Beginning this month, Covenant Theological Seminary will offer live classes in Nashville for its Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) degree. The second site will allow students to earn up to 23 of the 48 credit hours in Nashville in conjunction with completing the rest of the of the blended MATS degree either online or at Covenant’s St. Louis campus.
Mark Dalbey, Covenant Seminary president, said Nashville is home to a concentrated number of Covenant Seminary alumni who are serving their communities in vocational ministry or other capacities. For years these alumni have been asking Covenant to offer classes in Nashville.
In a video released on Covenant Seminary’s Facebook page, Nashville pastor Scott Sauls said, “Nashville is undergoing a very significant transformation as a city. It’s becoming less and less Bible Belt and more and more Athens of the South.”
Dalbey said Nashville’s growing population and reputation as a culture-making city make it an ideal place for an institution such as Covenant, which seeks not just to prepare people for ministry but also to help students winsomely engage the culture and see every calling as kingdom work. Dalbey said Covenant seeks to come alongside what God is doing in Nashville by serving the city with Gospel-centered, biblical theological education.
Classes in Nashville will assist students who seek Covenant’s Master of Divinity degree but also want to earn some credits before relocating to St. Louis to finish the degree. The classes will benefit people in vocational ministry in Nashville and surrounding areas who want more theological and ministry training and others who are not in vocational ministry but have a strong sense of kingdom calling and want to be more effective in those callings, whether as teachers, doctors, or musicians.
Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville will host the initial classes, with St. Louis professors as primary teachers and Nashville adjuncts such as Dr. Scotty Smith also teaching classes. The initiative kicked off on Jan. 15 with a two-day class on interpreting the Bible, combined with a weeklong class on exploring the Gospels on Jan. 18-22. Dan Doriani taught both classes.
Covenant will also offer three additional classes in 2016, including spring and fall semester-long classes and an intensive summer class.
Dalbey said Covenant is deeply committed to maintaining the ethos of its St. Louis campus in Nashville, one that promotes relationships, pastor-scholars mentoring students, and engaging the culture.
The Nashville site is what Dalbey calls a “well-founded experiment,” the result of two years of research, conversations, and fundraising. Still, Dalbey said, the core of what Covenant does will remain in St. Louis, and the seminary has no current plans to offer its M.Div. at several sites throughout the country.
“Our desire is to do more to affirm that the work people do between Sundays is real kingdom work. The Gospel transforms us deep in our hearts,” Dalbey said. “And that is to have a transforming impact everywhere we go, in everything we do, and with everyone we’re with.”