BOLIVAR – Eric. A. Turner of Pocahontas, Ark., was unanimously selected as the 25th president of Southwest Baptist University, July 20. He began his duties as president-elect on Aug. 6 and assumes the presidency on Sept. 1.
Turner, 46, previously worked in fundraising, academics and accreditation at Williams Baptist University in Walnut Ridge, Ark., for 17 years before becoming president of Black River Technical College (BRTC) in Pocahontas, Ark., in 2014. I talked to him, Aug. 7, about his vision for SBU and its partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Q: How would you describe your vision for SBU at this stage?
“What we aspire to do in Christian higher education … is to educate students to walk away from our halls convinced, to the point of conviction, that a biblical worldview is relevant for daily living and working.
“My goal is to ensure that we stay true to our mission of being a Christ-centered, caring, academic community. Our mission doesn’t drive what we do. It doesn’t inform what we do. It is what we do. … I envision SBU to be the exemplar Christian university throughout the Midwest and beyond, but also to be the university of choice for Missouri Baptists. And our focus and approach is to be Kingdom-centric, rather than to build a kingdom for ourselves.
Q: How do you feel about the relationship between Southern Baptist universities and Baptist state conventions, such as SBU and the MBC?
“I am really looking forward to building relationships with the convention here in Missouri. … I’m looking forward to meeting Missouri Baptists. I’m Baptist to the core. …
“Missouri Baptists have a financial investment in SBU via the Cooperative Program. It’s our desire to continue to be good stewards of that investment – not only of the dollars, but also the investment you place in us by sending your students. And we want to return that investment to you by sending them back to our Missouri Baptist churches as deacons, pastors, missionaries, laity. We want to be the university of choice (for Missouri Baptists), and we cannot do this in isolation from one another.
Q: Tell me your thoughts about the Cooperative Program.
“The Cooperative Program is one of the most ingenious ways we accomplish missions. And is SBU a missional entity? You bet it is.”
Q: What do you believe about the inerrancy of Scripture and the Baptist Faith & Message 2000? How will these beliefs guide the way you run the university?
“I believe that Scripture is true and trustworthy, and it is the sole authority for our lives. When I encounter something in Scripture that is convicting, I may not like it, but I try to be sensitive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit – even when it is uncomfortable for me to do so. The Faith and Message is unambiguous about the contemporary concerns of the family, gender, sexual immorality, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, abortion. And I unequivocally agree with the Faith and Message on these issues. … Scripture is our authority. SBU is and will continue to be an institution of a faith lived every day.”