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Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

It was symbolic as well as historical that I was at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the years 1978-81. I was headed for youth ministry, and I entered SBTS in the fall of 1978. Following my first year, I served a summer as youth minister in a small suburban Nashville Southern Baptist Church. My first 3 weeks there I stayed in the basement of the home of the pastor, who was attending the Southern Baptist Convention. That year marked the beginning of what has come to be known as "the takeover". The takeover refers to the beginnings of the efforts by the conservative camps within the Southern Baptist Convention to cleanse the denomination of certain liberal elements. This year's convention was the first step, as Adrian Rogers was elected as SBC president.

It did not mark the first election of a "conservative" president, but the election of a conservative president who had the same "cleansing" goals. I remember the day when the pastor and his wife came home, and the wife's comment that "We won a victory over the liberals". I got the feeling then that it was NOT going to be a good summer.

The following year at Seminary, the Heart of America Bible Conference was hosted by SBTS, and all the biggies of the fundamentalist conservative movement, WA Criswell, Adrian Rogers, etc. I recall the final address given by then SBTS president Duke McCall. It was one of the most amazing sermons I have ever heard, and it "cooled the jets" of those there who had some idea that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was not a "Bible teaching" seminary. The controversy seemed to die off for a while (at least the charges that SBTS was one of those "elements" in the convention that needed a house-cleaning). It was a sermon that any non-fundamentalist, moderate, or even liberal-minded seminary student would love. It was a moving experience.

The years that followed would see the ball continue to roll. In the efforts to do house cleaning within the Southern Baptist Convention's institutions. Many would be forced out, fired, and disillusioned by the scourge. When Russell Dilday became one of the casualties, I could only shake my head, since this president of Southwestern Baptist Seminary was not perceived to be of the same theological category that the takeover movement was perceived to be out to get. But he was not of the same mind: that is, of the same mind concerning ways to "improve" this denomination.

None of the professors I had at SBTS are at the school today. I read a book by my former Church History Professor , Bill Leonard, entitled "God's Last and Only Hope" on the history of the Southern Baptist Convention and the present controversy. I saw a couple more today, one by Grady Cothen, president emeritus of the Baptist Sunday School Board, entitled "The New SBC: Fundamentalism's Impact on the Southern Baptist Convention" Also "Not A Silent People: Controversies That Have Shaped Southern Baptists" by Walter Shurden", another former Southern Seminary professor who was one of my professors for Baptist History in Theological Perspective. This book was originally published in 1972, but the 1995 edition adds a new chapter "The Fundamentalist-Moderate Controversy". In the new preface, Shurden recalls that in 1979 at the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston, Albert McClellan said to him "Walter, it looks like you are going to have to add a chapter to Not A Silent People".

I have often felt proud of my Southern Baptist heritage, regardless of the shame I see brought on it by this mess. I appreciated the journalistic efforts of Bill Moyers in his series "God and Politics" in the segment on the Southern Baptists, who were a subject for coverage by most major news media in addition to Moyers. I value highly the theological education I received there, and consider myself fortunate to have gotten through before the reigns of academic freedom were drawn tight.


Mail me comments, suggestions, warnings, flames, whatever  This site maintained and researched by Dale Lature, Lavergne, TN