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We’ve been on the campus of our alma mater, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, three times this year. After more than 16 years since our graduation and departure from the Wake Forest campus, it has been encouraging to witness the transformation that has happened under the present seminary leadership.

One cannot miss that this is not a faculty who wants you to stay very long. The purpose of the school — as was intended for all for all Southern Baptist seminaries — is to equip students sent by the churches for the work of ministry to which they are called.  And having equipped them sufficient for the task, Southeastern tells them to “go.”

Into all the world. Preaching the gospel.

Making disciples.

The word “go” is emblazoned across the chapel podium. It’s printed on every advertisement, highlighted on every recruitment tool, and posted prominently where it cannot be forgotten. From a branding and marketing standpoint alone, the seminary has done it right.  There is no mistaking the mission.

In fact, there is a sense that if someone doesn’t know where they’re going — or want to go somewhere– they are better off at another seminary. Truth be told, there was a time when everyone was better off at another seminary. On more than one occasion, we’ve considered how terribly ill-served Southeastern alumni from the 70s and 80s were by the anemic curriculum and heterodox theologies that infected the classrooms. Listening to graduates from that era, however passionate their delivery is or however prominent their ministries have become, can be difficult at times.

It’s moments like that when you remind yourself that a denomination which countenances epistemological heresies makes lifelong victims out of the ministers they purport to train and the churches where those ministers end up serving.

As for those graduates who hold fast the faith despite the assaults of their professors, they seldom draw water for their flocks from very deep wells. Their sermons tend to be like carousels at the county fair: lots of motion and volume and fun, but when it’s over everyone gets off at the same place they got on.

Southeastern Seminary is not training for a carnival anymore.

Perhaps nothing gave us the awareness of the palpable culture difference at Southeastern than our recent work in the seminary’s archives.  Tucked into a boxed, odd assortment of pamphlets, notes, receipts, and correspondence was an old brochure, circa 1996, produced and distributed under a previous administration.*

In a third-rate bifold that could have been produced by second-grade students, the distinctive impression is reinforced that Southeastern Seminary was at once a hybrid of costumed festivals in colonial Williamsburg, Va., a WallBuilder’s conference, and a roadside tourist trap. The only thing that could have been worse is a Mexican-themed brochure with a cartooned bandido holding a sign reading: “Pedro says come to Southeastern.”

“No other Southern Baptist seminary is located in a small town,” prospective students were informed.”In Wake Forest, you can safely walk the historic tree-lined streets, while viewing homes rich in antiquity.”

The Chamber of Commerce couldn’t have said it better. Seriously? Who wrote this stuff?  (We have an idea!)

And what were prospective students guaranteed at Southeastern 20 years ago?

Well, the brochure headline tells us. They got to “experience the spirit of colonial America.”

You know, back when women didn’t have the right to vote and there wasn’t a Thirteenth Amendment and all.

At any rate, check it out here. It’s almost as bad as things were getting at Southwestern before the trustees got woke.


*Archives and Special Collections, Library at Southeastern, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, NC. Reproduced with permission.