The Christian Citizen Series: Part 4

August 19, 2019

Theological education in North America: Crises and faithful creativity

Dr. Philip Thompson
July 18, 2019

Published by The Christian Citizen

In the three previous offerings, I have briefly delineated the crisis facing theological schools in North America and introduced Sioux Falls Seminary’s Kairos Project as one response to the crisis. In this final installment, I will examine the Kairos Project’s resonance with, and faithfulness to, the Baptist expression of the Christian faith. This is not an insignificant question, an afterthought to the rest. It is, rather, at once integral to the seminary’s identity and a complex matter.

Sioux Falls Seminary’s roots go deep into Baptist soil, specifically German Baptist soil. The school began in 1858 as a department of Rochester (NY) Theological Seminary expressly for the purpose of educating ministers for German-speaking Baptist congregations. For a short time in the mid-1930s, the school, which was by then moving toward a more independent existence, was named German Baptist Seminary. Much change has taken place since. The school changed its name to North American Baptist Seminary in the 1940s, reflecting the gradual process of assimilation into English-speaking culture that went on among German Baptists during that period. It relocated in 1949 to Sioux Falls, SD as the concentration of German population in North America shifted westward. The school changed its name again in 2007, to Sioux Falls Seminary.

The last name change occasioned considerable discussion concerning the school’s Baptist identity. It also is emblematic of an ever more denominationally diverse student body. This diversity has only increased with the advent of the Kairos Project. In addition to having students from around twenty denominations, Sioux Falls Seminary now is home to houses of study for Methodist/Wesleyan and Lutheran students, and has formal partnerships with several non-Baptist schools and denominational bodies. Thus now we intentionally ask: In what ways do Sioux Falls Seminary and the Kairos Project reflect and share in a Baptist character?

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