FORT WORTH, Texas (BNM) - Pastors without college degrees may now enroll in a Spanish-language Master of Theological Studies degree (Maestría en Estudios Teológicos, or MET). Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary announced the new opportunity on June 29. The 36-hour degree provides a foundational education in Bible, church history, and theology, the school said. All classes are available entirely online.
The new opportunity arose from revised accreditation standards. The Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools approved the changes on June 25. The commission accredits the seminary and approves postbaccalaureate professional and academic degree programs.
The degree is "perhaps the most unique and advantageous Spanish-language theological studies program available anywhere in the world," Brent Ray said. Ray directs Southwestern's World Missions Center. He added that the accreditation changes place the Met "within the reach of every Spanish-language church leader, pastor, missionary, or denominational worker."
The MET program is "uniquely designed to reach our Latino pastors ... without asking them to relocate their families and disrupt their ministries," according to Greg Smith. He is the seminary's associate vice president for distributed learning. "Southwestern Seminary will be able to offer masters-level theological education to an even larger group of pastors across the state of Texas and around the globe," he continued.
The seminary's registrar, Mark Leeds, explained that students must still meet rigorous standards to pursue masters-level studies. They must usually be 35 years old or older. They must show academic studies that demonstrate an aptitude for seminary work. And, they typically need eight years of ministry experience.
Philip Levant is excited about the accreditation change's impact. He pastors Iglesia Bautista La Vid, Hurst, Texas. He also chairs the seminary's trustee board. "Not all Hispanic pastors have had the opportunity to get their undergraduate degrees," Levant said. More pastors "enrolling and engaged in foundational training" would also improve ministries, he said.
Levant also addressed the difficulty Hispanic pastors face when accessing seminary education. "This just creates another avenue, another pathway, for them to get at least some education, some more preparation for what God's called them to do," he said.
The accreditation change reflects Southwestern's purpose of equipping men and women for ministry. "Having this degree become more accessible will just allow that many more people to be trained for Gospel ministry," Levant said.