II. HISTORY OF THE INSTITUTION
On April 12, 1982, a formal meeting was held at Hilltop Free Will Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina for the purpose of starting a new college. Two major philosophical issues became the focal point of discussion about the future of Free Will Baptists. One was the training of ministerial students and the other was the training of teachers for Christian Day Schools. Numerous appeals had been made by concerned pastors to key leadership men for adjustments in the training approach and philosophy being taught in these two areas in our denominational college, but the appeals did not seem to be effective. This gave rise to talk about beginning a new college that would offer Free Will Baptists a philosophy of ministry that reflected these concerns.
Seventy-eight men registered their attendance at the meeting at Hilltop Free Will Baptist Church. Gene Parisher, who pastored in Hampton, Virginia, was something of the moderator pro-tem for the meeting. After extensive discussion, there were two things that finally emerged. It became the consensus that a new college was needed and so a motion was offered and passed to begin a new college. The other was the selection of a steering committee to begin work on its establishment.
Forging a New College
On April 28, 1982, the Steering Committee met again at Cramerton Free Will Baptist Church, Cramerton, North Carolina. The organizational structure of the new college received much discussion. There were two basic principles that dictated its final form. One was to involve as many as possible in the leadership. “There is safety in numbers,” was the idea. This led to a seventeen man Board of Directors originally. A Cooperating Board was to consist of those supporting pastors and churches. The Board of Directors would have nine permanent members and seven rotating members plus the president of the college. The nine permanent members were to be men who would have the college at heart and by majority vote could keep it true to its original purpose. They were to act as trustees of the college.
Danny Dwyer wrote the philosophical confession of faith. Which included four basic summary points.
- We believe in the local church as God’s highest organizational authority among men other than the home, and in the office of the pastor as God’s special provision for leadership in the local church.
- We believe in the Fundamental-Separatist position for both personal sanctification and ecclesiastical affiliation.
- We believe in a world-wide evangelistic outreach including personal soul winning, Home and Foreign missions endeavors.
- We believe that all truth is God’s truth and that the Christian School and Christian College are a means of aiding parents and churches in the training of their children for life.
The philosophical statement was accepted by the committee as written without change, and it has remained the Statement of Philosophy and Cooperation for all Board members to sign.
On April 30, 1982 Pastors and Laymen gathered at Cramerton Free Will Baptist Church in Cramerton, North Carolina to consider the recommendations of the Steering Committee about the proposed new college.
The Board of Directors
A seventeen-member Board of Directors was to give oversight to the new school. It was to be made up of nine indefinite members and eight rotating members. This was a unique structure among Free Will Baptist colleges.
The nine indefinite members elected were:
Dale Burden- Virginia Dann Patrick- North Carolina Richard Cordell- Alabama Van Dale Hudson- North Carolina Gene Parisher- Virginia Earl Hendrix- South Carolina Danny Dwyer- Tennessee Randy Cox- North Carolina Willie Justice- South Carolina
The eight rotating members elected were:
Bob King- North Carolina (1986) Glen Wright- Tennessee (1985) Lester Horton- Virginia (1984) Billy Bevan- North Carolina (1985) Jack Cox- North Carolina (1986) Lorenza Stox- North Carolina (1983) Jack Stallings- Virginia (1984) A.B. Brown- North Carolina (1983)
One of the most significant meetings the Board held was on September 6-7, 1982, at First Free Will Baptist Church, Inman, South Carolina where Earl Hendrix was pastor. There were four locations originally proposed for locating the college: the Raleigh, North Carolina area, Gateway in Virginia Beach, Faith in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and the Spartanburg, South Carolina area. Since the Gateway Free Will Baptist Church in Virginia Beach was the largest church in the movement at the time, and Pastor Dale Burden had been one who had led the way about establishing a new college, the Board of Directors of Southeastern Free Will Baptist College asked the Gateway Church to host the new college and open in the fall of 1983 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to allowing the college to share their existing space, Gateway committed to building a gym, with dormitory and office space available for Southeastern.
Dr. Randy Cox was hired as the first President of Southeastern Free Will Baptist College. He committed to serve in this capacity while continuing to pastor the First Free Will Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. He began his duties in the summer of 1982 along with Lorenza and Dolly Stox who moved to Virginia Beach after accepting the job as the Dean of the college. The remainder of the beginning faculty and staff moved to the area during the summer of 1983.
There were 89 students to register for the 1983 fall semester. In the next couple of years Southeastern grew in enrollment and staff. Some faculty who were part time became full time. Others were hired to complement the program. In 1985 Dr. Joseph Ange became the first full time president of the college.
In 1987, Southeastern moved to its present location in Wendell, NC. A 60 acre farm was purchased and four office/dormitory/classroom buildings and a cafeteria were erected and the old farm house was renovated for the administration building. Much of this work was not complete when the school began in the fall. An empty office building next door was rented for offices and other functions while the new campus was completed.
In 1989 Billy Bevan was hired as the third President of Southeastern while he continued to pastor Hilltop Free Will Baptist Church. In 1996 Brother Bevan resigned his pastorate and became the second full time president of the college.
The college had originally started with the intention of offering degrees of various sorts. However, in 2000 the Board of Directors realized that the focus of the college was on ministry and that all of the degrees being offered were ministry related. Therefore, they voted that the mission reflect that and be changed so say, “The purpose of Southeastern Free Will Baptist Bible College is to train students for church-related ministries.”
In 2003 Dr. Lorenza Stox became the fourth President as he continued to pastor the Parkers Chapel Free Will Baptist Church.
In 2005 the Board of Directors voted to make application for Candidacy status with TRACS and the application was submitted early in 2006. In the summer of 2006 Southeastern was granted permission to begin the self-study in preparation for Candidate Status. This process was halted due to financial constraints.
In 2008 Dr. Stox resigned his pastorate and moved from a part-time to a full-time president of Southeastern. He remained as present until he resigned in December, 2012.
In January, 2013 Rev. Jim Marcum became the fifth president of Southeastern and began in a full-time capacity.
On April 14, 2016 the Board of Directors voted to make application for Candidacy status with TRACS.