SBC seminaries report to messengers

Adam Groza reports steady growth, financial strength

By Tyler Sanders

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Adam Groza, in his first Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting report as the eighth president of Gateway Seminary, thanked messengers for support that has built Gateway into a growing and stable organization. 

“We thank you, Southern Baptists, for your faithful and sacrificial support of Gateway Seminary through the Cooperative Program,” he said.

Gateway trustees unanimously elected Groza as president April 15, during the spring trustee meeting. One of his first decisions was to fill the vacancy he left as vice president of enrollment and student services, a position he held for 14 years. Groza selected Kristen Ferguson for vice president. She joined Gateway’s faculty in 2016 as associate professor of educational leadership and director of online education.

“Dr. Ferguson is a trusted academic leader and a dedicated servant both in the local church and in our Convention,” Groza said.

“Like me, she is a native Californian, and she is also a proud graduate of one of Gateway’s closest ministry partners, California Baptist University.”

Groza announced the 2024-2025 academic year marks Gateway’s 80th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Gateway will host a celebration coinciding with the upcoming fall trustee meeting and presidential inauguration ceremony.

“We will celebrate 80 years of God’s faithfulness, 80 years of standing upon the Word of God, 80 years of fulfilling our mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world,” he said.

“And 80 years of heartfelt gratitude for the generous support of Southern Baptist churches.”

Groza reported steady enrollment growth at the Seminary. Gateway experienced a 5% increase in total headcount and enrolled hours from last spring to the most recent. New student headcount increased 21 percent in the same time period. Additionally, Groza said Gateway hosted an evangelism class based in the San Francisco Bay Area in which 50 students shared the gospel more than 400 times. Through this effort 13 people converted to Christianity.

The seminary received three significant gifts over the past year. The first was an extensive collection of Bibles from recently retired Gateway professor Michael Kuykendall and his brother Terry. Mike, senior professor of New Testament studies, and Terry recently delivered the bulk of the 1,300-volume collection to the primary campus in Ontario, California.

“These Bibles reflect Gateway’s commitment to shaping leaders who love and proclaim the Word of God and whose character is shaped by the Word of God,” he said.

“The Kuykendall Collection is a special gift that speaks to Gateway’s commitment to Scripture.”

The second gift was a fine art collection from Naomi Paget, FBI chaplain, crisis interventionist, and Gateway alum. The multi-million dollar collection includes pieces from Rembrandt, Dali and Chagall.

“The beauty of these paintings provides a starting point for evangelistic conversations,” he said, “reflecting Gateway’s value of shaping leaders who live on mission; pointing people, as the apostle Paul in Acts 17, from the temporary things on earth to the eternal things in heaven.”

The third gift was an additional $2 million from an anonymous donor for the Go Grant, a funding program devoted to sending all qualified Gateway students on a short-term mission trip. With this gift, the amount donated to the Go Grant totals $4 million. The Go Grant has already funded mission trips to South America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

“Gateway students will not only develop a theology of missions from the Bible but also gain experience on mission that they can take with them into the local church,” he said.

Groza also thanked Jeff Iorg, new president of the SBC Executive Committee and president emeritus of Gateway.

“It is especially an honor and privilege to follow Dr. Jeff Iorg, who led Gateway with wisdom and integrity for 20 years,” Groza said.

Jason Allen highlights commitment to Southern Baptist churches

By Michaela Classen

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Midwestern Seminary President (MWBTS) Jason Allen’s address to messengers at the 2024 SBC annual meeting focused on institutional health, mission resolve and God’s providence during the past year.

Allen began by expressing his gratitude for God’s continued faithfulness to Midwestern Seminary, represented in part through increased enrollment for the twelfth consecutive year. Midwestern Seminary’s enrollment now surpasses 5,200 students representing all 50 states and 64 countries around the world.

“Midwestern Seminary is reaching the world,” Allen said. “From North Carolina to North Korea, our students are making a gospel impact throughout the world. They are coming with full conviction, knowing who we are and what we believe, and are presenting themselves ready to be trained for gospel service.”

Allen continued his address by reporting on completed capital projects on the Kansas City campus totaling more than $50 million. He said, “By God’s grace, I stand before you today and testify that those projects have been completed, and we have not one red cent of indebtedness. Praise be to God.”

Campus projects included the complete renovation of the Spurgeon College Residence Hall, which now features additional space for students to enjoy, new amenities, and increased opportunities for fellowship. The renovations also included an increase of capacity to the Residence Hall by nearly 40 percent.

Looking to the fall semester, Allen shared early projections of a strong fall enrollment. At Spurgeon College especially, recent growth and the addition of new academic opportunities lend to a vibrant residential experience for students.

Allen also shared about Midwestern Seminary’s For the Church Cohorts program and the accompanying 100 percet tuition scholarship during the first year of residential master’s studies.

He said, “That first year of studies is daunting for most students. By God’s grace, incoming residential Master of Divinity students in our For the Church Cohorts program can study their first year 100 percent tuition free.”

For the Church Cohorts seek to equip like-minded residential seminary students through enhanced discipleship, focused study, and intentional community. Cohort participants can choose to participate in one of seven cohorts: Shepherds Fellowship, Biblical Counseling, Fusion Masters, Women in Ministry and Scholarship, Spurgeon Fellows, Theological Studies and Biblical Studies.

Another marker of God’s providence to Midwestern Seminary over the past year was the Spurgeon Library’s acquisition of the Charles Spurgeon Heritage Collection from Spurgeon’s College UK.

Midwestern Seminary’s purchase of a substantial portion of Spurgeon’s personal library was unveiled in the newly constructed Spurgeon Library in 2014. Reflecting on this history, Allen shared his delight in adding to and strengthening the resources available in the Spurgeon Library for residential students, ministry training, and future publications on Spurgeon for the Church.

The acquisition of the Heritage Collection marks a historic moment in the preservation of Spurgeon’s legacy. The collection consists of thousands of books, manuscripts, letters, artifacts, newspaper cuttings, and more from Charles Spurgeon.

Allen encouraged pastors and ministry leaders to visit the Spurgeon Library in Kansas City to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from the British preacher Charles Spurgeon with resources available nowhere else.

Concluding his address, Allen said, “We exist for the Church. Southern Baptist churches are not an impediment or hindrance to our ministry; Southern Baptist churches are our ministry. It is an honor to serve you. To do so is the greatest privilege of my ministry life.”

He continued, “To that end, we will continue to serve to the best of our ability with doctrinal clarity and conviction, with mission focus on the Church, and pray that God will use this institution to raise up again and again a new generation of ministers to serve your churches and to fill your missionary slots.”

Akin to messengers: ‘What are the foundations of a Great Commission seminary?’

By Mary Asta Halvorsen

“Southeastern Seminary exists to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission,” Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary SEBTS President Danny Akin told messengers to the 2024 SBC annual meeting. “You might ask the question, well, how do you and the other seminaries do that?”

In answer, he posed four guiding questions. First: “What is the foundation upon which all of our Southern Baptist seminaries are built?”

Akin answered, “It is the word of God. As you know, our seminary, without apology, affirms the infallibility and inerrancy of the Word of God. It is totally sufficient for everything that we need.”

He followed this by asking, “What are the things we want to cultivate in our graduates?” At Southeastern, students are taught to love God, love the truth, love the Church and love the world.

Akin shared that currently more than 200 Southeastern students are on mission with the International Mission Board (IMB) seeking to make the love of Jesus known to those of every nation, tribe and tongue. This past spring, 80 more Southeastern students were commissioned to join their fellow alumni in making disciples through the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the IMB.

“Under what canopy do you do what you do?” Akin then asked. The answer, he said, is the Great Commission. As Akin noted in his report, Southeastern’s Great Commission vision for theological education includes its prison programs, which have already deployed 61 incarcerated field ministers across 15 North Carolina prisons and are expanding to equip incarcerated women as disciple makers.

Southeastern’s Great Commission efforts also include the thousands of men and women God is calling to its campus as well as those who are part of the global Southeastern community pursuing Great Commission training for ministry around the world.

This past year alone, Southeastern’s student population has increased by 1,215 students, one of the largest incoming classes on record. With this increase in students, Southeastern has also seen significant growth in its on-campus, residential enrollment.

One reason for this increase in enrollment, especially for Southeastern’s flagship degree, the Master of Divinity, is due to the continued generosity of donors. Because of such giving, over $2.3 million has been awarded to MDiv students this past year, allowing nearly every residential Southeastern MDiv student to pursue their education with full-tuition scholarships. Because of the generosity of Southern Baptists and like-minded donors, there has never been a better time to pursue an MDiv at Southeastern.

In addition to an increase in enrollment, charitable giving has also reached record numbers, providing for continued institutional development and growth. As such, two marketplace majors have been added to The College at Southeastern: a Bachelor of Arts in communications and a Bachelor of Arts in political science, expanding Southeastern’s efforts to train God-called men and women to serve Christ in the marketplace.

Furthermore, with the gift of a $1.25 million grant, Southeastern’s Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership is able to pursue in greater measure the equipping and encouraging of pastors, including through its first annual Engaging Exposition Preaching conference this fall.

Towards the end of his report, Akin asked his fourth question: “What are the specific disciplines we purse in order to produce Great Commission ministers, counselors, and missionaries?” In answer, he shared eight key areas of study at Southeastern: discipleship, philosophy and ethics, theology, biblical studies, preaching and pastoral ministry, biblical counseling, missions and evangelism, and Church history.

It is through these key areas of study and the institution’s wide offering of degrees that Southeastern seeks to equip students to live with missional intentionality and a love for God’s people – wherever God calls them, in all areas of life.

Dew celebrates 5 years at NOBTS

By Timothy Cockes

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – During his report to messengers at the 2024 SBC annual meeting, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) and Leavell College President Jamie Dew described his time of ministry at the institution as the “greatest honor” of his life.

“I just recently celebrated five years of service at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College,” Dew said during his address on Wednesday, June 12.

“I’ve got to tell you my friends, it has been the greatest honor and the greatest joy not of just my life, but my wife and my four beautiful children.

“We love you folks and we’re so grateful that we get to serve you and to work with the fine people down in the city of New Orleans doing what you put us there to do, which is train up the next generation of missionaries, pastors, preachers and teachers, and then also to teach what you gave us to teach via the Baptist Faith and Message. We’re very excited about doing that.”

Dew emphasized that while the mission of the seminary has not changed, the world surrounding the seminary has.

“The work that you’ve given us to do and the content that you have given us to teach in those confessions, those have not changed,” Dew said. “And yet at the same time, in the year 2024, the world around us, the world that we live in, has drastically changed. 

“When we started that work five years ago, we knew that there was extensive work to be done by me, by my team, by our faculty, by our students, by our board of trustees and quite frankly by you all as well, to position our school in such a way that she was ready to train women and men to go into the darkness. To train men and women to go into the hardest places in all of the world and shine the light of Jesus Christ.

“We hit the ground running five years ago with great joy, great hope and great promise that the Lord was about to do something profound.”

Dew listed four different things the school has specifically focused on during his five years of service.

Those things include:

  • An emphasis on Leavell College
  • Increasing Enrollment
  • Communicating the story of the seminary 
  • Denominational Engagement

Dew noted progress in each of those four areas across his five years of service.

While speaking on denominational engagement, Dew said this emphasis has not only helped Southern Baptists around the country connect better with NOBTS, but the seminary has gotten to see the beauty of who Southern Baptists are in the process.

“I’ve got to tell you my friends, despite the fights, feuds, fusses and all of the things that sometimes can take place on social media; when I’m with you I am reminded that Southern Baptists are kind, gracious, hard-working, humble, they love Jesus and they want to make Him known. 

“It is with all of that in mind, after these five years of doing that work, that we recommit ourselves to the work that God put us there to do.”

Mohler thanks convention for its commitment to theological education

By Jacob Percy

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – President R. Albert Mohler, Jr. told Southern Baptists of his joy serving Southern Baptist churches during his address at the 2024 SBC annual meeting. Mohler commended messengers both for their commitment to theological education and for holding their six seminaries to biblical faithfulness.

“Thank you, Southern Baptists, for believing in theological education so much that you have held your seminaries to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints even as all around us as there is evidence of what happens when denominations and families of churches no longer do that.” Mohler said. 

“And the problem is twofold. Number one, it’s not believing in theological education or it’s in allowing theological education to become an ideology of secularization and theological liberalism that eats away at the very heart of biblical Christianity and eventually denies the gospel,” he said.

The commitment to theological education from Southern Baptists allows schools like Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), Mohler said.

“I can just tell you the number of schools we see as peers, they’re decreasing rather than increasing, and in some denominations, is because they don’t believe and, in some communities, or churches, they don’t believe enough in supporting the schools financially,” he said. 

“So, thank you, Southern Baptists, for believing in the training of those who will teach and preach the word of God.”

President Mohler reminded messengers that this year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Billy Graham School for Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry.

Billy Graham’s support of Southern Seminary and the direction to return the institution to biblical faithfulness and confessional integrity by giving his name to a newly established school was critical to Mohler’s plan. “I just want to tell you that Dr. Billy Graham made a huge difference 30 years ago in a way that still reshapes the life of Southern Seminary even now,” he said.

Mohler said his great passion is to see more and more young men in the pulpits preaching the God’s Word “without reservation on the full authority of God’s inherent infallible” leading to more churches planted and more mission fields reached.

“Thanks be to God. We’ve got them. Let’s thank God for them. Let’s train them well, educate them rightly, and send ’em out into the world to His glory,” he said.

Dockery highlights ‘markers of renewal’ 

By Ashley Allen

INDIANAPOLIS — Acknowledging Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) “faces a number of very real challenges,” President David S. Dockery highlighted “markers of renewal” that have taken place at the Fort Worth-based institution during his June 12 report to messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Before beginning his report, Dockery expressed gratitude to Bart Barber, president of the SBC and two-time SWBTS graduate. He also extended thanks to Joseph R. Crider, dean of the School of Church Music and Worship (SCMW), Charles R. Lewis, associate dean of the SCMW, Southwestern A Cappella and Cowden Hall Band for leading worship during this year’s annual meeting.

Acknowledging that “whatever good has taken place at Southwestern in recent months has come as a gift of God’s grace,” Dockery, who has led as president of the 116-year-old seminary since Sept. 27, 2022, said the “various aspects of the seminary’s constituencies have prayed faithfully and fervently for God’s kindness and favor and blessings to rest once again on the Southwestern community.”

Dockery reported on the “markers of renewal and recovery that have taken place in recent months” that are “encouraging recognizable steps toward institutional stability that can be identified and celebrated.”

Dockery spotlighted an increase in the number of new students enrolled this academic year, which “has surpassed last year’s total.” He added that enrollment numbers for the upcoming fall academic semester are also “tracking quite well at this point” while reporting that the numbers “build upon and add to last year’s annual headcount, which increased measurably over the previous year.”

“We’ve seen total credit hours taught increase in the fall, spring, and summer last year, and the fall, spring, and summer this year for a total uptick of more than 2,700 hours since two years ago,” Dockery reported.

Dockery said trajectories about the institution’s operational budget, through ten months of the yearly budget, “will be considerably better than last year, and dramatically improved” over the 2021-2022 budget year. He said that the “bottom-line net asset total for this year will show a major increase” explaining that unlike previous years, “Southwestern will finish this year with cash reserves and with no short-term debt, for which we offer thanks to God.” The reporting of this information was met with applause from the gathered messengers.

Additionally, he said, unrestricted and temporarily restricted giving have remained “steady,” and he gave “thanks” to God for the sale of the seminary’s Carroll Park property.

“All these markers point toward increased institutional stability,” Dockery said. “There remains a genuine sense of joyful hopefulness across the entire campus – faculty, staff, and students.”

Recognizing the leadership of W. Madison Grace II, provost and vice president for academic administration, Dockery said the seminary’s chief academic officer has “led the faculty to increase their commitment to our shared mission and core values.”

“We seek to do all things in a way that manifests our commitments to be grace filled and Christ centered, scripturally grounded and confessionally guided, to be student focused, and globally engaged in all that we do,” Dockery explained, highlighting the seminary’s six core values that were adopted in 2023.

Dockery said the “quality of teaching, research, and service is noteworthy and consistent with the expectations associated with Southwestern since its founding.”

“A bright spot for the entire campus” has been student life, as “everyone” has “worked to prioritize the development of a culture that now emphasizes discipleship and disciple making.”

Dockery said a “partnership” for the seminary that underscores “our sanctity of life commitments” is the recent announcement of the Prestonwood Pregnancy Center that will be on the Southwestern campus. Dockery said the seminary community is “grateful to God” for Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and two-time Southwestern Seminary alumnus. Dockery also mentioned that Graham is the chairman of the seminary’s recently formed Board of Reference.

“Leaders across the campus have re-envisioned our approach to reporting, response, and counseling related to sexual abuse issues, while raising expectations for the completion of Ministry Safe certification for all of our students, staff, and faculty,” Dockery said.

Characterizing the current student body as “multi-national, multi-ethnic, intercultural, and intergenerational,” Dockery said the institution is “truly a seminary with an international reach far beyond anything that our early shapers could have imagined.”

Reflecting on the seminary’s history, Dockery said that for almost 12 decades, Southwestern has “prepared those called to enter pastoral, preaching, teaching discipleship, counseling ministries, church administrators, church musicians, and worship leaders” while today the seminary continues to “prioritize its long-term commitments to evangelism, missions, and global ministry, while Texas Baptist College offers the undergraduate opportunities for both ministry and marketplace preparation.”

“The Southwestern community joins me in pledging to continue the very best of our Baptist and evangelical heritage, sharing the foundational convictions regarding the Scripture and the gospel exemplified by our founders in 1908 and carried forward by dozens and dozens of others over the past 116 years,” Dockery said. “We stand with Southwesterners through the years who emphasized the full inspiration, inerrancy, authority, and sufficiency of Holy Scripture, with an unflinching conviction regarding the faith once for all delivered to the saints, as well as our shared Baptist distinctives.”

Before concluding his report, Dockery expressed gratitude on behalf of the Southwestern community “for your prayers and encouragement, as well as your support through the Cooperative Program.”

“We pray that God will continue to bring renewal recovery and rebuilding to Southwestern as board members, faculty, staff, and students work together in our shared service for the good of Southwestern and for the glory of our great and majestic God,” Dockery concluded.

Following his report, Dockery fielded a question from Kyle Sullivan, a messenger from First Baptist Church of Paris, Kentucky, seeking Dockery’s “insight” about why seminaries have “record enrollment” but there is a continual “need” for pastors to lead congregations due to a “shortage” of pastors.

Dockery said he and the other five Southern Baptist seminary presidents would encourage “the churches to call out the called.”

“We want you to find ways to nurture those who have sensed God’s blessings upon their life in giving them particular gifts that can be used for faithful leadership, for biblical studies, for communication in the pulpit,” Dockery responded. “And we want to work with you to help find those people who can come, not just to Southwestern, but to those institutions represented behind me as well,” referring to the presidents of the five other SBC seminaries seated on the platform.

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