Mohler’s 10th anniversary: ‘A man who did not run’

Communications Staff — April 29, 2003

In early 1993, Rick White and six other members of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s search committee prayed together in a south Florida hotel room regarding who would succeed the retiring Roy Honeycutt as seminary president.

White said God led them all to agree on one name, that of a 33-year-old journalist/theologian: R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Seminary trustees later affirmed the committee’s choice and elected Mohler to lead the Southern Baptist Convention’s flagship theological institution.

In a decade under Mohler’s leadership, Southern Seminary has been transformed into one of the leading conservative theological institutions in the world.

“We had no doubt that God led us to Dr. Al Mohler to become the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” White said, during a ceremony celebrating Mohler’s tenth anniversary as president. Current and former trustees, including former board chairmen gathered with the seminary community to mark the occasion.

White was the first chairman of the board of trustees to serve under Mohler. He is a graduate of the seminary and is the only trustee chairman to have served three terms.

Ten years after hiring Mohler, then a young editor for the Georgia Baptist newspaper, the “Christian Index,” White is thankful God raised up Mohler to lead Southern Seminary and describes him as a man who did not shrink back from the mission even in the midst of the cauldron of controversy.

“There is a line in (a) song that reminds me a lot of Al Mohler,” White said. “It says, ‘A hero is a scared man who doesn’t run.’ And when I think about the history of our transition and seeing what has happened today, (and) I look at the life of a young Christian leader; obviously, there were some scary moments.

But (he is) a man who did not run and God has honored (that) and we are now recipients of that.”

Southern Seminary’s Executive Cabinet presented Mohler – a voracious reader with a personal library numbering thousands of volumes – with a rare 1641 edition of “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” Trustees gave Mohler a 1608 Geneva Bible and presented the family with a trip to Europe. Mohler’s wife Mary and children, Katie, 14, and Christopher, 11 were also honored at the ceremony.

Mohler faced difficult opposition as he led the conservative resurgence at Southern Seminary, particularly in the early years. Still, Mohler said he would repeat the process, painful though it was, all over again.

“These have been the most incredible 10 years of my life,” Mohler said. “And if I had to do it all over again, I would. I’m not sure I could have said that at every single point, to be very honest. But on the other side, it is sheer grace and I believe and pray and fervently hope it is to God’s glory that this institution is what it is.”

Mohler said he has had the rare opportunity to lead an institution through a dramatic change that could only have been accomplished by God’s hand.

“It is hard to imagine that this would have happened,” Mohler said. “It runs counter to the wisdom of the world. It is not something that you expect in an institution’s life. This kind of change does not happen and this kind of new opportunity is rarely granted.

Now, 10 years after the reformation began, Southern Seminary is experiencing remarkable growth, with enrollment well over 3,000.

This runs contrary to the wisdom of the world, which says that even to attempt such a change risks scaring many persons away, he said. Still, God’s truth as revealed in Scripture overcomes the risk and draws many to an institution that stands faithfully upon its authority, Mohler said.

“You (do) scare many people away,” he said. “But you look on this campus and at this faculty and the students and the trustees and the others who are gathered here, and you will see how God’s truth is like a magnet pulling persons who love God and His truth to a place that will take such things with seriousness.”

The president also expressed gratitude for his colleagues in the administration and especially for his wife and children.

“I thought I knew what marriage was all about,” President Mohler said. “We had our 10th anniversary as we were coming into this office. But I didn’t know anything about marriage until we spent 10 years here together.

“I discovered that this woman would stand with me through thick and thin. And I just cannot tell you what she gives of her heart and life to this institution and to me. All I can say is I would not be here without her. This institution would not be what it is without her heart and prayer and support and love.”

Mohler says that, though he set timetables and goals during the early days of his administration, he ultimately depends upon the sovereignty of God in carrying out the task of ministry through Southern Seminary.

“I am completely dependent upon the providence and sovereignty of God and that God is going to do things to His glory in His way and is going to unfold gradually how all this is going to take place and come to pass,” Mohler said.

Mohler believes a century’s worth of work has been accomplished in a decade at the seminary. Now, at age 43, he says the challenge is to continue to move the seminary forward, beyond the turmoil of the early years.

“What a stewardship is ours. And the great lesson to that is, to put it as simply, if not very profoundly, we can’t mess this up. Too high a price has been paid. Too rare an opportunity has been granted.”

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