As I face the closing of Logsdon Seminary, in our congregation I am dealing with a lot of hurt and multiple casualties of the closing. Not only faculty and their families, but alumnae and students who are so disappointed in the reasons for the decision.
Concerns, challenges and decision-making
My immediate concern centers on the Logsdon faculty who have lost not only their jobs but their very ministry of equipping men and women to reach people with the knowledge of Scripture, love, grace and the hope of Jesus Christ through his church. It’s more than losing your job, as painful and disruptive as that is. It is about one’s identity and not feeling valued.
As a pastor of a large church, I understand financial challenges as well as anyone. I recognize there are hard and painful decisions that have to be made. I realize for the board this was not an easy decision, so I cast no stones. However, I am puzzled that a Christian university whose mission statement is “Education enlightened by faith” would close a seminary when this world so desperately needs the message of Jesus Christ.
There is a higher calling when it comes to our core values in relation to financial decisions. In ministry, we have to be wise about the ways we determine “profitability.” This makes me wonder if more was involved than finances.
Grieving what is lost
I grieve over the loss of the legacy of James Simmons whose life was only recently honored at a gala banquet. Dr. Simmons stood as a champion of the gospel that includes everyone. He modeled the pastoral role, taking courageous stands against the fundamentalism and power structures of his day. Dr. Simmons refused to cave in to outside pressure, even when his church was burned to the ground. I have wondered, if Dr. Simmons was alive today, would he request his name be removed from the university.
The closing of Logsdon is a great loss for Texas Baptists and God’s kingdom work. In a time when we need to be preparing more women and men to help bring the kingdom on earth, in a culture that grows more diverse and no longer listens to traditional answers, we needed a seminary like Logsdon.
A smaller circle without Logsdon
I realize, as Baptists, we respect the autonomy of boards and local churches. But I hope Dr. Hardage and BGCT leadership did everything they could do to counsel against this decision.
The tent for Texas Baptists seems to become smaller and smaller. One day instead of singing, “Where have all the flowers gone,” we might be singing, “Where have all the Baptists gone?”
I think of the poem: “He drew a circle that shut me out / heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. / But love and I had the wit to win: / He drew a circle that took me in.”
Where are we teaching the love of Jesus today that takes the outsider in, that is evangelism?
Does this decision reveal we do not understand the mission and crucial process of theological education? The seminary presents the truth of Holy Scripture in what we think and believe. But it also challenges students how to think.
I once pastored a church where we said, “In this church, you don’t need to check your brain at the door.”
Logsdon helped students think about and grow in their faith, and we and the kingdom were better.
Phil Christopher is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Abilene, Texas, and a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Hardin-Simmons University. The views expressed are those solely of the author.