Amid the continually shifting sands of American theological education, a Baptist House of Studies at a Methodist seminary has received a $2.7 million grant from a Baptist-oriented foundation.
The John and Eula Mae Baugh Foundation awarded the three-year grant to the new Baptist House of Studies at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.
This comes on the heels of Baylor University, a Baptist-affiliated school located 180 miles south of Dallas, opening a Wesleyan House of Studies within its Truett Theological Seminary and endowing an academic chair for it.
Thus, the Baptists are educating Methodists and the Methodists are educating Baptists. This follows a national trend of the past couple of decades as denominationally affiliated seminaries have expanded their reach to intentionally serve students with similar theological perspectives, if not denominational labels.
Thus, the Baptists are educating Methodists and the Methodists are educating Baptists.
The late John and Eula Mae Baugh were early and major donors to Baylor’s Truett Seminary, which recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Baugh-Reynolds campus, named for the Baughs and former Baylor President Herbert Reynolds.
While both Truett Seminary and Perkins Seminary are inclusive of women preparing for congregational ministry — something the six Southern Baptist Convention seminaries are not — Perkins is openly affirming of LGBTQ students, while Truett is not.
Location also is a factor, with Baylor located in central Texas about halfway between Dallas and Austin, and Perkins located in the heart of Dallas, the state’s second-largest city. Other theological training options for Baptist clergy in Dallas lean more conservative, including Dallas Theological Seminary, Criswell College, Dallas Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, an SBC school in Fort Worth.
Two other Texas universities also have Baptist programs — the Baptist Studies program at Brite Divinity School of Texas Christian University (Disciples of Christ) and the Baptist Studies Center at Abilene Christian University (Churches of Christ).
Those Baptist programs, along with Truett and Perkins, are seeking to pick up the slack from the closure of Logsdon Seminary at Hardin-Simmons University in West Texas.
The Baugh grant to Perkins will fund up to 10 full-time Baugh Scholars enrolled in the Methodist seminary’s master’s, doctor of ministry and doctor of pastoral music degree programs within the Baptist House of Studies. In addition to covering full tuition and fees, the grant will provide emergency aid for students and other scholarships.
“The Baugh Foundation is enthusiastic about the opportunity to support the development of the Baptist House of Studies at Perkins School of Theology,” said Baugh Foundation Vice President Jackie Baugh Moore. “Training the next generation of pastors, scholars and faith leaders in an ecumenical and inclusive setting matches the challenges of the culture in which Baptist and free church leaders will be serving. We are grateful for the visionary leadership of the school and look forward to development of those who will serve our churches and faith-based organizations in the years to come.”
The funding from the Baugh Foundation will move Perkins, one of 13 United Methodist seminaries, into a preeminent position to train Baptist clergy in a setting where they engage with peers from diverse denominations and backgrounds, said Perkins Dean Craig Hill.
“Our Baptist House of Studies is off to an excellent start, and this funding will empower it to flourish, providing essential financial support for students while also creating an intellectual and spiritual home for a community of Baptist seminarians,” Hill said.
The founding director of Baptist House of Studies is New Testament scholar Jaime Clark-Soles, who is a member at Royal Lane Baptist Church in Dallas.
“This new grant will be transformational for the Baptist House,” Clark-Soles said. “It will provide scholarship and programming funds, enabling us to compete for high-quality students from a wider geographic area. It will also allow us to dramatically intensify our outreach and the awareness of what we have to offer, elevating Perkins as a premier destination for a robust Baptist theological education.”
George Mason, who this summer will retire as senior pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, is lead advisor of the Baptist House of Studies Board of Visitors and teaches in the program.
“This grant will propel the Baptist program at Perkins, giving us a competitive edge in recruiting students for multiple degree plans,” Mason said. “The more students we welcome in diverse degree programs and the more we provide scholarship support, the greater the grapevine witness about Perkins. Perkins will be seen as the place to go for progressive Baptist education, and for networking within the denomination and beyond. We expect the program to gain great momentum with funds from this generous grant.”
Why there’s a challenging future ahead for Baptist seminaries and future faculty | Analysis by Andrew Gardner