When dreams collide—ignited by the Holy Spirit—what happens? Joy, and in this case, serious education! Just this week, the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) approved Bethlehem College & Seminary’s Master of Arts in Exegesis and Theology. We are grateful to God and eager to see the impact of this next step on God’s Kingdom!
The (his)story is worth telling; it is a collision of many dreams that created something new. Years ago, Dr. Mike Rusten, the Director of Bethlehem’s Degree Completion Program (DCP), connected with Dr. Dallas Pitts, and they began offering Bethlehem’s DCP in West Memphis located in Arkansas. Under Dr. Rusten’s leadership, along with Dr. Dallas Pitts who taught most of the courses, this program began in 2014. Around the same time, a group of local church leaders and pastors, friends of Bethlehem, were dreaming about the possibility that God might create a Reformed-baptistic seminary in their city. This included Jordan Thomas, Dr. Phil Newton, Dr. Rich Shadden, Dr. Dallas Pitts, and others. This was a beginning. Then in 2017, several things changed: Dr. Pitts was no longer able to serve; there was interest in moving the school to Memphis in Tennessee, and Bethlehem was about to start a new Master of Arts in Exegesis and Theology (MA). Our President, Dr. Tim Tomlinson, hired Dr. Rich Shadden to replace Dr. Pitts as our Memphis Campus Coordinator. Together, along with Lance Kramer, they began working with THEC to secure approval to move our school from West Memphis in Arkansas to Memphis, TN, and to offer both of our degrees: the MA and the BTh (DCP). We were and are so grateful to God for the donor who provided the initial funds necessary for the application! After more than a year’s work – and an almost overwhelming number of forms – THEC approved us in 2018 for the DCP (the Bachelor of Theology) and a Master’s degree, but not the MA degree which we sought. Rather, they permitted a “non-academic” Master of Theology (MTh).
Even with this “defect,” we began our Memphis extension campus in Fall 2018. In that first year, God gave us two Bachelor’s students and four for our Master’s degree. The Master’s students understood that we had yet to secure permission to grant them the full MA. Rich Shadden began working with THEC to apply for an exemption that would permit us the full MA. Dr. Brian Tabb, our Academic Dean, secured articulation agreements from schools who reviewed our degree programs and syllabi and were willing to, in principle, accept transfer students and/or students from our programs into their higher-level degrees. Late this last February, THEC approved us for the MA! God is good to us and our Education in Serious Joy is taking shape in Memphis.
God is still giving dreams and revealing his plans through praying people. That group of local pastors and leaders continues to pray for Bethlehem College & Seminary and for what God will accomplish in the students of our Memphis campus. Many of them teach as adjunct professors in our Memphis programs. And they continue to dream about what God may do next to strengthen theological education in Memphis that is rigorously exegetical, theologically Reformed, church-based, Socratic in style, and has professors who are committed to discipleship. What will God do next?
Coordinator of the Memphis Extension Site
Director of Non-Traditional Programs
- Pray for our Executive Team, Dr. Tim Tomlinson, Tom Steller, Dr. Brian Tabb, Rick Segal, and Jason Abell, as they lead us.
- Pray for the professors who are teaching in Memphis: Rich Shadden, Andy Hynes, Jim Carnes, and Matt Sliger.
- Pray for Daniel Kleven, Director of Admissions, and for those who serve on the admissions team(s), who are God’s means to assess the student applications for our Memphis programs.
- Pray for Memphis students, some of whom drive for more than an hour to participate and also for the students who are applying for the 2019-20 school year in both the BTh and the MA.
- Pray for Dr. Rich Shadden who leads our Memphis Campus.