It was interview number three for me, and although it was four years ago, I can remember it like it was yesterday. When I took the interview with O.S. Hawkins, then president of Guidestone, it was a defining moment. I remember asking him this question: What happens when ministers feel like they haven’t saved enough for retirement? What do they do?
His response has stuck with me for the last six years “Maina, the king always takes care of his servants.” This was simple but profound wisdom for a new journalist, who at the time was wondering if he had made the right choice of careers.
This past week, the board of trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary accepted the resignation of Adam Greenway as president and named Hawkins interim president. That struck me as a wise choice.
Once known as the largest seminary in the world, Southwestern now ranks as only the fifth largest seminary in the Southern Baptist Convention. What happened?
Certainly the allegations against former President Paige Patterson — of mishandling sexual abuse and assault allegations, of financial — must be part of the answer. But when Greenway reported to the SBC annual meeting in June, he was upbeat and indicated everything looked positive. Yet now there is reportedly a $12 million deficit.
Whatever the causes of the current problems, choosing O.S. Hawkins as interim president is a wise choice for many reasons.
First, he understands Southern Baptists in Texas. He lives in Texas and has deep roots within the seminary and among Baptists in Texas.
Second, he has navigated controversial and difficult organizations. Hawkins became pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas after the difficult transition from W.A. Criswell to Joel Gregory. He served there with an effective and stable mindset and helped lead the church back to prominence.
Third, during his time at Guidestone, Hawkins managed one of the largest investment funds in the country, bringing integrity and foresight to what pastors would need for their retirement. There never has been an issue with Hawkins’ integrity and credibility. At the end of his 25 years of service at Guidestone, he left the organization stronger and better prepared for the future.
“Hawkins seems to understand that the best way to lead is with a steady hand and a behind-the-scenes attitude.”
Fourth, Hawkins seems to understand that the best way to lead is with a steady hand and a behind-the-scenes attitude in getting the work done.
While Hawkins will be just the interim, my prayer is that he will do what good interims do: prepare the way for the next person, making sure they will not face the challenges Greenway said he encountered during his brief tenure at Southwestern.
Right before the pandemic breakout, I had the privilege of spending time with O. S. Hawkins again, this time face to face in his office at Guidestone. His encouragement and perspective were as poignant then as they were several years earlier.
I respect O.S. Hawkins. He seems to understand not only the enormity of the assignments God has given him but also how to navigate the roles God has placed him in.
In my most recent visit with Hawkins, he did what he did the first time we met: he prayed for me, asking God to remind me of my calling and that God is the one I am serving. I will be praying the same thing for him now as he leads the seminary during these challenging days, a season unlike any the crown jewel of Southern Baptist seminaries may have seen in the past.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
What happened at Southwestern and why does it matter? | Analysis by Mark Wingfield