For Jeffrey Bingham, God’s call to the interim presidency of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was literally a phone call.
As a May 22-23 meeting of Southwestern’s trustees stretched into the early-morning hours, Bingham, dean of the seminary’s School of Theology, couldn’t sleep in his hotel room at a conference in Chicago. He followed reports of the meeting, wondering what the board would decide about the fate of then-president Paige Patterson.
Then just after 3 a.m., Bingham’s phone rang. It was trustee chairman Kevin Ueckert informing him of the board’s decision to move Patterson to president emeritus status effective immediately and offer Bingham the role of interim president.
“I had no previous indication that my name was in consideration for the interim position,” Bingham said. “The phone call caught me by surprise.”
Nearly five months into his new assignment, Bingham is preparing for his first meeting of the full trustee board as interim president. At that meeting Oct. 15-17, he expects “frank conversation” about the trustee executive committee’s decision May 30 to terminate Patterson. But he also expects all trustees “to be devoted to the future of Southwestern Seminary.”
As Bingham envisions that future, he told Baptist Press in an interview, it includes the continuation of a spiritual renewal afoot on the Fort Worth, Texas, campus and a commitment to welcome all Southern Baptists who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message — “regardless of where they are on the question of Calvinism or Arminianism or the question of Reformed theology and Anabaptist theology.”
‘I had to care for her’
Back in his Chicago hotel room, however, Bingham didn’t know whether he should volunteer to lead the seminary forward.
“I told [Ueckert] I was quite speechless and that the job was something which was larger than I was and for which I, in my humanity, was not equipped,” Bingham said. But he agreed to pray and consider the trustees’ offer for the rest of the morning.
After talking with his wife Pamela and praying, he accepted. “It was my seminary,” he said. “I had to care for her.”
Why did trustees decide Bingham was the right man for interim leadership?
“I haven’t really asked that question,” Bingham said. “… I trust the body of Christ” and “believe the board of trustees is a group of believers who have been gathered together by God’s will and providence and that the Lord is using that group, that community to guide the people of Southwestern.”
Among Bingham’s qualifications likely considered by trustees are his experience pastoring a small west Texas church; his doctor of philosophy degree from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS); his extensive administrative and teaching experience at DTS, Criswell College, Wheaton College and Southwestern; and his expertise in patristics, the study of the first several centuries of church history following the New Testament era.
Douglas Moo, a New Testament professor at Wheaton, where Bingham served as associate dean of the biblical and theological studies department, said Bingham was “fairly laid back” as a leader and believed “it was better to try to manage things behind the scenes rather than to throw his weight around … He was willing to listen and not particularly interested in always getting his own way.”
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Source: Baptist Press