SBTS holds open house for Nashville extension

Communications Staff — February 24, 2012

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held an open house event for its new Nashville, Tenn., extension center, Feb. 22, 2012.

Located in the Cool Springs area of Franklin, Tenn., the Nashville campus is a strategic site for training gospel ministers in the American South. In terms of theological education, Nashville is one of the least served places in the country, and the extension site gives Southern Seminary a more permanent presence in the area.

“Coming to Nashville is fairly natural for Southern Seminary. We feel a strong kinship with the state of Tennessee and the city of Nashville,” said SBTS President R. Albert Mohler Jr. at the Feb. 22 open house, noting some of Southern’s historic and denominational ties to the city.

Attended by members of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and other leaders of the denomination along with pastors from the Nashville area, the open house marked the formal opening of the extension center. During the previous semester, extension center classes met in a temporary space, but were able to meet in the completed classrooms for the spring semester.

“The Lord’s blessing on this particular project since the move to this address has exceeded all of our expectations,” said Mohler announcing that the Nashville extension met its annual goals for growth within its first 4-5 months of operation. Mohler credited the leadership of Mark T. Coppenger, who is vice president for extension education and director of the Nashville extension center.

Russell D. Moore, vice president for academic administration and dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary, expressed his anticipation for the new extension center campus.

“I am thrilled with not only the advance in Nashville but with the vibe of the place,” he 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. Among guests was J. Matthew Pinson, president of Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, Tenn.

Students of SBTS Nashville are enrolled in classes taught by faculty members from Southern Seminary’s Louisville, Ky., campus. Along with Coppenger, who is professor of Christian apologetics in addition to administrative titles, George H. Martin, professor of biblical studies, 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-campus professors. In addition to George Martin and myself, we have a steady stream of Louisville professors teaching our courses,” he said.

Coppenger noted some Louisville-based professors have taught at the Nashville extension site since August 2011, including Donald S. Whitney, Stephen J. Wellum, Stuart W. Scott, and Joseph R. Crider, in addition to Brian J. Vickers and Timothy Paul Jones teaching there this semester.

Already in operation, Coppenger said, the Nashville extension site doubled in its amount of courses offered during Fall 2011. The winter- and spring-term course offerings doubled as well. Next year, he said, the seminary plans to offer the entirety of core courses required for the M.Div. degree in one year.

SBTS Nashville also aims to expand its course offering to include some electives. Coppenger spoke of the possibility of adding electives in the study of subjects such as Islam, hymnody, the Psalms, apologetics and more.

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 newly expanded extension site 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 lay people.

More information about SBTS Nashville is available at nashville.sbts.edu

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