Seminary luncheons draw alumni, guests

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Fellowship and campus updates highlighted the alumni luncheons hosted by the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries June 11 during the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis.

Following are reports from the luncheons:

GOLDEN GATE -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary alumnus Milton F. Steck was presented with GGBTS' distinguished alumni award at the seminary's alumni luncheon.

Steck, a native of Sonoma, Calif., earned a master of divinity from Golden Gate in 1971. He began serving as senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Vacaville, Calif., after receiving his degree and continues in that position today.

"As a pastor and denominational leader, Milton has always represented Golden Gate with dignity and distinction," GGBTS President Jeff Iorg said. "The 37 years of service to the ministry at Trinity Baptist Church in Vacaville has made a tremendous impact on his city as well as in the lives of those who have benefited from his devotion to his church."

Iorg noted Steck's leadership at both the state and national levels of the convention has won him the respect of Southern Baptists around the world.

"As I look back at my three years at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, I am very thankful for the tools for ministry I received and the lifelong friendships that were made," Steck said. "Seminary continues to be much more than a degree; it is an ongoing relationship of support, equipping and friendships."

Steck has been a member of Golden Gate Seminary's alumni committee, a committee member of the doctoral ministry program and a field supervisor of the supervised ministry program. He was an International Mission Board trustee from 1994-2002 and served on the Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Nominations in 1988. He currently serves on the SBC's Executive Committee.

He also served on the California Southern Baptist Convention's executive board (1989-93 and 2004 to present) and served as chairman of that group 1991-92 and 2006-07. He was California Baptists' president in 1994 and 1995 and served for six years on the state's committee on board nominations.

Steck and his wife Linda have two children and one grandchild.

MIDWESTERN -– R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, delivered an upbeat report to a packed house during the seminary's alumni and friends luncheon.

"We've had two consecutive years of a 1,000-plus headcount and our FTE [full-time equivalency] has increased 70-plus percent in the past six years, up to 461 this last year," Roberts said. "This will help us with a big boost in our upcoming budget year of almost a half-million-dollar increase in Cooperative Program support."

Roberts said the budget increase will help toward boosting professors' salaries, campus improvements such as heating and air conditioning renovation, the resurfacing of campus streets and dorm renovation.

Roberts noted capital campaign goals of refurbishing the Charles Haddon Spurgeon Library Collection and renovating classroom buildings, building new student apartments and a new chapel, expanding the library and other campus improvements. The goal for the "Building for the Future" campaign is $13,750,000.

"We have entered an era of extraordinary possibilities for Midwestern," said Marty Harkey, the seminary's vice president for institutional management. "Our enrollment has surged in the last three years to an all-time high. More and more undergraduates and graduates want to live on an attractive campus and the demand for campus housing has far exceeded our ability to accommodate it. I am confident that the Building for the Future campaign is preparing a solid foundation toward that goal and look that every one wants for Midwestern."

The outgoing alumni president, Fred Winters, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., passed the gavel to the incoming president, Doug Richey, pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs, Mo. Richey also introduced the new president-elect, Gary Taylor, who serves as director of evangelism for the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Donald Boling, a 1966 graduate, and James A. McConnell, a 1978 graduate, received the 2008 alumni of the year award. Boling is a former pastor in Missouri and Texas and college and high school history teacher. McConnell is a chaplain with the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City.

Recognized as the 2008 honorary alumni of the year were Cindy Province and Kenny Qualls. Province is the program manager for the brain injury unit at SSM Rehabilitation in St. Louis and a member of Midwestern's board of regents. Qualls is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Arnold, Mo.

NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary honored professor emeritus Joe Cothen, pastor Kim Hall and Maryland/Delaware state convention executive David Lee with distinguished alumni awards during the seminary's alumni and friends reunion.

President Chuck Kelley expressed gratitude to Cothen as he presented his former professor with the award. Cothen, Kelley said, helped to shape him as educator and as a man of God."

"He has invested in the lives of thousands of students at NOBTS and I am one of them," Kelley said. "I am who I am today largely because of the influence and the impact of Dr. Joe Cothen on my life."

Cothen earned bachelor of divinity and doctor of theology degrees at New Orleans Seminary. After pastoring churches in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, Cothen join the faculty of his alma mater. He served there 18 years, first as a professor and later as the vice president for academic affairs before retiring in 1992.

"I want to say thank you from the depths of my heart to Dr. Kelley, the faculty and the alumni association," Cothen said in receiving the award.

Kelley then presented the alumnus award to Kim Hall, pastor of Hunter's Glen Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. He commended Hall for his work as a pastor and missions innovator. Hunter's Glen has been recognized as one of the top 100 mission giving churches in America by the International Mission Board each year since 1999. The church also has started six mission churches in Plano and assisted with other church starts throughout the United States.

Hall, who earned master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees at the New Orleans seminary, has worked to foster evangelism among unreached people groups throughout the world and provide theological training to national believers. His organization, Advance International, launched in cooperation with the IMB and NOBTS' Leavell College, provides theological training opportunities for pastors and church leaders in Russia and Indonesia.

"My heart for missions was really fueled at New Orleans Seminary," Hall said. "This school is about being on mission for God."

David Lee, executive director for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware in his 30 years of ministry, pastored churches in Mississippi before being called to Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie, Md., in 1988. He led that congregation until 1994, when he became the executive director for the state convention.

Kelley said Southern Baptists are best served by state and national leaders who have been local church pastors. Men like David Lee bring a passion for the church to the role of state executive, Kelley said.

"God has given me more opportunities than I deserve," Lee said. "I have lived a blessed life. You have honored me today and I appreciate that, but I certainly share the award with those who have shaped and molded me," Lee said. "I just say thank you to Jesus Christ -- because of Him our lives have been changed forever."

Kelley closed the meeting with a review of several new initiatives including an expanded certificate program and a new doctor of philosophy program. He said that the certificate programs benefit those who are seeking focused training in a specific discipline such as biblical teaching or women's ministry. The certificate courses also can be applied to other seminary degrees.

Most of the new certificates will be offered through the Internet, Kelley said. The initiative will allow the seminary to offer theological training throughout the world.

"We are passionately committed to that," Kelley said. "We have got to do everything on our part to make theological education both available and accessible to every God-called man or woman."

Kelley also told alumni about a new approach to the doctor of philosophy degree approved by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, which accredits the seminary's programs. This pilot project explores a new delivery system in the seminary's doctor of philosophy in Christian education program that opens the program to students who live farther away from campus.

Kelley said ATS will evaluate the pilot project and develop standards for other schools that want to do similar training programs.

"We've already started enrollment in this program and they will begin meeting in their seminars this fall semester," Kelley said. "We think it is going to be a great contribution in the world of theological education."

SOUTHEASTERN -- Johnny Hunt, president-elect of the Southern Baptist Convention and an alumnus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., challenged his fellow alumni to get serious about reaching the lost as he addressed Southeastern's alumni and friends luncheon. Featured speakers for this year's luncheon were Hunt and Daniel Akin, president of the seminary.

"I am so grateful God led Johnny not only to run [for SBC president], but that he won," Akin said. He said he had asked Hunt to speak at the luncheon some months ago, prior to his nomination for the SBC presidency.

"I think he is the right man to follow the two very effective and wonderful years led by [outgoing president] Frank Page," Akin said. "He will build on the challenge coming out of this convention, the challenge of now building on the conservative resurgence and setting our minds and souls to a 'Great Commission Resurgence.'"

Hunt, speaking to more than 250 gathered alumni, friends and family, said, "Today is a day when Southern Baptists must say, 'We must get back to what unites us: A cause greater than most of what divides us.'

"If you look at the waterline, we're sinking. While we're up here talking about what we need to fix, the ship is sinking. I don't know of anything that is better than keeping us afloat than the Great Commission."

Hunt spoke on the challenge he will face as president of the SBC, saying he knows he alone could not do anything about the "sinking ship." "One thing is for sure, anyone that has ever been assigned to this post and felt they could lead change was kidding himself," Hunt said. "It's only what we can do when we join hands and hearts together."

Hunt said the bottom line in reaching people is to never get over salvation but instead to put knowledge to work in the heart and in the world.

"What you know will not change the world. What you do with what you know is what will change the world," Hunt said.

Aside from the overarching challenge of reclaiming a Gospel-focused mission of reaching the world, Hunt also issued a personal challenge to the alumni and friends on the importance of continuing to support Southeastern, especially after graduation.

"Seminaries cannot ask people for money, but preachers can," Hunt said. "I am going to help lead the charge. It makes a big difference if we continue to support what helped us. Pray for the seminary, Dr. Akin and the faculty. What a school! It's off the charts when it comes to missions, developing minds and helping students think like scholars and developing hearts for the world."

Hunt also challenged alumni to pray about giving on a regular basis to the seminary: "Will you join me and prayerfully consider making a monthly contribution? It only seems that those of us who have benefited most from the journey would continue to be a part."

Akin challenged alumni to get serious about saving the lost, saying he hopes the "missions monster" that is Southeastern will continue to grow, sending more and more missionaries and reaching more of the 3.5 billion unengaged and unreached people of the world.

"This year, we're sending over 30 missionary units to the Central and South Africa region," Akin said. "My prayer is that we would send 100 units. Some people have told me, 'You sound like an extension of the International Mission Board.' You got that right."

Akin said he finds it hard to believe the numbers of people going overseas are reflective of God's heart.

"I daily struggle to believe that with 1.6 billion who have never heard the Gospel, and with basically 3.5 billion who are unengaged, that God's sovereign plan is for so many to stay [in America]. I wouldn't ask you to pray, 'Should I go?' I would ask you to pray, 'Should I stay?'"

Akin finished the luncheon by thanking the Southeastern family for what it does in fulfilling the Great Commission. "You pray for us, you send us your best and hold us accountable that we maintain our best for Jesus. It is such a blessing to have so many who stand with us so faithfully. I thank you. I thank you. I thank you."

SOUTHERN -- Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver, the U.S. Army's chief of chaplains, received the 2008 distinguished alumnus award at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's luncheon.

During the luncheon, attendees also heard a report from the seminary's president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., and celebrated Mohler's 15th anniversary as the school's leader.

"There are those who salute him as Maj. Gen. Douglas Carver," Mohler said. "We will do that now, but we will also salute him as a good soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ and one of our fellow alumni of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."

Carver was appointed as the Army's 22nd chief of chaplains in July 2007. The Georgia native earned a master of divinity degree from Southern and has pastored churches in Kentucky, Colorado and Virginia.

In 1973, Carver was appointed as a regular Army officer in field artillery. After serving on active duty for six years, he resigned his commission to enter the ministry. He was commissioned as an Army chaplain in 1984.

"I thank God for the opportunity to have attended a seminary and to have entered into the chaplaincy and ministry in the military wearing the cloth of our nation as a result of the tremendous learning opportunities I had at Southern Seminary," Carver said. "It has traveled with me to this day, and I want you to know that."

Carver urged Southern students, faculty and alumni to pray for men and women in the military, noting that America currently is embroiled in the third-longest war in the nation's history.

"It is the longest war that we have fought as a nation with all-volunteer forces," Carver said, referring to the war in Iraq. "Our troops are doing extremely well. They are really part of the best-trained, best-equipped, best-led military in the history of our nation. You can be very proud of these citizen-soldiers who have volunteered to raise their hand -- yes, even to be sacrificial in their service to our great nation."

He concluded, "My prayer for you as you continue to pray without ceasing for our service members and their families, who are tremendously loaded down with this particular burden, [is] that you and I would lead noble and courageous and holy lives, as our nation is at a crossroads and indeed that we would ask for God's anointing to come down and that we would see spiritual awakening in historical proportions."

Mohler talked to the group about events, new faculty and new facilities on the Louisville campus. All Southern Baptists should consider visiting the campus during the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, he said.

"What we share is something those outside this room and outside this circle could not understand," Mohler said. "Law schools have reunions. Medical schools have reunions, and I'm sure all of those are very meaningful. But we have a reunion with eternity on the horizon, and that frames everything we are and everything we think."

SOUTHWESTERN -- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary welcomed alumni and friends from around the country to its centennial-year alumni luncheon. The seminary honored a 104-year-old pastor, a gifted musician and a denominational leader, in addition to hearing a president's report, electing alumni association officers and celebrating Southwestern's 100th year of training men and women for Gospel ministry.

The 2008 distinguished alumni awards were presented to Eugene Florence, Gary Moore and Tom Elliff. President Paige Patterson commended them for their faithful service to the Lord and for representing Southwestern Seminary throughout their ministries.

At 104, Eugene Florence is still serving the Lord. As a student at Southwestern from 1943-51, he was enrolled in the then-Negro Extensions program and received his diploma in theology. He went on to pastor churches while also holding down part-time jobs. After learning that Florence's coursework actually qualified him for a master's degree, Patterson presented Florence with a master of divinity in 2004.

Florence graciously accepted the award as the assembled alumni and friends gave him a standing ovation. "I don't see color; I just see all God's people," he said.

Despite his advanced years, Florence continues to preach the Gospel whenever he gets the chance. "However many years I have left, I just want to be a blessing," he said.

Gary Moore serves as senior associate pastor of Second Baptist Church in Houston. An accomplished musician and composer, Moore has traveled around the world with adult and youth choirs to spread the Gospel through music. He has composed more than 200 songs, the most famous being "The Throne," which he co-wrote with Michael W. Smith. The song was featured on one of Smith's albums and later voted "Song of the Year" by Gospel Music Magazine. He has also written, produced and directed 13 original musicals.

Expressing his appreciation for the seminary, Moore said, "The faculty took great attention, great care and great love to not only teach the students the necessities of life but also the hard things they needed to do to succeed and make their ministries effective."

Elliff, a third-generation pastor, led several churches, including 20 years at First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., before arriving at his current position as senior vice president of spiritual nurture and church relations for the International Mission Board. Active in denominational leadership throughout his ministry, Elliff served as president of the SBC Pastors' Conference and president of the SBC for two terms.

Elliff said he considers his time at Southwestern to be one of the most influential periods of his life. "When seminary students talk about seminary, we don't talk as much about what we learned as who we learned under," Elliff said. "We talk about the people who influenced our lives, and I can give you a list of folks who influenced my life deeply while at Southwestern Seminary."

Patterson shared his annual alumni report, noting the many ways God is blessing Southwestern Seminary. He pointed to Southwestern degree programs offered in Germany, Korea and the Philippines as well as theological training in various locations in South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Southwestern also boasts an international faculty from countries all over the globe, including India, Syria, Lebanon, Romania and Zimbabwe.

Patterson praised faculty and students for their ongoing involvement and passion for evangelism and missions. "Missions becomes the air you breathe," he said. "The mission and evangelistic task of the church becomes the very atmosphere of the school. Ladies and gentleman, that's the way it ought to be, and that's the way it is at Southwestern Seminary now."

Patterson extended special welcome to Rebekah Naylor, Camille Lee Hornbeck, Tommy French and Billy Kim. Hornbeck authored the recently published biography on Naylor's service as a medical missionary and strategy coordinator for the IMB. Published by Hannibal Books, it is titled, "Rebekah Ann Naylor, M.D.: Missionary Surgeon in Changing Times." French endowed a scholarship for student ministers' wives in honor of his late wife Mary. Billy Kim, honored at this year's SBC as an international statesman, aided Southwestern students and professors in a recent musical mission trip to Korea in which 365 people made professions of faith.

Current alumni president Paul Kim announced a new venture: City Alumni Fellowships across the United States that will serve as connection centers for alumni near major cities. The purpose is to provide increased alumni relations through prayer, fellowship and fundraising for Southwestern.

Byron McWilliams, pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, was elected president of the association and Doug Munton, pastor of First Baptist Church in O'Fallon, Ill., was elected vice president.

Based on reporting by Phyllis Evans of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary; Brian Koonce of The Pathway, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention; Gary D. Myers of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Lauren Crane of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Garrett E. Wishall of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Keith Collier of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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