We are very excited to announce that Northwest Baptist Seminary is now fully accredited by The Association of Theological Schools. Of particular importance is that ATS also accredited our innovative Immerse program.
This is no small thing, given the uniqueness of Immerse. The fully church-based nature of the program means that Immerse exceeds the standards for residency normally expected of seminaries. Granting approval for this kind of learning marks a dramatic step forward in the world of theological education with Northwest at the forefront of this exciting change.
For many years, Northwest has held its accredited status on the basis of two elements: its charter to offer theological degrees granted by provincial legislation back in 1959, and through its partnership in ACTS Seminaries. Now that Northwest is offering programming outside of the ACTS umbrella, it was important to submit Immerse for the examination of ATS.
Immerse offered several challenges to the accreditors. The program is built on a number of principles that are unique. For example, Immerse has no courses, no semesters, and no fixed timetable. Instead it challenges students, working under the direction of a team of mentors, to pursue mastery of a comprehensive set of outcomes. The mentors are free to customize student expectations in order to provide whatever will be the most helpful to the student. Recognizing that schedules and timetables can arbitrarily limit student learning, Immerse allows students to continue working on a subject until they get to a level of appropriate mastery. When they’ve got it they can move on.
Key to the value of Immerse is its rootedness in context. We believe that the best place to learn to lead the church is the church itself. Immerse students go beyond theory to prove their competency through ministry to real people on the ground. The problem was that seminaries have traditionally understood themselves as campus-based, valuing greatly the learning and personal formation that happens best in community strattera and weight loss. Our answer was that we agreed in the importance of community, but that we see the church as the primary community and the best environment for student development. This church-centric approach is more consistent with our long-standing commitment to the church as God’s primary instrument for the spread of his Kingdom.
In the end, the examiners were able to appreciate our position, and indicated their desire to approve the program as an official “experiment” of ATS. This experimental status is actually to our benefit. It does not imply any uncertainty or that their decision is provisional. It does acknowledge that what we are doing is unique and that it does exceed the standards as they are currently written. By framing this as an official experiment, ATS has put this program on a much higher profile. The program will be noticed and observed. As we make progress, others will learn the things that we are learning. As we prove results a few years down the road, ATS will be required to build some of what has been learned into the standards that govern every theological school.
In other words, we are literally changing the face of theological education.
The decision of ATS was not guaranteed. In fact there were a number of other schools whose applications for experiments were not granted. When I thanked ATS Executive Director, Dan Aleshire, he said to me, “Well, you didn’t really give us a choice. You were so well prepared and had covered every angle. We had to say yes to you.” While his response was gratifying for its affirmation, it is also encouraging to realize the kind of impact that we are having.
Immerse is jointly owned and was collaboratively developed with David Horita and the team at Fellowship Pacific. The Northwest mission has always been first and foremost about the mission of our churches and so it was important to build this in concert with those churches. Now, however, the effect of what we built is starting to spread.
Currently we have versions of Immerse available to Fellowship Pacific, Fellowship Prairies, Fellowship International, and Baptist Housing. This latter version takes things beyond the world of pastor and church to the world of chaplaincy. We are also now in serious conversation with several other potential partners, schools, and networks all across Canada and into the United States as well. We will share more information when we are able.
On another front, we would encourage you to pray for our developing relationship with SEMBEQ, our Fellowship Baptist related seminary in the province of Quebec. SEMBEQ has been operating successfully for more than 40 years, training great pastoral leaders through their own church-based system, resulting in a strong network of healthy churches and leaders in this very needy place. SEMBEQ, however, does not have a charter, nor do they have accreditation for their programs. Upon their request, we have been working with SEMBEQ to offer their degrees under our charter on their behalf.
In fact, we have made a formal request to the Ministry of Education seeking their permission. We would encourage you to join us in prayer for this matter – particularly for favor with the Quebec government. Recently, Northwest was the subject of an article in the Montreal newspaper La Presse in which the author seemed to have some distress over this supposed incursion of evangelicals into their province. Of course, the Bible is full of instances where God moved the heart of kings and governors who did not acknowledge his sovereignty. We are praying that he will do it yet again.
As we have sought to be faithful with what God has given us, we have begun to see God enlarge our influence. We are grateful for the opportunity. We are deeply aware that this is all for his glory and for his honour.
Thank you for sharing with us in this important task.