an accelerated rate because most of the churches affiliated with SBTC are themselves already mature and developed. New work state conventions face a much more gradual growth even after they reach our starting point of 120 churches. Their 120 churches, after 10 years or longer, are smaller and less well-grounded than our original group. The nature of our churches brought with it people, resources, and a variety of ministry most new conventions only dream about. In fact, new work conventions 10 times our age still look forward to the opportunities available to us after a half decade.

What challenges might face us in coming years? The changing nature of Texas is an opportunity and a challenge. The expanding Hispanic population of our state as well as the growth of other ethnic groups must affect our predominately Anglo convention. If our convention is to minister to Texas as it changes, a transition in the makeup of our leadership seems a natural step. Many churches and groups have not faced this reality in their own communities and have thus faded in relevance. Our current leaders are already thinking of how we might ensure a growing, vital ministry in our next generation.

A second challenge is to maintain the purity of our commitment to our core values once the new has worn off our fellowship. We have all been part of churches and other groups that have simply forgotten their founding principles. I was in a church once that used the New Hampshire Confession of Faith for its faith statement. Most members had no idea what that was. I, a new member, was the only one who owned a copy of that statement. It seems inconceivable that we would forget the principles upon which the convention