By Dr. Charley Holmes, President and Dr. Philip Attebery, Dean
Executive Editor’s Note: The “Moving the Conversation Forward” article by Associate Editor Allan Eakin in the Dec. 20 issue introduced a series of articles we would feature at the beginning of the new year. The first of these articles — “How Do We Associate?” — appeared in the Jan. 10 issue.
In the Jan. 17 issue, we shared the stories of two of the ministries that are made possible because of the churches of the Baptist Missionary Association of Arkansas. We will return to the ministries from the state of Arkansas in a future issue.
In the Jan. 24 issue, we shared the stories of the two largest ministries — BMA Global (Missions) and Lifeword — that are made possible because of the national association of churches — Baptist Missionary Association of America (BMAA).
In this issue, we will share about the two other ministries that help maintain the identity of our association through education and training — BMA Theological Seminary and Baptist Publishing House. (All articles in this series are being made available and accessible to everyone at BaptistTrumpet.com. Look for the “Why An Association of Churches?” Series graphic.)
The Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary (BMATS) is located in Jacksonville, Texas. First classes began on Sept. 8, 1957, with 57 students from 6 states. Dr. G.D. Kellar served as the first president of the seminary. BMATS is currently under the leadership of President Dr. Charley Holmes (since May 18, 1999) and Dr. Philip Attebery who serves as dean, registrar and professor of church ministries.
The purpose of the seminary is multi-faceted. It seeks to provide accredited theological education, equip individuals for Christ-centered service and leadership, meet the educational needs of BMA churches and ministries (along with others who are committed to the authority of Scripture) and serve as a center for critical thought and research that is nurtured within a doctrinal and historical BMA context.
According to Dr. John W. Gregson’s book, Earnestly Contending for the Faith: A Fifty-Year History of the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary (1955-2005), churches showed interest in creating a seminary back in the 1940s. In 1950, messengers of the North American Baptist Association (now the Baptist Missionary Association of America, BMAA) agreed to add a Christian Education Committee (i.e., an associational seminary) to its list of ministries. Much of the original article’s wording remains in the current BMAA’s principles of cooperation, including the expectation that prospective seminary faculty members sign a statement expressing their agreement with the associational Doctrinal Statement.
Indeed, a distinctive of BMA Seminary is its commitment to BMA history and doctrine. As is the case at the present, BMATS administrators and full-time faculty are typically ordained ministers holding membership in BMA churches. Each of the current full-time faculty was raised in BMA churches and actively supports the association’s work. Most have visited and taught on BMA mission fields, attended Daniel Springs Baptist Camp, written and taught literature produced by the Baptist Publishing House, walked to support Lifeword, contributed to BMA Financial Services and prayed for Moral Action.
Seminary administrators and faculty have spent years earning higher-education degrees to better themselves personally and to help individuals prepare for faithful and effective service to their local churches. Through the years, faculty have provided local churches and associations with training workshops in areas such as evangelism, discipleship, preaching and Christian education. The seminary continues to offer such training to interested churches and associations.
Highlights of the seminary’s ministry in recent years include its enhanced attention to evangelism and disciple-making. Its use of Evangelism Explosion and DiscipleWay materials provides students with tools, skills and strategies for helping them perform and lead others in fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples.
Although its main campus is in Jacksonville, Texas, BMA Seminary is approved by accreditors for comprehensive distance education. This allows students to complete both courses and entire degrees without requiring them to be on campus. In fact, the seminary regularly offers training in DiscipleWay via video conferencing. During some semesters, individuals have participated in such training from their homelands in places like Africa, Asia and South America. Also, some of these individuals are products of BMA mission work in their countries.
BMA Seminary’s goals and dreams for 2024 include increased enrollment and graduations, more scholarly writing by professors, increased funding for scholarships through a generous Seminary Sunday offering, completion of a capital campaign to renovate parking areas and student housing and the hiring of additional faculty to accomplish our mission and service to our supporting churches. We also hope to see interest grow in the Master of Arts in Disciple-Making program.
Return to Why An Association of Churches? page.