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Midwestern staff explores Wisconsin in continued connection with Midwest

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (BP)–In an effort to further explore the heartland of America, administrators of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary traveled to Wisconsin for their annual staff retreat, June 25-28.
“Because with Southern Baptists there is a natural `gravity’ that pulls us and our churches to the south, we work against this pull to lift the focus to the heartland by taking our faculty and staff north,” explained Mark Coppenger, president of the Kansas City, Mo., seminary.
The four-day circuit took the group to Door County peninsula, from the shipyards of Sturgeon Bay to the ferry boat-accessed Washington Island. Accompanying Coppenger and his wife, Sharon, were academic dean Jim Cogdill and his wife, Debbie; student dean Gary Ledbetter and his wife, Tammi; and institutional development vice president Harold Poage and his wife, Carolyn.
After meeting with Midwestern alum Dennis Hanson, Bay Lakes Association director of missions, the group fanned out to four churches in the 28-county area Hanson serves. Coppenger spoke at Fellowship Baptist Church in Waupaca, a rural community west of Green Bay where Larry Chaney pastors. Cogdill addressed an early service of Anchor Fellowship, joining members as they moved out to the local Riverfest celebration for evangelistic outreach along the coast of Lake Michigan in Manitowac.
Ledbetter delivered a message at Mapledale Baptist Church, an ethnically diverse congregation in Sheboygan pastored by Tony Peffer. Poage joined worshipers at Highland Crest Baptist Church in Green Bay where Jim Downs is pastor. The church is within site of the famous Lambeau Field where the Packers play.
Midwestern Seminary has adopted a purpose statement emphasizing its vision to provide “degree programs to educate God’s servants to biblically evangelize and congregationalize the world, with special focus on the Midwest/Great Plains region of America.”
Trips like the recent retreat “habituate the seminary to the culture and to acquaint it with the region’s charms and with the church members of the area,” Coppenger said. In turn, Southern Baptists of the region hear of the work of Midwestern and “our heart to be of service to them,” he added.
An August trip will take Midwestern faculty to Chicago, utilizing train, subway and bus lines to gain a sense of life in one of America’s largest cities, before returning by plane. The seminary has an extension center in the city. Previous retreats took the faculty to Minneapolis and to Lawerence, Kan. Staff retreats of recent years were set in the eastern edge of the Rockies and near Indian reservations ranging from South Dakota to Wyoming and Montana.
The youngest of the six Southern Baptist seminaries, Midwestern trains ministerial students through diploma studies for non-college graduates, master’s level studies in theology, Christian education and church music, as well as a doctor of ministry program. Specializations are available in domestic and international church planting, urban ministries and collegiate ministries for students seeking a master of divinity. –30– Based on reporting by Tammi Ledbetter.