LEXINGTON, Ky. (ABP) — Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, an 8-year-old theological partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, is moving to the campus of Georgetown College, a historic Baptist school that loosened ties with the Kentucky Baptist Convention in 2005.
The move, approved recently by seminary trustees and announced on the school's website, comes on the heels of another milestone. Member institutions of the Association of Theological Schools voted June 23 in Montreal to grant associate member status to Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, which submitted its application last fall and was visited on-site by an ATS representative in March.
"Seminary personnel are very excited with this entry-level status which the accrediting body encourages for 8-year-old schools like BSK," seminary President Greg Earwood said June 29.
Launched in 2002 in the education building of Calvary Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., Baptist Seminary of Kentucky since 2005 has rented space on the campus of Lexington Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Baptist seminary began looking for a new location last year when Lexington Seminary indicated it would likely downsize and move out of its campus in downtown Lexington.
The seminary will remain independent from the college, while leasing space and sharing resources like a 55,000-square-foot library completed in 1998. Georgetown College President William Crouch told the Louisville Courier-Journal that while it is a business relationship, "we look at it as if we've added them to our family."
The first Baptist college founded west of the Allegheny mountains, Georgetown College traces its history to an academy started in 1787 by a Baptist minister named Elijah Craig. In 1942 the college entered into an agreement with the Kentucky Baptist Convention that allowed the state convention to elect the school's trustees.
Georgetown trustees voted in 2005 to revert to a self-perpetuating board of trustees, saying that for fund-raising purposes the college needed the freedom to include non-Baptist trustees. A new agreement called for phasing out KBC funding of Georgetown over four years and assured that at least 75 percent of the school's board of trustees would be Kentucky Baptists.
The agreement said that Georgetown would remain an "officially sanctioned entity" in relationship with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, that Georgetown students could receive KBC scholarships and that Georgetown and the state convention would jointly hire a fund a campus minister position.
Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, was traveling June 29 and unavailable for comment about whether indentifying with a CBF-affiliated seminary might affect the state convention's fraternal and cooperative relationships with Georgetown College.
While many former Baptist colleges and universities drifted from their Baptist identity after severing ties with sponsoring Baptist state conventions, Georgetown has established relationships with four African-American Baptist conventions, entered a partnership with Regent's Park College, a Baptist institution of the University of Oxford, and joined the joined the Baptist World Alliance.
Earwood, a former longtime Kentucky pastor who taught three years as an adjunct professor of Old Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said that Baptist identity was "certainly a strong point" for attracting the seminary to Georgetown.
Remodeling is underway while funds are being raised on new and more spacious faculty offices near the center of Georgetown's campus. Fall semester classes for the seminary will be offered in August.
Baptist Seminary of Kentucky, which started with 14 students in the first class in the fall of 2002, enrolled 53 full- and part-time students in the most recent academic year.
Associate membership status in the ATS, the first of three categories leading to Candidate and finally Accredited membership, signifies that a seminary has been around long enough to have graduated its first class of master-of-divinity degrees, has an adequate number of qualified professors working full time in post-baccalaureate theological education and a student body of sufficient size to provide appropriate peer-learning opportunities. It also certifies that a school has a stable educational program including an adequate library and financial resources to remain viable.
Accreditation allows students to transfer credits to other accredited schools and to qualify for federally funded student loans.
Other CBF-affiliated schools accredited by ATS are Central Baptist Theological Seminary, John Leland Center for Theological Studies, Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Logsdon Seminary of Logsdon School of Theology, Campbell University Divinity School, M. Christopher White Scholl of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond and James and Carolyn McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.