Archive for January, 2009

The seminaries are in trouble…SBC people to the rescue!

January 3, 2009

Southwestern announces budget cutbacks (12/17/2008)

Southern Seminary cuts budget by $1.7M (12/18/2008)

Bart Barber suggested a few months ago the need for a seminary offering to help meet budget needs. Having read the above stories, I must agree!

First, the gory details — let me (humbly) suggest the following plan:

1) Move SBC Seminiaries Sunday (presently first Sunday in April) to the second Sunday in August.

2) Adopt a new offering, named J.P. Boyce Seminaries Offering.

3) Distribute the money as follows:
100% collected goes to seminaries (through Executive Committee), allocated based on the percentage of seminary students from that state at a certain seminary

e.g. – If 55 South Carolina students go to Southeastern, 15 go to Southern and Southwestern each, 10 go to New Orleans, 5 go to Midwestern, then:
55% of SC offering goes to Southeastern
15% goes to Southern and Southwestern each
10% goes to New Orleans
5% goes to Midwestern

4) Direct that the collected funds be used for:
a) further subsidy of seminary student tuition, explicitly not for use in baccalaureate programs, if tuition increases are considered
b) faculty benefits and cost-of-living increases, if surplus allows

Now for the reasons why:
1) The logical time to take up an offering for the seminaries is the Sunday dedicated to them. Yet if you look at the SBC denominational calendar for the next few years, you find a striking conflict between SBC Seminaries Sunday and Easter:

SBC Seminaries Sunday vs. Easter
April 5, 2009 — April 12, 2009
the same day in 2010: April 4
April 3, 2011 — April 24, 2011
April 1, 2012 — April 8, 2012
April 7, 2013 — March 31, 2013

Thus for the next five years, SBC seminaries are overshadowed by the more important remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, and in SBC life, the accompanying missions giving to North American causes.

2) Why J.P. Boyce? He best exemplifies the pulse in SBC life for the seminaries, just as Lottie Moon is to international missions and Annie Armstrong to North American missions. He best exemplifies our support for pastoral education since he is (one of) the first to push for the creation of a seminary.

3) Why distribute the funds based on each state’s representation at each SBC seminary? To overcome a flaw in the distribution formula of Cooperative Program money.

CP money is distributed “to the seminaries on the basis of the number of credit hours students earn on each campus. Only a small percentage of the off-campus hours taken at extension centers are included in the distribution formula.” (NOBTS Report, 2008 SBC Annual, p. 205) As a result, the larger seminaries get more money than the smaller seminaries, so that each seminary is supposed to gets the same per capita money for its students. However, this in practice does not work. The SBC Funding Study Committee “noted that the SBC’s two largest seminaries (SWBTS and SBTS) have significant endowments and are less cash constrained than the three smaller seminaries (SEBTS, GGBTS, and MWBTS).” (Sixth and Final Report of the SBC Funding Study Committee to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, dated February 19, 2008, 2008 SBC Annual, p. 146). If (as seen in the articles at the top of this post) even the largest of the six are cash-strapped, how much more so those who are the smallest? As for the hoped-for per capita equality, it falls short so that “two of the six seminaries [GGBTS and NOBTS] annually have a significant number of credit hours taught but not funded by the Cooperative Program.” (NOBTS Report, 2008 SBC Annual, p. 205, brackets mine)

Each state convention should support the seminaries to which they send their students and from which (supposedly) they receive their pastors and ministers. Under this distribution plan, the frontier states support their local seminary and not (only) the largest one, which might be quite distant from them (geographically and culturally).

4) The purpose of this offering is not to fill the coffers of the seminaries’ endowments or building funds, but to help seminary students, many if not all who live hand-to-mouth during that time, and the seminary professors, who sacrifice much in order to dedicate themselves to the preparation of the next generation of missionaries, teachers, pastors, and denominational leaders. Also a complaint raised by the SBC Funding Study Committee was the perception of CP funds being re-directed to undergraduate programs and not post-baccalaureate education.

Please feel free to comment/complain/correct my thought on this. I hope to propose this as a motion at the 2009 convention, but hope that those of you who see the need for this will go ahead and collect money for the need now.