FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – After studying the life of Michael Sattler, an early Anabaptist leader, Ched Spellman gained an appreciation for the contributions Anabaptists bring to Baptist heritage and Christian living.

Spellman, a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented a paper he had written for his Baptist Heritage class to an overflow crowd at the seminary’s first-ever Baptist Theology Research Award Symposium, Dec. 5. Entitled “A Theological Biography of Michael Sattler,” the paper focused on “the interplay between (Sattler’s) theological underpinnings and his dramatic life and death.”
The symposium served as a platform for master’s-level students to present their research papers to peers and Southwestern’s editorial board. Spellman was one of five students selected to present a paper, and after each presentation, time was allotted for questions and answers.

The editorial board chose a winner based on content, quality of writing, depth of research, presentation skills and contribution to Baptist theology. After deliberation, Spellman was named the first recipient of the Baptist Theology Research Award.

“The goal of the Student Symposium is to showcase the best contributions of Southwestern Seminary’s student body in the renaissance of Baptist Theology occurring at the seminary,” said Malcolm Yarnell, assistant dean for theological studies and director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern.

“We believe these five students and their papers represent some of the best and brightest thinkers in our denomination, who will have a significant impact for the Kingdom of God,” Yarnell said, adding, “We hope that the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention will recognize the personal piety, churchmanship, evangelistic zeal and theological excellence of the students who attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

During the semester, professors in the Theological Studies Division at Southwestern Seminary selected papers from their classes and submitted them for consideration. The editorial board then narrowed the papers down to the top five for presentation. Members of the editorial board include Yarnell, Jason G. Duesing, Jason K. Lee, Nathan Lino and Thomas White.

As a member of the editorial board, Jason K. Lee, associate professor of historical theology, was impressed with the students’ use of resources in their papers and feels they gained “a deeper appreciation for the Baptist heritage after their research into the Baptist sources.”

“One thing that I noted in several of the papers is that they maintained a good level of critical assessment,” he said. “As I hope that more of our students will make broad contributions to Baptist thought in missiology, evangelism, biblical theology and historical research, an ability in clear and concise analysis of ideas is a must.”

As winner of the research award, Spellman received a $400 LifeWay gift card to encourage him to build his library and will have his paper published as the next “White Paper.” Remaining finalists received $200 LifeWay gift cards. The gift cards were donated by Northeast Houston Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, where Rev. Nathan Lino is the pastor.

Other papers presented were: “The Disciples of Christ and the Baptists: A Test Case of ‘No Creed but the Bible’” by Matthew Ward, “Eli, Eli, Lema Sabachthani?” by Robert Matz, “L. R. Scarborough” by Timothy Fatheree, and “J. M. Pendleton and the Fruit of Ecclesiology” by Eric L. Campbell. aims to serve local churches by addressing critical issues through White Papers and offering rare historical Baptist resources. It has also become a platform for the Southwestern Journal of Theology. Looking ahead, Yarnell said they hope “to make available some of the foundational issues of the Southwestern Journal of Theology as part of Southwestern’s centennial celebration.”