FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Baptist seminary students trod timeworn paths to learn new perspectives during this summer’s 2019 Oxford Study Tour sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The group of 36 visited key historic sites in England in an annual tour that has remained focused on church and Baptist history while offering an opportunity to engage in cross-cultural ministry.
Madison Grace, associate professor of Baptist heritage at Southwestern Seminary and director of the Oxford Study Program, was joined this year by two fellow faculty members from the Fort Worth, Texas, campus — Stephen Presley, associate professor of church history, and Travis Dickinson, associate professor of philosophy and Christian apologetics — along with Stephen B. Eccher, assistant professor of church history and reformation studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. The study tour hosted students from both Southwestern and Southeastern seminary who could earn class credits.
Grace said the Oxford program is “a unique opportunity for participants to not only visit and learn about Baptist and church history as they visit sites where these events occurred, but also to interact with the current work of churches in Great Britain. Added to these aspects of the trip is the ability to build community with professors, students and other believers from across the convention.”
For Eccher, “One of the great joys of taking part in the Oxford study tour is watching our students ponder the depths of their beliefs in places where figures like Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Hamilton and others died horrific deaths for their own convictions. But perhaps my greatest joy from this year’s trip took place even before we left, as I received a support letter from a participant on the 2018 Oxford Tour who is planting their lives in the U.K. for the next year.”
In Oxford, the “city of dreaming spires,” Grace delivered a sermon at Regent’s Park College and, throughout the week, students heard lectures on church history, apologetics and church planting in the chapel of this college with historical connections to British Baptists.
On a walking tour of London, the study tour explored the British Museum, with its array of biblical artifacts. Participants visited St. Paul’s Cathedral and walked through Paternoster Square, where religious printers once flourished, and the site of the former Newgate Prison, where Thomas Helwys, the first Baptist pastor in England, was imprisoned for his faith.
They visited the Smithfield Market, where Protestant martyrs were burned at the stake. At Charles Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, Grace lectured on the accomplishments of Spurgeon, a leading figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition. He then spoke about Christianity and the age of dissent at Bunhill Fields, the dissenters graveyard. In the Westminster sector, Eccher spoke about British culture and faith. Students also heard about church planting efforts in London from International Mission Board workers.
In Colchester, a city rich in church history, Grace spoke at Artillery St. Evangelical Church, the place of Spurgeon’s conversion. At Moulton, participants visited Carey Baptist Church where William Carey developed his missionary vision while cobbling shoes, and Presley preached from the pulpit. In Olney, they visited the church of John Newton, author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” and the group sang the hymn together inside the centuries-old church. At Kettering, a market town, they saw the site where the Baptist Missionary Society was formed, and Grace spoke on theologians Andrew Fuller and John Gill.
Adam Covington, Southwestern’s director of communications, said the visit to Moulton and Kettering was “by far one of the most meaningful and impactful days of the trip for me. It was surreal to stand in the room where William Carey worked as a cobbler and school teacher while he pastored the small village church next door and to recognize this place as the location where the Lord began to burden his heart and his mind for the task of taking the Gospel to the unreached corners of the earth.”
Traveling to Scotland, the group shared the Gospel with Edinburgh’s residents, worshiped at Charlotte Chapel, and learned about ministry in Scotland. They also heard a walking lecture by Eccher while touring the Royal Mile and visiting the church of John Knox, a Scottish theologian and leader of the country’s Reformation.
Eccher praised the July 15-31 trip for “allowing students to see, feel, steep in and interact with a culture that is ticking down to roughly 1 percent evangelical. That means students get time to soak in a context that is, at best, post-Christian, perhaps even pre-Christian.”
Students had numerous opportunities to share the Gospel on the streets of England, Eccher said, noting, “The dissonance they experience between a visual skyline dominated by Medieval church spires and surrounding streets filled with what the IMB would classify as an unreached people group is striking.”
Covington underscored the importance of relationships forged as a result of the trip. “We had students who were taking their first class ever at Southwestern Seminary, students who were working on their second and third degrees, a long-tenured pastor of a church in Arkansas and an international student from Southeast Asia,” he said. “We had all of these students from different walks of life, from different stages of life, gathered together for a concentrated period with the sole purpose to learn about church history, Baptist heritage, and theology. We experienced Christian fellowship in this community to a degree that our busy lives don’t often allow at home.”
Kyle Hamby, an enrollment specialist in Southwestern’s admissions office and a bachelor’s student in Scarborough College, said, “I was able to see the heritage of the British Baptists to where they gave up their lives for the principles and doctrine of the Baptist faith. It makes you wonder, are you willing to give your life for such principles or doctrines? It is easy to say that you would but going to places where you know someone was burned alive, drowned in a river, or murdered by a mob for doctrines such as believer’s baptism makes Baptist heritage and history come alive.
“This trip brings what we learn in the classroom to life in so many ways,” Hamby said. “Not only does the history come to life, but so will friendships that you never saw coming.”
Mobile, NOBTS announce accelerated BA+MDiv program
MOBILE, Ala. (BP) — A new partnership between the University of Mobile and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary allows students to save time and money by earning both their bachelor of arts and master of divinity degrees in just five years.
The Accelerated B.A.+M.Div. program reduces by two years the time it takes for a student to earn both a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mobile and an M.Div. from New Orleans Seminary.
“This agreement will greatly benefit both institutions. We are pleased to partner with our colleagues in New Orleans and hope this is just the start of many such opportunities,” said Lonnie Burnett, interim president of the University of Mobile, which is affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention.
Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Seminary, said, “This is an exciting time in our history to partner with the University of Mobile to train students for the mission of Christ. This partnership will enable students to maximize their time and get to the field more quickly.”
The agreement allows selected undergraduate courses taken at UM to apply toward the master’s program at NOBTS. UM students also may qualify for advanced placement in biblical language courses.
In addition, up to 29 hours of graduate-level courses taken in the University of Mobile School of Christian Studies master of arts program may transfer to any NOBTS M.Div.
NOBTS offers an M.Div. with specializations in 24 areas, including pastoral ministry, missions and urban missions, church planting and evangelistic church growth.
Doug Wilson, dean of the University of Mobile School of Christian Studies, said, “Through the years, many of our Christian Studies alumni have gone on to pursue M.Div. and doctoral work at NOBTS. By formalizing this partnership, one of our key Southern Baptist seminaries is affirming the value of our theological and ministry training at the University of Mobile.”
The program will start with the fall semester 2020. For more information, contact Wilson at [email protected] or call UM enrollment services at 251-442-2222.