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TRUSTEES: M.Div. Internet work approved

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary trustees have approved a new distance learning track in the master of divinity program and other initiatives designed to make theological education more accessible to God-called men and women throughout the world.

Trustees approved a new distance learning M.Div. track during their April 15 meeting that essentially makes the seminary’s Online Learning Center an extension center. The result is a fully accredited master of divinity degree program that requires only 30 hours of on-campus credit. The rest of the coursework may be taken through Internet course or a combination of Internet and extension center courses.

“If you look at the numbers, the Online Learning Center would already be one of our larger extension centers,” NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke said. “In some ways [viewing the Internet as an extension center] is a very small step. It’s just adding a few more Internet courses.”

In other ways, the distance learning M.Div. is a significant innovation, Lemke said. The plan opens a path to accredited master’s-level theological education to people in regions of the country and the world that are not served by a Southern Baptist seminary.

The seminary currently has 45 hours of master’s-level coursework available online. Lemke said the Online Learning Center is working to develop at least five additional online courses over the next few years to make a total of 60 hours of Internet training available.

Trustee also approved seven new certificate training programs — six on the graduate level and one on the undergraduate level.

The graduate certificates entail specialized training programs in missions, biblical preaching, bivocational ministry, church planting and basic and advanced certificates in Islamic studies. The undergraduate certificate is a Florida-based program focused on student ministry.

The seminary’s certificate programs are designed to equip students in selected areas of ministry who are called to serve as pastors, staff members, worship leaders or missionaries. Certificate training also is open to lay leaders serving local churches, ministries or denominational organizations. Many of the courses are fully transferable into the seminary’s degree programs if a student decides to seek further training.

Each of the graduate certificates require 12-17 hours of coursework except for the advanced graduate certificate in Islamic studies which requires 12 additional hours of credit. The student ministry certificate requires eight hours of training.

“We have received significant interest from persons who want specialized training in a specific area of interest, rather than a longer and broader general theological degree,” Lemke said. “These certificates provide this focused specialized training. Of course, we hope that some students who complete a certificate will continue on and earn a full degree.”

Trustees also approved an additional certificate training site. First Baptist Church in Olive Branch, Miss., received the board’s approval to offer certificate in biblical ministry training. The certificate in biblical training offers Sunday School teachers, lay leaders and bivocational ministers basic training in biblical literacy and doctrinal foundations. Students also are given the chance to develop practical ministry skills.

During the meeting, trustees approved an $18.1 million budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year. They commended Clay Corvin, the seminary’s vice president of business affairs, for his diligent work in the face of the economic downturn.

Craig Campbell, an insurance agent from Russellville, Ark., was elected as trustee chairman after serving the past two years as vice chairman. David Cranford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula, La., was named as the board’s new vice chairman. Phil Hanberry, a businessman in Hattiesburg, Miss., was re-elected as secretary.

The board also approved eight faculty rank promotions and granted tenure to four professors.

Receiving promotions:

— Jack Allen is now associate professor of church planting. He is the director of the Cecil B. Day Center for Church Planting and the seminary’s Nehemiah Project professor.

— Allen England is now associate professor of church and educational administration.

— Jeff D. Griffin is now associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. He also serves as dean of libraries at NOBTS.

— Rick Morton is now associate professor of Christian education, ministry-based faculty.

— Jeff Nave is now associate professor of psychology and counseling. He also serves as director of testing and counseling at NOBTS.

— Donna B. Peavey is now associate professor of Christian education in Leavell College, the seminary’s undergraduate program.

— Lorretta G. Rivers is now associate professor of social work.

— Reggie Ogea is now professor of leadership and pastoral ministry. He also serves as associate dean of professional doctoral programs.

Allen, England, Griffin and Nave also were granted tenure.

The trustees also activated the new Robert Hamblin Chair of New Testament Exposition in honor of Robert Hamblin, a retired NOBTS evangelism professor, pastor and vice president for evangelism at the SBC’s former Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board).
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.