Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) was formed in 1991 in celebration of historic Baptist values, as Baptist life in the South moved sharply toward a narrow theological perspective. Consequently, historic Baptist freedom is a hallmark of BTSR: freedom to question, freedom to discover, freedom to learn, and freedom to serve in Jesus’ name.
BTSR’s unique ethos finds expression in several ways. Excellence in ministry and academics are core values at BTSR. As a seminary we seek to create a tapestry where both academic and ministry threads are distinct, yet where they cooperatively enliven the training of women and men for ministry.
A towel and basin is at the heart of the seminary. Taking our cue from Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13), we strive to grow servant leaders. On the night before graduation, each BTSR graduate receives a servant’s towel with his or her name on it. All graduates are then commissioned to serve in Jesus’ name.
The curriculum at BTSR includes three basic areas of emphasis that are integral to the preparation of every student, regardless of his or her specific ministry interest.
Academic preparation for ministry is a central reason for the existence of a theological seminary. Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond stresses that academic preparation must be accompanied by attention to spiritual formation. Theological education is not only to be addressed to the mind, it should also address matters of the heart. To this end all entering students are required to take courses that introduce them to spirituality and the spiritual disciplines, especially prayer, and which aid them in cultivating both private and corporate means for spiritual development. Subsequently, they must also take a course that helps them develop skills for helping those to whom they minister by strengthening their own spiritual lives. In addition to providing courses in spirituality the seminary community worships and prays together weekly during regular academic terms.
Opportunities are also available for special workshops and periodic retreats to help students in their spiritual formation and to facilitate their developing spiritual resources necessary for effective practice of ministry.
Global Mission Immersion Recognizing that the church has become global in its composition, the seminary seeks to help students broaden their vision to attain a global perspective. Students are required to complete at least one course involving work in a cross-cultural mission setting where they are immersed in a culture different from their own. Courses designed to immerse students in the global issues confronting the church are planned for the second year of the M.Div. and M.C.M. curriculum.
Congregationally-focused Theological Education BTSR emphasizes theological education that is focused on ministry within a congregation or other community of faith. The curriculum is designed to bring students into close contact with congregations and faith-based ministries throughout their academic careers. For most students this will mean a local congregation. For those preparing for other ministries, such as chaplaincy or social ministry, a different form of community of faith will be their “congregation.”
This congregational emphasis is borne out in three ways: First, the curriculum of the seminary is so designed that each course is meant to relate in some fashion to the life of the church. All that is taught is in dialogue with the congregation or community of faith. The needs of the church become the focus of teaching as ministerial students are introduced not only to the best scholarship but also to the life of congregations.
Second, a focus on congregations means that laity is invited to participate in the student’s field-based experience to help guide, evaluate, critique, and train the student. Lay persons draw on their areas of expertise and their own faith journeys in guiding students as they serve as liaisons between the student and the ministry setting.
Third, a focus on congregations means that the faculty is committed to sharing the resources of the seminary with local churches and other communities of faith.
In all that it does, BTSR equips ministers to lead the congregations and ministries of the church in the twenty-first century. Giving ministers a thorough acquaintance with church life and knowledge of the skills of congregational
leadership are central to the seminary’s task.
Check out the video below to see what’s going on at BTSR.