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10/24/97 2 new education degrees get Southwestern trustee approval

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Two groundbreaking degrees in religious education were approved by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustees Oct. 22: a doctor of educational ministry and master of arts in Christian school education.
Trustees also endorsed and participated in the work of Southwestern’s “presidential committee on theological education in the 21st century” and changed the name of the school of religious education to the school of educational ministries during their annual fall meeting.
According to Daryl Eldridge, dean of the school of educational ministries, there has been no religious education academic equivalent to the doctor of ministry degree in theology and “just the possibility” of the DEM degree at Southwestern has generated a waiting list of 150 students to apply to the program.
Talbot Theological Seminary in California and Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois will be partners in the program and Southwestern is seeking “the right match” with an evangelical seminary in the East, Eldridge added.
The 32-hour degree will include study in four academic areas: Christian formation, organizational development, educational process and research evaluation and design. Josh McDowell and Dawson McAllister, among other evangelical leaders, have indicated interest in teaching classes, Eldridge said. Southwestern plans to offer the first classes in the fall of next year.
The new master’s degree is a response to the continuing explosion of private, Christian schools. “In Texas alone we’re told that a new Christian school is opening every day,” Eldridge said. “If we are going to have an impact in this vital area of education, we need to offer training that is currently unavailable.”
The 46-hour degree, with teacher or administrator certification prerequisite, will include 20 hours of Bible and theology; 18 hours of Christian school education and eight hours of research. Classes will be offered in one-week formats during the summer.
Bruce Corley, professor of New Testament and chairman of the nine- member presidential committee on theological education in the 21st century at Southwestern, briefed trustees on the initiative’s progress before asking for their input. Two significant probable/potential changes are the melding of the curriculum and faculty of the three schools (theology, educational ministries and church music) and even more emphasis on spiritual development, including relational skills and moral standards.
Calling the evaluation “one of the most significant things that has happened in the history of Southwestern Seminary,” Corley pointed to the “potential for what are probably the most important and comprehensive changes in our history.”
“This is to help us turn the corner to the 21st century and close the gap between the perception of what seminaries do and what churches need. One of Southwestern’s strengths has been the nexus between the local church and the seminary — but much of the feedback we get from students is of the ‘what I did not learn in seminary’ variety.”
Resistance to integration of the three schools, understandably, is the tendency to protect turf, Corley said. Yet at the faculty retreat earlier this semester, he said, “all six focus groups came back with the same priority — ‘We have to work toward integration’ of academic disciplines.”
Corley also addressed another concern. “We live in an age when too many people twist words from their meanings to say something else — my favorite is ‘follicle abatement’ to mean you’re going bald,” he said. “But this committee is exactly what the names says it is. It is not a stalking horse to get rid of people or downsize. It is an honest attempt — a radical look — at how we can be better stewards as theological educators.”
President Ken Hemphill asked trustees to help answer three questions, both at the meeting and in the coming months: What are the ministry outcomes Southwestern needs to address; what competencies will be necessary to assure those outcomes; and how are the skills to teach those competencies acquired?
“We are open to any kind of revision we need to get the job done,” he said. “One thing trustees can do is bring us a field perspective.”
The hour-long, wide-ranging discussion touched on high resignation rates of ministers, the need for new ministers to lay a foundation for change before launching change, affirmation of having students “who will work on church staffs together learn together,” firm grounding in integrity and morals and the need for ministers to be spiritual leaders and models.
Other activities of the meeting included a seminar on long-range planning, discussion of the seminary’s $100 million capital campaign and trustees’ role in it and acceptance of the seminary’s annual audit.

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  • Craig Bird