BF&M endorsed by most of SEBTS faculty
June 1 2001 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

BF&M endorsed by most of SEBTS faculty | Friday, June 1, 2001

Friday, June 1, 2001

BF&M endorsed by most of SEBTS faculty

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor All but one of the faculty members at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary have endorsed the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith & Message. The present faculty members were invited but not required to sign the statement of faith that has generated division among Baptists because of its de-emphasis on the priesthood of each believer and its exclusion of women from the pastorate. Future faculty will be required to sign the document.

During the May 17 signing ceremony, seminary President Paige Patterson described the latest revision of the BF&M as an effort to "strengthen it and to return it to the strong document it once was when it was the New Hampshire Confession of Faith and then the Baptist Faith and Message of 1925," according to a Baptist Press (BP) article.

Patterson, as a professor of theology, was one of about 36 elected instructors to sign the document. Two faculty members failed to sign the document during the ceremony. One of those was sick and has since added his signature, Patterson said. The other was George Braswell, who serves as distinguished professor of missions and world religions as well as director of the doctor of ministry program. Braswell declined to comment on why he chose not to sign.

The BP article did not indicate that any of Southeastern's faculty failed to sign the BF&M.

During the spring meeting of trustees, the dean of faculty, Russ Bush, reported that only one faculty member would choose not to sign the document. That person is the most senior faculty member, he said. Braswell is the last faculty member who was hired prior to conservatives gaining control of the seminary's board of trustees in 1987.

In an interview, Patterson said Braswell had written a letter announcing plans for his retirement although the date is not set. The president said Braswell particularly wants to see the first class of doctor of ministry students at the seminary's Philippine site complete its degree, which is scheduled for next year.

If trustees at Southeastern had followed the example of trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, all present and future faculty members would have been required to sign the BF&M. Two professors at Southwestern chose not to sign the BF&M and have been asked to leave the faculty.

Southeastern's trustees voted only to require future faculty.

"They were, I'm sure, following my lead on it," said Patterson in responding to why he thought SEBTS' trustees didn't require present faculty to sign. "I knew there wouldn't be a problem."

Messengers to the 2000 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Orlando intended for Convention employees to teach within the parameters of the BF&M, said Patterson, who appointed the committee that revised the faith statement.

Trustees debated on whether to require any faculty members to endorse the 2000 BF&M. The seminary also has another faith statement, the Abstract of Principles, that all elected faculty at the seminary have signed since its founding in 1951. One trustee, Charles Waller, questioned whether a second faith statement is needed because, he said, the problem in the past hasn't been the faith statement but faculty members teaching according to it.

Bush said at the meeting that requiring faculty to sign both documents allows the seminary to keep its roots while affirming where the SBC is today.

The signatures of all but one faculty member occurred eight months after instructors attending a faculty meeting voted to endorse the BF&M.

Keith Eitel, professor of Christian missions and the director of the Center for Great Commission Studies, told BP he wanted the faculty to sign the document in September as a way "to show solidarity with the BF&M 2000 and our colleagues at the other SBC seminaries and institutions as quickly as possible."

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6/1/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments
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