B. H. Carroll looks back to ‘altars in the sand,’ forward to fulfillment of God’s promises with ETBU

Seminary’s 20th anniversary celebration draws 250 in Frisco

FRISCO, Texas (April 22, 2024)—Founders, friends, and supporters of B. H. Carroll Theological Seminary gathered at a twentieth anniversary gala in Frisco, Texas, April 21 to recount God’s promise and provision for the seminary after 20 years of operation.

First conceived a decade before its founding as a way to reach bi-vocational pastors and those who could not afford to uproot and attend an in-residence seminary program, the seminary officially launched in 2004 with the aim of being affordable, accessible, and achievable.

“In 1993, I prepared a paper and presented it to the joint faculties of Southwestern Seminary and Baylor University and the title of that paper was, ‘Things Change,’” Carroll founder and its first president, Bruce Corley, recalled in a video presentation to the 250 guests present.

“Among the things I talked about were the kinds of students attending seminary,” Corley said. “There were 40,000 bi-vocational ministers in Baptist life, scattered all over the United States, and very few of them ever attended seminary. They were in small churches. So that is at the heart of the genesis for Carroll—to make seminary education, like the one I enjoyed, available to many, many students.”

The process of starting a graduate-level institution of theological education, however, was not easy, according to B. H. Carroll President Gene Wilkes. The founders of the institution—Corley, Budd Smith, Stan Moore, and Jim Spivey, all veteran theological educators who left Southwestern Seminary—had  “truly started with nothing, but only with prayers and obedience to God’s call.”

Wilkes said the story of obedience on the part of the seminary’s founders was like that of Abraham, who was called to a land he did not know to receive a promise he could not see.

“Everywhere Abraham went God showed up and Abraham built altars in the sand—at Shechem, at Bethel, and back at Bethel again. Just like that, our founders left familiar, comfortable surroundings and they followed God’s call. And God showed up along the way,” Wilkes said.

“So tonight is an altar of grateful worship to our God who called us and has provided for his mission every step of the way.”

Wilkes said Carroll’s continued success is now intertwined with the success of East Texas Baptist University. The university and seminary announced their intent to merge in February 2023 after nearly a year of conversations. The merger will be completed in 2025.

“My first college visit in 1970 was to East Texas Baptist College,” Wilkes said. “I’ve come full circle. Only God could have written this script.”

ETBU President Blair Blackburn also spoke to the gathering of Carroll supporters and said the institution had reached a milestone. He thanked the governing boards of the institutions for adopting the shared visions of the school for “Christ-centered education.”

“God’s goodness is manifested all around us, seen in the fellowship enjoyed this evening, the partnership of Christian educational leaders, the education and training of fellow Kingdom servants and, and the excitement of what will take place in the future—the next twenty years. Even in the next twenty months,” Blackburn said.

B. H. Carroll’s merger with ETBU has enabled the school to apply for and achieve a “leveling up” with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and Schools. ETBU will be, after the approval of the SACSCOC board in June, a Level VI institution of higher learning. The school will then be able to offer doctoral-level education.

“I referenced at the outset this 20-year milestone,” Blackburn said. “’Milestone’ literally refers to a roadside marker that lists the distance to a particular location.  In our institutional context, the milestones we celebrate today are like the road sign.  It’s a moment, a point in time when we reflect on where we stand in life.  A milestone also marks the start of a new chapter.  As we stand by these new milestones in Carroll’s history and in ETBU’s future, we can look at how far we have come, and yet we must keep looking to our God for where we must go next.”

Founders Jim Spivey, Budd Smith, and Stan Moore also took part in telling the B. H. Carroll story in the video presentation. Spivey said the four founders chose to name the institution after Texas Baptist leader B. H. Carroll because the seminary was meant to embody his ideals of “two hands on the plow, or academic excellence on one side and then a commitment to practical ministry that is embedded in the church on the other.”

Smith said God’s faithfulness was evident in the early days of B. H. Carroll’s operation when many voices were saying “it can’t be done.” Some even suggested the State of Texas would never sanction or certify the school’s operation. That was not the case, Smith said.

“We were certified by the State of Texas on the first try. We were accredited by [the Association for Biblical Higher Education] on the first try. And we were accredited by [the Association of Theological Schools] on the first try. So, we realized God had been truly faithful to us in his calling,” Smith said.

Moore spoke of the difficult financial circumstances in the first days of the institution. All of the founders, he said, were taking enormous professional and financial risks and many times went unpaid.

“Contrary to popular belief, there was not $30 million resting somewhere to help us do what God called us to do. But I think we all felt this divine call to train men and women for ministry who would not be able to come for financial reasons or purely because of location.”

Since Carroll was founded, it has built partnerships on its relationships with local churches and in countries abroad, including Cuba, Russia, China, and Vietnam. None of it would have been possible, Spivey said, if not for a select group of women who stood beside the founders as they pursued the vision God had given them.

“I want to thank the spouses who stood beside us from the very beginning because when there was no money and the only thing we had was prayers. They were the ones who stood by us and prayed. And I want to thank you for your prayers and support as we look forward to the future and the next 20 years for B. H. Carroll.”

Members of the administration and faculty from the School of Christian Studies at ETBU were present at the dinner, as was ETBU’s student-led praise and worship team. The group provided entertainment for guests of the seminary.

 

Photo Credit/James Coreas

 

Published: Apr 22, 2024

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