FROM THE SEMINARIES: SEBTS & Brazil Baptists; MBTS doctoral ethics degrees; 9Marks at SBTS

Today's From the Seminaries includes items released by:

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Keywords: SEBTS, Brazil, MBTS, ethics, SBTS, 9Marks

Twitter: From the Seminaries: SEBTS & Brazil Baptists; MBTS doctoral degrees in ethics; 9Marks at SBTS

RSS: In today's From the Seminaries: Southeastern Seminary's partnership with Brazil Baptists; new Midwestern Seminary doctoral degrees in ethics; 9Marks conference at Southern Seminary.

Southeastern partnership with Brazilians sees first fruits

By Harper McKay

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- As 23 men and women walked across the stage to receive their master of theological studies (MTS) degrees, their friends and families witnessed Brazilian Baptist history in the making. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin joyfully greeted the first graduating class in an ongoing partnership between Southeastern and Brazilian Baptists.

This cohort of students is part of Southeastern's Global Theological Initiative (GTI), which seeks to enhance theological education in at least 15 different locations around the world through strategic partnerships. The invitation-only cohorts are for students who are proven leaders and teachers in their national contexts.

"Southeastern loves its Great Commission partnerships around the world. None brings me more excitement and joy than the one with have with Brazilian Baptists," Akin said. "Our vision and passion for theological education, personal evangelism and world missions is one. We are true partners in building God's Kingdom. What a blessing!"

In Brazil in particular, Southeastern partners with the Brazilian Baptist Convention's international and national mission boards in cooperation with the International Mission Board. Representing Southeastern at the graduation in Rio de Janeiro in addition to Akin were John Ewart, the seminary's GTI associate vice president, and professor of counseling Sam Williams.

"This MTS endeavor has demonstrated Baptist cooperation at its highest level," said David Bledsoe with the IMB in Brazil. "Southeastern offered the program and strived to do so in a contextual manner. IMB offered a missionary professor to assist in the coordination ... [and] the Brazilian mission boards provided much of the logistic assistance to pull off the program on Brazilian soil."

The first graduating cohort encompassed executive and regional leadership in Brazilian Baptist entities, including pastor Fernando Brandão, president of the Junta de Missões Nacionais, or the Brazilian Baptist National Mission Board, reflecting a primary GTI goal of training the trainers to spread their knowledge to other pastors and teachers, multiplying the reach of sound theological education.

"It would be hard to overestimate the historical as well as missiological importance of this first cohort working through this degree," Ewart said. "They literally talk about how this degree has transformed the way they see and do missions and how that impacts the nations around them. We hope that this spreads to all of South America."

Students who graduate from the GTI program in Brazil complete a 48-hour MTS degree, with 24 hours of core classes, 18 hours of missiologically-focused electives and a six-hour thesis. Classes are structured as distance learning courses with occasional face-to-face intensives with Southeastern professors, IMB personnel and Portuguese-speaking adjunct professors. Students complete the entire degree in their native Portuguese.

For the cohort students, the thesis projects are based on real-life issues they face in ministry. Each student writes a 10-page journal article that is put to immediate use for educating other Christian leaders in Brazil.

Williams travels to Brazil often to teach the cohort classes. Along with attending the first graduation, he taught an intensive for the second cohort during the trip. "The MTS in Brazil was a glorious culmination of [many] years of partnership with Brazilian Baptists," he said.

During the mid-February trip to Brazil, Akin and Ewart participated in strategy meetings with IMB personnel and Brazilian leaders to discuss the future of their partnerships. Akin also took the opportunity to visit schools and strategic neighborhoods in Rio with IMB personnel to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The first GTI cohort began in Brazil in 2011. Classes for a second cohort of Brazilian Baptists are already underway with plans to possibly begin a third in the near future.

Williams, commenting on the value of such partnerships, said, "Cooperation works, not just for us in our own convention, but also with Baptists around the world that share our passion for God's Word and mission."

Midwestern announces ERLC doctoral studies partnership

By T. Patrick Hudson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced a partnership with Southern Baptists' Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to equip doctoral studies students in becoming the next generation of Christian ethicists.

Beginning in May, certain modular-format seminars for Ph.D. and doctor of ministry degrees -- both with an emphasis in Christian ethics -- will be offered to Midwestern Seminary students either in Nashville or Washington, D.C. In addition to Midwestern's ethics faculty, several courses will be taught by ERLC President Russell Moore.

"Few issues are being engaged so extensively in today's popular culture like ones that are ethical in nature," Midwestern President Jason Allen said. "In existing for the church, Midwestern Seminary offers, through these doctoral degree programs, an opportunity for students to study at the highest level in preparation to address head-on the ethical challenges facing Christians.

"It brings me great joy to have Midwestern Seminary partner with Dr. Moore and the ERLC staff in expanding our doctoral offerings to include these ethics emphases' seminars. As the Southern Baptist Convention's entity that deals in these issues day in and day out, their expertise and wisdom will provide crucial insight into the field of Christian ethics and into the issues needing to be addressed within the church and broader evangelical community."

The 52-credit-hour modular Ph.D. biblical studies degree with an ethics emphasis includes courses such as Biblical Ethics, Worldview and Ethical Theory, Contemporary Issues in Ethics, Marriage and Sexuality, and Bioethics.

For the doctor of ministry degree with an ethics emphasis, the core curriculum is rounded out by seminars such as Marriage & Sexuality, Bioethics, and Worldview & Ethical Theory.

Commending the partnership with Midwestern Seminary, Moore said, "The future of Christian ethics is the future of the church. The next generation of the church needs the next generation of ethicists to be equipped to fight the good fight of the faith in the public square. That's why the ERLC is excited to partner with Midwestern Seminary on these exciting doctoral degrees."

Phillip Betancourt, ERLC executive vice president, added, "The ERLC is excited to expand our SBC seminary academic partnerships with these new Midwestern Seminary degree programs. What is unique about the new Ph.D. degree offering is that it is our first partnership on a program specifically in the classic discipline of Christian ethics."

Midwestern Seminary students will have the first opportunity to take the "Contemporary Issues in Ethics" Ph.D. seminar (also available to D.Min. students) in Washington, D.C., May 23-24. The deadline to enroll is April 7.

"Partnerships like this represent the best of the cooperating nature of Southern Baptists," said Jason Duesing, Midwestern's provost. "I am grateful our students will have the opportunity to join others from our sister institutions as well as receive instruction from Dr. Moore and the great work he is doing at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission."

For more information about becoming a doctoral student, or for questions about enrolling in the upcoming ethics seminar, contact the MBTS office of doctoral studies at docstudies@mbts.edu.

Conversion is 9Marks theme at Southern Seminary

By Annie Corser

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Healthy churches understand conversion is impossible apart from God, pastors and leaders said at the 9Marks Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

"Conversion is an even greater work of God than creation," said Mark Dever, president of 9Marks and senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. At creation, he said, "God had to do something with nothing, but when God comes to make the heart believe, He finds opposition and rebellion, He finds man against Himself. As we read in the New Testament, we are at enmity with God. Christ therefore must … give new life."

"The Conversion" -- the fourth annual 9Marks Conference at Southern -- explored why an understanding of conversion is essential for building healthy churches.

Speaking on "Calling and Conversion," Dever examined Joel 2:28-32 to show the power of the Holy Spirit in conversion, challenging Christians to consider their need for grace and God's choice in giving grace.

The Bible supports God's choice to elect, Dever said, noting that election displays God's initiative in pursuing His people: instructing Noah to build the ark; promising to make the pagan Abram a great nation; revealing Himself to Moses and leading His people out of Egypt; and Jesus calling His disciples to follow Him.

"The whole story of the Bible is this," Dever said. "Friend, either God takes the initiative or we're done for; we're lost. This is not a subpoint that's minor; this is the trunk of the Bible. God saves us. ... All of the examples in the Bible show God taking the initiative."

While God initiates His relationship with His chosen people, that does not mean people do not have the responsibility of responding, Dever said. God spoke in the Old Testament -- to Noah, Abraham and Moses -- but He required of them a response of faith, which Dever described as reflecting "the beauty of conversion."

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, evaluated how evangelicals describe Jesus' evangelistic conversation with Nicodemus in John 3:1-21.

"The first thing we should think of when we hear about Nicodemus is, here is one of the most serious God-followers imaginable in first-century Judaism," one who is recognized as a leader of the Sanhedrin and, as a rabbi, a teacher of Israel -- "a man with incredible respect amongst his peers," Mohler said.

Christians understand the Pharisees did not want to please Jesus and, in fact, hardened their hearts toward His teaching, Mohler said, yet Nicodemus' meeting with Jesus was one of urgency and understanding.

"What we should note here, more than a sense of stealth, is an incredible statement of urgency," Mohler said. "Nicodemus, even in the darkness, goes to Jesus."

In Jewish culture, nighttime was the separation between the public and the personal, and going to a neighbor's home in the dark was seen as a disruption of domestic peace, Mohler explained. Yet Nicodemus went to Jesus because he understood Jesus was sent from God, and Jesus tells him that no one can understand God apart from knowing the Son and being born of the Spirit of God.

Mohler also noted how evangelicals tend to end John 3 without showing that Nicodemus bears the fruit of the Spirit as seen in John 19 when he helps prepare Jesus' body for burial.

"The impossible [became] real," Mohler said. "Having seen the Kingdom of God because he was born again, he helps prepare the body of the crucified Christ for burial and for resurrection."

Greg Gilbert, senior pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., discussed the spiritual reality that lies in the center of conversion from Romans 6.

Life is only found when a Christian is "intimately and vitally" connected to Christ, both in life and in his death, Gilbert said, using the biblical imagery of the vine to note that the fruit from this life humbles, empowers, transforms, unites and encourages the body of the church.

"Conversion ... is not just a decision that you make, it's not just a matter of turning over a new leaf," Gilbert said. "Conversion is actually a miracle of God in which He creates life in a place where there had been only death before."

Additional speakers for the Feb. 26-27 conference included Curtis Woods, associate executive director for convention relations with the Kentucky Baptist Convention; Zane Pratt, vice president for global training for the International Mission Board and former dean of Southern Seminary's Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry; and John Onwucheckwa, pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta.

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston, with reporting by Harper McKay of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; T. Patrick Hudson of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Annie Corser of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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