FROM THE SEMINARIES: Midwestern affirms 81-credit-hour M.Div.; convocations at New Orleans and Golden Gate seminaries

by SBC Seminary Staff, posted Monday, September 14, 2015 (2 years ago)

EDITOR'S NOTE: "From the Seminaries" includes news releases of interest from Southern Baptist seminaries.

Midwestern reviews first year of 81-credit-hour M.Div.

By T. Patrick Hudson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen announced Sept. 14 that the seminary has reviewed its retooled 81-credit-hour master of divinity degree after its initial year and concluded that it has benefited students toward completing their ministry education and training more efficiently and effectively.

Previously required to take 96 credit hours to earn the degree, students now have the opportunity to finish their M.Div. studies in a shorter amount of time, getting them into their ministry calling more quickly and assisting them financially as well.

"When restructuring our new M.Div. a year ago, we barraged every aspect of the program with one driving question -- how do we best prepare our students to serve the church?" Allen recounted.

"We pruned the edges, strengthened the core and produced an 81-hour M.Div.," he noted. "We are insisting every master of divinity student get the full complement of ministry preparation, including the classic, timeless disciplines of theological education. Yet, we have structured the M.Div. with student concerns like affordability and attainability in mind."

In the world of theological education, Allen said, the master of divinity degree has long been the gold standard for ministry preparation, offering the complete tool kit for ministry service, including: Greek and Hebrew, New Testament and Old Testament, theology, church history, preaching, pastoral care and counseling, evangelism, missions.

"As an institution that exists 'For the Church,' Midwestern Seminary abides under an Ephesians 4 mandate, equipping pastors, ministers and missionaries for local church service," Allen said. "While not every graduate will minister within a local church setting, seminary students should view their calling through the prism of serving the church. There is no better degree for preparing a student for ministry than the M.Div."

Students in Midwestern's new M.Div. format also enjoy other benefits, including: the M.Div. is the ideal degree for further study at the doctoral level; the seminary affords students flexibility in accomplishing the M.Div. by offering it in residence, online or in a combination of both; students are never more than eight weeks away from starting M.Div. degree course work; and many courses offer church-based practicums that provide both academic and real-world ministry experience.

Another recent programmatic addition to Midwestern's offerings, called Accelerate, allows incoming students to earn their bachelor's and M.Div. degrees in five years. To learn more about this degree track, click here.

Midwestern Provost Jason Duesing explained that nothing is sacrificed academically or professionally by the seminary offering its 81-hour M.Div. degree format.

"We've sought to challenge the status quo regarding what is a healthy M.Div. by not only considering the number of required hours but also what is required in those hours," Duesing said. "Less hours does not have to, and often does not, mean less quality.

"The revisions Midwestern has made reflect a commitment to the trusted core of what has made the M.Div. the acclaimed standard for academic training for pastoral ministry, while at the same time resetting the anchor of that training in the 21st century," Duesing said.

Allen and Duesing both noted that less emphasis has seemingly been placed on the M.Div. within theological education in recent years. This move by Midwestern Seminary, however, is intended to bring a refocus to this training program that will enable students to enter ministry with the best possible preparation for serving the local church.

"We will know we have succeeded in reviving the M.Div. when more and more churches who are searching for pastors don't merely ask if their candidates have attended seminary, but specifically whether they have earned an M.Div.," Duesing said.

To learn more about Midwestern Seminary's 81-hour M.Div., visit www.mbts.edu or contact an admissions team member at 816-414-3733.

Kelley at NOBTS convocation: Run to battle, not shrink from it

By Marilyn Stewart

NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Issuing a call to "run to the battle" and lift high the cross of Christ despite failure, setbacks or difficulties, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley presided over the Sept. 8 convocation that marked the official start of the academic year, welcomed new faculty members and recognized others for years of service.

The event came as the seminary community continues to mourn the loss of beloved professor John Gibson, who died Aug. 24.

Drawing from Philippians 1:21-26, Kelley reminded the audience that the apostle Paul penned words full of joy though his life hung in the balance in a Roman prison. Paul knew that to live meant to rest secure in God's care, Kelley said.

"Nothing that you did made you attractive to Jesus. It was by His grace that He saved every one of us, and it is by His grace that you will be kept until the last day of your life," Kelley said. "We are secure in Christ, and no one and nothing can ever change that."

God gave Paul a glimpse of heaven, and he longed to be there with Christ, Kelley said.

"A day without a cloud; a morning without a night; a family without a feud; a church without a fight; laughter without crying; living without dying," Kelley said. "All sorrow would be melted away in the presence of God."

The glimpse of heaven was meant to equip Paul to do battle rather than shrink from it, Kelley said. Believers are engaged in a battle to take the Gospel to every person, but also to conform to the image of Christ, he said.

"And in battle, there will always be the wounded," Kelley said. "Whatever the wound, Christ will be there to bind you up, to heal, to forgive, to strengthen and to help."

Kelley urged the chapel audience to guard against thinking that failures and stumbles mean the end of a Christian's usefulness, but to remember that Christ makes the difference in any life and any circumstance.

"Come. Do not be afraid of the fight, for He told us the end of the story before He gave us the beginning," Kelley said. "The far fields are calling. One day we'll all be there, but in the meantime: Fight. Charge. Raise your shield. Lift high the cross of Jesus Christ, and let us do what Christ has called us to do.

"No matter what our circumstances, no matter whatever unfolds in your life, it cannot stop the work of Christ in you or the work of Christ through you."

Kelley noted, "There is no sin God will not forgive, there is no difficulty He cannot take me through, there is no challenge He cannot overcome, there is nothing that unfolds in my life that is a surprise to Him. I don't make God worried about anything in my life, for He is God, and I am in His grip."

Kelley recognized eight faculty members for their years of service at NOBTS.

Bill Warren, professor of New Testament and Greek and director of the seminary's New Testament Center for Textual Studies, was honored for 25 years on faculty, while 15 years of service were noted for Lloyd Harsch, professor of church history and Baptist studies; Laurie Watts, professor of educational technology; and Norris Grubbs, professor of New Testament and Greek, Leavell College, the seminary's undergraduate program.

Celebrating 10 years of service were Preston Nix, professor of evangelism and evangelistic preaching; Craig Price, professor of New Testament and Greek; Kathy Steele, professor of psychology and counseling; and Kristyn Carver, professor of psychology and counseling, Leavell College.

During convocation, new NOBTS faculty members signed the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and continued the tradition of signing the NOBTS Articles of Religious Belief, a document drafted by the first NOBTS faculty soon after the seminary's founding nearly 100 years ago and prior to the first Baptist Faith and Message written in 1925.

Signing the documents were Bo Rice, assistant professor of evangelism and preaching, and Rick Yount, visiting professor of Christian education, and three Leavell College faculty members, Ken Ellis, associate professor of Christian ministry and moral rehabilitation; Jonathan Key, assistant professor of Christian ministry; and Courtney Veasey, instructor of Biblical womanhood.


Expect more of youth, prof tells convocation

By Kathie Chute

MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- Churches should stop treating youth like children and follow the advice of biblical teachings, said Paul Kelly, associate professor of education leadership at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, during an academic convocation Sept. 10.

In a chapel address titled "A Theology of Youth," Kelly pointed out that the various words for "youth" in the Old and New Testaments describe people between puberty and age 30.

"The Bible shows little difference in the way it describes an unmarried 15-year-old and an unmarried 25-year-old," he said. "From a biblical perspective, youths are adults. They have the responsibility and authority of adults."

Kelly gave examples of David taking responsibility for taking food to his brothers on the battlefield in 1 Samuel 17:17-23, Rebecca choosing to leave home to become the wife of Isaac in Genesis 24:58-59 and Saul becoming a king in 1 Samuel 10:1 even though they were all considered youths.

"More than that," Kelly said, "God appears to give adult responsibilities to youths. He called Jeremiah to be His prophet. He chose Mary to bear the Messiah. At age 12, Jesus was at the brink of adulthood and goes to the temple to prepare instead of leaving Jerusalem with His parents."

Even though youth in the Bible were viewed as adults, he said, they were still subject to the authority of their parents or the community.

"The fact that David's father sent him to his brothers [in 1 Samuel 17:17-23] demonstrates his father's authority in David's life," Kelly said. "Similarly, when Joseph went to find his brothers [in Genesis 37:12-14], he was doing the bidding of his father. The biblical idea of adulthood does not seem to be incompatible with authority."

Kelly noted that the Bible presents youth as particularly vulnerable to youthful folly.

"Youth certainly do not always act wisely or with restraint," he said. "While youth should be seen as adults, they are adults without experience. They are in need of the wisdom of the family and the community to guide them in life. The Bible presents youth as particularly in danger of life-destroying choices."

But Kelly said the Bible also presents youth as those who should be full of passionate faith. For example, Mary submitted to God to bear the Messiah, David killed a giant and Jeremiah became a young prophet.

"Youth in the Bible are not incompetent children," he said. "They are not limited in their abilities. They are encouraged to let no one look down on them but to be an example of faith. That is the biblical description of youth, and that should form our theology of youth."

That theology must be integrated into culture, Kelly said, offering suggestions for churches to follow as they work with young people.

"The faith community should begin to view adolescents differently," he said. "Greater expectations for participation and leadership will help adolescents to overcome the cultural stigma of being a grown adult with no adult authority of responsibility. Placing adolescents in a youth ministry ghetto with no interaction with other adults is unlikely to help them develop."

Kelly said adolescents also must be viewed as part of a family unity, with opportunities for families to worship, recreate and study together instead of always segregating them by age group. That should not preclude participation in the broader faith community, engaging with their peers or investing in younger members of the congregation.

"Such experiences are both culturally important and helpful in developing them as adults of faith," he said.

But godly role models are a necessity as youth gain experience as adults, Kelly said.

"Youth group leaders can certainly serve as these role models," he said, "but churches must be sure they are selecting youth leaders who are good examples of passionate Christian adulthood, and not merely individuals who enjoy playing with kids."

Young people still need help to meet the challenges of temptation, Kelly said.

"In a culture in which sexual promiscuity is expected, youth need help understanding the dangers of youthful folly," he said. "The faith community needs to offer real-life strategies for fleeing inappropriate passions -- whether they relate to money, anger, sexuality or pointless arguments. We need to help youth to pursue peace, purity and life."

And the faith community must call youth to passionate faith, he said.

"The church must not be content with church attendance or simplistic answers," Kelly said. "The faith community must raise the level of expectation of youth to be true examples of passionate faith."

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