“A More Effective Convention Structure”
As a PhD student at MBTS, I undoubtedly have a vested interest in this matter. To be clear: I am supportive of the Great Commission Resurgence and the GCR task force. This post only attempts to investigate how the GCR might affect SBC seminaries. The section of the GCR declaration most relevant to the discussion is article IX:
A Commitment to a More Effective Convention Structure. We call upon all Southern Baptists, through our valued partnerships of SBC agencies, state conventions/institutions, and Baptist associations to evaluate our Convention structures and priorities so that we can maximize our energy and resources for the health of our local churches and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This commitment recognizes the great strength of our partnership, which has been enabled by the Cooperative Program and enhanced by a belief that we can do more together than we can separately.
It is likely the GCR task force will at least consider whether or not it is best to combine some (or all) SBC seminaries (implying the closure of one or more).
During an event put together by Baptist21, a credible panel was asked, “If some of what the GCR is calling goes through, some people might lose their jobs. How should we think about that?” Danny Akin (a member of the GCR task force and president of SEBTS) answered:
I hope that people don’t lose their jobs or if they do that they would find jobs that better help them fulfill the Great Commission. If shutting down Southeastern Seminary would help advance the Great Commission, then I am fine with that. I have selfish desires like everyone else, but I really want to see the Gospel go to the nations. Whatever that requires of us, we should do.
Related discussions are not at all new. At the 2001 convention meeting, it is reported that “Calvin Wittman of Wheat Ridge, Co., asked the convention to ‘study the feasibility of combining’ Golden Gate and Midwestern seminaries.” Such suggestions seem to crop up every year.
Bart Barber, blogging about the GCR task force on SBC Today says, “Expect the committee to consider the closing of Golden Gate as well as Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is one option that could realistically come to the floor of the convention for a vote.” How realistic is it?
A Similar Situation on a Smaller Scale?
Somewhat recently, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary closed their stand-alone music school (technically combined it with another). The seminary’s president, Al Mohler, is also on the GCR task force. The Dallas Morning News religion blog reports:
While a valuable program for its time, Mohler said it is ‘not economically viable today’ to sustain a stand-alone music school…The staff reductions, he added, will take place by attrition… Mohler said discussions about closing the school have been going on about two years, but current economic pressures sped up the process.
Ultimately, time will tell us the answer to the original question. I welcome the Great Commission Resurgence and the work of the GCR task force (though I am a bit concerned that MBTS lacks representation on the task force). At this point, I doubt any SBC seminaries will be closing their doors in the near future. In any case, I will be watching the issues with great interest!