By Bob Allen
A recently appointed Southern Baptist missionary is in Zimbabwe to help turn around a seminary struggling since a leadership dispute in 2011 resulted in dismissal of its top administrator and formation of a new ecumenical seminary formed in response.
An Oct. 20 news release from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., featured Nick Moore, a two-time seminary graduate and former Kentucky pastor appointed by the IMB in May to revitalize the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe, “which has struggled since national Baptist leaders forced out a liberal principal in 2011 for refusing to adhere to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.”
Moore, 30, a Boyce College graduate who received the M.Div. in 2012, is interrupting his Ph.D. studies in Old Testament theology to serve as a seminary professor with a goal “to become part of a conservative resurgence in Zimbabwe,” the release said.
Established with leadership from Southern Baptist missionaries in the 1950s in the country then known as Rhodesia, the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe was led by Henry Mugabe, a Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary who taught at U.S. schools including Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, from 1996 until a governance dispute led to his firing in 2011.
During discussions about transferring ownership of the seminary property from the IMB to the Zimbabwe Baptist Convention, a new council formed to replace the seminary’s board of trustees changed the school’s charter to require all academic staff “to subscribe to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message upheld by the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe, IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Mugabe, who was not involved in drafting the new charter, refused to accept the change, saying his employer was the original board of trustees. The council fired him for insubordination. A labor judge in 2013 found his dismissal in violation of Zimbabwe’s National Employment Code of Conduct.
Longtime U.S. partners of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zimbabwe including the Alliance of Baptists and Lott Carey Missionary Convention switched their support to the start-up of The Zimbabwe Theological Seminary in Gweru, founded by Mugabe supporters. Glenn Hinson, a renowned Baptist scholar who taught at both Southern Seminary and BTSR, donated his entire library to the cause.
IMB officials in 2011 denied allegations that the controversy stemmed from transfer of the seminary property, saying the IMB was not involved in the matter and referring questions to the seminary council of the Baptist Convention of Zimbabwe. At the 2013 SBC annual meeting in Houston, however, missionary Gregg Fort alluded to the conflict in a warning to messengers.
“Southern Baptists, would you allow me to challenge us by the reality that in Zimbabwe, for instance, those who are proclaiming a false hope or liberal theology are happily moving into areas that we vacate and outspending us promoting a religion without hope and gods who cannot save?” Fort asked during a report to the convention.
“Dare we turn over partially conquered ground to Mormons, to Jehovah’s Witnesses, to Muslims?” he asked. “Dare we allow proponents of liberal theology to sneak among our converts through Bible-training programs and seminaries to corrupt the very believers that we have labored to bring to salvation in Christ?”
Moore, founding pastor of Redemption Hill Baptist Church in Fisherville, Ky., became aware of opportunities for theological education during his first trip to Africa in 2009. He returned with a team of volunteers from the church in 2014 to teach and renovate campus buildings.
He and his wife, Kyndra, have seven children ranging in ages from 1 to 10. The couple completed missionary orientation in September and arrived in the mission house Oct. 12. According to the news release, Moore plans to remain in Zimbabwe for three to four years before returning stateside to finish his Ph.D. at Southern and then going back to the mission field.