Sole membership issue at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary is still ongoing. After Southern Baptist messengers passed a recommendation requesting New Orleans trustees to adopt sole membership, NOBTS President Chuck Kelley spoke at the seminary alumni luncheon in Indianapolis, June 16, saying that seminary trustees would decide in October whether to follow the request and that regardless of their decision made in October, they would present two options on sole membership at the next year’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
Once NOBTS adopts the “sole member” model, the Southern Baptist Convention, not the Executive Committee, would become the “sole member” of the seminary in the NOBTS charter.
Concerning NOBTS’s plan, Kelley said the convention’s action does not prevent the seminary from giving messengers two alternatives next year.
"I do not think it precludes it," he said. "... The motion was that a recommendation be made to the trustees and the trustees will determine their response to that recommendation."
"But the plan they have, that we left together with, is that we will come before the Southern Baptist Convention next year and we will simply lay out before Southern Baptists: 'Here's sole membership,' and we will provide an opportunity for the Executive Committee again to say this is why they think sole membership is a good thing to do," Kelley said. "We'll share what concerns we have about it and we'll say, 'Here's an alternative to sole membership we think better suits Louisiana law and Southern Baptist polity,' and then we will let Southern Baptists tell us which of those two options they want."
People at the luncheon asked several questions to Kelley relating to the sole membership issue. Kelley responded to a question
One alumnus asked Kelley if sole membership could result in changes in the faculty and curriculum at the seminary. Kelley responded that there would be no change as to who makes decisions at the seminary. However he expressed his concern over the future of NOBTS when the new leaders take a different direction.
"There may be a day when the Southern Baptist Convention again needs a new reformation, a fresh flowing of the spirit of God," Kelley said.
Although several NOBTS lawyers oppose sole membership, Kelley emphasized the need for an option to sole membership by giving two additional arguments: first, to stem the tide toward a new direction in Southern Baptist polity and second, to guard Cooperative Program dollars from lawsuits with ascending liability.
A decision to make the SBC the sole member of its corporation would be irreversible unless the denomination were to return the charter to the seminary, although that would be unlikely, Kelley noted.
"But I have no fear about the future of our seminary," Kelley said. "I am more concerned about the future of Southern Baptists."
The luncheon proceeded with sharing other matters regarding NOBTS. Besides honoring distinguished alumni, Kelly also addressed the NOBTS family and friends at the luncheon by encouraging them to pray for students who are being trained for the Gospel ministry.
"If you pray for this School of Providence and Prayer, pray not simply that God gives us the things we need for our next project, pray not simply for a happy, healthy atmosphere at the seminary and great relations with the Southern Baptist Convention," he said. "Pray most of all that now God has given us this great privilege of having this many students that we will be faithful stewards of that opportunity. Pray that we will raise up a generation of God-called men and women who will help Southern Baptist churches learn to grow again."