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Southern is 'healthy and growing,' Mohler tells trustees
April 23, 2007
By Jeff Robinson

Trustees learned The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has reached an all-time high of more than 4,200 enrolled students at the annual spring trustee meeting April 17. Trustees also approved the 2007-08 budget. Photo by John Gill

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has reached an all-time high in enrollment and is continuing to draw scores of ministers desiring to prepare for ministry in the local church, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. told trustees at the annual spring meeting April 17.

Seminary enrollment this semester grew to more than 4,200 students, Mohler said, the vast majority of whom are preparing to serve as pastors of local Southern Baptist churches. Enrollment has doubled since 1995.

Mohler said the increased enrollment has come by God's grace because the school has sought to attract students during a time when theological institutions in America are turning out "professional ministers" and not pastor-theologians. Many seminaries are going away from training pastors in the classical theological disciplines and, instead, are preparing them to meet the felt needs of a therapeutic culture, he said.

"When you look where the bulk of the enrollment is right now in the theological seminaries of North America, much of it is in what you might call the 'helping' professions rather than in the pulpit ministry," he said.

"We are watching before our eyes in the course of one or two generations the redefinition of theological education away from theology, away from the pulpit and away from the church."

Mohler called Southern a "contrarian institution" whose primary focus is raising up God-centered pastors who are faithful expositors of Scripture. Mohler noted that one of the signs of the school's health is the fact that the total enrollment includes 1,680 students in the master of divinity program. This number is a positive sign because most master of divinity students are preparing for work in local congregations, Mohler said.

"We are about training pastors," Mohler said. "We understand this not because we understand that pastors are professionals and the world needs professionals, but because we understand the church of the Lord Jesus Christ is visible in local congregations who need pastors, preachers and teachers unreservedly preaching the full council of God. We understand that our mission as an institution before anything else is to train pastors.

"This also means that as you look at the enrollment numbers of the school, a robust number of students is a good thing. And a growing number of students is a good thing."

In other business, trustees:

Promoted and extended tenure to four present faculty members: T.J. Betts, assistant professor of Old Testament Interpretation; Greg Brewton, associate professor of church music; Mark Coppenger, professor of Christian apologetics; and Randy Stinson, assistant professor of leadership and Christian ministry.

Promoted three other faculty members: Ken Fentress from assistant professor to associate professor of Old Testament interpretation; Ken Magnuson from associate professor to professor of Christian Ethics; and Robert Plummer from assistant to associate professor of New Testament interpretation.

Approved a budget of nearly $33.7 million, a 6.5 percent increase from last year.

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