At the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Tampa, we unveiled a new banner and introduced a new name: “Central Baptist Theological Seminary Tennessee.” What exactly does that mean?
In the fall of 2005, a unique experiment began in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, when Central Baptist Theological Seminary began offering graduate theological education at First Baptist Church. Michael Smith, pastor of the church, taught Christian Heritage and Laura Moore came from the Shawnee campus to teach Hebrew Bible. The following six years have been both challenging and rewarding with well over 30 students enrolled in classes and six students receiving the Master of Divinity degree through transfer of their credits to the main campus. Thirty-two classes have been offered. Students have included women and men, African-Americans and Anglos, degree students and lifelong learners, and persons from at least six different denominations.
After a great deal of work and the support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Tennessee CBF, the site is now fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to award the Master of Divinity degree and the Diploma in Theology. Other programs may be added in the future.
So what does this mean?
First of all, quality theological education is accessible in Tennessee to those who are already involved in ministry without uprooting family and relocating out of state to pursue a degree. They can continue their present ministries while enhancing their skills and knowledge.
Second, students may take a major portion of their courses online and complete the residency requirement in Murfreesboro by attending the weekend courses offered there. This greatly expands the reach of this center and of the seminary, emphasizing a unified “one seminary family” approach.
Third, students will learn in a setting with a strong Baptist orientation but with respect and appreciation for all Christian traditions. Both students and instructors come from several denominational backgrounds, enriching the academic and formation experience.
Fourth, students will study under committed and competent instructors. We will continue to host faculty from the main campus and also call on the services of adjunct professors from the area with terminal degrees or who are completing their dissertations. Many of these professors have extensive experience in ministry.
Finally, the new designation means that we will now work in a larger context, offering these opportunities to those within driving distance of the Murfreesboro center. We anticipate new students not only from other parts of Tennessee but from southern Kentucky and north Alabama.
We are grateful for the support provided by churches and ministry partners that makes this opportunity available. To learn more, go to the seminary website or contact Ircel Harrison.