What this means in effect is that those theological seminaries who are aligned with the Australian College of Theology that offer Divinity Degrees and Post Graduate Degrees are now able to promote their institutions as fully gauged educators by distance education.
For the un-initiated in theological education, professional seminaries have never had the approval of the various Australian State's Higher Education Boards to offer Theology Degrees of their own cognisance, rather seminaries associate with an established tertiary body that has the accreditation to do so.
The Australian College of Theology is such an established and approved institution which is singularly geared to offer its associated seminaries a route by which they themselves can offer theological degrees. Established in 1891 for the Anglican system within Australia, over time affiliation by a wide range of colleges has allowed it to become a highly recognised educator. (www.actheology.edu.au)
By 2007 there had been 15,000 under graduates had achieved their theology degrees with 18 affiliated seminaries, theological colleges and Bible Colleges. (en.wikipedia.org)
The Australian College of Theology is not to be confused with those Australian Universities that offer their own quite separate Divinity Degrees. Sydney and Melbourne Universities have well established Divinity Departments and it depends more on history rather than anything else as to which theological colleges have links with which.
Whitley College in Melbourne, for example, the Victorian Baptist Theological College (Seminary, is linked in with Melbourne University for its Divinity Degree. Morling (Seminary) in Sydney, the New South Wales Baptist Theological College is linked in with the Australian College of Theology for its Theological degree.
Full accreditation for courses studied by distance education
The announcement by the Australian College of Theology offering fully flexible educational options through its affiliated seminars and colleges no longer requires theology students to appear on campus for two thirds of their course work.
This belated decision by the Australian College of Theology falls into line with other Australian Universities in a wide range of disciplines which have offered full degrees by distance education for at least fifteen years (and in some cases for far longer).
I listened to an ABC Radio National's Education Program years and years ago which ran a segment on Charles Stuart University's Engineering department where two thirds of their students were from overseas locations and all of which were full distant students. At that time I wondered how long it would take Australian theology to catch up. Certainly it’s nothing new. Many US Seminaries have run some degrees via distance education for years and now Australia it seems is catching up.
Morling is the largest Seminary in the nation
Morling (NSW Baptist) is the largest seminary in the nation with over 700 students each semester. They have been actively promoting distance education for nearly 15 years and having a larger suite of options will undoubtedly facilitate their desire to use flexibility to meet the needs of the modern student, wherever they live.
Morling Principal Reverend Dr Ross Clifford says “Students from all over Australia have indicated their enthusiasm for this development. Those living in remoter parts of Australia or overseas will no longer be forced to leave their ministries and communities while continuing to study for complete awards.
“Even those working in large cities now have the option of more easily fitting their study around their work, family commitments and service in their church and community for the Kingdom of God.”
It is noted that Dr Clifford was elected last month to the Presidency of the Asia/Pacific Baptist Federation where he called on Australian Christians to focus on Asia/Pacific rather than the West. This region has 60% of the world’s population, where the Christian faith is growing the fastest, but it is still only 8% Christian. It also suffers from 70% of the world’s disasters. Dr Clifford noted that 38% of Morling's students are from the Asia/Pacific region
To take advantage of this new distance education offer, or to find out more, to kick-start your process, try Morling as a first step, contact Mrs Lyn Scott in the Morling College Distance Department. 02 9878 0201 or email@example.com
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html