Those who argued for the seminary to remove the founders’ names said they damaged the school’s Christian witness and caused pain to black students. But SBTS President Albert Mohler questioned what removing the names would accomplish. He said the school’s history cannot be changed: “If I believed that removing those names would resolve enmity between brothers and sisters in Christ or cause of offense, then I would do it. But I do not believe that action in itself is the responsible way to deal with this.” (Mohler is a WORLD board member.)
Mohler pointed out that every generation of church history includes a mixture of saints and sinners: Christians cannot tell the story of the Church without “including human beings that we would find guilty of enormous shortcomings and sometimes horrible sin.” He said he and the trustees “do not believe as a Christian institution that history is best dealt with by erasing it, but rather by confronting it and following a pattern of telling the story more faithfully every time we get to tell the story.”
Mohler’s report to the trustees ahead of their meeting stated, “Our task is to honor the saintly without condoning, hiding, or denying the sinful. We have not done this well in the past. We must do better in the present and be more faithful in the future.” In 2018 SBTS published a Report on Slavery and Racism in the History of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It explored the school’s history and the founders’ beliefs and lamented the sin in the school’s past.
Besides deciding to keep the founders’ names, the trustees approved four motions regarding the school’s history. They agreed to continue lamenting the sinful aspects of the school’s past. They established a new scholarship for black SBTS students, to begin in the 2022-2023 academic year, that will be named after Garland Offutt, the seminary’s first African American full graduate. They resolved to “become more faithful in telling the seminary’s story, and the founders’ story with accuracy and biblical witness.”