Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Ends Partnership With Sovereign Grace Ministries

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A spokesman for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary confirmed that the school is ending a formal partnership with Sovereign Grace Ministries, accused in criminal and civil courts of mishandling reports of sexual abuse.

A Southern Baptist Convention seminary has broken off its formal relationship with a church-starting network that has become a lightning rod since a former leader admitted under oath that he failed to report child sex abuse to police.

Blogger Todd Wilhelm posted a letter June 29 reportedly circulated by Jeff Purswell, director of theology and training for Sovereign Grace Ministries in Louisville, Ky., reporting “disappointing news” that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is discontinuing a formal relationship with the Sovereign Grace Pastors College announced in 2012.

“This is a rather complex situation, and I’m unable to share all of the internal factors influencing their decision,” Purswell said, but “suspicions cast upon Sovereign Grace” by an ongoing lawsuit alleging an abuse cover-up and the recent criminal conviction of one of the named perpetrators “appear to have played a role in this suspension.”

Sovereign Grace Ministries announced a new program in November 2012 allowing Pastors College alumni to pursue a master of divinity degree from Southern Seminary without disrupting their church ministry.

The announcement, which no longer appears on the SGM website, said the new program would allow the transfer of up to 35 credit hours from the Pastors College to Southern Seminary. That is more than a third of the way toward the 94 hours required for the M.Div. in Christian ministry.

Coupled with flexible learning options including online courses and brief intensive classes, the agreement made it possible for Sovereign Grace pastors to complete their studies without moving to Louisville.

James Smith, executive editor and chief spokesman for Southern Seminary, said in an email July 1 that the seminary in Louisville, Ky., maintains a number of such “articulation agreements” with schools both in the U.S. and abroad that do not qualify for traditional accreditation.

Smith said the agreements, which are “in keeping with longstanding institutional policies going back several decades and the standards of our accrediting agencies,” allow students who meet regular admission standards to transfer a defined number of credits toward their master’s degree.

“These agreements are subject to review and termination by Southern Seminary at any time,” Smith said. “In May, Southern Seminary’s academic administration notified the Sovereign Grace Pastors College leadership that the seminary’s articulation agreement with the college had been terminated.”

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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press
Bob Allen

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