Seminary product of Southern Baptist support for 100 years
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) –Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary owes its 100 years of existence to the support of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. Since Southwestern began on March 14, 1908, the seminary has in return supported the SBC through its administration and faculty, lending guidance to the theological direction of the SBC, and through scores of alumni who have served in both prominent denominational positions and obscure mission fields, ready to respond to any call of the convention through monumental times.
Seven current heads of SBC entities are alumni of Southwestern Seminary, including present SBC president Frank Page and Executive Committee president Morris Chapman. Both presidents of the SBC’s missionary boards, Geoff Hammond (NAMB) and Jerry Rankin (IMB), received their theological training from Southwestern, which fueled their passion to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all seven billion people on the planet.
From coast-to-coast, seminary presidents Danny Akin (Southeastern) and Jeff Iorg (Golden Gate) are leading their institutions to train the next generation of Southern Baptist pastors, missionaries and denominational leaders. O.S. Hawkins serves as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, which is responsible for assisting churches and denominational entities with insurance and annuity programs.
In addition to these influential men, current Southwestern president Paige Patterson has been an integral part of Southern Baptist life for more than 40 years. Along with Paul Pressler in 1979, Patterson became one of the architects for the “Conservative Resurgence,” a grassroots movement to return the convention to confessional fidelity in the inerrant Scriptures. In 1992, Patterson became the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and was given the task of revitalizing the institution through a commitment to evangelism and conservative biblical theology. As president of the SBC from 1998-2000, he appointed the committee that proposed the year 2000 revision of the Baptist Faith and Message.
Southwestern’s cooperation with the SBC actually began in 1908, when B.H. Carroll’s grand vision to have a seminary in the southwest was realized. Carroll, a staunch defender of the inerrancy of Scripture, recognized that there were not enough preachers to support the churches in the region. Some in the convention questioned the need for a second Southern Baptist seminary, but he defended its necessity, explaining that the new seminary did not intend to rival Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky. Ownership of Southwestern Seminary was transferred from the Baptist General Convention of Texas to the SBC in 1925, extending the SBC’s opportunities to train more men and women for ministerial service.
Malcolm Yarnell, associate professor of systematic theology and director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern, believes that Carroll’s creation of the first chair ever dedicated to evangelism helped encourage the practice within the convention. “B.H. Carroll established an ethos that has furthered the Great Commission outlook of the Southern Baptist Convention,” Yarnell said, adding, “Indeed, Southwestern’s evangelistic fervor, by God’s favor, has never yet been broken.”
“This consistent evangelical zeal has brought Southwestern’s evangelism and missionary programs into special prominence. From L.R. Scarborough to Roy Fish, many pastors, evangelists and missionaries have attributed the success of their ministries in great part to the zeal and knowledge of Southwestern’s evangelism professors.”
L.R. Scarborough, the second president of Southwestern Seminary, also advanced greatly the seminary’s relationship with the Southern Baptist Convention. He spearheaded the “75 Million Campaign” in 1919, which sought to raise $75 million in five years to be given toward foreign missions, home missions, ministerial education, ministerial relief and state causes. Although the campaign fell short of its goal, it served as a precursor to the present-day Cooperative Program. Always championing an intense spirit of co-operation in denominational work, Scarborough served as president of the SBC (1939-40) and led an evangelism program for the convention and an evangelistic tour of South America for the Foreign Mission Board (now IMB) in 1936.
Many prominent theologians from Southwestern have contributed to Southern Baptist thought and practice in the past 100 years, including such topics as systematic theology, inspiration of the Bible, evangelism and missions. Additionally, more than 40,000 graduates have been deployed to local churches, various institutions and mission fields around the world.
Throughout its history, Southwestern’s alumni have made up a substantial portion of missionaries serving the IMB, comprising nearly 30 percent of those currently in active service. One example of these dedicated individuals is Judy Robertson. Robertson, a 1974 graduate in the School of Educational Ministries, is a single woman who ministered for many years in Taiwan before retiring from the IMB. In 2007, she was honored by Southwestern with the Distinguished Alumni Award. In addition to missionaries, thousands upon thousands of alumni have faithfully represented the Southern Baptist Convention as pastors and ministers in churches across the nation.
As part of its celebration of 100 years, Southwestern has just released the Centennial Edition of its Southwestern News Magazine. This historical piece captures the history of the institution through the presentation of its eight seminary presidents and casts a vision for the next 100 years. Southwestern Seminary is committed to equipping the next generation of preachers, musicians, educators and missionaries to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. The online version of the magazine will be available soon at www.swbts.edu/swnews. Individuals and churches may also request a free subscription to Southwestern News by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org, with a name, address and the word “subscribe" in the subject line.