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Seminary presidents approve Internet coursework guidelines

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Students will soon be able to earn up to 30 hours of credit at a Southern Baptist seminary over the Internet, thanks to recent action from the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council of Seminary Presidents.

Presidents from the six Southern Baptist seminaries adopted “The Point Clear Accord” Nov. 22 during a meeting in Point Clear, Ala. As part of the document, described as “a statement of common purpose and a bold vision for the future,” the seminary presidents solidified plans “to develop Internet-based courses designed to offer up to thirty credit hours of the Master of Divinity degree on-line.”

A master of divinity degree usually requires about 90 hours of coursework.

Charles S. Kelley Jr., president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and chairman of the council, said the desire of the seminary presidents was to make “quality accredited theological education as accessible as possible to Southern Baptists wherever they are.”

“The new technology of the Internet gives us an opportunity to reach people in any part of the world,” Kelley said.

The seminary presidents intend this technology to be the centerpiece of a nationwide strategy to provide “accredited theological education of the highest quality,” Kelley added.

Southern Baptist seminaries have for several years made use of extension centers in a number of off-campus locations to provide theological education for those who couldn’t come to a seminary campus, Kelley said. Now, the Internet curriculum will open even more doors for people restricted by geography to receive an education.

But, Kelley stressed the fact that the Internet courses are not a replacement for the seminary classroom.

“The residential seminary program remains the Cadillac of theological education, giving students the opportunity for interaction with faculty and other students that is irreplaceable,” he said. “All six of our seminaries are very committed to continue to provide outstanding residential programs. …

“However, we are concerned about a population of people who may for various reasons find it impossible to come to a residential program,” Kelley said.

Several of the seminaries have already begun the process of developing the Internet courses, Kelley said, and students should have access to the on-line classes in the very near future. No matter where they’re located, students can take the classes from whichever seminary they so choose.

“Every seminary will do whatever it wants to do and students can take whatever courses they want to take,” Kelley said.

The entire Point Clear Accord can be seen on Southern Seminary’s website at www.sbts.edu.

    About the Author

  • Tim Ellsworth
    Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tenn. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.Read All by Tim Ellsworth ›