MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP) -- Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary has launched a fully online master of divinity degree program accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

This 90-hour M.Div., according to a GGBTS description of the program, allows students to earn a seminary degree from anywhere in the world without taking them out of their current life and ministry.

"The online program links students with Golden Gate's faculty in order to create a community of global learners," a GGBTS news release stated. "It integrates a wide variety of online methods including graphic and video lectures, video and audio chats, threaded email discussions, shared applications, online exams, and posting shared research."

GGBTS President Jeff Iorg noted, "Most students today choose from a variety of delivery options when creating their class schedule -- traditional semester-length classes, short-term classes, hybrid classes and fully online classes. Being able to offer an online degree -- as well all the other formats -- creates virtually unlimited options for students to customize their learning plan." The online M.Div. program, Iorg said, "will make training available to people in remote places who otherwise cannot access the traditional programs Golden Gate offers."

Michael Martin, GGBTS vice president of academic affairs, said the seminary has "extensive experience doing effective ministry training using the tool of online education. Our first online class was offered in 1998, and our commitment is always to provide a high-quality education with the maximum student-to-professor and peer-to-peer interaction."

The GGBTS news release stated that all courses in the program will be taught by the faculty of the California-based seminary. "Our commitment to excellence includes access to qualified librarians who assist students in finding the best databases and electronic works in the seminary's collection. Class size is limited to 24 students to ensure a high quality educational experience," according to GGBTS.

The online classes are being offered in eight-week and 15-week formats. Transfer credit is available. Further information about the online M.Div. and registration for the program can be obtained at www.ggbts.edu or by calling toll-free 888-442-8701.

Midwestern Women's Institute launched

Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has launched Midwestern Women's Institute, a program to prepare women with biblical training, encouraging fellowship and practical learning as they serve their families and churches in fulfilling the Great Commission.

"Each student should have a two-fold expectation," said Karen Allen, wife of Midwestern's president, Jason K. Allen, and MWI director. "The first expectation is to build lasting ministry friendships," she said, adding that "I have greatly benefited over the years from ministry friendships" from such programs. Classes will begin each week with fellowship, prayer requests and a special talk from a seminary guest.

The second expectation is educational, with Allen noting, "Although each class will vary to some degree, the students will find them all informative, challenging, encouraging and also very practical. My desire is that when women finish the program they will be both excited and prepared to serve alongside their husbands in their local church in ministry."

Midwestern Women's Institute began the current semester with a welcome event Aug. 22 on the Kansas City, Mo., campus; the first class was set to begin the evening of Aug. 29. Each semester will entail two terms of six-week classes, with the first semester focusing on required courses in personal spiritual disciplines and surveys of the Old and New Testaments.

Midwestern Women's Institute has three tracks of 9-, 12- and 15-hour ministry certificate programs. The fee is $10 per class. Childcare is provided by reservation. For more information, visit www.mbts.edu/mwi.

Rebranded Boeing 727 ready for first aviation class

California Baptist University's Boeing 727 aircraft began a new life Sept. 3 as CBU's inaugural class of 25 aviation science students began using the former cargo jet, now re-painted in CBU colors and logos, as a teaching lab.

FedEx Express donated the Boeing 727-200F to the university in January for use by the aviation science program to train future pilots.

"Although this aircraft has reached the end of its useful life in commercial service after 33 years, it is beginning a new life here at the Riverside Municipal Airport," said Daniel Prather, founding chair of the CBU aviation science department.

Before its final flight, the aircraft provided FedEx with 20 years of service, transporting packages to destinations throughout the United States. The plane was the 60th donation of a Boeing 727 aircraft to various organizations for educational purposes. Prior to its service with FedEx, the aircraft served as a passenger plane for Air Canada.

Lord of the Rings actor narrates Bible survey course

Actor John Rhys-Davies (Gimli in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) has partnered with the website BibleMesh.com as narrator of The Biblical Story, an online Bible survey course on how all of Scripture points to Christ.

Among the Southern Baptists on the BibleMesh editorial team are Greg Thornbury, president of King's College in New York; Mark Coppenger, vice president for extension education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.

Teaching videos in the course feature professors from Southern Seminary, Union University and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.; an International Mission Board missionary; and New York pastor and author Tim Keller. Eric Metaxas, author of the bestseller "Bonhoeffer," co-authored the script along with Thornbury.

"BibleMesh is blessed with a gifted and diverse team of contributors," publisher Emmanuel Kampouris said, adding that Rhys-Davies' narration "helps present the Bible in a vivid and engaging way."

The Biblical Story is entirely online, does not require any downloading or printing of material and can be used as a textbook replacement in colleges and seminaries. In addition to the overview video, the course provides hundreds of one-page articles on key Bible ideas and short teaching videos expound crucial points.

Among the personalities featured are Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Parkside Church in metropolitan Cleveland; Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College in Illinois; J. Ligon Duncan, newly elected chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi; and Christopher Ash, director of London's Cornhill Training Course.

"BibleMesh is not just facts," said Thornbury, one of the course's theological editors. "It's a whole-Bible theology approach to learning Scripture."

For more information, visit www.BibleMesh.com.

Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston and assistant editor Erin Roach. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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