DALLAS — Three theological seminaries that are not part of the Southern Baptist Convention, were recognized by the Baptist Press as the schools that uphold the inerrancy of Scripture. The three schools include Luther Rice Seminary, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and The Criswell College.
Luther Rice Seminary, which strongly upholds the authority of the Bible – Gods’ inerrant word, was founded by a 19th century Baptist missionary named Luther Rice. The school was chartered in 1962 in Jacksonville, Fla., then it moved to Lithonia, Ga. in 1991.
"He believed in missions, cooperation between churches, Christian education, the authority of the Bible – God’ the power of the Holy Spirit, and Bible preaching," Luther Rice Seminary President James L. Flanagan said.
Similary, Mid-America Seminary which is located in Memphis, Fl. considers the inerrancy of the Bible important. According to Emeritus President, Gray Allison, the campus began as a place for students to come with the assurance that the faculty and staff would "believe all of the Bible was true all the way through."
"At that time (of the founding of Mid-America) we didn't have a seminary like that," Allison said.
Although Mid-America doesn’t fall under the SBC, it does maintain good relationship with the SBC by encouraging students to serve at the Southern Baptist churches upon graduation.
While not supported by the Cooperative Program, the requirements of Mid-America are that the faculty must be an active member of a local Southern Baptist church and every professor must "have an open heart, an open door, and be a soul winner." Students also are required to be active in ministry and to witness.
"Our purpose was to get students prepared for Southern Baptist ministry," Allison saidm, "We've always stayed positive, not criticizing other seminaries. Over the years, we gradually won acceptance."
The Southern Baptist conservative resurgence, Allison said, has been a positive for Mid-America.
"The North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, the Sunday School Board, now LifeWay, all want our graduates," he said. "We have a great relationship with the SBC entities."
Despite the theological change in the Southern Baptist landscape, Allison says the seminary is "still in the business to prepare Southern Baptist folks for the ministry."
The seminary started in 1971 as "The School of the Prophets" in Louisiana. It then relocated to Little Rock, Ark., where the name was changed to Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. The seminary moved to Tennessee in 1975. Michael R. Spradlin is its current president.
W.A. Criswell, legendary pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, founded The Criswell College in 1971. He dreamt of a school where people would be trained by professors who believed the Bible was inerrant.
"The great preacher of the First Baptist Church of Dallas had a heart for preachers as well as for the Word of God," said Criswell College Chancellor Mac Brunson, now pastor of First Baptist.
"The Criswell College stands today on the foundation of its founder with a commitment to excellency in the classroom, a dedication to the infallibility of the word of God, and a love for missions and evangelism," Brunson said.
The school progressed from a night institute begun in 1971 to a college offering diploma, associate, bachelor and master's level studies, preparing students for the pastorate, missions, evangelism, Christian education, communications, youth ministry, worship leadership, women's ministry or other related Christian ministries.
"This College is literally a laboratory of conservative evangelicalism dealing with the original languages of Scripture, teaching biblical and church history with expertise and depth, guiding men and women through the Gospels, the Old Testament and the New Testament, all with a passion and preciseness. All of this and more is accomplished in an urban environment, connected to the most historic Baptist church in America,” Brunson added.