News Articles

NOBTS trustees approve 2 degree-granted centers

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Trustees at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary set a course for the seminary’s future by establishing two degree-granting extension centers, restructuring undergraduate and church music degrees and launching new doctoral specializations during their spring meeting April 12.

The meeting opened with NOBTS President Chuck Kelley presenting a positive picture of the seminary’s recovery and future. He underscored the assistance of Southern Baptists in the seminary’s recovery process.

“We are very grateful for the difference the Cooperative Program made in the New Orleans Seminary Hurricane Katrina experience,” Kelley said. “Southern Baptists kept a challenge from becoming a crisis.

“We are no longer in survival mode. We are in growth and opportunity mode,” Kelley said. “The SBC threw its full weight into giving us a future; we must give back a world-class seminary.”

Kelley said the seminary’s future will include an enhanced residential program in New Orleans, an enlarged extension center system and, in the years to come, expanded Internet course offerings. The local church, he said, will continue to play an integral role in the seminary’s philosophy.

“Every instinct, every fiber of my being tells me God has a mighty plan for the future of this city and this school,” Kelley said. “We are going to see such things the world will talk about for years to come.”

Following Kelley’s report, trustees approved a plan to develop the Atlanta and Orlando extension centers as degree-granting sites, or “hubs.” Extension students who live closer to Atlanta or Orlando may earn up to 18 hours of their on-campus credit requirements at the two sites instead of traveling to New Orleans.

Provost Steve Lemke said the plan will “greatly enhance” the seminary’s extension work in Georgia and Florida and save students the expenses incurred by traveling to New Orleans for all their on-campus hours.

In the past students had to earn 30 hours of credit on the main campus in New Orleans -– a costly endeavor for students from Florida and Georgia. Under the new plan, extension students only have to earn 12 hours of credit in New Orleans. Now, students who primarily attend the Atlanta and Orlando sites must complete 12 hours of credit at the New Orleans campus.

The plan, to be launched in the fall semester of 2007 contingent on approval from the seminary’s accrediting agencies, calls for students to complete at least one three-hour mission or disaster relief course in New Orleans.

During the discussion of the “hubs,” Kelley announced that the Atlanta extension center will relocate from Decatur, Ga., to Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga. Classes will begin meeting in Marietta during the fall 2006 semester.

Trustees also voted to restructure undergraduate degrees in the seminary’s Leavell College. The revisions, resulting in more flexible degrees with more free electives, are designed to help non-traditional students with previous college credit transfer into Leavell College to complete their degrees.

The revisions add six hours of free electives to both the Bachelor of Arts in Christian ministry and the associate in Christian ministry degrees. The degrees continue to offer a strong emphasis on ministry, biblical studies and theological training. Total hours remain at 126 for the bachelor’s and 70 for the associate’s degree.

The board then voted to revise the master of music in church music degree to make the program accessible to more students. The degree, accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music, is a difficult academic program with a high concentration on music theory. Very few students, even those with music degrees, are able to qualify without completing a year of leveling work.

Lemke explained that the changes are needed because the colleges that do offer the prerequisite bachelor of music have seen a dramatic drop of about 70 percent in enrollment over the past decade.

The accrediting agency allows for small adjustments to the master of music in church music to tailor the program to the mission of an institution, Lemke said.

“Our mission is to equip leaders to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandments of the local church and its ministries,” he continued. “So to do that, we are going to argue that these revisions are necessary.”

Along with the revisions to the master of music in church music, trustees voted to align the course numbers and names of music courses offered in other degrees such as the master of arts in worship studies, master of divinity with specialization in worship studies, master of divinity with specialization in church music and master of arts in Christian education church music concentration. They also voted to establish worship studies specializations in the doctor of ministry and doctor of educational ministry programs.

As a result of the vote to revise the master of music in church music, NOBTS must now submit the proposed changes for accreditation.

Trustees also approved a full launch of two restructured ministry-based master of divinity degrees -– a church ministry degree and a collegiate ministry degree. These ministry-based degrees combine an emphasis on the classic theological disciplines such as biblical studies and theology with on-the-job training in a church or collegiate ministry setting.

Both degrees require one year of practical ministry with an option of a second year of ministry. In addition to a mentor at the ministry site, students also will have an NOBTS faculty mentor to guide the learning experience.

The church ministry track includes pastor ministry, church staff and ministry leadership concentrations. The flexible programs are open to both main campus and extension center students.

Trustees also voted to rename the Center for New Testament Textual Studies in honor of H. Milton Haggard. The Haggard family, longtime supporters of the center, left a $799,000 estate gift for its ongoing work. The gift will be used to establish a permanent endowment to fund The H. Milton Haggard Center for New Testament Textual Studies.

During the meeting, Kelley announced the formation of several key task forces. Assistant provost Jimmy Dukes will lead a task force to create a model for expanded Internet course offerings. David Meacham, chairman of the division of pastor ministries, will lead a study team in looking at ways to enhance the extension center system. Two other faculty task forces were formed -– one to promote the master of divinity ministry tracks; another to facilitate seminary involvement in the restoration of New Orleans.

At the close of the meeting, trustees voted to re-elect the entire slate of officers who served during the difficult 2005-06 school year: Ray Moncrief as chairman; Craig Campbell, vice chairman; and Phil Hanberry, secretary-treasurer.

In other action, trustees:

— approved undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in worship studies.

— approved a $19 million budget.

— reduced tuition rates for main campus students.

— approved construction of two new faculty homes.

— approved construction of a new maintenance facility.

— approved upgrades to student dorms.

— approved the Hispanic Theological Institute. The institute, currently under development, will offer Spanish-language studies in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

— toured the Hurricane Katrina devastation in the Lower Ninth Ward and in the Gentilly neighborhood.