(405) 425-5070
Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building at Abilene Christian University | Photo by Jeremy Enlow

Baptist studies at Abilene Christian?

The university's chancellor says it isn’t a theological drift. It’s about being a good neighbor.

‘Baptist ministry classes find home at Abilene Christian University,” read a recent headline in the Abilene Reporter-News, drawing notice by Christian Chronicle readers. Here, a former president of the university, associated with Churches of Christ, explains the decision.  

ABILENE, Texas — For 115 years, Abilene has been home to Abilene Christian University. Higher education is prominent in this West Texas city of 120,000 people.

Hardin-Simmons University, a Baptist-affiliated institution, is only a mile from the ACU campus. Across town is McMurry University, a Methodist-supported school.

Public-sector education is represented by several Texas Tech University graduate campuses in addition to other undergraduate and specialty trade schools.

We are accustomed to working together, as the entire ACU community is vitally engaged in the life of Abilene with our neighbors.

We work together in the life of the city — serving United Way, on nonprofit boards and as community volunteers. We even share a library consortium with Hardin-Simmons and McMurry, where our various branches are connected electronically. For several years, we shared a nursing school consortium.

We are accustomed to working together, as the entire ACU community is vitally engaged in the life of Abilene with our neighbors.

All of higher education, whether public or private, is under crushing demands to cut costs. Not long ago, Hardin-Simmons administrators and its board decided they could not afford to continue their Logsdon School of Theology, and it would close. 

Logsdon and ACU’s Graduate School of Theology share a special accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools. 

In the U.S., six of our sister schools affiliated with Churches of Christ also have this status.

Interestingly, there are only two ATS-accredited theology schools west of Interstate 35 in Texas — ACU and HSU — and they are one mile apart. For years, our two faculties have met together to discuss various theological issues as seen from each group’s perspective. We have common, deep, historical roots in the Restoration Movement. They are our friends and neighbors.

We started receiving inquiries from Logsdon students about transferring to ACU’s Master of Divinity program, one of six master’s and doctoral degrees we offer. Since we require no specific creedal belief before admission, we told the students they were welcome. We are able to do certain things on the graduate level with mature, independent-thinking students that we would never do with our undergraduates. Theological education on the graduate level relies heavily on that assumption.

We were then approached by some of the Logsdon faculty about creating a special track for their students in our 72-credit-hour M.Div. program, with two elective courses inserted for them on Baptist History and Baptist Polity, both required for Baptist pastors. A Baptist professor who would teach these two courses would also oversee his students’ supervised internships, which is a requirement of all our M.Div. graduates. In a very kind gesture, Baptist leaders throughout Texas said they would financially underwrite the expenses associated with teaching and scholarships. To accommodate gifts to this restricted program, a Baptist Student Center concept was formed.

This in no way signals a drift or departure from ACU’s historic role in higher education among Churches of Christ.

The reasoning of ACU’s leaders led them to conclude, “Why would we not seize this opportunity? We should be flattered our Baptist friends in West Texas think highly enough of ACU to give us this opportunity to educate their young ministers.” This in no way signals a drift or departure from ACU’s historic role in higher education among Churches of Christ. On the contrary, if students from other Christian traditions can benefit from our offerings, all the better.

In the mid-1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression, the very existence of Abilene Christian College was in question. John G. Hardin, a philanthropic Baptist from Burkburnett, Texas, whose first wife had been a member of the Church of Christ, gave an annuity to two local colleges — Abilene Christian and Simmons. His gifts made a life-saving difference in the continued existence of these two fine institutions, which have served their own traditions and the broader ecumenical world for a total of 243 years and counting. Both universities welcome students from all faith groups while remaining true to their own mission and heritage.

The former Simmons College is now Hardin-Simmons University, and a historic structure on ACU’s campus is named the Hardin Administration Building. 

Maybe it’s time to return the favor.

ROYCE MONEY is chancellor of Abilene Christian University and founding director of its Siburt Institute for Church Relations. He served from 1991 to 2010 as ACU’s 10th president.

Filed under: Abilene Christian University ACU Baptist studies Church of Christ Churches of Christ Logsdon School of Theology masters of divinity News Partners Royce Money Top Stories West Texas

Don’t miss out on more stories like this.

Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.

Did you enjoy this article?

Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.

Personal Info

Dedicate this Donation

In Honor/Memory of Details

Card Notification Details

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.
Billing Details

Donation Total: $3 One Time