A Southern Baptist seminary in Texas has changed the name of its undergraduate college for the second time since its founding in 2005.
The new name, Texas Baptist College, carries a state feel to it, yet neither Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary nor its undergraduate college are directly affiliated with the state Baptist convention that also goes by the moniker “Texas Baptists.”
The school’s new website address is www.texasbaptist.com, which is one letter different than the web address for the Baptist General Convention of Texas, which is www.texasbaptists.com or www.texasbaptists.org.
The BGCT is the historic convention of mainly Southern Baptists in Texas, although it includes a number of congregations that identify with the state convention more than with the national body or that identify with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or with one of the historic national Black Baptist conventions. A separate state convention, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, was formed in 1998 to serve those who feared the BGCT was not maintaining close enough ties to the Southern Baptist Convention.
The BGCT lists 10 colleges and universities among its partner institutions. Those include big names such as Baylor University, Dallas Baptist University, Hardin-Simmons University and Houston Baptist University, among others. The state convention relates to Southwestern Seminary — and therefore Texas Baptist College — only through its voluntary partnership with the SBC.
Southwestern Seminary President Adam Greenway announced the new name of the Fort Worth-based college June 9.
A news release quoted Benjamin Skaug, who became dean of the college Jan. 1, as saying, “Texas Baptist College exists to glorify God by providing trustworthy Christian higher education for more faithful kingdom service.”
The phenomenon of SBC seminaries — which traditionally have focused on graduate education — also housing undergraduate colleges is relatively new.
The phenomenon of SBC seminaries — which traditionally have focused on graduate education — also housing undergraduate colleges is relatively new. The trend began in 1994 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, which launched what is today called The College at Southeastern.
That direct competition with the affiliated colleges and universities of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina helped turn those existing schools away from the state convention and its loyalty to the SBC.
This growth in undergraduate education came along at the same time as graduate-level seminaries were facing stagnant or declining enrollments. Although SBC seminaries previously had offered certificate and preparatory courses, they had not run full-scale undergraduate programs.
Today, Texas Baptist College offers seven degree tracks, including associate degrees in Christian studies or humanities, plus bachelor’s degrees in Christian studies, humanities, performance, worship studies, or music.
In its most recent report of enrollment data, which covers the 2019-2020 year, Southwestern reported 219 students in its undergraduate and certificate programs, which makes the school a fraction of the size of even the smaller BGCT-affiliated universities.
The Fort Worth college first was named The College at Southwestern, then in 2017 was renamed L.R. Scarborough College, an homage to the seminary’s second president. Greenway said the latest name change is not intended to disregard Scarborough’s legacy but to continue Scarborough’s emphasis on Texas Baptist education.
“L.R. Scarborough, among other things, was a preeminent Texas Baptist, one who was committed to reaching this state with the gospel of Jesus Christ and to perpetuating the best of our Baptist identity and distinctives,” he said.