Founders Journal 77 · Summer 2009 · pp. 1-4
This issue of the Founders Journal recognizes the 150th anniversary of the founding of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It begins with a brief chronology of some of the notable events in the 150 year history. It contains material about and-or by each of the first four faculty members. The pertinence of each article should be self-evident.
A Brief History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
1856 — James P. Boyce delivered his address, “Three Changes in Theological Institutions” that proposed theological education for Baptists in the South that would provide an abundant pastoral ministry, a scholarly teaching ministry, all within a seriously focused confessional context.
1858 — All the documents needed for opening the Seminary had been secured, including the confessional statement The Abstract of Principles, but the Seminary failed to open because two of the originally elected faculty members refused the appointment, E. T. Winkler and John A. Broadus. Boyce completed raising the pledged endowment from South Carolina and led the charge in the other Southern states.
1859 — The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary opens in Greenville, South Carolina, on the first Monday in October with four professors: James Petigru Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly, Jr. and William Williams. Boyce served as chairman of the faculty. The twenty-four students included the future fifth professor, Crawford Howell Toy.
May 28, 1860 — First Commencement held at the Baptist Church in Greenville.
May 1862 — The Seminary dismissed classes prior to the Commencement. Boyce served as a chaplain, as a representative in the South Carolina legislature, and as an aide-de-camp. Broadus preached in the churches around Greenville and served for a while as an evangelist to the Army of Northern Virginia. Manly and Williams took their servants and moved to Abbeville District a hundred miles removed from Greenville where they rented plantations, produced crops, served churches as pastor, and sought to remain studious in their areas of instruction.
Summer, 1865 — The faculty reassembled and surveyed the unpromising situation. Broadus described the poignancy of the meeting during which he said, “Suppose we quietly agree that the Seminary may die, but we’ll die first” (John A. Broadus, Memoir of James Petigru Boyce [New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893], 200).
1869 — C. H. Toy elected as Professor of Old Testament Interpretation.
1870 — John A. Broadus published A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons.
1871 — The trustees decided that the Seminary must move locations if it is to survive. In August, Manly resigned to accept the presidency of Georgetown in Kentucky.
1872 — James P. Boyce was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. W. H. Whitsitt was elected to the faculty as Professor of Biblical Introduction and Polemic Theology and Assistant Professor of New Testament Greek. Boyce relinquished his classroom duties to move to Louisville in preparation for the eventual move of the Seminary to that city.
1872-77 — An expected two-years time expanded to five. A major challenge to the Seminary’s fitness as a representative Southern Baptist institution was launched in 1874 to which Boyce responded with five articles answering two objections to the seminary. On several occasions because of financial stringency, Boyce came very close to suspending the operations of the Seminary. William Williams died on February 20, 1877.
1877 — The Seminary finalized its move to Louisville.
1879 — Crawford Howell Toy resigned because his views of inspiration differed from those of his brethren and from the denomination at large. Basil Manly, Jr. is hired immediately as Professor of Old Testament.
1880 — Joseph Emerson Brown, governor of Georgia, gave a gift of $50,000. Joshua Levering joined the board of trustees, served for fifty-five years, forty years (1895-1935) as president.
1885 – John R. Sampey elected to the faculty in Old Testament and Hebrew. He would eventually serve as the fifth president, thus maintaining the personal contact with the founding generation through the time of his resignation in 1942.
1886 – John D. Rockefeller plus several others in an around New York contribute $60,000 for the construction of the major seminary building at Fifth and Broadway in downtown Louisville. The building was named New York Hall. This year John A. Broadus published his commentary on “Matthew” in the American Commentary series.
1888 — Boyce was elected as president in May. He left for his European trip in the summer. While on the trip he learned that funding for a projected library building had been secured as well as a viable location. He died in Pau in southern France on December 28. Archibald Thomas Robertson was elected to the faculty to teach in the areas of New Testament and Greek.
1889 – 1895 — In their May 1889 meeting, the trustees elected John A. Broadus as president of the Seminary. During his tenure, student enrollment climbed from 164 to 267. The Memorial Library was completed in 1891 largely as a result of a gift from Mrs. J. Lawrence Smith. Norton Hall, a classroom and administration building was completed in 1893, the first doctor of theology candidates received degrees in 1894. Julius Brown Gay lectureship was established. Broadus died on 16 March 1895.
1895-1899 — William Heth Whitsitt was elected as the third president of Southern. In 1896 W. O Carver began his career of teaching, a career that lasted until his retirement in 1943. In 1896, the Whitsitt Controversy, over Baptist origins, began and lasted until his resignation from the seminary presidency in 1899.
1899 — Edgar Young Mullins became the fourth president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mullins remained as president until his death in 1928.
1917 — The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression, a text that marked a clear transition to a mediating theology that placed religious experience as a major factor in the formulation of Christian doctrine.
1921-23 — Mullins served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
1925 — With Mullins as head of the committee, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its first denominational confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message.
1926 — The seminary moved from its downtown location at Fifth and Broadway to the “Beeches” at 2825 Lexington Road.
1928 — President Mullins died.
1929 — John R. Sampey elected fifth president of the seminary. Jesse Weatherspoon joined the faculty as professor of preaching and Christian ethics.
1942 — John Sampey resigned as president. Dr. Ellis A. Fuller of Atlanta was elected as sixth president of the seminary..
1945 — Ellis Fuller hired Dale Moody as tutor in spite of warning about his aberrant views of the perseverance of the saints.
1951 — When Fuller experienced a fatal heart attack, Duke McCall was elected as seventh president.
1958 — Duke McCall dismissed thirteen professors after severe confrontations concerning the relative powers of the administration and faculty.
1960 — James P. Boyce Centennial Library was dedicated.
1961 — April 19, Martin Luther King addressed the seminary as the Julius Brown Gay Lecturer. This set up a series of protests across the Southern Baptist Convention.
1979 — The Conservative Resurgence began; McCall became active in resistance to the movement.
1982 — Roy Honeycutt elected as eighth president of the seminary.
1984 — Honeycutt, in a convocation address, called for a “Holy War” against the conservative movement. The Carver School of Church Social Work was established.
1990 — The Honeycutt Campus Center was dedicated.
1993 — R. Albert Mohler, Jr. elected as ninth president of the seminary. A reversal in theological direction involved massive changes in faculty and perception of the function of a theological seminary. Boyce’s vision, under revision for 100 years, was reclaimed.
2009 — Celebration of the Sesquicentennial.