Denison says Baptist University of the Americas
name gives insight into institution's future
SAN ANTONIO—The new name proposed for Hispanic Baptist Theological School provides insight into its future, Dallas pastor Jim Denison stressed during the school’s fall convocation.
Hispanic Baptist Theological School is to be re-named Baptist University of the Americas, pending approval by the Baptist General Convention of Texas at its annual session in November.
“Fulfilling each part of this new title is the key to fulfilling your future and destiny in the kingdom of God,” said Denison, pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church.
“First, your identity is to be ‘Baptist,’” Denison noted, acknowledging the school always has been Baptist. “You were founded by a movement led by a Baptist missionary, Paul J. Siebenmann. Your first campus was a Baptist church, Palm Heights Baptist Church. You are part of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. ‘Baptist’ has always been part of your name.”
But now the school is making “Baptist” its first name, he observed, and that has implications for its identity.
For example, Baptist identity is grounded in “servant leadership,” which does not seek to manipulate or exercise control over others, he explained.
“We draw our understanding of ministerial leadership from our Lord Jesus and his supreme example,” Denison said. “On the last night of his earthly life, he took a slave’s towel and a slave’s task. He washed the dirty, smelly, mud-caked feet of his followers.”
Such a model set the standard for all who follow in ministry, he insisted.
And a similar motive should guide ministerial education, he added. “When we train for ministerial leadership out of any motive but service to our Lord and his people, we train for the wrong reasons. … If you are to become the Baptist University of the Americas, you must reaffirm this day your commitment to the servant spirit, which Baptists have historically endorsed as God’s will for those who would lead them.”
Second, the school will add “University” to its name, he said, pointing out that name means a school “intends to relate to the universal body of knowledge available to its scholars and students.”
More than focusing on the types of degrees it offers and the accreditation it receives, the name “University” should remind the school of its encompassing mission, Denison said.
“If you mean to be a university in its fullest sense, you will seek to integrate faith and learning at the highest levels of academic achievement,” he said. “You will seek to relate mind to soul, reason to spirit, classroom to culture, knowledge to life. You will seek excellence in every dimension of your experience on this campus, not just with regard to biblical study and ecclesiastical preparation.”
Jesus not only was a servant, but he also was a scholar, whose commandment included that his followers love God with their minds, he said.
Third, the school will be a Baptist university for “the Americas,” Denison said.
“You were founded by a missionary, for a missionary purpose,” he recalled. “You exist to take Christ to this community and our world. Your 1,600 alumni are serving today across the United States, Latin America and in countries where the gospel cannot be preached openly. Your calling has never been more crucial than it is today.”
This focus will become increasingly significant as Hispanics soon comprise half the population of Texas, he said.
“In face of such opportunity and challenge, you are the only theological school of its kind in Baptist life,” he said. “Your burden and responsibility is great.”
Consequently, the school will play a major role as a catalyst for missions strategy, he predicted.