Editors’ Note: Representatives of the six SBC seminaries, a Baptist university, and the director of seminary extension recently met with representatives from African American, Asian, and Hispanic advisory councils in an educational summit to discuss course offerings designed to prepare individuals called to ministry from our many non-Anglo congregations.

Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, hosted the meeting and opened it by addressing the what and the why of the gathering. Hearing a common concern from meetings with the ethnic advisory councils he has appointed in consultation with NAMB president Kevin Ezell in response to the Ethnic Study Committee Report adopted by the SBC in 2011, he found that many ethnic and language church leaders feel the seminaries may not be aware of the unique cultural and educational needs of their churches.

On the other hand, Page felt that many ethnic churches and leaders are unaware of the full range of ministerial training options currently available to Southern Baptists through the seminaries and seminary extension.

Calling the meeting a “listening session,” Page asked long-time Southern Baptist educator David S. Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, to chair the April 2 meeting at the SBC Building in Nashville to foster dialogue between the two groups.

Following a devotional by Dockery and an overview of the needs faced by Hispanic and other minority groups for entry-level, low-cost, non-traditional, quality ministerial training and education for pastors and other God-called ministers of the Gospel by Southwestern Seminary’s associate dean and missions professor Daniel Sanchez, each seminary representative gave an overview of a variety of traditional and non-traditional degree and certificate course options the seminaries provide for ministerial training.

They also addressed broader cultural themes, challenges posed by licensing requirements for higher education which can vary from state to state, and the financial costs associated with creation of new educational initiatives. What follows are some of the highlights presented by the seminaries, outlining their proactive efforts to address the changing needs of ministerial preparation and theological education.

Golden Gate Seminary operates under the conviction that the seminary should be as diverse as its ministry setting. It values and celebrates cultural diversity through course offerings and special events. Every course taught has a multicultural component. Multicultural programming includes an annual three-day festival on campus featuring speakers, seminars, art shows, and food.

Golden Gate operates sixty-six Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) centers throughout the country, training over one thousand ministry leaders in their own communities. These centers offer diploma programs in languages including English, Spanish, Burmese, French, Creole, Korean, Thai-Lao, and Portuguese.

CLD centers provide classes at both a post-high school level and for those without a high school or college diploma to train effective Christian leaders for the churches of many people groups so that there may be a culturally-relevant church for every people group in the country.

Golden Gate offers many intercultural educational opportunities for students, including:

  • Korean-English bilingual Doctor of Ministry, Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies programs
  • the Master of Arts in Intercultural Ministry, which prepares church leaders for multicultural staff positions
  • CLD certificate programs

Golden Gate’s instructors include:

  • Anglo, African American, Canadian, Korean, Native American, and Indian faculty members
  • Hispanic, Chinese, and Thai adjunct faculty
  • Language-specific CLD instructors, based on the CLD center’s language

Southwestern Seminary currently has nearly one thousand intercultural students and is taking steps to enhance ethnic enrollment. It offers diverse educational opportunities through intercultural degree programs, international partnerships, and a commitment to global theological education.

Degree programs with a multicultural component include:

  • Hispanic Studies concentration in the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Missiology degrees
  • Master of Arts in Islamic Studies
  • Doctor of Philosophy in World Christian Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies through Southwestern College

Bilingual and international degree options include:

  • Korean-English bilingual Master of Divinity
  • Joint Doctor of Ministry with Korean Baptist University/Seminary
  • Joint Master of Divinity with a seminary in Bonn, Germany

Southwestern also offers diploma and Bachelor of Arts courses to students at the Darrington prison unit near Houston. The program is modeled after New Orleans Seminary’s prison program (see this article from the current issue for more information about the Darrington prison program at Southwestern).

The seminary maintains global partnerships in Cuba, Guatemala, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Africa, and Asia to advance theological education, and will be presenting a Theological Education Summit this summer focusing on Latin America and Spain.

One of Midwestern Seminary’s learning objectives is to equip its students to “minister in culturally relevant ways.” Graduate-level courses offer cross-cultural and contextual training for various ministry settings. Guest speakers from diverse backgrounds address students through weekly chapel services and special events on campus. Students also engage in intercultural activities such as inner-city ministry, intercultural church planting, and special outreach events.

Midwestern offers degree programs taught in languages other than English, including:

  • Korean Master of Arts in Theological Studies
  • Korean Doctor of Ministry
  • Korean Doctor of Education Ministry
  • Spanish Doctor of Ministry
  • Spanish Master of Arts in Theological Studies (in development)

Courses with intercultural themes include:

  • Cross-Cultural Church Planting
  • Multicultural Counseling
  • Contextualization
  • Cross-Cultural Communication and Language Learning
  • Cultural Setting for Ministry
  • Educational Ministry in Multicultural Settings

Midwestern’s faculty includes:

  • Korean, Hispanic, African American, and Romanian faculty members
  • Former missionaries
  • Professors with international doctorates

Southern Seminary seeks to provide all students with intercultural training and awareness through its curriculum design, specialized degree programs, and missionary service opportunities in North America and abroad. The seminary actively recruits students of different cultures and currently has 299 international students.

The seminary offers the following:

  • Diploma and Master’s-level degrees in Vietnamese
  • Master of Divinity program in Spanish, with plans to launch a Spanish Doctor of Missiology program
  • Doctor of Ministry program in Korean
  • Degrees with missions emphasis, such as Doctor of Missiology and Master of Arts in Theological Studies for Intercultural Leadership

Southern offers student support services and programming through:

  • A full-time staff member who specializes in international student services
  • Scholarships for African American students
  • Korean and African American fellowship groups

Faculty and student teams provide training to pastors in various places througout the world, such as Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Brazil, and East Asia. Faculty members also travel to Malaysia each year to teach an intercultural missions program at the Malaysia Baptist Theological Seminary in Penang.

New Orleans Seminary has been expanding its multi-ethnic theological training through its main campus and its Extension Center initiative, with input from ethnic leaders throughout the US and Central and South America.

In cooperation with the Florida Baptist Convention, the seminary offers:

  • College-level Church Leadership certificates taught at multiple sites in languages such as Spanish, French, Creole, and Portuguese
  • Non-credit certificates to train church leadership among undocumented Spanish-speaking migrant workers in South Florida and the Florida panhandle
  • Church Planting certificates offered in English, Spanish, and French
  • Church Planting certificates for church leaders planting African American churches
  • A certificate program for pastors in Haiti, which has resulted in students planting new churches
  • The equivalent of several Master’s degrees to equip leaders in Cuba

The Atlanta area extension offers:

  • A Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry, Master of Divinity, Doctor of Ministry, and online certificate in Biblical Studies taught in Korean
  • Undergraduate and certificate courses in French designed for Haitian and African French speakers
  • Christian Ministry certificates taught in several African American churches

New Orleans is also training and equipping inmates to minister to their peers through its prison program. The program began at the Louisiana State Prison at Angola in 1995, and since then has expanded to prisons in Mississippi and Georgia with plans to move into Florida and Alabama. Each prison offers the Associate in Christian Ministry and Bachelor of Arts in Christian Ministry degrees.

Southeastern Seminary is committed to developing a learning community that reflects Kingdom diversity. Through recruitment, training, partnerships, and curriculum reform, Southeastern is placing a special emphasis on diversity—for instructors to better teach to a diverse audience, and for students to prepare to minister to diverse communities.

Objectives for the Kingdom diversity initiative include:

  • Foster a campus environment that encourages God-honoring interaction across racial and cultural lines
  • Increase the recruitment and retention of qualified ethnic minorities and other underrepresented groups among students, faculty, and staff
  • Conduct faculty development and curriculum reform to assist students to minister to people who do not share the same ethnic and cultural background
  • Build and strengthen partnerships with diverse churches, church networks, and educational institutions; emerge as a servant to SBC churches and others as a resource to help foster diversity within the church and the broader denominational environment

The seminary is adding two new staff positions to promote diversity and accomplish the goals of the initiative. Walter Strickland will be filling the new position of Special Advisor to the President for Diversity. He will advise the president and his cabinet on ethnic relations and institutional diversity. Edgar Aponte will be joining the staff as Director of Hispanic Leadership Development, to provide direction and administration for Hispanic leadership development.

A ministry of the Council of Seminary Presidents, the Seminary Extension program is a self-funded ministry with more than three hundred teaching centers. It offers training to bivocational pastors, small church pastors, and volunteer church leaders where they live. This ministry helps to assure quality training, from a Southern Baptist perspective, to Southern Baptists where they live and serve.


    About the Author

  • Rebecca Wolford