SWBTS trustees approve leading-edge Ph.D.

FORT WORTH—A new Ph.D. in world Christian studies is being developed at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, after trustees approved it in their Oct. 18-19 meeting. Contingent on accreditors approving it, the innovative program is likely to attract the interest of international missionaries who would be able to remain on the field while completing requirements.

Acting provost Jason Duesing described the 44-hour degree as the school’s first modified residency format offered in their Ph.D. program.

Students come to the Fort Worth campus for several weeks each year, completing the remainder of their work through mentored seminars via online resources.

In addition to attracting missionaries, Duesing said the program would also provide an opportunity to train professors in other seminaries around the world who lack accredited faculty. “They are able to enhance their own schools, but it also allows us to extend our influence by training a generation of faculty who will train generations of pastors and churches all around the world.”

The thesis-driven degree is expected to be more challenging than the traditional Ph.D. that is earned while studying on campus, he added. Through anticipated partnerships with two global seminaries, students will teach classes monitored by a Southwestern mentor and local professor.

“Whether it’s the prospect of a missionary from the IMB or another evangelical group, an aspiring scholar who wants to teach at a seminary overseas or a national pastor, what this does is enhance Southwestern’s ability to extend our conservative theology and evangelical perspective on Scripture all over the world from right here in Fort Worth,” added Anthony George of Orlando, Fla., chairman of the academic administration committee.

In what was the shortest plenary session in memory, the board spent just over an hour hearing reports and also voted to allow access to $3.8 million of the $8.3 million in excess operating reserves to fund completion of the chapel. While donations have covered the full expense of construction, an equal amount given in the form of stock is not available until it is sold. When that occurs, $3.8 million will be repaid to the reserve fund.

The board also approved graduates for fall 2011 commencement, elected recipients for the 2012 B.H. Carroll and L.R. Scarborough awards, accepted audited financial statements for the past year and recommended Russell Freeman of Allen to serve on the board of the Southwestern Seminary Foundation.

Trustee Chairman Hance Dilbeck of Edmond, Okla., reminded the chapel audience of the need to cultivate, articulate and celebrate a call to ministry. Preaching from Ephesians 3:1-7, Dilbeck said Paul’s description of “a calling to be a minister of the gospel” provides needed focus.

“You’ll have any number of different titles. You might be called a pastor, a minister of youth, a minister of children, a missionary or a professor, but no matter what title you’re given, it’s important that day by day in Christian ministry you understand yourself to be primarily a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

As they gain more knowledge and experience, Dilbeck told students people will begin to expect more of them.

“If you’re not careful, you’ll spend your days giving people everything except what they really need—the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Trustee wives participated in a luncheon meeting of the Women’s Auxiliary, hearing testimonies of students who participated in preaching revivals and ministering in churches across the nation during their spring break. The Revive This Nation effort reported over 14,000 people coming to know Christ.

Several students enrolled in women’s programs described their effort in “boldly voicing his wisdom for her world” through their involvement in launching a new website at biblicalwoman.com.

Seminary first lady Dorothy Patterson challenged the women present to follow the example of Jehosheba, “a godly woman who decided it was her time to step up to the plate.” Patterson was citing the story from 2 Kings 11 of hiding the young prince Joash from Queen Athaliah’s effort to destroy all of the royal heirs to the throne, including her own grandsons.

“This woman was so committed to God’s purposes that she put it all at risk, hid that baby and then when he was age 7 this young prince was put on the throne.” Though not all of his reign was commendable, Patterson said he revived the nation for a time after being guided by Jehosheba’s husband, Jehoiada the priest.

After hearing testimonies from two students who participated in the Revive the Nation effort, Patterson asked participants to consider their own roles in reviving the nation.

“Sometimes it’s from your own home, sometimes it’s going out to do some special task for which God has anointed you, sometimes it’s giving of your energy or resources, sometimes it’s giving time on your knees to intercede and pray and ask God to bring revival,” she said.

“We all have our various responsibilities, but make it a point to get on your face before the Lord and ask, ‘What can I do? How can I undergird the kingdom?’”

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