Seminaries spotlight victories, honor alumni
PHOENIX (BP) -- Alumni awards, reflections on missions and reports of progress in seminary education were celebrated June 14 during luncheons for alumni and friends of Southern Baptist seminaries during the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Phoenix.
Oklahoma Baptist University broke into Gateway Seminary's planned program at their Alumni and Friends Luncheon to present President Jeff Iorg with the Herschel H. Hobbs Award for Distinguished Denominational Service.
"We watch from Oklahoma your leadership," said Stan Norman, OBU provost, who presented the award. "We marvel at the way God moves in your life, for your vision, for your sacrificial service, for the way you are serving kingdom purposes in your role at Gateway Seminary."
The award plaque cited Iorg's "exemplary and Godly service to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention."
About 200 alumni and friends of Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention gathered for their annual luncheon June 14.
Iorg reported that since last August 1 the seminary had been "the nerve center for Southern Baptists in Southern California," hosting 60 groups meeting in the new Ontario building, with 6,000 attendees. Those groups included the North American Mission Board's board of trustees, the national meeting of the State Executive Directors Fellowship, the Southern California Regional Hispanic Worship Leadership Conference and others. In addition, the Inland Empire Baptist Association is a tenant in the building, as will be the California Baptist Foundation when they move to the facility this summer.
He announced that in addition to offering classes that students attend in person (Gateway Local) or online (Gateway Online), the seminary now offers an additional delivery system, Gateway Live, that allows people to participate in a class by video conferencing anywhere they have a high speed connection.
"About 60 students have already embraced Gateway Live," Iorg said. "A couple of students participate in videoconferencing who actually live closer to the campus than the professor teaching the class."
He also told alumni that the new Chinese-English bilingual program (CEB) will include class instruction in Mandarin, but that students must also have English skills to navigate the rest of the classes.
"The CEB program starts this fall," he said. "The director, Martin Chien, arrives on campus June 22, and a full program will begin the fall of 2018. Classes will be scheduled in the evening so that students participating overseas can do so during the day."
Iorg also said that the new women's ministry program already offers classes, but a mentorship network will offer a monthly webinar, followed by a live discussion. Also, the Contextualized Leadership Development program has been renamed Advance, with streamlined academic processes for basic theological education.
"We want to move from having 1,000 students in the program to thousands of students," he said. "This is our opportunity to train people in dozens of languages. It represents my heart for the person who has no other opportunity."
Iorg presented Distinguished Alumni Awards to Chad Garrison, Mark Edlund and Wayne Eurich.
Garrison, a 2001 graduate, has been pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., for 25 years. During that time, the church has baptized more than 1,200 people, averages a worship attendance of 1,700 and has contributed $3.8 million to the Cooperative Program. Most recently, Garrison opened his church as a teaching center for Gateway Seminary.
Edlund served 17 years with his wife Kristy as Southern Baptist missionaries to Asia, first as a school administrator/teacher in Kitakyushu, Japan, then mission administrator in Tokyo, and finally as regional administrator for the Pacific Rim. He assumed the role of executive director/treasurer for the Colorado Baptist General Convention (CBGC) in 2001, as well as executive director of the Baptist Foundation of Colorado, executive director of the Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center and editor of The Rocky Mountain Baptist. He is also the CBGC's interface with Gateway Seminary's Rocky Mountain Campus.
Eurich graduated in 1950 and, at age 97, may be the oldest living alumnus of the seminary. He served in churches in Oregon, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Alaska, Germany and South Africa. Eurich was presented the Distinguished Alumni Award at Gateway Seminary's first spring commencement service in May.
"These men represent who we are," Iorg said. "Veteran pastor, long-serving pastor in an effective ministry role, and an international and denominational leader. These are who we want all of our graduates to aspire to be like."
A reflective, heartening president's report and a discussion about five critical lessons President Jason Allen has learned during his five-year tenure highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's Alumni & Friends luncheon June 14 at the Phoenix Convention Center.
In his report to alumni and friends, Allen noted that approximately five years ago, Midwestern's enrollment stood at 1,200 students; now, the school is about to surpass the 3,000 mark. For this, there is reason to celebrate, he added.
"Over the past five years, God has continued to give us victory after victory … and we don't take that for granted," Allen said. "It is appropriate and right for us to pause and celebrate it together, as long as we celebrate not what we have done, but what God is doing through us."
Midwestern Seminary's president also spoke of two new initiatives taking place at Midwestern Seminary, and praised one existing program. Allen explained the Timothy Track M.Div., which pairs incoming M.Div. students with local, Kansas City area churches in internships.
The program provides these students with personal, hands-on mentorship opportunities with Southern Baptist pastors and also enables them to exercise their spiritual gifts while in seminary. Allen added that those participating in the program can earn a 50-percent scholarship.
Allen also noted The Residency Ph.D. track, which is especially geared toward those who sense a calling into Christian theological higher education. This track, for those who study in residence, will offer special classes and mentorship opportunities with faculty and guest lecturers, so they can obtain the best preparation possible to serve in Christian seminaries and colleges and prepare the next generation of pastors and ministry leaders.
Lastly, Allen praised the school's Fusion program, which partners with the IMB in training incoming college freshmen for service in the mission field. Personally witnessing these student's gospel efforts in difficult Middle Eastern locations, Allen noted, "This is the very best of what Southern Baptists, your seminaries, and Midwestern Seminary are all about. To be 'for the church' is to be 'for the nations.'"
Following his report, Allen presented a segment entitled, "Five Years. Five Lessons," which expressed key concepts he has learned during his nearly five-year tenure at Midwestern.
About the first lesson, "vision matters," Allen explained that as he was preparing to arrive at Midwestern, God made it clear that his responsibility was to build a seminary dedicated to serving the local church.
"We have been very clear and intentional to express that vision in every public forum, and to live it every day on our campus," Allen said. "From the faculty we hire to the events we hold, all must be filtered through the idea of 'how will this best serve the local church?'"
In another lesson, "team matters," Allen noted that the people God calls to serve at Midwestern Seminary is profoundly important. He shared how, over his tenure, God has raised up great leaders both from within the existing faculty and staff as well as from outside the seminary.
"Team matters. Who you hire matters, and we have gone about each of our hires with the mentality that the future of the seminary depends on it," Allen said. "God has done a special work by giving us a team that is top notch."
Three other lessons Allen covered during his discussion included: conviction matters, culture matters and accountability matters.
To conclude the afternoon's events, Allen honored Tom Cheyney, executive director of missions for the Greater Orlando Baptist Association (GOBA) and founder of the RENOVATE National Church Revitalization Conference, as the recipient of the seminary's Alumnus of the Year.
Cheyney received a doctor of ministry degree from Midwestern in 2014. Before undertaking his role at GOBA, he served at the North American Mission Board in the Church Planting Group as the team leader for the Resource Delivery Team. Cheyney also teaches as an adjunct professor of Midwestern Seminary at the doctoral level in church revitalization and church planting.
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary named two distinguished alumni, honored Provost Steve Lemke for his 20 years of service and announced the launch of the seminary's centennial celebration at the convention alumni luncheon June 14.
Chris Adams, pioneering women's ministry leader and LifeWay's longtime senior lead women's ministry specialist, and Christopher Martin, executive director-treasurer of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC), were named distinguished alumni.
"There is no way to total the number of women who have been touched by her life," NOBTS President Chuck Kelley said of Adams, commending her for "a life and ministry very well-lived."
Adams served as executive editor of the women's devotional magazine Journey and was an ongoing writer for the LifeWay women's leadership blog "Women Reaching Women" during her 22 years of service. Compiler of three women's leadership books, Adams received LifeWay's 2008 Career of Excellence award. She serves as adjunct faculty for New Orleans Seminary.
In presenting the distinguished alumni award to Martin, Kelley noted that Hawaii is known for its beauty, yet struggles also with racial tension. Kelley commended Martin for "being willing to serve in a beautiful, difficult, complicated place and to do it with love in your heart and with excellence."
With more than 149 congregations worshipping weekly with members from 75 nations and people groups, the HPBC includes churches in the major Hawaiian islands, American Samoa, Samoa, Guam, Saipan, Okinawa, Korea and Japan.
A Louisiana native, Martin served churches in Louisiana and Florida prior to accepting the pastor's role at Lahaina Baptist Church in Lahaina, Hawaii in 2005. Martin has served HPCS in the executive position since 2013.
In a surprise recognition, NOBTS presented an honorary distinguished alumni award to Steve Lemke who transitions Aug. 1 from provost to vice president of institutional assessment. Trustees honored Lemke at the spring 2017 trustee meeting in New Orleans with the title provost emeritus and created the new vice president position.
Kelley said the position was created in light of assessment requirements from the seminary's two main accrediting bodies -- the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
"[Lemke] has not simply served," Kelley said in presenting Lemke the award. "He has served with magnificence."
During Lemke's tenure, the seminary expanded its instructional delivery systems, made key changes to the M.Div. program, reached record enrollments and expanded academic programs with degree specializations to meet the demands of current ministry expectations.
Receiving the Caskey Center for Church Excellence Pathfinder award was master of divinity student Michael Pogue for his leadership at Liberty Baptist Church in Liberty, Miss. The small church has a 1 to 7 baptism-to-member ratio. Personally committed to evangelism, Pogue led more than 30 to faith in Christ last year.
The seminary's centennial celebration will begin with special activities Oct. 3 celebrating the past, embracing the present and casting a vision for the future, attendees were told of the focal points of the NOBTS milestone.
Jonathan Key, vice president for institutional advancement, announced the launch of a commemorative brick campaign as part of The Second Century Initiative "to take the seminary into the next century." The bricks, each at $250, will line Legacy Plaza, the walkway in front of the seminary's Leavell Chapel, Key announced.
The centennial celebration includes a $50 million capital campaign to fund student scholarships, deepen endowments and provide needed campus renovations.
More importantly, Key noted, are the centennial initiatives mobilizing NOBTS friends and family toward 100,000 Gospel conversations and 100 mission efforts. Information is available at nobts.edu/100.
"What if we look back and see that the anniversary was celebrated by seeing 100,000 people begin their relationship with Christ?" Key posed to the luncheon audience. "I think that would make a celebration."
Kelley concluded the luncheon by encouraging all to continue in faithful service to Christ.
"We are NOBTS. We go to the hard places in a complicated world," Kelley said. "Be encouraged and know we are children in the hands of an almighty God who will move heaven and earth. And we have 100 years [of history] to prove it."
Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, gave a clear and direct word about the issue of racism in the Southern Baptist Convention to more than 300 attendees at the Southeastern Alumni and Friends Luncheon Wednesday at noon.
"Can I talk for a moment to the family? Yesterday was not [Southern Baptists'] finest hour," Akin said about the tumultuous events that transpired Tuesday regarding a resolution to stand against "alt-right white supremacy." See related story.
Akin told alumni that they all have a part to play in this issue of racism, noting what Southern Baptist Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. noted at the Baptist21 Luncheon on Monday, saying that while we have made strides toward racial reconciliation, we will always "bear the sin of the stain of racism."
"We need to speak this afternoon at 2:45 with a crystal clear clarion call that we stand steadfastly against any form and every form of racism, bigotry and racial supremacy no matter where that may come from and no matter who may express it," Akin said. A resolution against the alt-right passed later that day.
In his address, Akin updated alumni on news from the school, including the goal to increase The College at Southeastern enrollment to a minimum of 1,200 students, Seth Bible's leadership of the North Carolina Field Minister's Program to theologically train long-term prisoners and the school's work among South Sudanese refugees.
Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Church in Miami, Fla., and recently elected second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, also gave an encouraging word to those in attendance as he preached out of Revelation 7.
"Jesus is the obsession of heaven and He must be our obsession as well." Abella spoke on the importance of finding humility, joy and confidence in Christ while pursuing a church that reflects heaven.
"How in the world are we going to accomplish this?" said Abella, speaking of the Great Commission and the desire to see every nation, tribe and tongue worshipping together as Revelation 7:9 says.
"I think the reality is we can't and we don't, but Christ can," he said. The Austin Stone Worship team led in time of worship to close out the luncheon.
As several hundred alumni and friends gathered in Phoenix June 13-14 for the Southern Baptist Convention, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. presented two major awards and a report on the seminary at the school's annual reunion luncheon, June 14.
Mohler presented the E.Y. Mullins Award for Distinguished Denominational Leadership to Rick Lance, who is executive director of the State Board of Missions and treasurer of the Alabama Baptist Convention.
This represents the first time the seminary has issued the E.Y. Mullins Award, the highest honor bestowed by the seminary, since LifeWay president Thom Rainer received it in 2014. Previously, the seminary honored denominational giants such as Paige Patterson (2001) and James T. Draper (1998) with the award.
Mullins, the fourth president of the Southern Seminary, exerted massive influence within the SBC, including serving as president of the convention, president of Baptist World Alliance, and chairman of the committee that introduced the denomination's confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message.
Mullins, whom Mohler called "the most well-respected Baptist theologian of his generation," also helped shape what became the Cooperative Program. When he presented the award to Lance, who pastored multiple churches in Alabama before assuming leadership of the state's Baptist convention, Mohler described why Lance's career is significant. The award notes Lance's "example of commitment" to the Southern Baptist Convention and its work, and his long commitment to pastoral ministry and theological conviction.
Mohler highlighted the seminary's gratitude for the generosity of Alabama Baptists through the Cooperative Program. Alabama Baptists, Mohler explained, own a long history of supporting Southern Seminary. In fact, the largest single donor to the seminary in its history is the Alabama Baptist Convention, according to Mohler. He also expressed his personal gratitude for Alabama Baptists and the role they played in his own attending of Birmingham's Samford University.
In addition to the Mullins Award, Mohler presented Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, with Southern Seminary's Alumnus of the Year Award. Allen is a two-time graduate of Southern (master of divinity, 2004; doctor of philosophy, 2011), and, according to Mohler, he "stood out from the very beginning."
"We knew the Lord had some very big plans for Jason Allen," Mohler said.
"He came on staff in my office, and then vice president for institutional advancement," he noted. "And just think about the last five years, when he became president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary -- nothing less than what we might call a renaissance has taken place at Midwestern."
Under Allen's leadership, Midwestern Seminary has grown to record enrollment.
"It makes us proud that [Allen] is filling this role and fulfilling this responsibility so well" Mohler continued. "He has emerged as a statesman in Southern Baptist life. He is now one of my cherished colleagues as a seminary president in the Southern Baptist Convention, and it's just right to recognize Dr. Allen as Alumnus of the Year of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the year 2017."
Mohler outlined administrative changes within Southern Seminary. In addition to the two awards, Mohler reported to alumni and guests that Southern Seminary's enrollment now exceeds 5,300 students on campus and online, including 2,000 men in the master of divinity degree program -- the largest collection of M.Div. students in the history of higher education. He told those gathered that the seminary this spring celebrated awarding its 2,000th doctor of philosophy degree.
Mohler also recognized some distinguished guests at the luncheon, including pastors James Merritt, Al Jackson and Matt Chandler, along with alumnus and current president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Russell Moore.
Each year, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary utilizes its Alumni and Friends Luncheon at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to honor two distinguished alumni. This year, those alumni were Al Jackson and Rick Warren.
Al Jackson has served as senior pastor at Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala., since 1979. The church is a ministerial training partner with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and Jackson takes a strong role in encouraging young global evangelists.
"I have known very few people in my life who have understood as well as Al Jackson what it means to prepare people for the ministry," said Southwestern President Paige Patterson. "His church has continually poured out into the stream of Southern Baptist ministry ministers of the Gospel."
Jackson attended Southwestern from 1972 to 1975, completing his Master of Divinity during that time. While receiving his distinguished alumnus award, he reflected fondly on those years, specifically the influence of his professors.
"There were giants in the land in those days," Jackson said, "and I'm one of the people who was blessed by that."
Rick Warren is senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., which he founded after completing his Master of Divinity at Southwestern in 1979. He is also a prolific author, and his bestselling books include his guide to church ministry and evangelism, "The Purpose Driven Church," and his subsequent work, "The Purpose Driven Life," which has sold more than 30 million copies.
When presenting Warren with the distinguished alumnus award, Patterson commended Warren for baptizing 47,000 people over the last three decades and for challenging his congregation to go to every nation across the globe, a challenge that was accepted and accomplished. In 2010, Saddleback became the first local congregation to send its members to literally every nation of the world.
Much of Warren's ministerial outlook was shaped by his time at Southwestern. When accepting his distinguished alumnus award, Warren said, "I went to Southwestern for two reasons: 'preach' and 'reach.'"
Like Jackson, Warren spoke highly of the professors during his time at the Fort Worth campus, noting that such "giants" as Roy Fish and Cal Guy were instrumental in his own spiritual development.
"The reason I love Southwestern is because these professors did not just teach it; they lived it," he said.
In addition to the presentation of these awards, the luncheon also featured numerous updates from Patterson regarding the ongoing ministry of the seminary. Highlights included the near-completion of Mathena Hall, the home of the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions and Scarborough College; the third graduating class of field ministers from Darrington prison; and the Mandarin Translation Project, which will make theological education available to Mandarin-speaking peoples.