Theological education options expand in Virginia with formation of two new partnerships with CBF
Union Seminary will establish a Baptist House of Studies
DECATUR, GA (November 16, 2020) – Cooperative Baptists in Virginia will have new options for advanced theological study thanks to partnerships developed by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia and CBF Global.
Two schools, Union Presbyterian Seminary, which has campuses in Richmond, Virginia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, and Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, which offers distance education and has campuses in Georgetown and Louisville, will each play distinct roles in the effort to make theological education more accessible to CBF students in Virginia.
Union will establish a Baptist House of Studies and will serve students who want a traditional classroom experience in a residential campus setting. BSK, which has a growing distance education program, will reach out to Virginia students who wish to learn where they currently live and work. Leaders say the goal of both partnerships is to educate effective leaders to serve Virginia’s CBF congregations.
In the agreement with Union Presbyterian Seminary, the 208-year-old school will establish a Baptist House of Studies on its Richmond campus and will offer full-tuition scholarships for up to 40 qualified full-time Baptist residential students. A new Baptist House Advisory Board will offer input and support as Union Presbyterian Seminary hires a director for the Baptist House, recruits adjunct faculty, engages churches for field education placements and works with seminary administration and trustees to set strategic direction.
This partnership will offer a high-quality traditional, residential theological education option in Central Virginia, which will accept students to begin in the fall of 2021. To facilitate learning across denominations present in the seminary, courses taught through the Baptist House of Studies will be made available to non-Baptist students.
Brian Blount, president and professor of New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary, said his community is eager and excited to broaden its ministry of equipping leaders for Christ’s church by welcoming CBF and the Baptist House of Studies to its Richmond Campus.
“Through the years, UPSem was blessed by its partner relationship with the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. We yearn to continue BTSR’s legacy of nurturing Baptist leadership through the UPSem Baptist House,” Blount said. “The presence of the students who will coordinate their studies through the guidance and support of the Baptist House of Studies will enrich an already ecumenical campus presence. The Spirit of the Lord is on the move through this partnership. It will be a blessing to our ministry of theological education and our witness to the church.”
BSK, founded in 2002, has been affiliated with CBF since its birth. Earlier this year, it also became affiliated with the National Baptist Convention of America, International, when the predominately Black 3.5 million-member denomination designated BSK as its official seminary.
In Virginia, BSK’s learning opportunities are expected to appeal particularly to individuals who desire to pursue their degree where they currently live and work. BSK is approved by the Association of Theological Education (ATS) to provide comprehensive distance education. The school’s Master of Divinity program includes optional concentrations in rural ministry and pastoral care, and BSK offers certificate programs in both areas.
From its beginning, BSK has emphasized a commitment to full inclusion of women in church leadership and more recently racial justice has become an institutional and curricular priority. BSK opened its Louisville campus in 2018 at Simmons College of Kentucky, a historic Black institution. Racial justice is also a major concern of Union Presbyterian Seminary.
BSK, like UPSem, will be enrolling Virginia CBF students for the 2021 fall semester. A six-member advisory team, which will include three representatives from BSK and three from Virginia CBF, will guide the development of BSK’s initiatives in Virginia. CBF Virginia also will have representation on BSK’s board.
David Cassady, president of BSK, said Baptist Seminary of Kentucky is honored by the invitation to extend its work into Virginia in cooperation with Virginia CBF.
“This partnership will provide high-quality theological education that meets the diverse needs of Virginia students in a rapidly changing world,” Cassady said. “We look forward to working alongside Cooperative Baptists in Virginia to prepare leaders, strengthen congregations, and bear faithful witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The process was led by a CBF Virginia Theological Education task force established in the fall of 2019 by CBF Virginia Coordinator Terry Maples and CBF Virginia Moderator Michael Cheuk in partnership with CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley. The task force included a representative group of pastoral leaders, ensuring the new vision for theological education and ministerial formation flows from the needs of congregations and their leaders.
After naming a series of goals, the task force invited proposals from interested theological schools, reviewed proposals considering those criteria and eventually narrowed its focus to these two partnerships.
A theological education fund will be created by CBF Virginia to help establish and support the partnership. Individuals and congregations are invited to contribute to the fund.
Baxley said that these partnerships mean that congregations in Virginia will have access to really strong theological partners to prepare ministers.
“For us Baptists, the calling, forming, preparing and sustaining of faithful ministers belongs ultimately to congregations,” Baxley said. “These new partnerships will thrive in collaboration with congregations and their leaders. We pray the Holy Spirit will be at work to call ministers from our congregations, inspire congregations to hire seminary students as ministers and interns, provide funding for the strengthening of these new programs through the Virginia Theological Education Fund, and forge the kinds of relationships that allow congregations and leaders to be ongoing leaders in the calling and preparing of ministers. This moment requires dynamic collaboration between congregations, ministers, theological schools, and our Fellowship.”
Terry Maples, coordinator of CBF Virginia, said he is delighted a year-long conversation among CBF Virginia pastors has birthed new theological education opportunities in Virginia.
“These collaborative and symbiotic partnerships will provide excellent avenues for vocational ministry formation of women and men,” Maples said. “In addition, clergy and churches across the Commonwealth benefit greatly from access to students, gifted professors, and continuing education experiences.”
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship & CBF of Virginia
Union Presbyterian Seminary
BSK: Baptist Seminary of Kentucky