Dallas Theological Seminary Inauguration Weekend 2021: Recap
It has been just under a year since Dr. Mark Yarbrough assumed his duties as Dallas Theological Seminary’s sixth president. What a time of transition! Amid a trying cultural climate in July of 2020, DTS providentially transitioned the beloved Dr. Mark Bailey to the position of Chancellor and installed its own Dr. Yarbrough as its new leader.
Dr. Yarbrough disembarked from a decades-long journey within DTS, beginning as a student in the early 1990s to serving in various leadership positions as administrative staff and eventually becoming a faculty member. All of which provided the wisdom and experience needed to contribute to his role as a seminary president. It was only befitting for the celebration to be as estimable as his new appointment.
Aside from the morning Inauguration Chapel message delivered by alum Chip Ingram, which can be viewed here, the celebration began on April 9, 2021, with a campus student/alumni dinner on the yard. By 4 p.m. that afternoon, the Student Life team, led by the Dean of Students, Herman Baxter, had the yard decorated with purple and white balloons. The Horner building steps served as the event stage, equipped with two mega-speakers adjacent to the steps' opposing corners. There was a media booth in the back corner near its front door. The entire yard that led across Apple Street into the unfinished yard and parking lot of the newly erected Student Life building and Chapel was sprinkled with tables representing various DTS departments. Each table decorated with DTS colors.
Under COVID-19 social distancing and face-mask protocols, people began to trickle in one-by-one, family-by-family, at the event entrance on Live Oak and Apple Street. They met the registration table, managed by the student life team and an In-N-Out Burger semi-truck parked in the middle of Apple Street near Live Oak. Registered attendees received meal tickets and journeyed into the yard square and enjoyed their burgers picnic-style on the grassy flat in front of the stage or on one of the benches that cascaded the area. By 5 p.m., approximately 400 people scattered across the Great Lawn, eating their burgers, and taking tours of the new Student Life Center and Chapel.
Dean Baxter served as the Master of Ceremony. It was a sunny afternoon filled with humor and song from DTS’s director of chapel music, Patrick Thomas, accompanied by his family. Mark Lowry, comedian and composer of the Christmas classic Mary Did You Know, blessed the audience with comedy and his rendition of the song.
The following morning, after a breakfast held for the inauguration delegates, DTS students, faculty, staff, and guests fellowshipped at Stonebriar Community Church pastored by DTS’s Chancellor Emeritus, Dr. Charles Swindoll, for the Service of Installation ceremony of Dr. Mark Yarbrough. This was the weekend’s pièces de résistance. The event was an auspicious occasion filled with university and liturgical tradition, pomp, and circumstance. The processional included faculty, staff, and student council members. Forty-three students carried flags representing the countries and regions of birth of DTS students. Leadership and featured speakers were seated at the stage apron directly in front of a model symphony corresponding to a socially-distanced-arranged stately choir upstage. The choir and orchestral accompaniment rendered classical arrangements, which set an exalted tone for the entire program.
Featured speakers got up one by one, each expressing the honor and history of the occasion. Dr. Tony Evans, DTS alum, delivered The Charge to President address (at 1:14:22), teaching from 2 Kings 4 in a sermon aptly titled, “Poison in the Pot.” His message corresponded directly to the specific charge of Dr. Yarbrough to lead Dallas Theological Seminary. He took from the story of Elijah, leader of priests of Israel during a time of great famine in the land, a message of hope and responsibility amidst a great crisis. As it relates today and specifically to Dr. Yarbrough—while thriving in an idolatrous, toxic, or poisonous culture—the job of God’s chosen man to lead His people must make room for the Holy Spirit to saturate the environment with God’s Word and neutralize the poison (i.e., the effects of a culture saturated with idolatry). Dr. Evans charged Dr. Yarbrough with the responsibility of blocking cultural vices from tainting Holy Scripture and redefining institutional priorities and encouraged him to sufficiently lead God’s chosen so that they, in turn, can be equipped to be the next generation of spiritual leaders.
Dr. Evans’s message was a hearty, spiritual meal for the soul. The proceedings lead into a ceremonial presentation of the presidential medallion. Dr. Yarbrough stood intently listening to the investiture statements pronounced by Mr. Robert Murchison, Chairman of the Board of Incorporate Members, and Chancellor Mark Bailey. Dr. Bailey presented the presidential medallion and explained the girth of its meaning. In a rite of passage, Dr. Bailey held one end of the medallion ribbon along with Mr. Murchison, the other end, and placed it around Dr. Yarbrough’s neck, prompting a round of applause, leading into an extended standing ovation.
Dr. Yarbrough’s inaugural speech (at 1:48:27) reverberated what Dallas Theological Seminary is under the arc of Scripture, its history, its mission, and where it is going. In his unique style, Dr. Yarbrough listed the historical milestones DTS had achieved by God’s providential purpose. With great fervor, he stated, “No wonder we must proclaim. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurable more than all that we can ask or imagine, to God be the glory, great things He has done.” Dr. Yarbrough implored DTS to trust God with its future considering the decades of faithfulness by God. The ceremony concluded, and attendees who registered for the alumni luncheon headed over to the Stonebriar Community Church multipurpose room.
The inaugural dinner brought the weekend celebration to a beautiful close. Dallas Theological Seminary guests gathered into the grand ballroom of the Hilton Anatole Dallas at 7 p.m. for an evening of fellowship and fine dining. A spectacular scene of warm colors, floral arrangements, and excited guests filled the ballroom. Uptown Violinists greeted guests with a musical prelude upon entry. Rebecca Carrell, KCBI radio host, and current DTS student, was the Mistress of Ceremony. Featured speakers were Chancellor Bailey, Reverend Will Graham, and Chip Ingram, who delivered the keynote address: Faithfulness Across Generations—a message that echoed Dr. Yarbrough’s inaugural speech.
Chip Ingram spoke from Psalms 103, encouraging listeners to remember that God’s good works of the past engenders trust in what He will do in the future. He urged us to focus on C.H.R.I.S.T., an acronym for Christ, not causes; Healing, not hostility; Relationships, not real estate; Innovation, not indignation; substance, not success; and Trust, not technology.
As the evening came to a close, guests fellowshipped over the sentiments and highlights from the weekend, leaving on a very high note. In true DTS fashion, guests parted with a gift: a book bundle of Jonah: Beyond the Tale of a Whale by Dr. Mark Yarbrough and The Genius of Generosity by Chip Ingram.
About the Contributors
As a native of Houston, TX., Rebecca S. Walton began her seminary journey at DTS Houston. She loves people and is passionate about communicating Bible doctrine, current events, and Christian Living stories.