Midwestern Seminary to announce plans for new Bible college
By Bob Baysinger
March 16, 2004
KANSAS CITY – Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) trustees were expected to give a green light to the start-up of a new four-year undergraduate Bible college on the seminary campus at their quarterly meeting March 15-16.
Details – including a starting date, costs and faculty – had not been released at press time. Observers, however, told The Pathway they expect the school to be launched at the beginning of the 2005-06 school year.
The baccalaureate program at MBTS had been approved by the seminary board’s executive committee prior to the full board meeting.
Phil Roberts, MBTS president, told The Pathway he did not want to discuss the proposed undergraduate school until the full board had seen the proposal and taken action.
Preliminary plans call for the school to be housed in a 34,000-square-foot building located on 24 acres just north of the present campus. The building is part of the Farmland, Inc., property purchased by the seminary one year ago for $1.4 million.
The building, previously used as a retreat center for Farmland, has more than 50 rooms. It includes space for administrative and faculty offices, classrooms, a library annex, archaeological display room, conference rooms and a student commons area.
Seven Missouri Baptists serve as trustees at MBTS, and some voiced strong support for a new college prior to the trustee meeting.
David Tolliver, pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church , Excelsior Springs, and president of the Missouri Baptist Convention, has pushed for a college at MBTS.
“There are people who trust the Southern Baptist Convention – not just from Missouri – who will come to the new school because of the conservative theology at Midwestern," Tolliver said.
Tolliver said he doesn’t want to insinuate that Missouri Baptists’ two colleges – Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, and Hannibal-LaGrange College, Hannibal – do not provide conservative educations. However, he added, there are some who would select the MBTS school because it would afford them an opportunity to work toward a seminary degree on the same campus.
Formation of the new school would make Midwestern the fourth Southern Baptist seminary with an undergraduate program. Undergraduate Bible programs are already in place at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville , Ky. , New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans ; and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest , N.C.
Some have questioned the impact a new Bible college at Midwestern will have on the Courts Redford School of Theology on the Southwest Baptist campus.
“I think we have to be realistic to say that we will be dipping from the same pool to some degree – but not a large degree," Tolliver said. “Students who come to Midwestern will be looking more from strictly a religious education standpoint. Those who go to SBU will be thinking more about a diverse liberal arts education.
“There will be some level of competition, but I don’t think it will hurt either SBU or HLG," Tolliver added. “At SBU, where I am also a trustee, the percentage of the student body involved in ministry education is really a small part of their student body."
Tolliver predicted the two schools that would be hurt most by a new college at Midwestern will be Calvary Bible College , Kansas City, and Mid-America Nazarene College , Olathe , Kan.
C. Pat Taylor, SBU president, told The Pathway that he is not surprised by the establishment of a Bible college at Midwestern. Taylor said he does not expect a school at Midwestern to have a major impact on SBU.
“About one in nine students from SBU comes from Jackson , Cass and Platte Counties and Clay and Johnson Counties on the Kansas side," Taylor said. “We draw extremely well from that area, but I don’t think we will be competing that much for the same type of students."
Taylor said SBU attracts students “fresh out of high school."
“This is our primary target," he said. “We may lose a student every now and then, but I suspect their target will be mostly students who can’t move out of the local area."
The Courts Redford School of Theology at SBU is in the midst of its second consecutive year of growth. The school enrolled 200 students at the start of the 2002 school year. That total jumped to 227 in 2003.
“I think it is an excellent plan, not only for Midwestern but for all of Missouri ," said Jay Scribner, an MBTS trustee and pastor, First Baptist Church , Branson. “It is logical if a student knows that he is ready to pursue a theological education as an undergraduate, it would be logical to go to a place that already has a proven track record of conservative theology."
Scribner said Midwestern has excellent professors and a vision for strong theological development.
“We need a strong, conservative Bible college in the Kansas City area," Scribner said. “It would definitely fill a void that exists there now."
Scribner said he didn’t think an undergraduate program at Midwestern would adversely affect SBU.
“I think the Kansas City area is strong enough numerically to support this school without it adversely affecting Southwest Baptist because the focus is not going to be on general education," Scribner added.
David Baker, pastor of First Baptist Church , Belton, and longtime proponent of a Bible college at Midwestern, described news about the new school as a very practical thing for Midwestern and an “absolutely wonderful opportunity."