by Lauren Crane
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary had much to celebrate during their fall meetings of the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors.
October 11-12, Southeastern’s Wake Forest, N.C., campus came alive with the return of the institution’s BOT and BOV members, as well as friends and guests of Southeastern to celebrate the 60th year of Southeastern, the installation of the Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching, the election of two new deans and the election of two professors.
Sixty years after its founding, Southeastern has more students enrolled than at any other time in its history. With nearly 2,700 students studying in increased numbers of graduate and undergraduate programs, president Daniel Akin said he is so thankful for the Lord’s work in and through Southeastern.
“We are grateful to God for his faithfulness to Southeastern during 60 years of ministry," Akin said. "What is truly encouraging is that even as we celebrate the past, we look forward to God doing an even greater work through Southeastern in the years to come."
Southeastern is experiencing a wonderful time of prosperity and blessing and God is increasing the number of students studying online, in hybrid format classes and on campus, Akin said. To celebrate 60 years of God’s faithfulness, the Southeastern family, including students, staff, faculty, friends, BOV and BOT gathered Monday evening on the lawn for a barbeque dinner, along with games and live music.
During Tuesday’s chapel service, Akin announced to the BOV and BOT the completion of the fully-funded Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching, a one million dollar endowed chair that will enable more students to be trained to preach the gospel around the world as it provides growing, annual salary support for a professor of preaching. Akin announced that Greg Heisler, associate professor of preaching and speech, will be the first to hold the chair.
Hunt, an alumnus of Southeastern, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church of Woodstock, Ga., was also honored for his legacy, which inspired his congregation and friends to donate money for the endowed chair.
"We love and appreciate Johnny Hunt, and his blessed church of First Baptist Church in Woodstock," Akin said. "There is no greater evangelist for Jesus, and there is no greater evangelist for Southeastern."
Hunt said it is especially gratifying to be honored in this way, as the gift will keep funding the professorship in perpetuity. His hope, he said, is that future generations will be trained and equipped to share the gospel to the ends of the earth, and he has no greater joy than to be associated with such an endeavor.
Hunt also said it was humbling to note how far Southeastern has come since he was a student in the 1980s, when moderate to liberal theology dominated the campus and chapel attendance was measured in tens of students, rather than thousands.
"A few of us would go up to the top of the chapel, after the services, and lay down on our faces and ask God to change this school," Hunt remembered of his time as a student at Southeastern. "If you believe in something, stick by it and trust God to change it. Now, students are literally all over the world, from this institution, preaching the gospel."
During the service, Hunt taught the Southeastern family the value of preaching the word of God, speaking from the text of Psalm 126 – the same Psalm he preached on as a student in 1981.
“The only hope for this country, the only hope for this world is the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Hunt said. “Preach the word. As far as I’m concerned, I know of nothing a preacher needs to do more than preach the word of God. It still changes lives.”
While trustees were on campus they also voted to officially elect several new positions. On October 12, the Board officially elected and welcomed Ken Keathley as Senior Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the Faculty. Keathley had stepped into the role on a temporary basis after David Nelson, former dean, resigned from the position in February of this year. He had been serving Southeastern as Professor of Theology and Dean of Graduate Studies since 2006.
The board also elected Mark Liederbach as Vice President for Student Services and Dean of Students. Liederbach, who has been serving in the capacity since June 1, was the unanimous recommendation for the position in the wake of Alan Moseley stepping down as dean.
Michael Travers, professor of English, as well as Greg Welty, associate professor of philosophy, were elected by the trustees to the faculy, as well.The Board of Trustees was also presented with the resignation of member Stephen Batts and the recommendation of appointing Joe Forrester, a businessman and active member of Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, Ga., to fill his position on an interim basis.
The mission of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Southeastern is an institution of higher learning and a Cooperate Program ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention.