Houston Theological Seminary’s Master of Divinity (MDiv) program started with its first class of 17 students. The program is offered both on the HBU campus and at the Woodway campus of Second Baptist Church. In addition to the MDiv students, more than 250 not-for-credit students are attending the courses offered at Second Baptist Church.
Dr. Evans, dean of the School of Christian Thought at HBU, believes two aspects of Houston Theological Seminary set it apart from other seminaries in Houston: the partnership with a church like Second Baptist Church Houston and the opportunity for students to take not-for-credit coursework. “We bring together the faculty, who are in Biblical Studies, Theology and Apologetics, and then we bring in people who are in full-time ministry, and the lay dimension is right there. I don’t think that hurts these MDiv students to have their future congregation looking over their shoulders and hearing their questions,” said Dr. Evans. Provost Cynthia Simpson added that both of these distinctives “provide HBU an opportunity to directly serve the body of Christ, which is an essential function of all Christian universities.”
At the opening ceremony for the seminary, both President Robert B. Sloan and Dr. Ed Young, the senior pastor of Second Baptist Church, gave speeches, and more than 150 people were in attendance. Dr. Jeff Green, dean of the Graduate School at HBU, commented, “The inauguration of Houston Theological Seminary and the Master of Divinity program are a credit to the staff and faculty of HBU. Advanced professional training in ministry and new graduate programs are part of our Ten Pillars vision. We continue to grow our program offerings and are reaching more students across the nation every year.”
Dr. Ed Young has said that he would like to see 500 not-for-credit students in attendance next semester. Dr. Evans told The Pillars that the purpose of the not-for-credit students is “to educate the church’s membership.” of many seminaries.
The Master of Divinity is a 72-hour program, which breaks from the traditional 90-hour MDiv and also follows the trend of many seminaries. The traditional program is lengthy because many students attend seminary with no academic background in theology or Christianity, which requires that the first 30 hours be the equivalent of upper-level introductory courses. The shorter program provides an opportunity for students to complete the degree in three years without taking an overwhelming amount of coursework. Reducing both time commitment of the program and the tuition costs makes the MDiv at HBU an affordable way for aspiring pastors to achieve a first class theological education without breaking the bank. HBU is committed to making theological education excellent and affordable. For example, a number of scholarship opportunities are available for MDiv applicants and applicants of the rest of the graduate programs in Houston Theological Seminary.
The Master of Divinity is a broad program, created to train pastors and church ministers in counseling, teaching and preaching. It is not simply an education in theology, but includes the application of theology. Life application is necessary in ministry, and the ability to teach such application is essential in the work of a minister. “That is why I like what we’re doing with Second Baptist Church,” Dr. Evans said. “We don’t want to go up into the ivory tower and forget about what the real needs of the Church are, and then there we are teaching courses that speak to the academy perhaps, but don’t speak very well to the pew. This cooperative approach can safeguard against that.”
Houston Theological Seminary offers online courses, as well as face-to-face courses. The two courses offered this semester at the Woodway campus are Contemporary Challenges in Bible & Theology taught by Dr. Craig Evans and Communicating for Life Change taught by Dr. Ben Young. The classes are held in the evenings, each one night per week, from 6:45 to 9:15pm. Surveyors (not for credit attendees) may register any time during the semester.