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SBC DIGEST: SWBTS online M.Div.; IMB missions training; Dockery honored

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has received approval from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) to offer its master of divinity (M.Div.) and master of arts in Christian education (MACE) degrees completely online.

The decision from the national accrediting agency removes residency restrictions on the seminary’s two most prominent degree programs, making them more accessible to students around the world. The online options took effect in August.

“How grateful we are that the Association of Theological Schools has made it possible for our M.Div. and MACE degrees to be available worldwide to those in search of theological education,” Paige Patterson, Southwestern’s president, said.

“Now students on mission assignment or residents of countries denied access to the United States by monetary constraints or a pastor ministering in a strategic U.S. city can access the finest theological instruction,” Patterson said.

“While I am still deeply committed to residency, the expanded opportunities of Internet education should profoundly influence the biblical and theological grasp of our people and prepare hundreds more for service.”

In a letter to the seminary, the ATS board of commissioners said, “All appropriate resources and services are in place. The school’s assessment plan and efforts are robust and have been in place for many years, allowing for some longitudinal studies. Data to date indicates virtually the same assessment results for both onsite and online students.”

Southwestern has offered online courses since 2000 and has continually expanded online course offerings over the years. Prior to ATS approval, a student could only complete a portion of the M.Div. or MACE degree online.

The additions of the online M.Div. and MACE represent a growing number of fully online programs at Southwestern. Earlier this year, the seminary launched its fully online 36-hour master of theological studies (MTS) degree, including a version completely in Spanish.

Additionally, the seminary offers a 45-hour MTS with a concentration in cross-cultural missions, which exists to train missionaries as they serve on the field and is especially adapted to meet the needs of the International Mission Board’s Macedonia Project.

For more information on Southwestern’s degree programs, visit www.swbts.edu/admissions.

Intensive week of missions training offered

Missions College 2014, an intensive missions training course, will be offered at the International Mission Board’s International Learning Center in Rockville, Va., Jan. 13-17, 2014.

The training opportunity is designed for pastors and church members hoping to engage unreached people groups in the Americas. The courses will offer training to those interested in short mission trips as well as those developing long-term engagement.

Participants will connect with IMB missionaries from the Americas and other churches engaging people groups in church planting. They’ll learn more about some of the most fruitful missions practices currently being utilized.

Three tracks will be offered through the week: introductory missions training, advanced orality and community transformation training. Churches are encouraged to send enough participants to have at least one person in each track.

IMB President Tom Elliff will kick off the weeklong training conference at dinner on Jan. 13.

The registration deadline is Dec. 15, and there are discounts for early registration.

For more information, click here.

LifeWay honors Dockery with HCSB Award

LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer announced Sept. 13 that Union University President David S. Dockery is the recipient of the second Holman Christian Standard Bible Award, the highest honor that LifeWay bestows.

Rainer, speaking at a chapel service in Union’s G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel, read a letter from Selma Wilson, president of LifeWay’s B&H Publishing, in which she told him of the HCSB Award committee’s decision.

“The award recognizes biblical fidelity and an extraordinary commitment to teaching and preaching the Word of God,” Wilson wrote. “Our committee is highly selective in making this award. We have waited over four years before naming the second recipient of the HCSB Award.”

The first HCSB Award was given posthumously in 2009 to Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., who was shot and killed during a worship service.

Wilson said the award committee “recently evaluated several incredible leaders” as potential recipients of the HCSB Award, but that Dockery’s name rose to the top.

“His books on biblical authority and interpretation are seminal works,” she wrote. “His speaking and proclamation of the Word is uncompromising and challenging. His academic and statesman leadership is known around the world and admired by thousands.”

Dockery said the recognition was “incredibly humbling and most meaningful.”

“When Dr. Rainer made the announcement today, I was both completely surprised and quite overwhelmed,” Dockery said. “I am deeply honored by this recognition, and I want to express my genuine appreciation to Dr. Rainer and all of those at LifeWay who were involved in this decision.”

The recognition comes with an HCSB Bible, a plaque and a monetary award. LifeWay will formally present Dockery with the award during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Baltimore in June.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and editor Art Toalston. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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