At SBTS luncheon, Mohler announces alumni of the year and reaching an unreached people

Communications Staff — June 22, 2012

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, announced G. Bryant Wright and John A. Folmar as distinguished alumni of the year at the Southern Seminary alumni luncheon during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), June 20, 2012.

Wright, a master of divinity (M.Div.) graduate from Southern in 1979, is senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., and the current two-term president of the SBC. Folmar, who earned his M.Div. from Southern in 2003, is pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Mohler also presented to the alumni and friends at the luncheon that Southern Seminary has identified the Meskhetian Turks as a people group to target with the gospel of Jesus Christ. At the 2011 annual meeting of the SBC in Phoenix, Ariz., Tom Elliff, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), and Wright jointly called on Southern Baptist churches and institutions to “embrace” an unengaged, unreached people group for the purpose of spreading the gospel to the nations.

The IMB, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, defines “unreached” as a people group with less than two percent evangelical population. “Unengaged” qualifies a people group with no identifiable Christian presence and for whom no mission strategy exists.

The Meskhetian Turks are, despite their name, not from Turkey. Instead, the Meskhetian Turks are a people of about 300,000 who live in the Russian Federation. World War II scattered the Meskhetian Turks and they have since remained an especially elusive group to engage, with a number of attempts seldom progressing beyond the information gathering stage in the past.

Louisville, Ky., the location of Southern Seminary, houses a community of 60 to 80 Meskhetian families (somewhere between 500 and 800 individuals). Efforts to reach the Meskhetian Turks will begin by reaching out to the Louisville community, Mohler explained.

At the luncheon, Mohler outlined the seminary’s adoption and implementation of a comprehensive master plan to repurpose and refocus the seminary’s physical campus. During the next 10 years, the master plan will dissolve $52 million in deferred maintenance and position the campus for immediate and future structural and financial sustainability. Phase one will repurpose the historical Mullins Complex as a state-of-the-art facility for Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Seminary.

During its annual meeting, the Executive Committee of the SBC approved a $20 million loan for phase one of the SBTS master plan.

Phase two will advance the learning community of Southern Seminary, primarily through renovation of the James P. Boyce Centennial Library. Phase three, without requiring any firm commitments, anticipates future development.

Closing his address at the luncheon, Mohler surveyed the happenings around Southern Seminary during the past year. He also explained the increasing need for faithful theological education in days that require well equipped pastors, missionaries and teachers.

“We’re up to this,” he said. “But we need each other. It is moving to imagine how the lives gathered together, gather to become a part of that long line of faithfulness that came before us at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.”

Mohler affirmed Southern Seminary’s commitment to seriousness of her task, the urgency of her vision and the credibility of her alumni.

The commitment, however, is only a means to end. He explained: “We have a job to do, and it’s not done when we graduate; it’s not done when we retire; it’s not done until Jesus comes. It’s not done yet.”

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