An ecumenical network is taking shape to preserve the heritage of Logsdon Seminary after it is closed next year by Hardin-Simmons University.
The network includes Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, United Methodist and Disciples of Christ organizations that also aim to maintain the progressive Baptist education and training Logsdon alone provided in West Texas.
“Part of the conversation now is how can we preserve the legacy of Logsdon?” Logsdon Dean Robert Ellis told Baptist News Global.
The group’s members include Logsdon faculty and alumni, officials from the Baptist houses of studies at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University and Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University, and leaders of CBF of Texas and Fellowship Southwest.
Representatives of the group met in San Antonio in March, prior to social distancing restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting, which was announced late last month, covered topics such as the transfer of academic credits and teaching opportunities to maintaining an historical Baptist witness in theological education in the state, said Marv Knox, field coordinator of Fellowship Southwest.
HSU in February announced its decision to close Logsdon due to financial under performance. Seminary supporters have countered that the motivation is theologically driven by Christian conservatives.
Despite the offer of one-year contracts for faculty and a teach-out process enabling current students to finish their degrees at Logsdon, some will not want to leave before the seminary closes, Knox said.
“One of the first needs is to respond to the felt needs of students thinking about the balance of their ministry preparation,” he said.
Participants in the meeting also discussed how the Baptist houses of studies at SMU and TCU might meet those needs and Logsdon faculty may find adjunct teaching roles at those institutions.
Fellowship Southwest’s role is that of “good faith broker” for the effort, Knox added.
He emphasized that the conversations so far have been informal, though productive. “There isn’t any kind of official, fiduciary organization. There’s no talk of mergers.”
Likewise, there are no requests or proposals for funding the effort, he said. Instead, it is more about imagining how a collaboration between the parties might look.
“It’s about having a good range of schools that prepare people for church-based ministry.”
Ellis emphasized that the need to preserve Logsdon’s legacy is driving the effort.
Previously, that energy has been channeled by the Save Logsdon Seminary movement into efforts to convince HSU’s leadership to provide financial and theological transparency behind the decision to close Logsdon. That movement now calls itself Save Hardin-Simmons University.
“It’s always been about saving Logsdon,” said Jonathan Davis, a Logsdon Seminary alumnus and senior pastor of Beale Memorial Baptist Church in Tappahannock, Virginia.
“Unfortunately, the administration has been unresponsive, so we have no alternative but to think about what’s next,” said Davis, one of the original organizers of the movement to save the seminary.
What’s next includes keeping the spirit of the seminary alive beyond its closure, he said. “There will be a void there when Logsdon doesn’t exist anymore. It had a unique voice and witness in Texas and in CBF.”
Ellis said some students who are early in their degree programs at Logsdon are planning to leave, while some of those scheduled to finish in the next year will stay.
The Baptist houses of studies at Brite and Perkins will be a fit for many, he said.
The purpose of the collaboration is to help young people discern callings to ministry, providing theological education and offering guidance as students move into vocational ministry, Ellis said.
He added that it’s important the Logsdon community be realistic in its expectations. “This effort will not be Logsdon reincarnated and it will not appeal to all students.”
But it will give a place for a “big-hearted Baptist legacy” to live on, Ellis said.
“The trans-denominational piece of this carries on a piece of who Logsdon is.”