Calvinism in SBC Seminaries
According to Baptist Press, research reveals that nearly 30% of recent Southern Baptist seminary graduates now serving as pastors identify themselves as Calvinists. A 2006 LifeWay Research study combined with 2007 research from the North American Mission Board’s Center for Missional Research surveying SBC pastors who graduated from SBC seminary master’s degree programs between 1998-2004. The numbers of graduates who affirmed “Calvinism” rose steadily between students who graduated in 1998 and those who completed their degrees in 2004. In the last year of the study, 34% of those serving in SBC churches identified themselves as “Five-Point Calvinists.” Ed Stetzer, Director of LifeWay Research, stated “It would be difficult to say that Calvinism is not a growing influence in SBC life; [it] certainly [is] a growing influence in the graduates of our seminaries,” while addressing the Building Bridges Conference being held at Ridgecrest Conference Center, NC.
With regard to Calvinism and the SBC, Stetzer said NAMB’s research also demonstrated that:
- Churches pastored by Calvinists tend to have smaller attendance and typically baptize fewer persons each year. Stetzer cautioned the attendees to be careful in their speculations, explaining that this study did not look at “why.” However, he pointed out that recent graduates who are Calvinists do pastor smaller churches that baptize fewer people.
- Calvinistic churches, though they baptize fewer persons each year, have a “baptism rate” virtually identical to that of non-Calvinistic churches. Baptism rate is the number of annual baptisms relative to total membership, a statistic used to measure evangelistic vitality.
- Both Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic churches believe that local congregations should be involved in sponsoring missions and planting new churches. The study showed 95 percent of both types of Southern Baptists affirmed the necessity of missions and church planting.
- Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.
Stetzer also said, “Calvinism is on the rise among the most recent seminary graduates. If present trends continue, Calvinism will continue to grow as an influence in our convention.” He also declared, “At the end of the day, Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike in our churches are failing to engage lostness in North America. This theological discussion has to lead to missional action and that missional action needs to cause Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to love each other and to encourage each other and to provoke one another on to love and good deeds.”