Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary logo.jpg
MottoFor the truth. For the church. For the world. For the glory of God
Religious affiliation
Southern Baptist Convention
Academic affiliation
Endowment$95.5 million [1]
PresidentR. Albert Mohler Jr.
ProvostPaul M. Akin [2]
Academic staff
Students5,489 (2017)[4]
100 acres
AffiliationsKentuckiana Metroversity and Boyce College

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) is a Baptist seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. It is the oldest of the six seminaries affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The seminary was founded in 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina, where it was at first housed on the campus of Furman University. The seminary has been an innovator in theological education, establishing one of the first Ph.D. programs in religion in the year 1892. After being closed during the Civil War, it moved in 1877 to a newly built campus in downtown Louisville and moved to its current location in 1926 in the Crescent Hill neighborhood. In 1953, Southern became one of the few seminaries to offer a full, accredited degree course in church music. For more than fifty years Southern has been one of the world's largest theological seminaries, with an FTE (full-time equivalent) enrollment of over 3,300 students in 2015.[5]


19th Century to Early 20th Century (1856–1950)

In 1856, South Carolina Baptists gathered together and met in Greenville, South Carolina with James P. Boyce to discuss the need to finance a seminary. In that meeting, Southern Baptists agreed to pledge $100,000 in the establishment of a theological school. In 1857, Boyce convinced members of the convention in Louisville, KY to approve a motion to establish The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the fall of 1859, Southern began its first academic year with 26 students. The seminary continued to grow until it temporarily closed from 1861 to 1865 due to American Civil War. After the war, the seminary had to recover at a different location. The Board of Trustees along with Boyce decided the new location would be the seminary's current location of Louisville, Kentucky.[6]

Southern in 1891

In 1889, John A. Broadus became the seminary's second President. Attendance and enrollment continued to grow and the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) began to be offered as graduate degrees starting in the early 1890s.[7] After Broadus, William Whitsitt became the third President of Southern in 1895.[8] After a difficult tenure along with controversy dealing with Landmarkism amongst Baptists during that period, Whitsitt was succeeded by E.Y. Mullins (Boyce's College main dormitory is named after him) as president. Under Mullins, the seminary reached an endowment of an estimated 1.8 million dollars. It was during the early 1900s when women were beginning to be admitted to the classes.[9]

Modern History (1950s–present)

In 1951, Duke McCall became the President of Southern. Under McCall's leadership. the School of Religious Education was established to prepare students for Christian education. Three academic schools were organized: School of Religious Education, School of Theology, and the School of Music. A chair in evangelism was dedicated to the American evangelist Billy Graham in 1966. Southern began to offer the Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program in 1970. Enrollment under McCall reached an estimated 1,500 students. Boyce College (known as Boyce Bible College at the time) was established as an adult education program in 1974. McCall retired in 1981 and his legacy has drawn praise and controversy.[10]

Roy Honeycutt succeeded McCall as the 8th President of Southern in 1981. Under his leadership, the seminary opened the Carver School of Church Social Work and reached an all-time peak in enrollment of students in 1986. Honeycutt also oversaw the leadership of the seminary during a tumultuous time within the Southern Baptist Convention, now known as the Southern Baptist Convention conservative resurgence. After the election of Adrian Rogers as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the school began to slowly return to its traditional theological positions such as the inerrancy of Scripture. Honeycutt retired in 1992.

The seminary Board of Trustee's then elected R. Albert Mohler as the 9th President of Southern in 1993. Under Mohler's leadership, every member of the faculty was required to sign the confession of the seminary known as the "Abstract of Principles" and the "Baptist Faith and Message". They were also required to believe that the Bible is without any error. Boyce Bible College, then an adult education program, was reorganized and established as an undergraduate college.[11] In 2017, the seminary experienced the largest enrollment of students ever in the school's history.[12]


In the wake of the Civil War, the seminary suspended classes for several years.[13] With the financial help of several wealthy Baptists, including John D. Rockefeller and a group of Kentucky business leaders who promised to underwrite the construction of a new campus,[14][15] the seminary relocated to Fifth Street and Broadway in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, in 1877.

In 1926, during the administration of Southern president Edgar Y. Mullins, the seminary occupied "The Beeches", a 100-acre (0.40 km2) suburban campus east of the city center[16] designed by the Frederick Law Olmsted firm. The campus now contains 10 academic and residential buildings in Georgian architecture and three housing villages for married students.

Civil rights history[edit]

In 1951, President Duke Kimbrough McCall integrated the campus, in defiance of Kentucky state laws that established segregation at public facilities. At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Southern would become the only SBC agency to host a visit by Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. (1961).[17] During King's address at SBTS, he mentioned he had been to the seminary's chapel several times in the past when accompanying his mother since King's mother was an organist for the Women's Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention.[18]

Martin Luther King Jr. preached in Southern Seminary chapel in 1961. King met with professors (from left to right) Henlee Barnette, Nolan Howington and Allen Graves.

As a result, many donors withheld their gifts to Southern, and some demanded McCall's resignation for letting King speak in the seminary chapel.[19]

In 2018, a report was released about its connections to slavery. Controversy regarding this subject was circulated and interracial ministers coalition requested The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to financially support nearby black colleges as a result. Despite the request, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary denied the request. As a response to the request, President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and board Chair F.Matthew Schmucker released the following statement:

“We agree with the policy of the Southern Baptist Convention in this regard, and we do not believe that financial reparations are the appropriate response,”

There are claims stating that the founders owned more than 50 slaves.[20]

Administration and organizational structure[edit]

In 1938, Southern was among the first group of seminaries and divinity schools accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.[21] Thirty years later, in 1968, Southern was one of the first seminaries to be accredited by its regional accrediting body, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.[22]

Throughout its history, Southern has been an innovator in theological education, establishing one of the first Ph.D. programs in religion (1892), the first department of Christian missions (1902), the first curriculum in religious education (1925), and the first accredited, seminary-based social work program (1984).

In 1953, President McCall and the trustees reorganized the institution along the lines of a small university. The curriculum was distributed among three graduate-professional schools—Theology, headed by Dean Penrose St. Amant; Religious Education, led by Dean Gaines S. Dobbins; and Church Music, under Dean Forrest Heeren.

In 1984, Anne Davis became founding dean of the Carver School of Church Social Work, which launched the first seminary-based Master of Social Work program to be accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (1987). The school was disbanded in 1997 by a subsequent seminary administration.[23] It decided that secular social work was inappropriate for a seminary, and replaced the program with a school for training evangelists, missionaries and church-growth specialists.

In 1968, Southern helped establish Kentuckiana Metroversity, a local consortium of two seminaries, two state universities, a community college and two private colleges. They offer a joint library catalog, cross-registration of any student in any member institution, and faculty and cultural exchanges. In 1970, Southern helped create the Theological Education Association of Mid-America (TEAM-A), one of the United States' first seminary "clusters," a consortium of five schools related to the Presbyterian, Wesleyan Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Roman Catholic and Baptist traditions. They provide inter-institutional team teaching, cross-registration among students, and a joint library catalog.[24]

The seminary is governed by a board of trustees[25] nominated and elected by the SBC. It receives almost one-third of its $31 million annual budget from the SBC Cooperative Program, the unified financial support system that distributes gifts from the congregations to the agencies and institutions of the denomination. In fiscal year 2007–08, Southern received $9.5 million through the Cooperative Program. Its endowments and invested reserves totaled $78 million.[26]

The Chapel
The Billy Graham School was launched in 1994, with Graham himself present at Southern's campus [27]

Southern is currently organized into three schools:

  • The School of Theology
  • The Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry
  • Boyce College[28]

Academics, philosophy and faculty[edit]

The seminary's mission statement is: "Under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the mission of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is to be totally committed to the Bible as the Word of God, to the Great Commission as our mandate, and to be a servant of the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention by training, educating, and preparing ministers of the gospel for more faithful service."[28]

Southern was one of the first seminaries in the nation to offer the PhD degree, beginning in 1892.[citation needed] During the 1970s and 1980s, it had the largest accredited PhD program in religion in the United States. It was the first seminary in the nation to offer courses in religious education, beginning in 1903. This program ultimately expanded into a School of Religious Education in 1953.

In 1907, William Owen Carver founded the Women's Missionary Union Training School, which eventually became the Carver School of Missions and Social Work.[29]

In 1910, Southern established the Norton Lectures, a series of lectures on "Science and Philosophy in their Relations to Religion."[30] Speakers have included conservative scholars William A. Dembski, Marvin Olasky, Gregory Alan Thornbury, and Alvin Plantinga.

In 1953, Southern became one of the few seminaries to offer a full, accredited degree course in church music.

After endowing the Billy Graham Chair of Evangelism in 1965 (the first such professorship in any Baptist seminary), Southern expanded it in 1994 into the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.[31] It is the first program in the SBC dedicated solely to training missionaries and evangelists.

In the 1980s, Southern became the first seminary or divinity school to establish a school of church social work offering an accredited, seminary-based M.S.W. degree.

In 1993, the seminary's president Albert Mohler came into office re-affirming the seminary's historic "Abstract of Principles", part of the original charter of Southern created in 1858. The charter stated that every Professor must agree to "teach in accordance with, and not contrary to, the Abstract of Principles hereinafter laid down" and that "a departure" from the principles in the Abstract of Principles would be grounds for resignation or removal by the Trustees.[32]

Mohler, following these instructions, required that current professors affirm, without any spoken or unspoken reservations, the Abstract of Principles. Professors were also asked to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M, the doctrinal statement of the SBC), since Southern is an agency of the SBC and the SBC mandated affirmation of the BF&M as a requirement for continued employment. An overwhelming majority of faculty affirmed the Abstract of Principles, but declined to affirm some of the doctrines stated in the BF&M which had recently been amended to bring it in line with more conservative positions held by the SBC.[33] In the wake of the subsequent dismissal or resignation of a large percentage of the faculty, Southern has replaced them with new professors who agree to adhere to the BF&M in addition to the seminary's Abstract of Principles.

In 2005, Southern revised its pastoral care and counseling major. It ended the counseling program which it had been offering since the 1950s, under Wayne Oates and his colleagues. It replaced it with the "Nouthetic Counseling" or Bible-based counseling program, championed by Jay E. Adams since the 1970s. The dean of Southern Seminary's school of theology stated that the change was necessary because a successful integration of modern psychology and theology was not possible.[34]

In 2009, Southern Seminary expanded its doctoral program to include a Spirituality PhD. Students pursuing this degree try to incorporate their Christian-based spirituality with research for a dissertation.[35]

Notable associates[edit]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Endowment".
  2. ^ "Provost". The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Retrieved July 30, 2022.
  3. ^ "Faculty". The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  4. ^ "Faculty". The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  5. ^ "Annual of the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention" (PDF). p. 217.
  6. ^ "SBTS – Founding: 1859-1878". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  7. ^ "SBTS – Calm: 1889-1895". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  8. ^ "SBTS – Conflict: 1895-1899". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  9. ^ "SBTS – Progressivism: 1899-1919". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  10. ^ "SBTS – Tension: 1950-1981". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  11. ^ "SBTS – Resurgence: 1993-Present". Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  12. ^ "2016-2017 President's Report – The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary". SBTS. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  13. ^ John A. Broadus, Memoir of James P. Boyce, p. 239.
  14. ^ "New York Hall – SBTS". February 24, 2005. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  15. ^ "Norton Hall (1893) – SBTS". February 24, 2005. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  16. ^ "Norton Hall (1926) – SBTS". February 28, 2005. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  17. ^ "The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories". Library of Congress. The American Folklife Center. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
    "Dr. King's Visit – SBTS". May 11, 2005. Archived from the original on July 20, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  18. ^ King Jr., Martin Luther (April 19, 1961). "Address by MLK at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary". King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. JPMorgan Chase. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
  19. ^ Wills, Gregory (2009). Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859–2009. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 417. ISBN 9780199703784. Retrieved January 10, 2015.
  20. ^ Banks, Adelle M. (June 5, 2019). "Southern Baptist seminary denies request for reparations".
  21. ^ "ATS Member Information Page". Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  22. ^ "Commission on Colleges, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Institutional Details". Archived from the original on October 18, 2005. Retrieved June 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "ACE | Cora Ann Davis". Archived from the original on March 6, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  24. ^ "Team – A". Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  25. ^ "Annual of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention" (PDF). p. 383.
  26. ^ "Annual of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention" (PDF). pp. 329–331.
  27. ^ "R. Albert Mohler Jr. | 25 Years of Service – The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary". SBTS. Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  28. ^ a b "About". The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
  29. ^ Douglas, James Dixon (1992). Who's Who in Christian History (Google books). p. 142. ISBN 9780842310147.
  30. ^ "Norton Lectures". Resources. SBTS. Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  31. ^ "Chafin To Fill Graham Chair of Evangelism" (PDF). News Service of the Southern Baptist Convention. March 21, 1965.
  32. ^ "Abstracts of Principles With Statement". Founders. Archived from the original on November 4, 1996.
  33. ^ "Young, Restless, Reformed". Christianity Today. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
  34. ^ Winfrey, David (January 23, 2007). "Biblical Therapy". The Christian Century. 124 (2): 25–26.
  35. ^ "Southern Seminary (SBTS): A Seminary in Kentucky". Seminaries & Bible colleges. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  36. ^ Michael Foust, Obituary of LaVerne Butler, Baptist Press, December 21, 2010
  37. ^ "Wilmer Clemont Fields Papers" (PDF). Southern Baptist Historical Library & Archive. August 2006. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  38. ^ H. Allen Anderson: Grady Lee Nutt from the Handbook of Texas Online (n.d.). Retrieved January 31, 2001.
  39. ^ "Bruce A. Ware". SBTS Theology. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014.
  40. ^ Robinson, Jeff (December 1, 2008). "SBTS' Bruce Ware is ETS' new president". Baptist Press. Archived from the original on February 3, 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Mark R. Wilson. William Owen Carver's Controversies in the Baptist South (Mercer University Press; 2010) 235 pages. Biography of a prominent professor (1868–1954) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who was involved in several major controversies in the denomination.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°14′54″N 85°41′13″W / 38.24846°N 85.68689°W / 38.24846; -85.68689