Central Baptist Theological Seminary began offering classes at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 2005. Dr. Ircel Harrison, formerly Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Tennessee, continues to serve as the center’s director. Approximately 30 students have taken classes at the Murfreesboro site, and in 2009 the first student graduated with her Master of Divinity degree. During this start-up phase, the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has offered financial assistance for the Tennessee students through a special grant. First Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, has provided space for classes to be held, along with other significant support.
Now after six years, this pilot project is moving to a new phase. Central’s accrediting organizations – the Higher Learning Commission and the Association of Theological Schools, along with the Tennessee Board of Education, have granted accreditation and full approval to explore the opportunities this center will offer.
As is true of all of Central’s locations, courses are offered on Friday evenings and all day on Saturdays to facilitate those who are already employed. Dr. Harrison says, “This is a new way to offer theological education in the 21st century. Students who are already involved in the ministries of the church do not have to pack up and leave home to get a seminary degree.”
Also, in keeping with Central’s values, “All of the programs are gender inclusive, interracial, and ecumenical in nature,” explains Harrison. “Many of our students have responded to the call to Christian ministry after being involved in other careers. Others are bivocational ministers or volunteers in their churches.” The Tennessee center clearly fits with the overall mission and direction of Central.
When the fall semester begins, three courses will be offered in Murfreesboro. Formation for Christian Ministry will be taught by Ircel Harrison, September 30-October 1, October 28-29, November 18-19, and December 16-17. Lisa Thompson will teach Homiletics: Introduction to Preaching, September 23-24, October 21-22, November 11-12, and December 9-10. Sally Holt will be the professor for Christian Ethics, September 16-17, October 14-15, November 4-5, and December 2-3. Online classes will include Constructive Theology I and Hebrew Bible I.