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Southeastern expands college, adds women’s studies degree

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s mission to train men and women for the gospel ministry is expanding following approval by the school’s board of trustees April 21 to add a four-year college program, two new seminary degree programs and establish an endowment fund for world missions.
Responding to the growing interest in Southeastern’s undergraduate program, trustees unanimously approved plans to expand Southeastern Baptist Theological College from a two-year program to a four-year program. Under the new structure, the college will offer a bachelor of arts degree with majors in the History of Ideas and Biblical Studies.
Trustees also unanimously approved a degree track, unparalleled among Southern Baptist seminaries, called the Master of Divinity with Women’s Studies. This degree program, which calls for 96 semester hours, is specifically tailored for women seeking training for ministry positions other than the pastorate and who will focus on teaching the Bible to women.
Trustees also approved a degree track, pending approval by accrediting agencies, that will offer a master of divinity with Advanced Biblical Studies. Beginning this fall, students may enroll in the new degree track created especially for seminary students whose undergraduate degree includes an emphasis in biblical studies.
Southeastern Baptist Theological College, established in 1995 as an upper-level baccalaureate program, has grown from 100 students in its inaugural fall semester to 257 in the 1997 fall semester. Under the current program, students entering the college have needed 58 semester hours of general college requirements before pursuing a bachelor of arts in biblical studies at Southeastern.
Pending approval from accrediting agencies, students will be able to enroll in the four-year bachelor of arts program this fall. Southeastern’s new bachelor of arts program, requiring 128 semester hours, will become the only seminary-related undergraduate program supported by the Southern Baptist Convention that offers another academic major in addition to the biblical studies degree.
Patterson said the History of Ideas major will expose students to the “great books” of the Western world that have shaped Western ideas and culture. “If a person is familiar with those (great books), then he really knows the whole history of Western ideas,” he said. “We want to produce a kind of minister with a full grasp of what has made our culture significant.”
In an era of technological specialization, Patterson said, more and more students are graduating from college with little exposure to the history of Western thought. “They really don’t know why their culture is like it is or why another culture is like it is and how you relate those two together,” he said.
Under the bachelor of arts program, students regardless of their major will be required to take at least 40 semester hours of biblical studies in survey courses such as Old Testament, New Testament, church history, Baptist history, Greek, evangelism, hermeneutics and Christian doctrine.
Patterson described the History of Ideas major as an intensive academic track. “In a high-intensity program, it’s almost certain with as much reading as they’re going to have to do in this program that you’re going to have some attrition,” he said
Like the college program, the creation of the women’s studies program spawns a new day for Southeastern, Patterson said.
“Among evangelical schools, this will be the first of its kind,” he said. “We felt that the time had come to prepare women who want to be biblically oriented women and want to live according to the dictates of the Word of the Lord.”
Pending approval by accrediting agencies, the program is scheduled to begin in the fall. Students enrolled in the women’s studies track will be required to complete foundational courses in Old Testament and New Testament survey, church history, Baptist history, Christian missions, evangelism, as well as Christian philosophy and Christian ethics. Some of the other requirements include two semesters each of Hebrew and Greek and gender roles in the Bible.
Specialized courses pertaining exclusively to women will be offered as electives. Some of the courses focus on women in the Bible, church history and missions, as well as feminist theology and marriage and family counseling.
Patterson said the new degree track should offer an alternative to existing women’s studies programs at universities across the country which have been tainted by “radical feminism.”
“We feel that this is a program that is going to meet a need that is increasingly present and that no one has been addressing significantly,” he said.
Dorothy Patterson, adjunct professor of Christian family ministry at Southeastern and wife of Paige Patterson, has committed to teach full time in the program for two years without pay while the school works to fund the program through contributions to an endowment fund.
Dorothy Patterson earned a master of theology degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and doctorate in ministry from Luther Rice Seminary. She will be awarded a doctorate of theology from the University of South Africa in May where she wrote her dissertation on the theology of womanhood.
“We want this to be a Christ-honoring program or otherwise we don’t want to do it,” she said. “We want it to be a program that honors the Lord and is bound by Scripture on every end.”
Patterson said legal documents have been written to ensure that once the program is endowed it adheres to its original purpose, or its funding will cease.
With new degree programs on the undergraduate and graduate level, Southeastern also will offer a new advanced graduate degree. The master of divinity with Advanced Biblical Studies, intensified in biblical and theological studies, is designed for students who earned their undergraduate degree in biblical studies.
Patterson said the advanced degree track, which will require the standard 96 semester hours, should not be confused with shorter “fast track” programs offered at other theological schools.
In other business, trustees approved an $11.3 million operating budget for the 1998-99 fiscal year, an increase of nearly $4 million over the current budget. Trustees also established the Richard and Gina Headrick Chair of World Missions in honor of the Wyoming couple.
The Headricks, members of Southeastern’s board of visitors, donated $250,000 to the seminary in October and have committed themselves to fully fund the chair. A total of $1 million is needed to complete the funding of the endowed chair created to provide the financial resources that will perpetually fund a world missions program for the life of the seminary.
The Headricks currently are involved in spreading the gospel by building churches in El Salvador and the Philippines, ministering in a leper colony in Vietnam and evangelizing Haiti, Tibet and Nepal.

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  • Lee Weeks