Thursday, April 24, 2014

As the Month of May Approaches...

I cannot read Proverbs 31 without thinking of my precious mother.  Verses 26-30 could just as well have been written specifically about my Mom.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

The month of May not only brings May Flowers, but it also brings the Mother’s Day holiday (originated by the way, here in West Virginia), but also the 85th birthday of my mother, Patsy Ruth Stidham Adkins.  This year, for the first time, we will be recognizing those two special days in the Alzheimer’s Unit of the Huntington Health and Rehabilitation Center. As happens with many other milestones in life, since December 22nd of last year, things will never again be the same in our family.

My mother was a wonderful example of a Christian woman and the ultimate minister’s wife.  All the characteristics of the “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 were present in her life, but these few verses pretty well sum up the impact she made in this life.

I could write volumes on the things of eternal value I have learned from my mother, but let me just use the words of “King Lemuel” to say it succinctly and powerfully.

Mom doesn’t know that Mother’s Day is coming up soon.  She doesn’t know her birthday follows shortly afterward.  Furthermore, although she can name the names of her three sons, she rarely recognizes us, and cannot comprehend who we are when we tell her. She does, however, think she is in church most of the time.  She travels about the 4th floor greeting nurses, aides, and fellow patients with a handshake, or a kiss on the cheek, and a hearty “God bless you!”

Several years ago, shortly after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Mom went through the natural stages.  First she was in denial.  Eventually she fell into depression and worried about what the eventual outcome would be.  With tears in her eyes she told us, “I’m afraid I won’t know who my family members are.”  My brother, Bruce, told her, “Maybe so, Mom, but we’ll know who YOU are and we’ll still love you like we always have.”
She’s now at that place in life that she had feared.  And so are we. 

Much has changed since she cared for us as little ones, but this fact remains.  Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’”

We love you Mom.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Big Changes Coming In California

The congregations who make up the Southern Baptist Convention own and operate six seminaries.  Three of them (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY; Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Wake Forest, NC; and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Fort Worth, TX) are distinctly within what we would call the Bible Belt.  Even Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Kansas City, MO is well within "traditional" Baptist territory. 

Two of the SBC Seminaries (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) are located in coastal communities, with their main campuses located in areas that are decidedly NOT traditional bastions of the Baptist faith.  Although NOBTS is obviously in the southern United States, anyone who is familiar with South Louisiana can testify to the dense Roman Catholic population and the Roman Catholic Church's powerful influence in that state from its formative past through the present day.  After all, Louisiana is the only state in the Union with Parishes instead of Counties!

Golden Gate Seminary is located out on the "left coast" with it's main campus at Mill Valley CA, (San Francisco bay area) and extension centers in Brea CA, Scottsdale AZ, Vancouver WA, and Centennial CO. Not exactly hotbeds of Baptist heritage. Like NOBTS, Golden Gate's funding through the SBC Cooperative Program is somewhat less than the other four seminaries due to the fact that the formula for that funding is based primarily on the number of on campus students.  Much of these two seminaries student bodies are spread across their various extension centers.  I have always viewed these two seminaries as being located in real American mission fields.

It was announced yesterday that Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is selling their Mill Valley campus and relocating the main campus to the Los Angeles area in Southern California. Some might view this as a questionable move, since one of the most prestigious seminaries in America (BIOLA) is already located in that area.  Others see this move as a wise choice, due to various challenges that have faced the Trustees and administration of GGBTS.  All would agree that this is a MAJOR change an is a tremendous step of faith.  Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of GGBTS made the announcement public yesterday.

I am blessed to be serving in my second term as a Trustee of NOBTS.  I can only imagine the prayer and discussions that preceded the GGBTS Trustees in making this monumental decision. Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of NOBTS sent us each an email yesterday telling us about the upcoming change at Golden Gate and suggested that we share the information with our congregations and other SBC churches in our states.  Dr. Kelley, who understands many of the challenges facing Dr. Iorg, obviously thinks this is a wise move.  Here is the text of Dr. Kelley's email:

“Today Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Theological Seminary, announced the signing of a purchase agreement to sell the property of Golden Gate. The final act of sale is not expected before July. The seminary will continue to have campuses in Northern and Southern California, but in different locations to be announced later. The seminary will remain in its present location for two years while necessary arrangements are made. It is a brilliant tactical move that will allow Golden Gate to continue its ministry to Baptists in the West from a much stronger position. The Providence of God is on brilliant display in the conclusion of so complex a sale. We congratulate Dr. Iorg for his visionary leadership in finding a way to secure and enhance the California heritage of Golden Gate for many years to come. This will always be remembered as one of the greatest days in the history of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.” - Dr. Chuck Kelley, President, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Later yesterday afternoon Baptist Press released an article going into detail on the major change coming at Golden Gate.  If you do not subscribe to Baptist Press, you can read that article by clicking on this link.

Big changes have already come to all of our SBC Seminaries in particular and to theological education in general. Online courses have been around for a long time.  Now major accrediting agencies are approving the granting of degrees totally delivered online.  The times are changing, and Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary is making a major change.

The leaders of GGBTS obviously feel that this is the direction of God for them.  This pastor prays for great success in this move, for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  As that great philosopher, Dorothy, once said to her little dog, Toto, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"  Well folks, we're not.  There are few Baptists who relish change.  I personally abhor change just for the sake of change.  However, when it comes to methods, locations, ideas, and principles concerning the work of the Kingdom we truly serve - we'd better be listening to the Holy Spirit, and be ready to be obedient, even if it means making some BIG changes!