Southwestern trustees stand with Houston pastors, address admissions policy

FORT WORTH — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees affirmed Houston pastors in response to subpoenas, clarified how they’ll address the admittance of a Muslim student and dealt with various academic matters at their fall meeting on campus Oct. 22.

After five Houston pastors were given court-ordered subpoenas for sermons and speeches, Southwestern’s trustee board urged pastors “anywhere and everywhere to stand strong on biblical issues” without being intimidated by courts, politicians or other groups.

“We go on record supporting Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd in his efforts promoting ‘I Stand Sunday’ on Nov. 2 designed to bring attention to this matter and support these and potentially other targeted pastors,” the trustees said.

The board also said they’ll consider changes next spring to address inconsistencies in the seminary’s bylaws and the admittance of a Muslim student into the biblical archeology doctoral program.

“While not compromising the missional purpose” of the seminary, the trustees aim to “improve accountability that will allow for flexibility in pursuing ministry opportunities.”

Trustees approved six faculty to occupy academic chairs: Karen Kennemur to the Bessie Fleming Chair of Childhood Education; Steven Smith to the E. Hermond Westmorland Chair of Preaching; Michael Wilson to the Fred M. and Edith M. Hale Chair of Prayer and Spiritual Formation; Mike Morris to the Ida M. Bottoms Chair of Missions; Frank Catanzaro to the Hope for the Heart Chair of Biblical Counseling; and Chris Shirley to the Jack D. and Barbara Terry Chair of Religious Education.

Paige Patterson, Southwestern’s president, noted that endowed chairs help relieve the pressure on the seminary’s overall budget—particularly at a time when Cooperative Program giving is down—by paying the professor’s salary.

In cases where an endowed chair provides a sufficient amount of money, Patterson said, it may also pay secretarial support for the professor and may provide funds for special projects.

The board also elected three professors to the seminary’s faculty: Candice Finch as assistant professor of theology in women’s studies; Kelly King as assistant professor of childhood education; and Sarah Spring as assistant professor of English in the College at Southwestern.

Six faculty members were promoted from associate professor to professor: John Babler to professor of counseling; Frank Catanzaro to professor of adult education and counseling; Johnny Derouen to professor of student ministry; James Wicker to professor of New Testament; Michael Wilson to professor of pastoral and applied ministry; and Joe Hardin to professor of jazz and instrumental studies.

Eight faculty members were promoted from assistant professor to associate professor: Robert Caldwell to associate professor of church history; David Hutchinson to associate professor of New Testament; Karen Kennemur to associate professor of children’s ministry; Thomas Kiker to associate professor of pastoral theology; Mark Leeds to associate professor of systematic theology; Mike Morris to associate professor of missions; Matthew Queen to associate professor of evangelism; and Chris Shirley to associate professor of adult ministry.

In other business, trustees approved several new degree plans, including a bachelor of music in performance and a bachelor of music in worship leadership at the College at Southwestern.

Trustees also approved recipients for the upcoming B.H. Carroll and L.R. Scarborough Awards and appointed members to the Southwestern Seminary Foundation and the board of the Seminary Development Foundation.

Steven Smith, vice president for student services and communications, reported a 10 percent enrollment increase for incoming students in the fall semester and a 12 percent increase in overall enrollment, which he said indicates the seminary’s retention rate is strengthening.

Patterson presented his responses to two items that were referred to the six seminaries by the Southern Baptist Convention in June. Regarding a motion for seminaries to survey the views of faculty and students about tithing, Patterson declined a survey and said Southwestern teaches “tithing here very strongly.”

“We feel like probably we have actually a better percent of our faculty and probably even students that are tithing than is the case in the local churches,” Patterson said.

Regarding a motion for seminary students enrolled online to receive assistance from the Cooperative Program, Patterson said online students do get a break at Southwestern Seminary and the institution’s online courses “are much more reasonably priced” than those offered at non-SBC schools.

Patterson ended the meeting with a plea for trustees to attend the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention next June in Columbus, Ohio.

“We have a strong Baptist convention there, but that is what we have normally called one of the frontier areas of the country,” Patterson said of Ohio. “You’ve got your huge cities—Cleveland and other places up there where we’re trying to do church planting work. It will be a big, big boost to Ohio Baptists if we can go in there.”

Patterson said he has been urging people to take their families to the convention and afterward travel to northern Kentucky to visit the Creation Museum developed by noted creationist Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis.

Erin Roach & Tammi Reed Ledbetter
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