Trustees approved the 36-hour accredited degree during their April 3 spring meeting at the Fort Worth campus. Seminary officials describe the MTS as the shortest fully online master's degree among Southern Baptist seminaries.
Southwestern registrar Mark Leeds, noting that the MTS "makes access more possible for our local churches," said the degree "makes it possible for people who are in their churches and preparing for ministry to go ahead and get their degree completely without having to leave the church to which they feel called and to which they're committed."
Seminary administrators and trustees said the MTS combines rigorous academic content that Southwestern is known for with accessibility and affordability often needed by those in ministry. One unique aspect of the degree, Leeds said, is that the courses are predominately taught by full-time faculty members.
"Most of our online courses are taught by our own faculty," the registrar said. "One of the strong points of our courses is that we haven't farmed them out to 100 different adjuncts. They're primarily taught by our own elected faculty members." Of the courses in the master of theological studies, seminary officials say that 92 percent of the online courses will be taught by elected faculty and former full-time faculty members.
Leeds said the degree also could be beneficial for church members looking to strengthen their understanding of the Bible and to maximize their ministry in the local church.
"In Southern Baptist life, we have a strong laity -- people who are not on staff but are committed to serving in different ways such as deacons and Sunday School teachers," Leeds said. He added that the MTS makes it possible to get "solid, foundational knowledge in the basic disciplines you would want to have to be a better servant in the church."
Twelve three-hour courses make up the MTS, including classes in hermeneutics, Old Testament, New Testament, church history, Baptist heritage, systematic theology, apologetics and ethics. As an academic degree, the program is not meant to replace the comprehensive master of divinity and master of arts in Christian education degrees, which provide further ministry training and still require a portion of credit hours to be completed on campus. The programs also provide coursework in biblical languages, preaching, pastoral ministry, evangelism, missions, and electives.
Online applications for the online master of theological studies can be accessed at www.swbts.edu/applynow; further information can be obtained from Southwestern's office of admissions, 1-800-SWBTS-01. For a list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit www.swbts.edu/MTS.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).
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