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Central Seminary Gains Standing with ATS

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We are pleased to announce that Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis has been granted associate membership in the Association of Theological Schools. This recognition gives Central Seminary standing in the most credible and widely acknowledged organization for accrediting seminaries and graduate schools of theology. Central Seminary is believed to be the first fundamentalist institution to gain associate membership in the ATS.

The move toward the ATS began a decade ago. Central Seminary was about to go after accreditation. Several CHEA (Council on Higher Education Accreditation) authorized organizations could accredit seminaries, and the Central Seminary faculty was trying to decide which agency would prove most helpful. The Association for Biblical Higher Accreditation had just begun to approve seminaries, but it was still an unknown quantity. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools looked like it would provide the most help for an institution that had never been accredited before, but regional accreditation was an option. Kevin Bauder, then president of Central Seminary, traveled to Chicago to meet with officials of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Surprisingly, the recently-retired president of the NCA commented that the regionals actually had little experience in accrediting seminaries. He encouraged Central Seminary to look toward the Association of Theological Schools.

For specific reasons, Central Seminary decided that TRACS would serve its needs best at the time. Nevertheless, one thing became clear. If the regionals are the gold standard for collegiate and university education, ATS is the platinum standard for seminary education. From early on Central Seminary had a desire to add ATS accreditation to its TRACS accreditation. When Sam Horn became the president of Central Seminary, he and the seminary’s dean, Jonathan Pratt, led the seminary to seek accreditation through the ATS. A major step toward that goal has now been accomplished.

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Why two forms of accreditation? The answer lies in the nature of the accrediting organizations. TRACS is an explicitly Christian, conservative organization. One of its major concerns is doctrinal integrity. It demands that its member institutions affirm specific and very narrow articles of faith, from which it permits no deviation. As Christians and fundamentalists, the administration and faculty at Central Seminary value theological accountability and covet the opportunity to work with an organization that is committed to voicing a robust Biblicism within the academy.

The purpose of ATS is different. ATS is a purely academic agency. It does not engage in religious—let alone Christian—cooperation. The purpose of the ATS is not ecumenical but educational. It accredits both Christian and Jewish institutions. Some Buddhist and Muslim organizations have sought and received non-accredited “affiliate” listings. These institutions are not cooperating or “fellowshipping” religiously but rather holding each other accountable for certain scholastic standards. The ATS stands in exactly the same relationship to religious belief as the regional accreditors do. While the regionals accredit schools that educate for a variety of disciplines, however, the ATS accredits only schools that educate for the theological disciplines. Its goal is to bring academic rigor to theological education.

In the distant past the ATS was dominated by schools that held a non-conservative perspective, leading evangelical institutions to perceive that they would be unwelcome. Over the past decades that emphasis has shifted. Many Bible-believing seminaries have sought accreditation. As long ago as the 1990s the balance had shifted toward evangelical participation in the ATS. Now Central Seminary has become the first self-identified fundamentalist institution to seek and gain associate membership.

Both TRACS and the ATS will make a contribution to Central Seminary. TRACS will help to safeguard the doctrinal rigor (including young-earth creationism) that has characterized the school since the days of R. V. Clearwaters. The ATS will safeguard the seminary’s academic standards. The ATS will not tamper with Central Seminary’s doctrinal commitments, but both accreditors will review Central Seminary’s structures for planning, assessment, and finances. If accountability is a good thing, double accountability is a better thing.

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Central Seminary anticipated no serious difficulties in gaining associate membership with ATS, nor did it experience any. Its professors all hold doctorates from ATS-accredited institutions. The quality of its library far exceeds the requirements for the programs it offers. It has been enjoying a financial rebound as the economy has leveled and new donors have stepped in to support the school. Three strong years of recruiting are reflected in a stable student population. These are the things that accreditors look at, and Central Seminary is in good shape in every area.

Central Seminary’s associate membership with ATS follows closely after reaffirmation by TRACS. The TRACS reaffirmation is for ten years, the longest period that TRACS can authorize. Like ATS associate membership, TRACS reaffirmation places a strong endorsement upon the academics and organizational operation of Central Seminary.

Associate membership with ATS also displays Central Seminary’s ongoing determination to improve itself. The seminary has striven for excellence ever since it was founded in 1956. At that time it was one of the first fundamentalist seminaries, and it continues unabashedly to hold the same separatist position. Over the years it has graduated hundreds of pastors and missionaries who are serving across the United States and around the globe. It has trained professors for nearly every recognizable college and seminary within fundamentalism. Its alumni have included such distinguished figures as Army Chaplain Dale Goetz and New Testament scholar Rod Decker.

Central Seminary is best known for its stand for the church and for the gospel. In its commitment to the church Central Seminary emphasizes a position that is separatist, dispensational, cessationist, and complementarian. In its commitment to the gospel Central Seminary seeks to foster biblical evangelism and discipleship. In every area the seminary seeks to unite faithful obedience and doctrinal integrity with Christian affection, resulting in a hunger for the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

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This essay is an announcement from Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis.

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Father, Glorify Thy Son
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892)

Father glorify Thy Son. Somehow our prayer always comes to this before we have done. “Father glorify Thy Son that Thy Son also may glorify Thee,” and let the days come when He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. Bless all work done for Thee, whether it be in the barn or in the cathedral, silently and quietly at the street door, or in the Sunday-school or in the classes, O Lord bless Thy work. Hear also prayers that have been put up by wives for their husbands, children for their parents, parents for their children. Let the holy service of prayer never cease, and let the intercession be accepted of God for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

About Guest Author

This guest article has been published because an editor has determined its contents to be supportive of the values of Religious Affections Ministries. Its publication does not imply full agreement between its author and RAM on other matters.

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