Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Central Baptist Shrinks as Conservative Cross-Town School Flourishes

Factoid: Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, under the leadership of theo-left Dr. Molly T. Marshall, announced plans to move its campus to smaller quarters as a cost saving measure for the school serving a combined student body of 130 persons(

Factoid: Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, under the leadership of staunch evangelical Dr. R. Philip Roberts, boasts a student body nearing 400 women and men.

Here is part of the account regarding Central Baptist, affiliated with both the ABCUSA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship . . .

To save money, Central Baptist Theological Seminary plans to move — probably this summer — from the campus it has occupied since 1923 at 31st Street and Minnesota Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.

The seminary will relocate in smaller facilities somewhere in the metropolitan area, though an exact location has yet to be announced.

“We must put our resources into quality educational instruction rather than deferred maintenance,” said Molly T. Marshall, president of the 105-year-old American Baptist seminary. She called the current 90-acre campus “a draining burden for us.”

The seminary is facing nearly $5 million in deferred maintenance costs, she said. The move, she said, should save the seminary about $400,000 a year.

MBTS describes itself as "Biblical. Conservative. Evangelistic." Central boasts the writings of its controversial president, Dr. Marshall. In addition to her three books (No Salvation Outside the Church? A Critical Inquiry, What It Means to Be Human, and Joining the Dance: A Theology of the Spirit), the seminary promotes her dozens of chapters in books and articles, and her Biennial addrress from last summer in Denver. As one who sat through Dr. Marshall's sermon, I would not think that it would be a competitive advantage for anyone seeking an evangelical theological education or planning to serve in a church with orthodox convictions.

The declining fortunes of Central Baptist parallels trends among most mainline denominational schools. At the same time that ABC schools with moderate to theo-left reputations reveal desperate measures to stave off bankruptcy, evangelical institutions flourish. For example, Northern Seminary with its overtly evangelical identity, continues to cast an ambitious vision.

[His Barking Dog hails from the evangelical wing of the church but should not be confused with the official spokespersons in the PSW]


Jerry said...

You might want to consider the constituency of Central and Mid-Western before you start cheering about CBTS's misfortunes. CBTS originally served ABCer's primarily from Kansas and Nebraska and SBCer's from Missouri. After Mid-Western was formed, most SBCer's from Missouri started to attend Mid-Western. SBCer's in Missouri have always outnumbered ABCer's in Kansas/Nebraska.

Secondly, looking at the numbers provided by the seminaries to The Association of Theological Schools, Both Central and Mid-Western have been trending toward lower Full-Time Equivalency enrollment numbers during the last 7-8 years. Only last year does Mid-Western start to see some significant gains, and those because of much larger part-time enrollment. (Could that be because of Hurricane Katrina and the temporary closing of New Orleans Baptist Seminary, it seems likely.)

And don't cheer about Northern Baptist Seminary either. NBTS numbers have trended down in the last 7-8 years almost parallel to CBTS. In fact in terms of FTEs, CBTS is only 23 students smaller than NBTS.

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Thanks for the factual corrections! Speaking with the President of Northern had lead me to believe the numbers at Northern were much better than you suggest. I appreciate your taking the time to read and provide additional perspective. Admittedly, the theological situation at Central is a VERY weak spot in my knowledge base. Thanks, Jerry, for your corrections. I want to examine this issue more deeply myself.