Response to BGCT Seminary Study Committee Report
by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary staff
October 12, 2000

No words can adequately express how much Southwestern Seminary treasures the relationship it enjoys with Texas Baptist churches.  Your prayers and your generous support have helped us to train more than 60,000 students during the 92 years of our partnership.  We have the great honor of filling most of the pulpits in Texas and we regard this a privilege and a sacred trust.

Recent action by the BGCT executive committee, which might lead to a virtual severing of this partnership with Texas Baptist churches, has left us perplexed and grieved.  How can a 92-year old relationship be severed after a brief 2- hour meeting in which no questions concerning our current vision and strategy were addressed?  If there were concerns with student and faculty morale, why not spend adequate time visiting with Texas students on our campus and with faculty members who have invested a lifetime at Southwestern?

The committee report indicates the desire that ". . . Texas Baptist churches should work together to enable these ministry students to leave school with minimal seminary debt."  We agree!  Since Southwestern has 1,368 Texas Baptist students currently enrolled, many of whom will be called to serve in Texas Baptist churches, it is essential that Texas Baptist churches continue to help fund theological education at Southwestern.

We desire to be open and responsive to our Texas Baptist supporters and, therefore, we invite any pastor or church group to visit our campus to see what God is doing.  We believe that when you know us you will want to continue to invest in the ministry of our students who come from across the United States and around the world.  For the purpose of clarity and for the sake of our students and faculty, it is important that we respond to the six concerns raised by the seminary study committee.

Below is our response to the six concerns raised by the seminary study committee:

    1. The relationship of Southwestern Seminary to the BGCT.  This concern cites the termination of the former president.  We can only respond by saying that Southwestern's president and trustees had a tragic divorce that wounded many.  As is the case with most divorces, fault can be found with both parties.  On the part of the administration of Southwestern, initiatives have been made to bring healing.  We have worked through our grief with our campus family and are moving on to the future.  The report further charges that there have been few substantive attempts by current administration to mend the relationship between the BGCT and Southwestern or establish a new basis for cooperation.  Any query of our faculty would have discovered the open door to work in partnership with the BGCT.  We have consistently invited members from the BGCT to speak in chapel.  We have encouraged church planters to work in accord with the BGCT strategy.  Faculty members have been encouraged to speak for and participate in BGCT sponsored events.  No attempt has been made to flood the chapel with Southern Baptists of Texas speakers or those critical to the BGCT, and chapel is never used for political reasons.  A careful look at the fall 2000 chapel schedule will show one BGCT and one SBT speaker.  Further, it stands to reason that we would welcome SBC executives to speak whenever possible in our chapel.  Concerning the distribution of materials highly critical of BGCT leaders last year, Dr. Bill Tolar, acting dean at the time, responded to the issue and assured the committee that no one was pressured to hand out materials.  Materials were made available because of concern expressed by students that the actions of a Texas Baptist church had been presented in a negative light.  We agree that we could have handled the matter better.  To respond fairly to issues related to separation of church and state, we are providing an open forum with Brent Walker, executive director of Baptist Joint Committee, and Richard Land, president of Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

    2. The change to trustee management, leading to trustee abuses.  The revision of our bylaws, one part of our reaccreditation work, substituted the word "manage" for "operate" in an attempt to clarify that trustees do not "operate" the seminary.   The president and elected administration are charged with the daily operation of the seminary.  The choice not to hire a particular candidate was cited by the committee to indicate trustee intrusion.  For ethical reasons, it is inappropriate to comment on personnel matters.  However, the report gives the perception that a candidate was disqualified solely on the basis of a political position.  That is not accurate.  The president takes full responsibility for the decision to withdraw the candidate's name.  It was an administrative decision not a trustee decision.  In any case, it would have been entirely within the purview of the trustees to reject any candidate submitted by the president.  Any historian of Southwestern or any other Baptist institution in this state could tell you that there have been similar decisions by former presidents.  Our trustees in collaboration with the faculty council have been proactive in preventing abuse and inappropriate intrusion.  Dr. Michael Dean chairs an ad hoc committee that has been working in conjunction with the three deans and the vice president of Academic Administration and Institutional Planning in drafting a document that details appropriate avenues for response and dialogue for faculty, students, and trustees.  The report further indicates that only 50 percent of the trustees gave to the Seminary.  The actual percentage is 90 percent.  We apologize for the inaccuracy in our report.  Mid-year calculations can be misleading because of the constant change in the make up of the board.

    3. Mistreatment of employees .  The report suggests that some younger faculty members were faced with the non-renewal of their contracts.  We do not have contracts and therefore could not employ such a mechanism to force faculty to leave.  Termination and resignation are sadly a part of any institution or church.  We can only say that anyone terminated by Southwestern during the tenure of our present president has been terminated for cause and has been dealt with according to the Seminary's adopted guidelines.  Further, we can assure Texas Baptists that the dismissed faculty members have been treated with fairness and kindness out of Christian concern for the individual and the family.

    Several notations are cited from the Ombudsman Committee minutes.  The Ombudsman Committee was formed in early 1995 to improve communication between faculty, students, and trustees.  Minutes of that work are by their nature privileged and are thus secure in the safe.  No one has a copy of these minutes.  Any references to the Ombudsman Committee must be references from memory and are therefore likely to be partial and interpreted.  This fact was clarified in our meeting, but no mention of that was made in the written report.

    4. Narrowing Requirements of Employees.  It is true that we require our faculty to teach, write, and abide by the current Baptist Faith and Message.  We do so unapologetically.  Our Bylaws are clear that our confessional statement shall be the Baptist Faith and Message as amended from time to time.  Both former presidents and the present president have operated with the clear understanding that Southwestern is a confessional institution. 

    When any grievance or complaint is lodged against faculty, student, or trustee, the procedure for handling such a grievance is clearly articulated in our bylaws and involves due process that protects everyone involved.  It is simply inaccurate to say there is no due process.  Both our Christian values and our accreditation standing mandate a fair and impartial procedure.

    5. Stewardship.  The report suggests that enrollment levels are dropping and thus Southwestern needs less funds to operate.  The cumulative headcount in 1994-95 (the year the current president took office) was 3,751.  The headcount for 1999-2000 was 4,022.  We are grateful to God that we have maintained a stable enrollment in the past six years even with the advent of new schools and the declining number of students entering institutions of theological training. 

Year

Fall Headcount

Non-Duplicating Headcount

93-94

3458

4157

94-95

3254

3751

95-96

3026

3898

96-97

3285

4154

97-98

3291

4190

98-99

3312

4145

99-00

3213

4022

    At present, we have 1,368 Texas Baptist students, which is 40 percent of our fall enrollment.  Texas Baptists provide only 7.5 percent of our budget under the present formula.  We would pray that Texas Baptists would not only want to continue to provide for the Texas students, but for students from around the world.  Southwestern operates at an expense ratio per student far below the average of all theological schools.

    6. Altered spirit, atmosphere, and quality of education. The report suggests that Southwestern's quality of theological education has been compromised in the past few years.  Dr. David Crutchley spoke to this issue with passion and clarity.  When the present president came to Southwestern the New Testament faculty had six full-time professors.  (The report inaccurately suggests the department shrank from 9 to 3.)  Last year Tommy Lea died, Lacoste Munn retired unexpectedly due to his wife's illness, Tom Urrey reached retirement, and Alan Brehm resigned.   That left a department of four: Bruce Corley, David Crutchley, Jim Wicker, and Mark Taylor.  No institution can quickly recover from the devastating loss we suffered with the untimely events of last year.  We functioned with an interim dean for 11 months and continued to employ the services of retired professors Jack MacGorman and Curtis Vaughan.  In addition, Siegfried Schatzmann has been guest professor for two years.  This fall our new dean will bring two New Testament faculty members for nomination with degrees from Southwestern Seminary and the University of Aberdeen.  This was explained to the committee. 

    We would invite any and all Texas Baptists to visit Southwestern to sense the spirit and morale on campus.  Long-time faculty members like Roy Fish have commented on the positive and encouraging spirit on campus today.  Consider this list of faculty members who have served over 20 years and are still teaching regularly at Southwestern:

Jerry Privette

David Kirkpatrick

Robert Phillips

Thomas Brisco

Robert Smith

David Keith

William Mac Davis

Budd Smith

Bruce Corley

Al Travis

Tommy Bridges

C. L. Bass

Bill Caldwell

Joseph King

Harry Hunt

Harold Freeman

Al Fasol

Hazel Morris

William Colson

Philip Briggs

Bert Dominy

Roy Fish

Bill Tolar

Leon McBeth

C. W. Brister

John Kiwiet (adjunct)

Ted Dowell (adjunct)

Ebbie Smith (adjunct)

Justice Anderson (adjunct)

Jimmie Nelson (adjunct)

James Leo Garrett (adjunct)

John Drakeford (adjunct)

David Fite (adjunct)

Charles Tidwell (adjunct)

Lacoste Munn (adjunct)

Jack MacGorman (adjunct)

Curtis Vaughan (adjunct)

 

Here's a list of some of our exciting new faculty members. Notice the diversity and quality in degrees earned.  You will also note the continuity with Southwestern heritage.

    Karen Bullock MDiv and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Stephen Stookey MDiv and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Robert Garrett MDiv and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    John Babler MSSW, University of Texas at Arlington; MACSS and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Jerry Aultman MCM, New Orleans Seminary; PhD, Louisiana State University
    Ian Jones MARE, MDiv, and PhD, Southwestern Seminary; PhD, University of North Texas
    Raymond Spencer MDiv and  PhD (in progress), Southwestern Seminary
    Doug Blount MA, Baylor University; MA and PhD, University of Notre Dame
    Robert DeVargas MACOMM and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Jeph Holloway MDiv and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Robert Mathis MEd, University of Texas at El Paso; MRE and PhD, Southwestern Seminary; EdD University of Southern Mississippi
    David Penley MDiv, Midwestern Seminary; MACSS, PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Paul Sands MA, Southwestern Seminary; PhD (in progress), Baylor University
    Samuel Shahid MA, American University of Beirut; PhD, University of Chicago
    Bill Goff MDiv and ThD, Southwestern Seminary
    Frank Harber MDiv and  PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Dana Wicker PhD, University of North Texas
    Robert Williams MA and PhD, University of Chicago
    George Klein ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary; MDiv, Southwestern
    Seminary; MA and PhD, Dropsie College
    Margaret Lawson MARE and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Stanley Warren MM, Eastman School of Music; DMA, Southern Seminary
    Mark Taylor MDiv, Mid-American Baptist Theological Seminary; PhD (in progress), Southwestern Seminary
    Michael Barnett MDiv and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Esther Diaz-Bolet MS, Florida International University; MARE and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Mike McGuire MEd, Mississippi State University; ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary; PhD, Texas Woman's University
    Timothy Pierce MATh and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Richard Ross MRE and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    James Wicker MDiv and PhD, Southwestern Seminary
    Malcolm Yarnell MDivBL, Southwestern Seminary, ThM, Duke University; DPhil, Oxford University

We welcome any and all of our constituents to evaluate the work of Southwestern.  We are not a perfect institution and we want to continue to improve the quality of instruction and services our students receive.  We want to partner with churches to provide excellent theological education for the pastors and staff members of Texas.  Feel free to visit our campus or call us.  We would be happy to answer your questions concerning the ministry of Southwestern.

We are appreciative of our Texas Baptist heritage.  We are grateful for our past and we are excited about our future.  We urge all Texas Baptist churches to continue to support seminary education at the six Southern Baptist seminaries.  We thank you for your support of Southwestern Seminary and its administration, faculty, and students have taken up the vital challenge to "Touch the World . . . Impact Eternity."  As you consider how you will support Southwestern, here are some interesting facts about Southwestern to keep in mind.

    • We have been training men and women for Christian ministry since 1908
    • Our world-class faculty of 90 men and women with degrees from outstanding universities and seminaries across the world
    • 66% of the faculty has 10 years of service at Southwestern and 37% of the faculty have 20 years of service at Southwestern
    • African American, Hispanic, and Korean professors serve on our faculty
    • We are accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award diploma, masters, and doctoral degrees
    • We are accredited by the Association of Theological Schools
    • We are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music
    • We have one of the major theological research libraries in the world
    • We recently redesigned our curricula for the 21st century with carefully defined competencies and including 6 core courses
    • We offer 6 doctoral degrees, 6 masters degrees with some 40 different majors and concentrations
    • A catalog lists more than 1,000 courses
    • We offer extensive Internet courses and compressed interactive video courses
    • Our extension centers bring education to students in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Marshall, Texas as well as Arkansas and Oklahoma
    • Our more than 3,000 students come from 42 states and Washington D.C. and 46 countries
    • 44% of Southwestern students are from Texas
    • We educate more than 80% of Texas students in Southern Baptist and Texas seminaries
    • We have the largest number of international students in our history
    • 47 denominations are represented by our students, 96% of whom are Southern Baptist
    • We have one of the lowest tuition rates of seminaries in the United States and extensive student financial aid services and a deferred payment plan
    • Over 500 students are employed on campus
    • We have a 7-day-a-week contract with medical services
    • Our effective church/minister office places graduates and potential employers in contact with each other

 

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