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Economic downturn forces budget reductions at SBTS
December 18, 2008
By David Roach
The recent downturn in America’s economy has prompted budget reductions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Dec. 15 in a letter to the seminary community.
The seminary’s Executive Strategy Group, consisting of President Mohler and the three senior vice presidents, has reduced the current seminary budget by $1.7 million. Mohler projected between $800,000 and $1.5 million in additional reductions over the next several months.
The reductions include a hiring freeze on non-critical positions, decreases in travel expenses and reducing the number of seminary employees, Mohler said.
“Given the personnel-intensive nature of our budget, the only way we can act responsibly in this situation is to anticipate a reduction in force in terms of total employees and total personnel expenditures,” he said.
The seminary is halting campus improvement projects that are yet to be contracted and funded. However, a new pavilion and other projects already under contract will proceed as planned.
Despite the financial crunch, Mohler said there is good news at Southern.
“The good news is that, given investment changes made before the immediate market downturn, we did not experience the catastrophic losses that were experienced by so many other institutions,” he said. “Nevertheless, we are looking at a real loss of a significant portion of our invested funds over the last twelve months. The weeks since September 1 have brought the worse news regarding these investments, but in reality, the market downturn must be dated far earlier in 2008.”
Other causes of the economic difficulty include projected decreases in donor support and gifts through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention’s unified program for funding missions and ministry, Mohler said. But he stressed that the decreases do not reflect a decrease in desire to give by either individuals or churches.
“This does not indicate a decreased commitment to the seminary or to the Southern Baptist Convention on the part of individuals or churches,” he said. “The issue here is not donative intent but the ability of individuals and churches to give what they would want to give during a time of reduced income.”
Mohler assured students that the seminary will charge no more tuition than is absolutely necessary to balance the budget.
“We are going to do our very best to limit tuition increases because our goal is to make quality theological education accessible to as many God-called ministers and missionaries as possible,” he said. “Our commitment to our students and to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention is to do our very best to make and keep theological education as affordable as possible.”
Southern faces no danger of being unable to carry out its ministry in the future, Mohler said.
“As you read headlines and see institutions facing dire and dramatic crises, we should be thankful that what Southern Seminary now faces is not the question of our future vitality as much as the question of our present stewardship,” he said. “For this we should be very thankful.
“We are warned to anticipate that this time of economic challenge will not be measured in future months but, in all likelihood, over the next two to five years. With that in mind, we must take the responsible actions now that will maintain proper stewardship and planning to ensure even greater opportunities in the future.”