Spurgeon Library dedicated, record enrollment at Midwestern Seminary

Midwestern Seminary President Jason Allen, his wife, Karen, and Bill and Connie Jenkins cut the ribbon at the dedication ceremony for the Spurgeon Library on Oct. 20. The Spurgeon Library dedication, record enrollment, faculty elections and campus master plan approval highlighted Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's fall trustee meeting on Oct. 19-20.

Spurgeon Library dedication

Capping more than 10 months of construction and preparations, as well as years of dreaming and planning, the seminary community celebrated the dedication of the Spurgeon Library with a ribbon cutting and official naming ceremony.

Accompanied by Bill and Connie Jenkins, who donated $2.5 million for the project, President Jason Allen and his wife, Karen, cut the ribbon to officially open the library and then unveiled a plaque honoring the couple by naming the building that houses the library as "Jenkins Hall."

"The Spurgeon Library is the fulfillment of a vision to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the academy, for the church, and for the glory of God through the preservation and presentation of Charles Spurgeon's personal library and related artifacts," Allen said. "The Spurgeon Library was made possible by the extraordinary generosity of Bill and Connie Jenkins, who embody Christian faithfulness, biblical conviction, and have been an ongoing source of encouragement to Midwestern Seminary and personally to my family.

"As a perpetual tribute to their stewardship and as an ongoing marker of God's faithfulness to and through His people, this building bears the name, 'Jenkins Hall,'" Allen said.

Making the long trip from the United Kingdom to be present for the ceremony were three of Charles H. Spurgeon's descendants: Hilary Spurgeon, the wife of the late great-grandson, David; as well as great-great-grandchildren Richard Spurgeon and Susannah Spurgeon-Cochrane.

Bringing a greeting on behalf of the Spurgeon family, Cochrane noted that growing up, not much was said of the family's ties to the "Prince of Preachers." However, as she matured, her appreciation for C.H. Spurgeon grew. As she read some of Spurgeon's works, she sensed that everything he wrote and said was wrapped in and centered on Christ. She added that this fact should be of encouragement to modern-day believers.

"For me and for us all, Spurgeon's life of faith and his dedication to proclaiming the Gospel should spur us on and encourage us to give our all for the work God has called us to do—no matter who we are or where God has placed us," Cochrane said.

"We are the ones who have to carry on the work of pointing people to Christ," she noted. "Our hope and prayer is that the Spurgeon Center [Library] would point many more people to Jesus; that people would see Jesus through Spurgeon and his work; and that Spurgeon's dedication to God and His Gospel would inspire the next generation of preachers to give their all to Jesus."

The Spurgeon Library houses more than 6,000 books and artifacts from C.H. Spurgeon's personal library collection. Embedded within the floor-to-ceiling bookcases and around the room are about 80 displays highlighting particular books or items. Focal points of the room include a preaching rail. (See related story.) Also on display is a desk used by Spurgeon in his office and a replica of the pulpit he preached behind at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London.

"This day has come together in a remarkable way," Allen said. "It began way back in Victorian England when a man named Charles Spurgeon was raised up by God to preach."

Approximately 10 years after Spurgeon's death, his family elected to sell his personal library, and in 1904 the collection was moved to William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. The library resided there for approximately a century before being purchased by Midwestern Seminary in 2004. Now, more than 10 years later, Allen said the vision of how to appropriately house this treasure has been realized.

"It is part museum, part library, part study," Allen said. "It is something to be visited; something to be accessed; and something to be engaged in at both the academic and ministerial levels. This collection and space will not only serve as a relic to the past, but as a living instrument to serve the church and to equip pastors and preachers of God's Word."

The Spurgeon Library will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information about the library or for individuals and groups desiring to visit, visit www.spurgeoncenter.com.

Record enrollment

During his president's report to the trustees, Allen announced that for the third consecutive year student headcount at Midwestern Seminary had reached record levels. This fall semester's headcount was up 22 percent over the school's previous top fall enrollment, which occurred in 2014. The fall headcount stands at 1,702 students, Allen reported. And he added that with the school's second term of fall enrollment for its online program, a potential for even more growth is anticipated.

"Trends in higher education reveal that most institutions are either flat or declining in enrollment," he said. "In this challenging environment, it is evident that the Lord's favor continues to be upon Midwestern Seminary as we train the next generation of pastors, missionaries and ministry leaders for the church.

"As I reflect upon how God has moved so mightily this past year, it brings great encouragement to me and to the Midwestern Seminary community to announce an enrollment surge of 22 percent for the fall 2015 semester." 

Allen noted that significant and tireless effort—as accomplished by the admissions team and the seminary community as a whole—has been key in attracting students to the school and keeping the ones already here.

"Recruiting and retention is a seminary-wide endeavor, and I commend our entire campus community for a great effort in this regard, but our Academic and Institutional Relations divisions have exceeded even our highest expectations, and the Lord has chosen to bless," he said.

"Moreover, we pray Southern Baptists are resonating with our vision of existing for the local church, and we are grateful for their prayers and support, especially through the Cooperative Program."

Trustee business

In business stemming from the Academic Committee, trustees elected two faculty members effective Jan. 1.

Matthew C. Millsap, who joined Midwestern Seminary's faculty in January, was elected as assistant director of library services and assistant professor of Christian studies. Millsap came to Kansas City after completing his Ph.D. studies and serving as an adjunct professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Owen D. Strachan was elected by trustees as associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement. Strachan, who came to Midwestern Seminary in August, previously served as assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky. He also is the president of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood.

In one other move, Robert J. Matz was promoted to assistant professor of Christian studies. Matz also concurrently serves as assistant director of online studies and institutional effectiveness and has been at Midwestern Seminary since 2011.

In other meeting business, the trustees ratified a campus master plan that would prioritize four goals: constructing a student center that will be located on the northwest quadrant of campus center; repurposing the west wing of the Koehn Myers Center into single-student housing; renovating the seminary's library and creating within it office suites for academic administration; and relocating as many faculty offices as possible to campus center.

Trustees meet on the campus of Midwestern Seminary in October and April each year to conduct institutional business.

T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Leave a comment