Southern Seminary trustees update faculty hiring policies, ‘unify’ faculty

Communications Staff — April 16, 2014

In order to continue to “attract and retain a first-class academic faculty,” said President R. Albert Mohler Jr., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees approved updates to faculty employment policies and unified the graduate and undergraduate faculties during its April 14-15 meeting.

President R. Albert Mohler Jr. speaks April 15 during the board of trustees meeting of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
President R. Albert Mohler Jr. speaks April 15 during the board of trustees meeting of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Trustees also approved promotions, designations to academic chairs and sabbatical leaves for certain faculty, elected new officers and approved a $40.572 million budget for the 2014-2015 academic year, a 5.87 percent increase from the current year.

All actions of the board were unanimous.

Under new employment policies, all elected faculty will serve under a “simple academic instructional contract” rather than a tenure-based contract. Faculty will be eligible for contract terms of between one and nine years. The new policy is effective immediately and applies to all current faculty.

“Southern Seminary is returning to the classic, traditional method of hiring faculty that has marked this institution through most of its history,” said President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “A tenure-based contract was the basis for hiring and retaining faculty from about 1960 to the present. But we have returned to making the election of faculty by the board of trustees the most important issue, and returning faculty to teaching on the basis of a simple academic instructional contract.”

Mohler said tenure “no longer really meets the needs of the faculty or the institution” and it “no longer ensures academic quality, but actually is a major impediment to it.”

Tenure is a “ticking fiscal time-bomb” in the larger world of higher education, Mohler said. “It is an economically unsustainable model and sooner or later virtually every academic institution is going to have to abandon tenure or face disaster.”

Trustees also approved an administration recommendation to “unify” the faculties of Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate school, with the graduate faculties in the School of Theology and Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry.

Mohler said with the trustee action, the college faculty is now “on par” with the graduate school faculties.

“We want to avoid any artificial, two-tier relationship between the graduate and undergraduate faculty,” he said, noting the full professors of graduate faculty “eagerly welcomed” the undergraduate faculty in an action taken several weeks ago to affirm the administration’s recommendation to the board of trustees.

Outgoing board chairman E. Todd Fisher, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, Okla., preached a sermon, “I Once Was Blind, But Now I See,” from Mark 10:46-52 in an April 15 seminary chapel service.

Philip Gunn, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, was elected as chairman of the board of trustees. Joining Gunn as officers are: Matt Schmucker of Washington, D.C., first vice chairman; John Thweatt of Pell City, Ala., second vice chairman; Phil West, Warner Robbins, Ga., secretary; and Stanley Craig of Prospect, Ky., chairman of the seminary’s Financial Board. Chad Wilson of Jackson, Tenn., was elected chairman of the Audit Committee.

In reports, trustees learned that Southern’s 2012-2013 total student headcount of 4,567 was the largest in the history of the school, since its founding in 1859. Southern also enrolls more master of divinity students than any other school accredited by the Association of Theological Schools.

Trustees approved the designation of J. Scott Bridger as Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies. Bridger also will serve as director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam, which the school dedicated in February.

Bridger currently is assistant professor of world Christianity and Islamic studies at Criswell College. He holds a master of arts degree in Arabic language and Islamic studies from the University of Haifa (Israel) and doctor of philosophy degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, with a dissertation on a Christian exegesis of the Qur’an.

In addition to Bridger, the board approved the following members of the faculty to various academic chairs of study:

— Joseph R. Crider as Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of Church Music and Worship;

— Peter J. Gentry as Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation;

— Adam W. Greenway as William Walker Brookes Associate Professor of Evangelism and Applied Apologetics;

— Timothy Paul Jones as C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry;

— Bruce A. Ware as T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology; and

— Michael Wilder as J.M. Frost Associate Professor of Leadership and Discipleship.

Effective Aug. 1, 2014, trustees granted promotions in faculty rank to:

— Denny Burk to professor of biblical studies;

— Daniel DeWitt to associate professor of worldview and culture;

— James Hamilton to professor of biblical theology;

— Brian Payne to associate professor of Christian theology and expository preaching;

— Brian Vickers to professor of New Testament interpretation; and

— Donald S. Whitney to professor of biblical spirituality.

Sabbatical leaves were granted to:

— Duane Garrett, John R. Sampey professor of Old Testament interpretation, Aug. 1, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016;

— Hamilton, Aug. 1, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2015;

— Rob Plummer, professor of New Testament interpretation, Aug. 1, 2015 – Jan. 31, 2016; and

— Shawn Wright, associate professor of church history, Feb. 1, 2015 – July 31, 2015.

Effective, Aug. 1, 2014, additional three-year contracts were approved for Burk, DeWitt, Payne, Whitney and Stuart Scott, associate professor of biblical counseling.

Also announced was the appointment of Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history, as director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement, a think tank studying the present and future of American evangelicalism.

In other actions, the board:

— elected Joshua R. Albertsen of Fisherville, Ky., as a temporary trustee to serve in place of Barry McRoberts, who resigned. Albertson is a member of Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Fisherville, Ky. The Southern Baptist Convention Committee on Nominations will nominate a permanent replacement during the SBC annual meeting in June;

— approved resolutions of appreciation for outgoing trustees James Owens of Charleston, S.C.; James Blount of Louisville, Ky.; and Paul Garrison of Toccoa, Ga;

— approved a “clean” financial audit for 2012-2013 by auditors Crowe Horwath;

— received an update on implementation of the seminary’s Master Plan, highlighting a “state of the art” renovation of the seminary’s Mullins Complex, which will house dormitories and administrative offices for Boyce College beginning in August; and

— received a report from its Financial Board that the seminary’s investment fund is at an “historic high” of $82.8 million, with an appreciation in value of $19.4 million since 2011.

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