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Hemphill says cutting edge can mean returning to basics
By Matt Sanders
ATLANTA, June 16--Staying on the cutting edge of ministry can mean returning to basic ideas like building relationships among students and faculty, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill said at the Fort Worth, Texas, school's national alumni luncheon in Atlanta June 16.
Beginning in fall 2000, Hemphill announced all new students will be placed in groups of eight and assigned a faculty member who will meet with them and pray with them during their first year of seminary. "You say that's so simple," Hemphill said. "It is and we're going back to those kinds of basics." Hemphill also said the seminary will soon implement a 12-hour core curriculum that will require students in every degree program to take courses on personal evangelism, studying and teaching the Bible and developing leadership and team-building skills.
"Every music student, every education student, every counseling student and every theology student will be mixed together in these classes," he said. "They're going to be working together the rest of their lives and so we'll break down the barriers between some of the schools."
Hemphill updated alumni on the construction of the $21 million Ralph M. Smith Leadership Development Complex, completion of a campus mall, renovation and acquisition of student housing and new degree programs.
     New programs include a degree in industrial chaplaincy, "the first of its kind in Southern Baptist life," and a center-city degree, a combination of theology and ministry-based evangelism courses aimed at ministering to people in cities. Calling Southwestern "the global seminary," Hemphill reported that 28 doctor of ministry students from Korea are enrolled in a joint degree offered by Southwestern and a Baptist seminary in Korea. He also told the alumni that 15 Cuban pastors will be receiving training at Southwestern this summer and 70 people are on campus now attending Southwestern's first Islamic studies summer institute.
     Regarding the faculty, Hemphill told the alumni the seminary has "the best of both" worlds -- a combination of older, highly respected professors and "exciting, new, young faculty."
About 400 alumni gathered at a ballroom in the Omni Hotel for the luncheon that included the presentation of the 1999 distinguished alumni awards to five persons. They are: Charles Bryan, former vice president at the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board); Guinell Freeman, recently retired minister of education at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.; Felix Gresham, retired vice president at Southwestern; Robert Hamblin, retired evangelism professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and former vice president for evangelism at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board); and Jack Terry, Southwestern vice president for institutional advancement.
Accepting the award, Bryan credited his mother who led him to the Lord, his mother-in-law who "prayed her daughter and me to the mission field" and Southwestern professors who gave him direction to the mission field and taught him how to live the Christian life.
Freeman thanked her church, parents, pastors and professors for helping her throughout her life. Although she retired June 6 after 45 years at First Baptist, Jacksonville, she announced she will teach at Southwestern as an adjunct professor and her emphasis will be effectively using the Sunday school.
     "I believe in it [Sunday school], I'm sold on it, it runs in my veins," she said.
Thinking he would be the pastor of a "little country church," Gresham instead saw God lead him to "one of the best jobs anyone could ever have," helping students at Southwestern for 31 years. Hamblin also said he wanted to be a country preacher and had no intention of attending seminary but went because he felt God's leading. Southwestern is "the greatest school for missions and evangelism in the whole world," Hamblin said.
     Terry acknowledged Donny Langford, who led him to the Lord on a railroad track in Louisiana. When Terry later graduated from Southwestern, he intended to follow in Langford's footsteps to the mission field but was rejected because of his wife's health. "We found out later that God wanted us to educate missionaries and send hundreds of missionaries to the field and for that we are grateful," Terry said.
     Alumni officers elected included Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, president, and Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, Dallas, vice president. Terry will continue to serve as secretary-treasurer. O.S. Hawkins is the outgoing president.

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