BETHANY BIBLE COLLEGE AND SEMINARY
2311 Hodgesville Road
P.O. Box 1944
Dothan, Alabama 36302
Bethany's 82-page catalog, which lists a multitude of undergraduate and graduate degrees, initially makes them appear impressive. However, they show many signs of being a degree mill. Sources of faculty credentials are not listed, the chancellor and president appear to be father and son, and their degree requirements are far
short of those at accredited institutions. A listing of adjunct faculty includes, "via video," Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost of Dallas Theological Seminary and evangelist Zola Levitt. However, this is a technique one should be discerning about. I can buy a video cassette of Billy Graham, use it to teach a course, then claim that Billy Graham is on my "adjunct faculty." Definitely questionable. Their catalog also notes, "While Bethany is continuing to build its library, the Houston-Love Memorial Library, which is located in downtown Dothan and houses over 100,000 volumes of books, is available for Bethany students for research. The director of the library has given permission for Bethany students to use the library for their research projects." This claim has several fallacies that demonstrate the need for discernment. First, the Houston-Love Memorial Library is the public library for the city of Dothan. Second, as a public library, its 100,000-volume collection is general in nature and not geared toward the specific needs of theological students. Third, students don't need special permission to use public library facilities for research; by nature, a public library is open to anyone in the public. Finally, students in external programs normally don't use libraries located near the school in which they're enrolled, they use local libraries near their home. A Bethany student in Kansas, for example, might use a library in Wichita or Kansas City; there's no need to use the Dothan library at all, especially one that has a minimal amount of theological works. Bethany claims to be accredited by the American Educational Accrediting Association of Christian Schools (headquartered at the same address as the school itself), and, in an earlier catalog, the Southeast Accrediting Association of Christian Schools, Colleges, and Seminaries, Inc.; the school admits that neither agency is recognized by the Department of Education or CORPA. They note that they are "chartered under the laws of the State of Alabama as a degree granting institution" (which simply means that they're incorporated) and that they are "registered with the Alabama State Board of Education and operates under an exempt status for religious institutions in regards to State license." Other than being grammatically poor, the latter statement simply means that since they are a religious institution, they are exempt from other laws that impact educational institutions and can get away with more than secular schools. Bethany's chancellor, H.D. Shuemake, with whom I've enjoyed an ongoing and somewhat off-the-wall correspondence, notified me about three months after "Name It and Frame It" was released that his association, the American Educational Accrediting Association of Christian Schools, has changed its name to the American Educational Association of Non-Traditional Christian Schools. Shuemake wrote to assure me that the name change was not a result of this book, but because "the name would be more in keeping with their goals and objectives." As Dana Carvey would say as "The Church Lady" on "Saturday Night Live," "How conveeeenient." Bethany advertises or has advertised in Christianity Today, Pulpit Helps, The Biblical Evangelist (no longer published), The Searchlight (the newspaper of the Independent Baptist Fellowship International), and Target (a national newspaper published by Tim Lee Ministries in Garland, Texas, which replaced The Biblical Evangelist).
LUTHER RICE BIBLE COLLEGE & SEMINARY
3038 Evans Mill Road
Lithonia, Georgia 30038
One of the earliest Bible schools to enter the external degree market, Luther Rice is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), an accreditor recognized by the Department of Education but not by the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation (see discussion of TRACS in Chapter 3). Luther Rice Seminary offers extension programs through the doctoral level, and their graduates include Charles Stanley and Jerry Vines, former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention. While doctrinally Southern Baptist (though not affiliated with the SBC as a denominational school per se), the school accepts students from any evangelical church. Their credentials have a higher degree of acceptance than other external programs, at least within conservative Christian churches, but students should keep in mind that they're not accredited by a regional association (which will impact whether their credits will be accepted in transfer by regionally accredited schools). Therefore, students should evaluate their career goals carefully and use discernment if considering a Luther Rice degree. Luther Rice appears unlikely to receive regional accreditation, and if the government does not continue to approve TRACS, the seminary will again be unaccredited. I've spoken with educators at accredited schools who believe that Luther Rice's academic standards are below par, but have also seen some credible preachers and scholars who are Luther Rice graduates. Thus, I'm not convinced that they're a blatant degree mill to the extent of many of the schools listed in Chapter 12, but they barely make it into this chapter. Use discernment. By the way, they have recently start ed advertising in the world's best guide to degree mills, Pulpit Helps. No accounting for taste . . .
Jimmy wrote:I graduated from Bethany (M.Th. in 1984, Ph.D. in 1991). The school today is much more challenging now than it was then. It is not accredited so if accreditation is not an issue, I would recommend it.
Let me also add that I was able to do much more with my Bethany degree back then and a few years following graduation than I would be today. However, a much better option is the South African Theological Seminary which is very cheap and accredited. Take care.
I would also avoid SATS, for a few reasons: First, dreamer, you mentioned that you're looking for an M.Div. The African schools that have become somewhat popular with our forum denizens generally attract those who are going for theological doctorates, not practical or professional master's. Second, I have always held that graduate-level degrees in helping professions (which includes pastoral ministry) should have some residential component. It's a matter of both responsibility and accountability, and peer/faculty interaction in the course of your degree program is important if you are going to be in a profession in which you will have influence over others. Third, even in an age of distance education, you will never be asked where you "earned" your degree. You will be asked where you went to school. And if you do SATS (or any other totally online program, you will never in good conscience be able to say "I went to..." I'm not trying to be provincial or jingoistic here, but when it comes to a degree in pastoral ministries, if you are an American, stick with a U.S. school.
Just a thought before moving on . . . Check out the master's programs available through the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. I would imagine that they're available by total distance at this point, and the quality of education at Moody has always been top notch. With a stellar reputation. (Disclosure statement: One of my books was published by Moody Press.) They may not do a specific M.Div. externally, but at your age, and with your goals, don't neglect the M.A. option.
The Commission determined that it [CIU] failed to demonstrate compliance with Core Requirement 2.11.1 (Financial Resources), Core Requirement 2.12 (Quality Enhancement Plan), Comprehensive Standard 3.2.8 (Qualified Academic/Administrative Officers), Comprehensive Standard 3.4.7 (Consortial Relationships), Comprehensive Standard 3.7.1 (Faculty Competence), and Comprehensive Standard 3.10.1 (Financial Stability) of the Principles of Accreditation."
Tark wrote:Given the apparent financial issues at CIU in recent years, the school may not be in a position to provide much financial assistance, even to well-qualified prospective students.
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