A Year in Review
SEBTS Staff | December 21, 2020
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s (SEBTS) mission of serving the church and fulfilling the Great Commission endures in a remarkable way despite a year of significant challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For SEBTS, 2020 is marked by the Lord’s grace and guidance as the school has continued to experience growth and new ways of providing for its students, faculty and staff.
SEBTS experienced record numbers of enrollment for both the 2019-2020 academic year and the Fall 2020 semester. Student enrollment at SEBTS has increased for 12 consecutive years, with an enrollment of 5,273 at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Likewise, SEBTS continues to see an influx in applications to the seminary and college. Our enrollment continues to hold steady outperforming general trends within higher education. Additionally, SEBTS is continuing to see great progress in its financial campaign, For the Mission, which has reached 59.2 percent of its $20.5M goal. These increases are a testimony of God’s grace in the midst of a global crisis.
This fall, SEBTS resumed in person classes. Students we required to wear masks in class, indoors, and any time social distancing was not possible. SEBTS also provided different formats to help students attend classes including 7-week courses and live, synchronous courses. This fall, faculty were also required to record all in-person lectures for students who were unable to come attend class due to COVID-19. A full list of COVID-19 regulations from the fall semester can be viewed here.
In light of the pandemic, student tuition was reduced by five percent. This reduction assisted students financially during the pandemic, in addition to nearly a quarter of a million dollars in student financial aid that was made available at the start of the pandemic. A 2020-2021 budget reduction allowed SEBTS to achieve its goal of not laying off full-time staff members during the pandemic. In order to maintain all employees, full-time staff received a reduction in pay, led by President Akin and the members of Cabinet. Southeastern is grateful for the Lord’s direction in navigating this year of challenges without layoffs and continued investment and innovations in the school’s programs and resources for students and for the church.
Faculty and Staff Promotions
In October, SEBTS trustees elected Dr. Keith Whitfield as Southeastern’s provost. As provost, Whitfield will oversee development, coordination and implementation of SEBTS curriculum as well as faculty recruitment, evaluation and retention. Whitfield also serves as dean of graduate studies and associate professor of theology.
Other faculty promotions included:
- Kristen Kellen, who was elected to the faculty as assistant professor of biblical counseling.
- Dwayne Milioni, who was promoted to associate professor of preaching.
- Matt Mullins, who was promoted to associate professor of English and History of Ideas.
- Stephen Eccher, who was promoted to associate professor of church history and Reformation studies.
- Steven Wade, who was promoted to professor of pastoral theology.
Other staff promotions include Dr. Tate Cockrell and Christy Thornton. Cockrell was promoted to director of DMin studies at SEBTS on Oct. 1, 2020, following the retirement of Dr. Charles Harvey who served at Southeastern for nearly a decade. Thornton was promoted to associate director of Ph.D. Studies and director of the Th.M. program at SEBTS, she is the first woman to hold a leadership position in a Ph.D. Office in Southeastern’s history.
Digital Resources for Virtual Events
Despite the inability to host in-person events this year, SEBTS made every effort to provide online conferences, panels, and resources for its students.
This past year, SEBTS has pivoted to produce new content to encourage the church and to equip the saints through its three centers—the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture, the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies, and the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership. They have helped missionaries, pastors, and leaders to navigate the current issues within the context of this pandemic and to address the other various challenges in ministry that exist in 2020.
While 9Marks at Southeastern was canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19, SEBTS provided an online resource to celebrate and highlight content from past conferences. For the past decade, SEBTS and 9Marks have partnered together to equip hundreds of pastors from the United States and around the world. This partnership has likewise fostered a more comprehensive understanding of forming healthy congregations for discipleship and gospel advancement.
Throughout the fall, Southeastern was also hosted its first ever Growing in Wisdom event, garnering over 250 registrants in a 3-part series with various Southeastern faculty discussing the intersection of theological education and ministry preparation. Check out the full series here.
In October, more than 400 women gathered virtually to answer the question of identity at Southeastern’s virtual women’s workshop with author and speaker Elyse Fitzpatrick. She taught that this question of identity shapes a woman’s understanding of God and her role in his redemptive plan for the world. The workshop also included a panel discussion from female administrators and professors at Southeastern, including Karen Swallow Prior, Missie Branch, Christy Thornton and Julia Higgins.
This December, SEBTS also released its first Advent resource which pulled together devotionals, prayer guides, and family activities with over 700 subscribers. As 2020 concludes, Southeastern is grateful to God for seeing us through these challenging days and providing above and beyond what we could ask or imagine.