Recently I wrote a blog on “What I Would Look for in a Seminary” (http://tinyurl.com/5seswfq), as one who is invested in urban ministry and interested in training that equips workers for urban ministry. One comment was made that no such place exists and that it was too idealistic.
This morning I had breakfast with Dr. Larry Anderson, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology and Director of Urban Initiatives from Biblical Theological Seminary. Also present was Malcolm Walls, the Admissions Counselor. I came away encouraged that in North Philly there is a quality seminary level program for those committed to Urban Ministry.
The Urban Lead MDIV (http://tinyurl.com/5rgor69) is accomplished via a 3 year cohort that meets on Tuesday evenings and one Saturday a month at a wonderful facility on 6th St. (near Cayuga St) provided by Spirit and Truth Fellowship (Dr. Manny Ortiz).
The ethnically diverse faculty is invested in urban ministry; the students reflect the ethnic, economic, and denominational diversity of the city. The curriculum is permeated with a missional perspective. There is a gospel-centeredness with a generosity toward differing evangelical theological perspectives.
I did have a few questions that were answered more than adequately. I was interested in whether former Professor John Franke’s epistemology and hermeneutics influenced the course on ‘Pursuing Authentic Biblical Interpretation.’ I was assured that though the questions he raised were worth thinking about, any answer must be result in confidence in the authority and reliability of Scripture.
As a complementarian, I was also interested in the course on “Theology, Ethnicity, and Gender” to see if there was a particular agenda the school had or if they would argue the pros and cons of the various evangelical positions. Again, Larry shared how BTS professors did not have a unified view but taught with generosity toward differing views.
I questioned also why there was no course on World Missions and was delighted to find out that there was a 7 credit ‘Intercultural Learning Experience’ that involved ‘hands on’ World Mission experience.
Another question was in regard to mentored ministry and internship. The professors are involved in the spiritual formation of the students but there is a need to develop an internship program. I suggested the type of internship where pastors would mentor students toward a particular ecclesiology and other specifics of pastoral theology while the school would introduce them to the wider nuances of ecclesiology and pastoral theology.
I was also glad to find out that up to ½ of credits toward the Urban Lead MDIV may be transferred in.
The one weakness of the curriculum was the absence of Hebrew and Greek, though there is recourse for those who want to pursue the languages.
Overall, I was impressed with the graciousness, gospel-centeredness, depth of understanding, and ability to articulate evidenced by Larry and Malcolm. They are wonderful brothers, I look forward to partnering with them for the training of workers for the harvest in Philly and other urban centers of the world.