Molly T. Marshall has stepped down from the presidency of Central Baptist Theological Seminary months ahead of her previously announced summer retirement.
“I offered my resignation effective March 1, 2020 to the Executive Committee because of an ethical lapse that betrayed my stewardship of office, which I voluntarily surfaced to governance because of my desire to protect the seminary,” Marshall said in a statement provided by Central on Monday.
“I humbly apologize to the board and the rest of the Central constituency and seek forgiveness. My deepest prayer is for the flourishing of the school and her new president,” Marshall said.
Interim President Robert E. Johnson said the board of trustees has accepted Marshall’s resignation as president and as professor of theology and spiritual formation.
Because Marshall’s resignation is a personnel matter, Johnson added, its details will remain confidential.
“As we confront the many challenges presented by this circumstance, we do acknowledge Molly’s leadership of the last sixteen years,” he said. “However, given recent developments, we have cancelled the retirement celebration.”
Durso is scheduled to assume her new role on June 1.
Marshall, an Oklahoma native, is an icon of theological education in Baptist life. A popular speaker and preacher, she was the first woman theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where she resigned under pressure in 1994.
In the early 2000s she was named the first woman elected to lead a Baptist seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. About half of Central Seminary students today are women.
Marshall is credited with transforming the seminary into a vibrant and relevant institution through her fundraising, administrative leadership and teaching.
Durso has also been an educator and promoter of women in ministry in Baptist life.
She earned an M.Div. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctorate in church history from Baylor University, where she also completed her undergraduate degree.
Durso held a leadership position with the Baptist History and Heritage Society and taught church history and Baptist heritage at the Campbell University Divinity School. In 2009 she was tapped to be the full-time executive director of Baptist Women in Ministry.