Rebuilding Southwestern

O.S. Hawkins
| Nov 29, 2022

Editor’s note: this article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of Southwestern News.

It is a distinct honor to be given the opportunity to help lead Southwestern Seminary during this time of transition with David S. Dockery, our interim president. There is not a finer statesman in Christian higher education than Dr. Dockery. He is leading well at this strategic time in the history of our seminary. Together, we are committed to doing all that we can to restore confidence and to advance the mission of our seminary in keeping with the vision of our great founder, B.H. Carroll. 

We offer our deepest thanks to all who are rallying to our call for support both in prayer and giving to Southwestern. Large gifts from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, Prestonwood Baptist Church, and Second Baptist Church Houston were wonderful blessings just days after the announcement of the new interim leadership. Since then, we are delighted to report sacrificial gifts from First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, the Nevada Baptist Convention, First Baptist Church of Dallas, and North Richland Hills Baptist Church in North Richland Hills, Texas. These gifts and others are greatly appreciated, especially as we enter the end of the year when gifts are especially meaningful to the seminary. 

The prophet Nehemiah’s approach to rebuilding the walls in Jerusalem (Neh. 2:17-18) is our pattern as we seek to restore the confidence of all Southern Baptists in our seminary. Like Nehemiah, we have a four-pronged strategy. 

First, we must face up. Nehemiah reviewed the ruins and evaluated the situation regarding the broken walls and burned gates. Dr. Dockery and I have been doing a deep dive into how and why the seminary finds itself in its present condition, evaluating all matters—internal budget controls, expense spending, enrollment, and other pertinent issues. We are facing the situation head on and making hard decisions. 

Second, we must team up. Like Nehemiah and his troops, we are teaming up with our trustees to put best business practices in place as we initiate new measures to aggressively manage our costs and add new policies that will hold us accountable for every cent given by the good people of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. A part of this effort will include making sure trustees are engaged with staff in our annual budget planning as well its execution throughout the year. Southwestern Seminary has a great team, both with our faculty and our staff, but also among the thousands of Southwestern alumni and other friends. We welcome all players who love our seminary—come join our team and get in the game. 

Third, we must gird up. Nehemiah projected a vision for the work that must be done. We pledge that we are going to work hard to earn the trust of all our SBC churches going forward and give a proper accounting of Cooperative Program dollars entrusted to us. Southwestern Seminary serves the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention; it is for those churches that our trustees govern this institution on their behalf. And it is to South-ern Baptists at large that we make our appeal to join us in rebuilding our great seminary. 

Finally, we must look up. Nehemiah convinced his people that the hand of God was upon them. People have a way of rallying around something when they see God is in it. I’m confident that God’s hand is still on our seminary, just as it was when God gave His vision for this school to B.H. Carroll, our great founder. In 1908, Carroll founded Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary with a singular mission: to see a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit across Texas, our nation, and the world, bringing the Gospel to all who have not heard, from today until Christ comes. With the Bible at its foundation, Carroll cast a bold vision for training God-called men and women for ministry through classroom learning and hands-on ministry experience. We look up to God today and see that God is still with us. Not for our sake, but for His glory. 

Our rebuilding effort needs the financial support of all Southwesterners and others who love our seminary. Your year-end gift to Southwestern Seminary is an investment in the next generation of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders who will take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Your gift helps us teach with biblical and theological fidelity and academic excellence, to provide affordable and accessible education, and to offer state-of-the-art facilities. 

I am fully confident that one day, with the help of all Southern Baptists, we will see a great rebuilding of Southwestern Seminary like Nehemiah saw the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem. Southwestern Seminary has a cherished past and our job is to secure it, with God’s help, for future generations in fulfilling the original vision of B.H. Carroll. We will not waver from that vision.

O.S. Hawkins (’74, ’20) is senior advisor and ambassador-at-large of Southwestern Seminary.