B.H. Carroll Theological Institute is becoming B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary and will be embedded in East Texas Baptist University.
The governing boards of ETBU on Feb. 3 and of the B.H. Carroll Institute on Feb. 6 approved resolutions authorizing an exclusive agreement to merge the administrative and academic operations of B.H. Carroll as part of ETBU.
B.H. Carroll is accredited to award master’s degrees and doctoral degrees by the Association of Theological Schools and the Association of Biblical Higher Education. ETBU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate degrees and master’s degrees.
Curriculum and administration proposals will be finalized by this May, and proposals for the accrediting bodies will be submitted by Aug. 25. Documentation for a SACS Commission on Colleges onsite visit will be completed by Jan. 21, 2024.
Pending review and approval by the accrediting bodies, the merger will be finalized and the theological graduate school will become “B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary at East Texas Baptist University” between September 2024 and Jan. 31, 2025.
B.H. Carroll will continue to operate independently until then, but it will work in close collaboration with ETBU administration. The ETBU board of trustees is the governing body for the merged institution, and the seminary will have a board of advisers.
ETBU has pledged to work to incorporate individuals from current and past B.H. Carroll board of governors onto its board of trustees.
First doctoral degree granted by ETBU
The doctor of ministry degree and doctor of philosophy degrees offered by B.H. Carroll Seminary will mark the first doctoral degrees granted by ETBU.
“We are excited to partner with the leadership and faculty of B.H. Carroll Theological Institute as we unite in our Christ-centered calling through graduate theological education,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said.
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“The opportunity to educate, equip and serve Carroll and ETBU students will extend the institutions’ great legacies of preparing students for the gospel ministry and will expand our kingdom impact.”
Both ETBU and B.H. Carroll since their beginnings have been committed to preparing students to “advance the kingdom of God” by serving in the local church and in missions, Blackburn noted.
“Their hearts align with ours,” he said.
‘Our spirits are the same’
B.H. Carroll President Gene Wilkes—who will become dean of B.H. Carroll Seminary at ETBU—echoed that shared commitment.
“The mission of B.H. Carroll and ETBU are already very similar. We are a fit because we are both concerned with teaching ministers, chaplains, counselors, educators and lay people for service in the diverse and global ministries of Christ’s church,” Wilkes said.
“Our spirits are the same. We are interested in the growth of God’s kingdom, faithfulness to his word, loving God’s people in the church, and bringing the lost to Christ. We will continue to operate this way when we join ETBU.”
The chairs of the B.H. Carroll and ETBU governing boards similarly affirmed the common commitments shared by both schools.
“This merger of the two institutions connects B. H. Carroll with a university with a similar vision, a rich history, and a kindred desire to prepare students for service in the church,” said Leon Leach, chair of the B.H. Carroll board.
James Webb, chair of ETBU’s board of trustees, likewise expressed enthusiasm regarding the merger.
“East Texas Baptist University and B. H. Carroll Theological Institute have the same mission to equip Christian servant leaders to follow their calling to God and humanity,” he said. “The opportunity for greater kingdom impact can be achieved through a strategic educational and ministry partnership to fulfill the Great Commission.”
Continuity of leadership and instruction
Once the merger is completed, the online Master of Arts in Christian Ministry and Master of Arts in Theological Studies offered by the ETBU School of Christian Studies and Humanities will be provided through B.H. Carroll Seminary.
The School of Christian Studies and Humanities will continue to offer undergraduate programs in Christian ministry and ministry leadership, while graduate degrees will be provided through B.H. Carroll Seminary, Blackburn explained.
An FAQ prepared by ETBU and B.H. Carroll states: “In order to provide for the continuity of leadership and instruction, ETBU intends to retain all full-time faculty from B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary. B.H. Carroll full-time faculty will become a part of the instructional faculty at the institution upon completion of the merger.”
Since its beginning in 2004, B.H. Carroll has stated its commitment to providing “affordable, accessible, achievable and accredited theological education.” B.H. Carroll offers degrees through online and hybrid classes—a model it will continue to follow when it becomes part of ETBU, both Blackburn and Wilkes said.
Once B.H. Carroll is embedded in ETBU, its students will have access to student services, additional scholarship opportunities and financial aid, including federal grants and loans previously unavailable to them.
Students currently at ETBU who are preparing for careers in church ministry are eligible for the Ministerial Finance Assistance scholarship program from the Baptist General Convention of Texas. ETBU will apply to the BGCT Theological Education Council, requesting similar scholarship assistance for students at B.H. Carroll Seminary.
Donor designations remain intact
All donor-designated gifts to the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute remain with B.H. Carroll Seminary at ETBU, both Blackburn and Wilkes emphasized.
The FAQ from ETBU and B.H. Carroll states: “B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary will operate independently until the merger is complete, and endowment funds from B. H. Carroll Seminary will continue to be used for the purposes for which they were given to B. H. Carroll. Once the merger is finalized, the endowed gifts will transfer ownership to B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary at East Texas Baptist University, and the donor intent and designation of the gift will remain intact.
“The investments of the endowments will then be managed by East Texas Baptist University and will be distributed in accordance with the donor’s gift agreement for B. H. Carroll Theological Seminary and under East Texas Baptist University’s policies.”
Like a ‘family reunion’
B.H. Carroll Theological Institute operated as an independent theological education institution, not affiliated with any denomination. However, from its beginning, the school has been closely related to Baptists in Texas.
“It is a shift for us, but I am very comfortable with it,” said Wilkes, who earned his undergraduate degree from Baylor and a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. from Southwestern Seminary. He was pastor of Legacy Church in Plano, a BGCT-affiliated congregation, more than 26 years.
Wilkes said he considered it “significant, historic and meaningful” that the two seminaries within BGCT-affiliated universities—Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor and B.H. Carroll Theological Seminary at ETBU—are named for significant figures in Texas Baptist history.
George W. Truett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas from 1897 to 1944, was a trustee of Baylor University in the 1930s and served as president of both the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist World Alliance. B.H. Carroll, pastor of First Baptist Church in Waco 28 years in the late 19th century, was instrumental in the formation of the BGCT and was the founding president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Russell Dilday, former president of Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, was founding chancellor of B.H. Carroll Theological Institute. After he was fired in March 1994 by a fundamentalist-dominated board of trustees at Southwestern Seminary, Dilday became distinguished professor of homiletics at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary and also served as acting dean at Truett Seminary at one time.
Bruce Corley, former dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Seminary, was founding president of B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, serving until 2013. In fact, Corley and the other three founding faculty at B.H. Carroll—James Spivey, Stan Moore and William A. “Budd” Smith—all taught previously at Southwestern Seminary.
Tommy Sanders, provost and vice president for academic affairs at ETBU noted longtime personal friendships and close working relationships with B.H. Carroll faculty and administration.
“This partnership is less of a new merger and more of a family reunion,” Sanders said. “We share educational, theological and denominational heritage.”
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