SBTC executive director honored at Southwestern

FORT WORTH?Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees expressed gratitude for the generosity of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention by recognizing SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards and his wife, June, as recipients of the L.R. Scarborough Award. Richards was honored Oct. 21 along with J.W. (Jack) and Barbara MacGorman and John and Virginia Seelig, both of whom formerly served at Southwestern Seminary.

President Paige Patterson commended Richards for leading the state convention to place Southern Baptist Convention ministries on an even footing with Texas outreach, lamenting that most state conventions had become increasingly heavy on the portion retained for their own work. He expressed appreciation for the Cooperative Program gifts of SBTC churches as well as a $300,000 contribution to a proposed chapel.

“Dr. Richards is not only deeply committed to the Word of the Lord and the Lord Jesus Christ, but I don’t find a lot of folks willing to stand no matter the cost,” Patterson said in presenting the award created to honor the seminary’s second president and his priority of evangelism and missions.

As a confessional fellowship with Baptist distinctives, Richards said the SBTC is a natural partner with Southwestern Seminary as both institutions keep evangelism and missions in the forefront with the Cooperative Program binding them together. He announced the SBTC’s commitment to Southern Baptist entities would increase to a level of devoting 55 percent of budget receipts if messengers approved the increase at the 2008 annual meeting.

MacGorman’s 53-year career as a professor of New Testament was recognized along with Seelig’s three-decade tenure as vice president for public affairs.

During the Oct. 20-21 board meeting, trustees approved five new faculty members and accepted audited financial statements. Consent was granted to a study exploring the timing and planning of improvements to student housing, recognizing that the level of expectations from prospective students had risen. With a continuing increase in enrollment, the final report for the 2007-2008 academic year set the number of students at 3,581.

Newly elected professors include:
?Dongsun Cho as assistant professor of historical theology in the school of theology;
?Jason Duesing as assistant professor of historical theology in the school of theology while continuing to serve as chief of staff in the office of the president;
?Michael Keas as assistant professor of history and philosophy of science in the College at Southwestern;
?Mark Leeds as assistant professor of systematic theology in the school of theology in addition to his elected administrative responsibility as registrar and associate vice president for institutional research and assessment, and;
?Thomas White as associate professor of systematic theology in the school of theology in addition to his elected administrative responsibility as vice president for student services and communications.

Trustees passed a resolution of appreciation for Patterson following five years of tenure as president, commending him for modeling “the position of servant-evangelist” and restoring a spirit of “joy, fellowship, and friendliness” among students and visitors to the campus, strengthening longstanding relationships with key Texas cities, reviving the chapel hour and affirming Southern Baptist distinctives.

The resolution also noted success in celebrating the seminary’s centennial anniversary, building a “world-class faculty uniquely known for its academic excellence and its missionary, pastoral and evangelistic spirit and devotion to the local church,” overseeing a strengthened curricula and establishment of several new schools and extension programs, gains in the school’s net worth and endowment and consistent growth in student enrollment.

Patterson’s wife, Dorothy, was also honored for her hospitality, expansion of programs for women, encouragement of capital, endowment and scholarship projects and modeling of the sanctity of marriage and the home.

During his report to trustees, Patterson responded to critics who mislabel the school as holding to Landmark or fundamentalist theology.

“A Landmarker believes in the actual succession of the churches?that either Jesus or John the Baptist started it and that was passed on to whomever and on down the line in an unbroken succession,” he explained. While stating that such a view likely was held by the seminary’s founder and brother, Patterson said he had never ascribed to Landmark theology.

“I do not believe to have a New Testament church there must be an organic, connectional succession of churches,” he said, preferring to describe his belief in “Baptist principle succession” as the conviction that “God has never left himself without a witness.”

Responding to media portrayals of the school as fundamentalist, Patterson said Southwestern strives to turn out students who can stay theologically and ecclesiologically alive in hostile environments.

“We require more reading of liberal, neorthodox and postmodern thinkers than most liberal institutions.”

Furthermore, he said, “We’re trying to prepare a generation of men and women without fear,” expecting them to be “aggressive, humble ministers” who will use their training on the battlefront, but at every step of the way realize their calling is to servanthood.

Trustee John Hays of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, asked whether the high academic standards eliminate young men who are passionate about their faith, but struggle with their schooling.

“The greatest joy I have is not with the most gifted students, but the ol’ boy who comes in from a West Texas town where he’s been shoeing horses and doesn’t think of himself as intellectually adept. When a guy gets personal attention and professors pour themselves into him, even lifting the standard doesn’t actually eliminate a kid who has no background [for academics].

“He may eliminate himself, sit through one semester of Greek and say, ‘No further.’ But if he will come in even with the higher standards we’re now placing on them and walk with us, in the end he will graduate and be more effective than the brightest students who come in. When it comes to a point where we eliminate anybody automatically, then we’ve gone too far. I don’t think we’re doing that, but it means we have to be much more personally involved in the lives of students.”

In addition to female students enrolled in the various graduate level studies, trustees were told of an increase in the number of women taking Greek through a certificate program with consideration being given to advanced classes.

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