HOUSTON (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson addressed messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, June 11, inviting them to come experience the evangelistic and doctrinal zeal on the campus. Patterson said the seminary reflects many of the same convictions of the Swiss and South German evangelical Anabaptists during the time of the Reformation.
“Nestled in the picturesque valleys of South Germany and Switzerland, there lived a people during the days of the Reformation that have not come to be known nearly so widely as Luther and Calvin,” Patterson told messengers.
“The reason they did not come to be known so widely was not because they were far behind in numbers. It’s because they were cut off by the sword and other means. These were remarkable people who lived back then.”
These Anabaptists, Patterson said, agreed with Martin Luther and John Calvin that salvation is by grace through faith alone but challenged them on the practice of infant baptism and held high the doctrinal conviction of believer’s baptism. These radical reformers also advocated for religious liberty and felt “called to evangelize the world” and “reach people with the saving message of Jesus Christ.”
“I want to tell you that the vast majority of them died for their faith,” Patterson said. “They were cut off, and no one cared enough to write about them in an accurate way for many years. But the spirit of Anabaptism and its very doctrines live on at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary today. We still believe those very same things. We still hold high that witness. If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, we are going to introduce you to your Anabaptist forefathers and make you love them profoundly.”
Patterson said the Anabaptists zeal for reaching people for Christ burns brightly at Southwestern.
“If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary,” Patterson said, “you’re going to come into an atmosphere where every student is expected to share his faith on a regular basis, where every professor is expected to share his faith on a regular basis. As far as I know, there are not many places in the world that require their professors at least once every four years to be involved in an overseas missionary situation, not speaking to another seminary but actually going and rolling up their sleeves beside the students and serving with them there on the mission field.”
Patterson shared with the convention the seminary’s desire to cultivate a biblical view of the Christian home, which is emphasized in classwork and conferences. This stems from a firm conviction on the power of the Word of God, which is instilled in every student.
“If you come to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, you are going to study the intense theological insights of the Word of God until you know the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation, have an understanding of it that is able to be translated into preaching … with conviction and an invitation given,” Patterson said. “If you want to become a part of a great revival movement, we welcome you to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”
Patterson also recognized Thomas White, vice president of student services and communications, who was elected president of Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, on June 4.
Following his seminary report, Patterson answered a question from the floor regarding the six SBC seminaries’ decision to decline reallocation of Cooperative Program (CP) funds from the seminaries to the International Mission Board. Brad Atkins of Powdersville First Baptist Church in Easley, S.C, asked the question from the floor.
Atkins, who made a motion for the reallocation at the 2012 annual meeting in New Orleans that was referred to the SBC Executive Committee (EC) and all six seminaries, asked Patterson for an explanation for their decision. The 2012 motion asked SBC seminaries to consider allowing their portion of the CP Allocation Budget to be reduced from 21.92 percent to 21 percent and requested that the EC allocate the remaining .92 percent to the International Mission Board.
“Dr. Patterson, we have missionaries that are trained and ready to go, but unfortunately there are not enough Cooperative Program dollars for them to be sent,” Atkins said. He then referenced his motion from the previous year and the seminaries’ joint decision to decline the reallocation before asking, “In light of Dr. Frank Page’s visionary leadership again this year in reducing the Executive Committee’s percentage of the Cooperative Program, which now goes to the IMB, would you care to share your thoughts as one of the men who was asked to research and pray over this action as to why this request was declined?”
Patterson thanked Atkins for his question and said he was happy to respond to it.
“There are several reasons why we did not choose to follow that request,” Patterson said.
“The first one is that some years ago, our six seminaries were given capital needs budget in the Southern Baptist Convention budget. This amounted over a long period of time to untold millions of dollars that came to our six seminaries for capital needs. We decided that we could get along without that, and so before this initiative ever became an issue, we voted to give away that money and to give it to the International Mission Board and others who were working in the area of missions. So, we already gave at the office and gave very generously and deeply more so than anyone else.
“[Second], the Southern Baptist seminaries are committed to the world mission endeavor.”
Patterson shared about IMB president Tom Elliff’s request for Southwestern to adopt an unreached people group as part of the IMB Embrace challenge. Patterson responded to Elliff that the seminary is not funded to do that but the seminary would accept the challenge and make financial sacrifices to do so. The seminary adopted the Antandroy people of Southern Madagascar and began sending teams over last year. In May, a Southwestern Seminary mission team witnessed more than 400 professions of faith among the Antandroy.
“I submit to you that the seminaries are hurting right now,” Patterson concluded. “We are victimized by the same financial liabilities that everybody has. We are doing the best that we can. We are the ones that rear up the next generation of missionaries. We train them. Every investment we make in one of these missions students is an investment in the International Mission Board and in world missions.”