"Up to this point, every one of these who will get up here to speak tonight has been my friend," Roberts, MBTS president, joked at the outset of the April 19 gathering at the Kansas City, Mo., campus. "We'll have to see how those relationships stand after all is said and done. I take no responsibility for what will be said here tonight. Part of it will be apocryphal and will need to be filtered through my clear and accurate historical recollection of all events as they might be told."
What followed were a series of jabs at some of Roberts' favorite sports teams along with humorous childhood stories and recollections of Roberts' life and ministry -- mixed with moments of gratitude and thanks for Roberts' work during his 10 years at Midwestern.
Among the speakers were Wayne Lee, MBTS board of trustees chairman; Dan Stowe, MBTS trustee and childhood friend of Roberts; Lynn Craft, Roberts' brother-in-law; Richard Land, president of Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; and Pat Taylor, president of Southwestern Baptist University.
During the evening, a set of four tickets to the Ohio State-Michigan football game this fall were presented to Roberts, who grew up in Ohio, and his wife, and a presidential portrait by artist Mitsuno Reedy was unveiled for display on campus. Lee teased that, with Roberts frequently being away from campus on business trips, the portrait could be hung in a prominent place so students would remember what he looks like.
Other events that marked Roberts' service to Midwestern included special tributes from leaders throughout the Southern Baptist Convention during chapel services on April 19 and 20; the presentation of several gifts including a portrait of Roberts and his wife also painted by Reedy; and a campus-wide barbecue lunch in the first family's honor.
During the trustees' April 19-20 meeting on campus, Roberts opened his president's report with words of praise for the board, saying that the 10 years at Midwestern have "gone by very quickly. We thank the Lord for His blessings upon this institution and for your support. We couldn't be doing anything we are doing now and couldn't have any kind of ministry without your support."
Describing the mission of Midwestern Seminary, Roberts said, "It's not about books, budgets and buildings. It's about mission and purpose. All those things are just tools that God uses to accomplish the ultimate purpose of impacting our world for Jesus Christ."
The remainder of Roberts' presentation included updates on the seminary's record enrollment and credit-hour totals; Midwestern Baptist College's one-year missions-focused Fusion program for undergraduate students and high school graduates; and information on the seminary's outreach to inmates at the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary.
"We desire to have the best scholarship, combined with a clear mission goal, here in the heart of America ... making a difference for the cause of Jesus Christ and for His Gospel," Roberts said.
Trustees unanimously elected Jerry Sutton as vice president of academic development and dean of the faculty. "I'm just thrilled to be a part of the Midwestern family," Sutton said. "My wife Fern and I are looking forward to serving the Lord here and pouring our lives into the students, faculty and staff to make a difference in the Kingdom of God."
Trustees also re-elected faculty members Jim Anderson and Ben Awbrey to five-year contracts. Anderson is professor of biblical studies and missionary aviation; Awbrey is associate professor of preaching.
Trustees also voted to petition the Higher Learning Commission for investigating the possibility of expanded undergraduate-level online offerings for Midwestern Baptist College, SBC.
Trustees re-elected Wayne Lee of Texas as chairman. Also elected as trustee officers were Wendell Hudson of Mississippi, first vice chairman, and Jeff Dial of Arkansas, second vice chairman. Judy Crain of Maryland was re-elected as secretary/treasurer.
Additionally, the trustees' institutional advancement committee announced a fundraising push for the chapel, noting that the past year was the first in which more than $1 million was raised for the seminary. The steeple was raised on the structure during the week. Committee member Richard Baker said there is still a ways to go to finish fundraising for the chapel project and encouraged anyone interested in giving a financial gift to the seminary to contact the institutional advancement office (816-414-3717).
"The events of the past few days have been a blessing to Anja and me," Roberts said. "We're extremely grateful to the Lord for His goodness to us. We're also thankful to have such loving family and friends and such a talented team of faculty and staff to work with, both now and over my tenure here. We're excited to see what God has in store for us in the days to come."
T. Patrick Hudson is director of communications at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.
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