The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010 (Part Four)

Author’s note: This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is the final of four posts commemorating that history.

Every Classroom a Great Commission Classroom, 2004-Present

In January 2004, Daniel L. Akin was elected the sixth president of Southeastern Seminary. Akin, a professor of both theology and preaching, previously served as Southeastern’s dean of students from 1992-1996 before serving eight years as the academic vice president at Southern Seminary. Akin furthered Southeastern’s theological renewal by requiring all professors to sign the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy and the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in addition to the school’s two confessions of faith. In February 2005, Southeastern hosted its first annual 20/20 Collegiate Conference, an event that annually draws over 1000 college students. Also in 2005, Southeastern adopted a new campus master plan and completed construction on a new building to house the facilities and campus housing departments. That fall, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Southeastern sent several student teams to do construction work and outreach in the Gulf Coast and on the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; total gifts and labor amounted to over $750,000. In 2006, Southeastern furthered its longstanding commitment to missions and evangelism by adopting a new institutional mission statement: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ by equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). The seminary’s informal motto became “every classroom a Great Commission classroom.”

In recent years, Southeastern has continued to educate students and develop creative new initiatives. In 2006, Southeastern established the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture in honor of longtime academic vice president Bush, who passed away in 2008 following a bout with cancer. Southeastern also began cultivating a number of international partnerships dedicated to helping provide theological education to pastors and other church leaders in the Majority World. In 2008, the seminary opened Patterson Hall, a classroom and office building named in honor of Paige and Dorothy Patterson. Patterson Hall houses the Center for Faith and Culture, The College at Southeastern, and the school’s doctoral programs. Also in 2008, Southeastern launched an official faculty blog titled “Between the Times” ( During Akin’s tenure, Southeastern has added two additional endowed chairs: the Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World and Missions (2007), occupied by Bruce Ashford, and the Johnny Hunt Chair of Biblical Preaching (2010), presently held by Greg Heisler. In 2009, Southeastern entered into an ongoing partnership with 9Marks Ministries to host a series of annual conferences promoting gospel renewal and local church health. After a twenty-five year run, Faith and Mission was disbanded in 2008 and was replaced in 2010 with a new refereed scholarly journal titled Southeastern Theological Review.

During Akin’s tenure, non-residential education opportunities have been significantly expanded to include online, extension, and hybrid course offerings in almost every degree program. Akin has also announced an initiative for Southeastern to partner with at least one hundred local church “equipping centers” by the year 2015. Students will be able to receive a significant portion of their seminary education through local church internships and creative course delivery systems. In part because of Southeastern’s Great Commission priorities, the seminary has been at the forefront of advocating a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. This movement, championed by Akin and recent SBC president and Southeastern alumnus Johnny Hunt, intends to build upon the theological renaissance of the previous generation by prioritizing evangelism and church planting among unreached people groups in foreign nations and underserved regions in North America.

As of fall 2010, Southeastern Seminary has a total enrollment of almost 2700 students. Thousands of Southeastern graduates serve as pastors and other staff in Southern Baptist churches and other types of congregations. Approximately five hundred Southeastern students and graduates currently serve as foreign missionaries, the vast majority through the International Mission Board. Dozens of graduates serve as North American church planters in urban centers such as Boston, Chicago, Tampa, Atlanta, Richmond, and Nashville, as well as underserved rural areas in the Midwest and New England. Almost one hundred students have been awarded the Doctor of Philosophy and now serve in seminaries, colleges, pastorates, and denominational leadership positions all over the world. Hundreds of Southeastern students participate annually in short-term mission trips sponsored by the seminary or local churches. Numerous Southeastern professors regularly lead mission trips or teach short-term in overseas settings. God has been very gracious to Southeastern. Should the Lord tarry, it is our hope for sixty more years of “equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.”

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  1. Brian   •  

    Note to administrator: spellcheck missed one – last phrase:penultimate paragraph – “…undeserved regions in North America.” I believe you meant “…underserved regions in North America.”

  2. Brian   •  

    I am excited to see how the church-based “equipping centers” work out. I really think moving Christian education and training back into the local church context is a great idea. With current technological advances, Seminary quality instruction can travel beyond the geographical confines of the traditional campus to directly partner with the vocational mentoring and ministry experience of the local congregation. Fledgling leaders should truly excel in such a rich environment.

  3. Nathan Finn   •     Author

    Brian (and emailers), thanks for the spelling accountablility. I changed it.

    Brian, I agree. I think theological education is increasingly moving in a decentralized, church-based direction. For the most part, this is a really healthy trend. My hope is that eventually you will have some churches who will bring on staff members with Ph.D.’s specifically for this purpose. The church and seminary will work together to pay the staff member/professor, and the fellow will teach church-based classes that count for real seminary credit. I’ve got more to say, but that’s the thumbnail sketch of where I see things going.

  4. Pingback: One Baptist Perspective » The Story of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1950-2010

  5. Gene Scarborough   •  

    Dr. Finn–

    I think I would be unfair if I did not congratulate you for encapsulating the history of SEBTS. In toto, I think you have done a fair job with the restrictions of a busy schedule and minimal time to prepare these summations.

    I remember from my BSU days a wonderful trip to SEBTS for the Student Conference where some 500 came from all over the southeast to visit. It was my first introduction to the campus, having been the year before to Southern for their Student Conference.

    Clarence Jordan who founded Koinonea Farms in Americus, GA, was the featured speaker. His vision was the basis for Habitat for Humanity and the “Cotton Patch Gospels.” I was inspired enough to seek admission in the fall of 1967.

    I had seen for myself a true “liberal” in Thomas J.J. Altizer doing his”God is Dead” stuff as I was President of the Emory University BSU in 1966-67. Perhaps that is why I an very hesitant to label any SEBTS professor I knew as “liberal.”

    As far as facilities and numbers of students go, there has been a great amount of growth and modernization. It is sad that Hurricane Fran virtually destroyed the magnolias of the campus where I attended. It was far more “Southern” than it is today, but life goes on.

    In the same way as Fran changed the campus, Conservative Resurgence had transformed the outlook and theological tenor of what is there today.

    I won’t categorize it as better or worse—just changed. Time will be the judge of “better or worse.”

    I wish you well in your endeavors. Given more time, you might choose to add some things I have shared. Should you choose to do so, I would be glad to help as well as many other graduates so you might have a truely full picture of SEBTS to present.

    From its beginnings with old and somewhat delapidated buildings to its magnificent present our school has had great impact on lives. The number of missionaries is astounding and the reach is great with Pastors and educated laity as well–from the beginning.

    Thanks for your efforts. Some day I hope to drop by and personally chat as I work in N. Raleigh and go “the back way” to Strickland Road.

  6. John Ench   •  

    What information does anybody have on Dr. Leo Green. He was my professor of OT in 1974. He was a great teacher and a man that truly loved the Lord. Has he written any commentary on the Book of Isaiah? Thanks

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