Press Release

The following press release is reprinted from Central Baptist Seminary. It appears here unedited.

  

Seminaries Consider Merger

Faith and Central Lay Plans to Join Institutions

The Boards of Directors of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary (Ankeny, Iowa) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, Minnesota) announce their intention to explore the possibility of a merger of the two institutions. Faith and Central are two respected seminaries that share a common theological position and a commitment to train leaders for ministry within Baptist Fundamentalism.

The merger proposal calls for maintaining Central Seminary’s Master of Divinity program on its Minnesota campus at the historic Fourth Baptist Church. Matt Morrell, pastor of Fourth Baptist and chairman of Central Seminary’s board, believes that the merged institution will perpetuate the long-standing partnership between that church and the seminary in training and mentoring men for ministry. Central Seminary’s postgraduate programs will eventually be offered on the Ankeny campus.

The votes by the two Boards allow the administration of the seminaries to begin developing the curricula, structure, and finances necessary for the merger, as well as to secure approval from their accrediting agencies. If the merger occurs, the seminary will hold both regional and national accreditation.

The proposed merger will combine the strengths of two solid institutions, creating a multi-campus school with the ability to rise to a new level of national and international leadership. Both faculties feature professors who join academic excellence with strong pastoral experience. The marriage of these two faculties will produce one of the strongest teaching staffs in the history of Baptist Fundamentalism.

Dr. Kevin Bauder, president of Central Seminary, said, “The potential in this merger is amazing. Both schools have wonderful faculties. Both emphasize the centrality of the local church as the leading partner for ministry training. Both bring real strength to the relationship. We have a long way to go before a merger can be completed, but the prospect is energizing.”

Dr. James D. Maxwell III, Faith’s president, stated, “We believe it would be hard to find a better match between seminaries than that of Faith with Central. In theology, philosophy of ministry, and institutional convictions, the two seminaries are already one. Yet each institution would bring to a merger unique strengths that, when combined, I believe will form one great institution.”

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There are 27 Comments

Jack's picture

I generally applaud rationalization efforts, but it's not clear to me from the press releases what benefits are gained by combining the schools. It seems not to be about capturing efficiencies since they're keeping both campuses open. Anyone with knowledge able to comment?

Greg Long's picture

Even though I'm a Faith grad, I don't know much about this other than what I've read in the announcement. But I'm excited by this. I can see how this could benefit both schools through increased visibility and pooling of resources. Instead of "competing" with one another, they'll be joining forces.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Jim's picture

Jack wrote:
I generally applaud rationalization efforts, but it's not clear to me from the press releases what benefits are gained by combining the schools. It seems not to be about capturing efficiencies since they're keeping both campuses open. Anyone with knowledge able to comment?

I was present at Dr Bauder's announcement yesterday at 4th Baptist Church. He mentioned saves in duplicate office functions such as advancement, registrar and administration, communications, etc.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Speaking for myself as a grad of FBTS, I think there are some exciting possibilities here.
FBTS has at times been the best-kept secret in fundamentalism. I received a top-shelf education there -- studying under first-rate full-time faculty in combination with world-class guest lecturers. This merger may give the program some much-needed awareness and well-earned recognition, as well as additional resources to accomplish new goals.
This would also make sense from an academic and organizational perspective. One could easily argue that there are "too many" fundamental Baptist seminaries for the market to bear. (Learning from the histories of occurrences at mega-seminaries Dallas and Grace, however, there are advantages to having more, smaller seminaries.)
Those things being said, there are many things which are not clarified in the press release, and I am sure there are many details still to be worked out.
The greatest concern I would have would be that FBTS would not lose its theological distinctiveness, as expressed in its documents (for example, see http://www.faith.edu/generalinfo/positionalstatements/definitiondirectio...).
One area where there has been disagreement in the past is in dispensationalism. FBTS will not tolerate progressive dispensationalism; CBTS has allowed it in the past.

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Jack's picture

Thanks Greg and Jim. Good points both.

Jim's picture

Observations:

  • My sense is that there are synergies that will make one great multi-campus seminary.
  • Possibly will draw more students to the combined school

Prayer request: Please pray for the leadership, faculty, administration, and staff at Central. I know these people personally and they are fine brothers and sisters in Christ. Anytime someone talks about saving $$ by eliminating duplicate functions, behind that sentence is a question or a worry about whether someone's job will be lost.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm a Central grad. I was aware that there were going to have to be changes in next few years. I think it's accurate to say that "Central will never be the same," but I'm also optimistic about the possibilities this arrangement could bring. As the PR says, the two schools are very similar in how they look at things. And I think there's a similarity in "culture" as well that should make a merger about as harmonious as anything like that can be.

What really matters is whether the gospel and the glory of God are better served this way than by the alternatives, and what facts I have (not huge in number) suggest that's very likely.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Greg Linscott's picture

Having attended both institutions, I can't see how much better of a fit one could hope for, especially considering the current faculties and administration on both ends. I look forward to seeing how the story continues to unfold. I am particularly interested in seeing what impact (if any) this move might have on the relationships between the immediate local constituencies of each institution- the Minnesota Baptist Association, the Minnesota Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Brian Ernsberger's picture

With the press release concerning the possible merger mentioning fundamentalism twice it caused me to do some thinking and has left me with a question. Did I miss a recantation by Dr. Bauder concerning the fundamentalist movement or are some now going to split hairs over the terms fundamentalism and fundamentalist movement?

On October 30, 2009 Dr. Bauder posted a clarification on Central's position concerning students and church attendance. He ended that post with this paragraph:

"We are not really interested in turning out students who are loyal to the Fundamentalist name or movement. For one thing, there is no Fundamentalist movement to be loyal to any more. For another, the various splinter movements of Fundamentalism are not loyal to one another, so it would be impossible for one of our graduates to be loyal to all of them. For a third thing, not all Fundamentalists are equally loyal to the Word of God--in fact, some non-Fundamentalist evangelicals are more loyal to Scripture than some celebrated Fundamentalists. The only way to avoid confusion is to be driven by values and principles, not by partisan loyalties. In order for that to happen, one must learn the values and see the principles put to work. We want our students to do exactly that--hence, the policy."

I am left desiring another clarification; is Central really a Fundamentalist institution promoting fundamentalism?

Jonathan Charles's picture

Are either or both of these institutions in financial trouble?

Greg Linscott's picture

Brian,

How is the statement you quoted inconsistent with the press release? I would observe that "Baptist" is the prominent term in the press release, and Fundamentalism a means of distinguishing that from conventions and such.

Jonathan,

Not as informed with Faith as with Central, but I know that both are tight, though neither is in danger of folding in the near future. I know at Central there has been concern for the financial future, but not immediately so. From friends I have at Faith, I know that things are similar there. I think to say that finances were not a factor in the decision would not be accurate, but I do think there were other things that came into play regarding the partnership we are seeing unfold. Look how many of the faculty at FBTS hold degrees from Central. For that matter, examining the current faculty at Central will reveal connections with FBBC as well. There is a mindset and ideology that the men there hold in common. Having served in churches in both of their constituencies, I can say there are similar emphases there, too. The geography factors in. There are just a lot of things that line up well.

I wouldn't say I am an "insider" in these matters, but the move makes sense.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Paul J. Scharf's picture

I am not currently at FBBC&TS and do not have any inside information, but I can say that the school actually received the largest gift in its history a couple years ago. The story was highly publicized in the Faith Witness.

I cannot find a link to the story, but the gift enabled the college to begin its missionary nursing program (http://www.faith.edu/missionarynursing/).

It was also promoted that the gift would allow the seminary to begin the D.Min. and Th.M. programs in time.

Perhaps there is someone with more information than me who can answer the question further.

P.S. -- I first went to Faith in 1994, when it was questionable as to whether or not it would make it out of a very low point in its history. The turnaround on campus since that time has been truly amazing in so many ways. I am still meeting people in "our circles" here in the upper midwest who have never even heard of Faith. I would say that anyone who is in that boat should get acquainted with the many positive things this historic school has to offer. That is my commercial break for this evening :).

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Greg Linscott's picture

As I understand it, the Faith endowment was indeed significant, but was also given essentially to fund student scholarships and such, and not contribute to operating expenses. So, while it does help in one sense, it is not necessarily the answer to all the financial problems the institution might face.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Brian Ernsberger wrote:
With the press release concerning the possible merger mentioning fundamentalism twice it caused me to do some thinking and has left me with a question. Did I miss a recantation by Dr. Bauder concerning the fundamentalist movement or are some now going to split hairs over the terms fundamentalism and fundamentalist movement?
Folks have been making a distinction between "fundamentalist movement" and "idea of fundamentalism" for a while now. Personally, I don't think it's necessary to distance oneself from the movement in order to distance oneself from particular problems in it. I'd rather do the latter. It's more precise.

But as a highly cohesive phenomenon with alot of forward momentum, "the movement" is pretty much dead. This is really the point of the statement you quoted from. In Bauder's opinion, what we have now is so different from what once was, it is no longer accurate to call it "the fundamentalist movement."
Oh well. It really was always the principles and practice that mattered most, anyway.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

When my wife and I went to Faith in 1994 to visit the seminary, we were told that the school offered "a sane fundamentalism."

I laughed when I first heard the term, but it has indeed proven to be true.

The fact that there are "sane fundamentalists" out there is the reason I am still in the fundamentalist fold today. Otherwise, I would probably not want to be associated with "the movement."

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Rob Fall's picture

This may be a case of Historic Northern Regular Baptist thinking trumping "Fundamentalism." E.g. Hamilton Square Baptist Church (founded 1881) was an Independent Fundamental Baptist church before Fundamentalism was fun.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Brian Ernsberger's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
Brian,

How is the statement you quoted inconsistent with the press release? I would observe that "Baptist" is the prominent term in the press release, and Fundamentalism a means of distinguishing that from conventions and such.

Greg, going back to the PR the original term was "Baptist Fundamentalism," not "Fundamental Baptist." If it had been the later then your statement would be correct but it was the former term. In that case Baptist tells us, say what vein of Fundamentalism is being referred to. So my initial pondering still remains a ponder.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
]
Brian Ernsberger wrote:
With the press release concerning the possible merger mentioning fundamentalism twice it caused me to do some thinking and has left me with a question. Did I miss a recantation by Dr. Bauder concerning the fundamentalist movement or are some now going to split hairs over the terms fundamentalism and fundamentalist movement?
Folks have been making a distinction between "fundamentalist movement" and "idea of fundamentalism" for a while now. Personally, I don't think it's necessary to distance oneself from the movement in order to distance oneself from particular problems in it. I'd rather do the latter. It's more precise.

But as a highly cohesive phenomenon with alot of forward momentum, "the movement" is pretty much dead. This is really the point of the statement you quoted from. In Bauder's opinion, what we have now is so different from what once was, it is no longer accurate to call it "the fundamentalist movement."
Oh well. It really was always the principles and practice that mattered most, anyway.

To condense your thoughts, Aaron, I believe that you are then to a certain extent, saying yes, there are those who are splitting hairs between Fundamentalism and Fundamentalist movement. I would argue that if the movement is dead then so is fundamentalism. But I don't see anyone saying that nor do I believe it. Has the movement run aground? I would say yes and is therefore no longer "moving." Throughout cyberspace I have seen many postings of those who have gotten out of the "ship" that is the fundamentalist movement and instead of working toward repairing the hull and pushing the "ship" back into the water they have just walked away. Was it dashed beyond repair? No, fundamentalism itself is sound, it is Biblical.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

"Baptist Fundamentalism" is a term which Faith uses quite often. It seems to be part of the culture.

FWIW, they also have a course entitled "Biblical Fundamentalism."

If there is a hair there to split, I would take it to mean that the emphasis is on being baptist (i.e., Biblical, dispensational) within a fundamentalist worldview. I never heard an "official" explanation, so I can only offer my guess.

Or maybe it is just a neat way of saying it :).

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

Greg Linscott's picture

I don't intend to pursue this beyond here, but the words of the term are chosen because they still are the best way to connect with those who hold the ideas. Faith isn't intending to serve, for example, simply the educational interests of the GARBC constituency, whatever they may be. They are directed by principle. Bauder's point overall still stands- there are those who still believe and hold to the ideas, but the cohesive, (even loosely) organized movement is not visibly seen today as it was in the last century, and what is there has little momentum.

Now, whether or not this move here might be part of something that could contribute to generating momentum to a new type of movement remains to be seen.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Brian... probably deserves a separate thread. I think there is little disagreement that the ship, as you put it, is no longer moving. So I can't blame anybody for not wanting to use "movement" in reference to something that isn't moving.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Barry L.'s picture

With the announcement of a Moody-Minnesota merger as well, the question is will these merged schools maintain seperate campuses in the long run. I know they state that they plan on keeping the locations, but I don't see the economic rationale. More political reason than economic?

Greg Linscott's picture

Quote:
With the announcement of a Moody-Minnesota merger as well...

Is that a mistype?

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Greg Linscott's picture

Barry L. wrote:
With the announcement of a Moody-Minnesota merger as well, the question is will these merged schools maintain seperate campuses in the long run. I know they state that they plan on keeping the locations, but I don't see the economic rationale. More political reason than economic?

There are advantages to a campus in the Twin Cities that a campus in metro Des Moines does not offer... and vice-versa. The kinds of students they can attract in their area, transportation to those coming from distances (airports, highways...) facilities, churches for both students and faculties to minister... I'm sure there are many more factors we could list. With Central and Faith, having attended both, I can say that both have strengths and weaknesses in the areas I listed. As a pastor living in Minnesota, taking weekend classes as I did in 2009 was much easier to do from a seminary just under 3 hours drive time away than it was to head south for 6+. I know that many of my classmates for those classes came from places north of the Cities, or even Wisconsin, where FBTS would not have been a viable option. When I was a student at Faith, there were similar considerations for those living in Iowa, as well as students who came in from surrounding states.

Greg Linscott
Marshall, MN

Jamie Hart's picture

Greg Linscott wrote:
Having attended both institutions, I can't see how much better of a fit one could hope for, especially considering the current faculties and administration on both ends. I look forward to seeing how the story continues to unfold. I am particularly interested in seeing what impact (if any) this move might have on the relationships between the immediate local constituencies of each institution- the Minnesota Baptist Association, the Minnesota Association of Regular Baptist Churches, and the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches.

Greg,
My prayer is that this will vastly improve these relationships. When I served on the board of the MARBC, I was very surprised at not only the lack of cooperation, but the tension that exists between it and the MBA. I could elaborate...but suffice it to say there is some healing that really needs to occur. Let's pray this will help!

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