The campus -- located in the Cool Springs area of Franklin, just south of Nashville -- is regarded by SBTS officials as a strategic site for training Gospel ministers in the American South. In terms of theological education, it is one of the least served places in the country.
"Coming to Nashville is fairly natural for Southern Seminary. We feel a strong kinship with the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville," Southern's president, R. Albert Mohler Jr., said at the open house, noting some of the seminary's historic ties to the city, where several SBC entities are located.
Attended by members of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee as well as other convention leaders and pastors from the Nashville area, the open house marked the extension center's formal opening. During the fall semester, classes met in a temporary space but were able to meet for the spring semester in the center's completed classrooms within an office building.
"The Lord's blessing on this particular project since the move to this address has exceeded all of our expectations," Mohler said in noting that the Nashville extension met its initial goals for growth within its first several months of operation. Mohler credited the leadership of Mark T. Coppenger, SBTS vice president for extension education and director of the Nashville extension center.
Russell D. Moore, vice president for academic administration and dean of Southern's school of theology, expressed his anticipation for the new extension center.
"I am thrilled with not only the advance in Nashville but with the vibe of the place," Moore said. "I think that the Nashville campus of Southern Seminary is not only going to be top-rate theological education in an accessible venue, but it's going to have its own student culture. This is not only a place that is serious about the Gospel; it's also a lot of fun. And there's a real commitment to community and to building up one another for the task of ministry in a way that I think is new, fresh and innovative."
Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, gave the prayer of dedication at the open house lunch. Also among the guests was J. Matthew Pinson, president of Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville.
Students of SBTS Nashville are enrolled in classes taught by faculty members from the seminary's Louisville, Ky., campus. Along with Coppenger, who is professor of Christian apologetics in addition to his administrative titles, professor of biblical studies George H. Martin also relocated to Nashville from the Louisville campus in order to help Southern establish a permanent presence in the city.
With a smaller student body than that of the Louisville campus, SBTS Nashville possesses an advantageous student-teacher ratio.
"The ratios are great," said Coppenger, "with the largest classes running around 20, and many running close to 10. Slightly smaller on average than the Louisville classes, they give students good exposure to the professors.
"As for the professors, they're seasoned main professors. In addition to George Martin and myself, we have a steady stream of Louisville professors teaching our courses," Coppenger said. Among the professors from the main campus who have taught at the Nashville extension center since August 2011 are Donald S. Whitney, Stephen J. Wellum, Stuart W. Scott, and Joseph R. Crider, in addition to Brian J. Vickers and Timothy Paul Jones who are teaching there this semester.
Coppenger said the Nashville extension center has doubled the number of courses offered during the fall semester. The winter- and spring-term course offerings doubled as well. The seminary plans to offer the entirety of core courses required for the M.Div. degree during the next academic year.
SBTS Nashville also aims to expand its course offering to include some electives. Coppenger spoke of the possibility of adding courses in such subjects as Islam, hymnody, the Psalms and apologetics.
In addition to making available to students the core courses required for the master of divinity, Coppenger said SBTS Nashville administration and faculty hope the extension center will prove helpful to laity as well as those who sense a call to full-time vocational ministry, noting their exploration of adding a master of arts in theological studies program that would be more tailored to laypeople.
Reported by the communications staff of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. More information about SBTS Nashville is available at nashville.sbts.edu.
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