|Is it a mosque, a church, or a seminary?|
However, the controversy at Southwestern Seminary erupted this year when President Paige Patterson admitted a practicing Sunni Muslim into its residency seminary degree programs. The problem was never 'prison ministry.' It was a Muslim on the campus mingling with our Security Three Zone missionaries. In addition, there are allegedly other cases where professing Mormons have been allowed to enroll in on-campus theological education at Southwestern Seminary, granted 'exceptions' to the bylaws by President Patterson.
In this week's summary statement, SWBTS trustees only stated that the exceptions granted were a violation of the bylaws and charter of the Seminary. However, and this is a head scratcher, the trustees then stated they are going to begin the process of 'changing the bylaws.' When I pressed one of the trustees as to "Why are you changing the bylaws?" he responded, "For our prison ministry."
It seems the United States government precludes any seminary from discriminating against any religion if that seminary enters its prison system to educate prisoners.
Next spring the trustees will come out of their closed door meetings and try to reassure Southern Baptists that the proposed bylaw changes are intended to only allow them to continue doing prison ministry and the bylaw changes will not affect what is being done on campus.
Not so fast.
When George W. Truett spoke from the East Steps of the National Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, May 16, 1920, during the Annual Session of the Southern Baptist Convention, this remarkable Southern Baptist leader and pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, spoke these prophetic words:
"Christ's religion needs no prop of any kind from any worldly source, and to the degree that it is thus supported is a millstone hanged about its neck."If Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees are allowed to change their bylaws to accommodate the federal government, it is in essence tying the proverbial millstone around its neck. Once they allow government intrusion into their religious educational mission, their allegiance is switched from Christ to Caesar.
Why would Southern Baptists ever give up requiring a public confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, as well as an affirmation of their Christian walk by a local church, before allowing that student access to the resources and educational opportunities of our seminaries?
Money, Money, Money
When Paige Patterson became President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2004, he set a goal of reaching 6,000 students. SWBTS's own website trumpets that Patterson 'has reversed the trending slump in enrollment" since he came on board, "creating a need for more buildings."
Public relations and facts don't often correlate. For example, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada, keeps records for every seminary in the United States. It's difficult for the average Southern Baptist to mine those facts from the reports submitted by our seminaries. However, using ATS own records, the following graphs will give you accurate information regarding Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), Southeastern Theological Seminary (SEBTS), and Southern Theological Seminary (SBTS). For the sake of comparison, I'm using these four seminaries in the graphs and statistics below. It is obvious hurricane Katrina affected New Orleans numbers, but I'd like for you to focus on the graphs outlined in the orange color - Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. All graphs reflect the past ten years. In the second graph, FTE stands for "Full Time Enrollment."
What we have in very vivid graph form is an understanding that for the last ten years headcount, full-time enrollment, Masters of Divinity students, and graduates at Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas has been steadily declining. The following statistics put it in stark percentages.
Is it possible that the reason Southwestern Seminary is willing to change its bylaws is because if the school could enroll people who do not profess faith in Jesus Christ into their theological educational programs they then have bigger pool of people from whom they can obtain tuition or 'scholarships' to enroll at SWBTS?
I know some people will object by saying, "Of course not! It's about evangelism! Don't you believe that our seminaries should be in the prisons leading people to Christ by offering Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, neo-Nazi's, and all other people of faith (or non-faith) by giving them the opportunity to enroll in theological educational courses provided by our seminaries!"
Answer: "No." Let me make that "A resounding no."
Our seminaries should be training Christian men and women how to go into the prisons and lead people to Christ.
Ironically, the SBC founding fathers agree with me. That's why the trustees must change the bylaws and/or charter (allegedly, they are only changing the bylaws). They are wanting Southwestern Seminary to do what it was not originally designed to do.
It's hard to know the rationale behind the bizarre effort to change the bylaws at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to allow the enrollment of people from other faiths. I never dreamed I'd see the day when Southwestern Seminary would go down the path of classic liberalism.
Of course, "Money is the root of all evil."