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Southern’s school of church music restructures to emphasize worship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Changes to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s school of church music and worship will have it focusing more on praise and worship leadership, according to school officials.

“The biggest difference is that we are offering more degrees with worship as the driving force rather than music as the driving force, yet we are still continuing to offer the degrees we’ve always offered that give priority to music,” said Lloyd Mims, dean of the school. “We’re embracing a much wider array of church music education.”

The changes will allow Southern Seminary to better meet the needs of Southern Baptist churches, said Danny Akin, the seminary’s vice president for academic administration.

“Southern Seminary is trying to build on the best of its past tradition in the music school while at the same time charting a forward course for our churches of the 21st century,” Akin said. “We recognize that music styles change with each new generation and we accept the responsibility of providing ministers of music and worship who can effectively minister to those congregations.”

Chief among the changes will be a new structure to the school of church music and worship, which will have three divisions — the academy of music, the institute of praise and worship and the conservatory of church music — instead of the current two.

The academy of music will provide music instruction for seminary community families as well as families in the Louisville area. It will also provide training and supervision for music majors in the James P. Boyce College of the Bible.

The institute of praise and worship will emphasize worship leadership through various courses of study. In addition to the master of divinity in worship and the master of divinity in church music degrees, the school will launch a new master of arts in worship, which will be a 48-hour degree.

In addition, the seminary will revamp its doctor of ministry in worship degree. Instead of requiring students to spend a year on campus, the new requirements will allow students to complete the degree by spending only four weeks on campus over a two-year period. The degree will emphasize a praise and worship approach to music.

“We believe this will have a great attraction and fit the schedule of many ministers of music and worship in our churches who could not otherwise pursue a doctorate degree,” Akin said.

Another important part to the new emphasis on worship is the theological foundation students will receive. “Our goal will be to chart a biblically and theologically sound course that undergirds this emphasis in current worship,” Akin said.

Daniel Block, the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary, has played a role in designing such theological classes as “Biblical Theology of Worship.”

“There’s more to worship than music,” Block said. “Music is important, but worship begins with a revelation of God.”

Block defines worship to his students as involving “reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine sovereign, in response to his gracious revelation of himself and in accordance with his will.”

True worship is an encounter with the living God, Block said. “And unless we come away changed, we haven’t worshiped.”

The conservatory of church music will continue to provide classical musical training through various degrees, such as a master of church music, master of divinity in church music, master of music, doctor of music ministry and doctor of musical arts.

Akin stressed that the changes will not eliminate any of the seminary’s current offerings.

The music school “has some of the finest trained musicians that you would find in any school of music” and does an effective job of training students in classic musical disciplines, Akin said.

“That will continue,” he said. “However, taking that essential foundation, we hope to provide instruction that is relevant for the churches of today. We recognize that the praise and worship movement requires our attention. We are broadening our programs of study that provide for instruction to the laity all the way up to the terminal Ph.D. degree.”

    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.

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