Erskine Theological Seminary recognized the COVID-19 shutdown as an opportunity to strengthen its online presence. It also decided to let faculty focus on their upper-level, signature courses while simultaneously offering foundational graduate classes more frequently. A partnership with BibleMesh offered a way forward.
Starting this fall, Erskine students will be authorized to complete introductory classes in Bible, theology, church history, and biblical languages online through the BibleMesh Institute. The self-paced courses can be taken whenever a student needs them in his or her degree program. BibleMesh academic tutors will proctor the courses, freeing Erskine faculty to concentrate on courses within their specialization.
“We can advise students with full trust to take BibleMesh courses and have that transferred over into the Erskine program,” Erskine Associate Dean John Paul Marr said.
Located in Due West, South Carolina, Erskine was founded in 1837 to serve the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC). Though still an agency of the ARPC, the seminary’s student body consists of individuals from Reformed, Presbyterian, Baptist, and African Methodist Episcopal denominations. Erskine’s doctrinal standards for faculty affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, the “vicarious and atoning death” of Christ, and His bodily resurrection.
The seminary’s approximately 100 students are working toward a variety of graduate degrees, including the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts in Practical Ministry, the Doctor of Ministry, and the Master of Arts in Christian Counseling, a new degree that equips students to become licensed counselors. Most students are preparing to pastor local churches, but some plan to minister on the mission field or by teaching in higher education. Graduates minister in the United States and internationally from Rwanda to Spain and beyond.
Erskine is hopeful its partnership with BibleMesh will launch the seminary’s next generation of ministry as it expands online education.
According to the partnership agreement, up to 50 percent of the required credits for certain graduate degrees, certificates, and diplomas may be earned through the BibleMesh Institute and transferred to Erskine, as determined by a student’s program degree advisor. With permission from seminary administrators, students may take upper-level BibleMesh electives in addition to approved foundation courses.
Furnishing such a broad array of introductory courses is a new type of institutional partnership for BibleMesh, which has more than half a dozen partner relationships in higher education. Marr thinks a partnership like Erskine’s could be useful for other schools too.
“As seminary education changes and moves from simply residential to multiple modalities, such partnerships will be healthy for any institution,” Marr said. “There are shared resources that are working together for the kingdom, and we can rely on each other in these partnerships to accomplish the end goal.”