A Rich History
The Birmingham Theological Seminary (BTS) was founded in 1972. Two men, Dr. Frank Barker, Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, and Rev. Bill Hay, Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church, saw the need for men and women to be trained for full-time Christian service to enrich their personal lives, to increase their knowledge of the things of the Lord and to be better equipped to teach, preach, and witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. These men also saw the need to enable those who felt God’s call to study full-time. Students could have the option to work full-time and also to attend classes in the evening.
BTS was initially known as the “Birmingham Extension Seminary for Theological Education,” often referred to as “BES”. BES began offering classes in the fall of 1972 at the Edgewood Presbyterian Church located in Homewood. The seminary began with two degrees, Master of Divinity and Master of Religious Education. Six classes were offered, with 52 students enrolled: 17 Master of Divinity. 14 Master of Religious Education, and 21 audit students. It was the expectation that eventually BES would become the extension of a major seminary. However, in 1980 the name of the seminary was changed to “Birmingham Theological Seminary,” and BTS has continued to operate as a separate institution. During this 43 year history, more than 3500 students have taken one or more courses and over 350 students have been awarded master’s level degrees. BTS offers courses in various locations around the state of Alabama and in foreign countries such as New Zealand, Uganda, Cuba and Australia by distance education and with other seminaries.
We are privileged to enjoy a wonderfully diverse group of students and professors.
More About BTS
The BTS programs are primarily designed to accommodate those who wish to pursue their studies on a part-time basis. The student may elect to take all their course work at BTS and be granted a degree from BTS. Other students may choose to attend BTS for only a few semesters before transferring to a full time residence program at another seminary. An increasingly popular option is for the student to combine regular campus classes with the BTS Distance Education Component to facilitate a more rapid completion of their program while remaining in the work force and active in their home church.
BTS is a charter member of the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries (ARTS). Although ARTS is an accrediting agency, it has not yet obtained recognition from the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ARTS Board of Directors has directed the Executive Director for ARTS Commission on Accreditation to apply for CHEA recognition. As a religious institution offering graduate degrees, BTS is exempt from Alabama licensure laws. Distance Education students should be aware of the following information related to the issue of accreditation. In response to the proliferation of “diploma mills” around the nation, some states have tightened their laws regarding which out-of-state institutions can offer classes and degrees to their residents. The tendency in those states is to exclude all institutions which do not have an accreditation recognized by CHEA or the U.S. Department of Education. While BTS believes that the classes and degree programs it offers are of very high quality, prospective students should be aware of this issue. If you live in a state which has restrictions on out-of-state institutions of higher education, you should confirm that those restrictions do not affect your ability to earn a degree through BTS before enrolling in any program.
Credits from BTS have been accepted at several evangelical institutions, subject to the policies and degree requirements of each school. The student who expects to receive a degree from an institution other than BTS should write for specific information concerning applicability of work taken through BTS. Several major seminaries have been willing to either accept transfer credit from BTS or recognize a BTS degree as the prerequisite for pursuing advanced degrees.
The curriculum has been designed to fulfill the requirements of the uniform curriculum of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and has been approved by the Theological Education Committee of the PCA General Assembly. Thus, Master of Divinity graduates of BTS are eligible for ordination in any presbytery of the PCA.
The PCA adopted an internship program which must be completed prior to ordination in addition to the Master of Divinity degree. BTS is structured to accommodate this additional requirement.
Birmingham Theological Seminary is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation, able to grant degrees in the State of Alabama pursuant to Chapter 46 of Title 16 of the Alabama Code.
In addition to the Master of Divinity degree, BTS offers the following Master’s degree programs: Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Ministry, and Biblical Counseling. The Master of Arts in Ministry degree program has three areas of focus to choose from: Christian Education, Christian Leadership and Pastoral Leadership. BTS also has a Certificate track that includes Apologetics, Biblical Counseling, Biblical Studies, and Ministry. BTS has a Doctor of Ministry program in Pastoral Leadership and another one in Biblical Counseling. The Certificate of Biblical Counseling is for those desiring the counseling training without the full complement of courses. The Certificate of Ministry offers students a basic theological and practical ministry foundation that will be helpful as they seek to serve in the Kingdom community. The Certificate programs are primarily designed for those students that have not obtained an undergraduate degree. Details of these programs are supplied in the catalog.
The Seminary also offers an online Certificate in Christian Ministry (CCM) to non-U.S. residents only via the internet. Non-U.S. residents may take courses in the Certificate in Christian Ministry curriculum for academic credit and will, upon satisfactory completion of all required courses, earn a Certificate in Christian Ministry from BTS. The specific requirements for each course are set forth in the syllabus for that course. Academic credits earned in this Certificate in Christian Ministry program may not be transferred to or applied to any other certificate or degree offered by BTS. BTS does not charge fees or tuition for this certificate program.
U.S. residents (regardless of citizenship or immigration status) may not take CCM courses for academic credit at BTS or earn the BTS Certificate in Christian Ministry. However, U.S. residents may and are encouraged to view the courses, download the readings and take the quizzes and exams for their own edification.
A number of courses offered at BTS are available on CD-Rom, DVD or Drop Box for the student who is not able to attend a course in a live setting. Students may enroll in a Distance Education (DE) course at any time, one course at a time. There is a separate form to be completed to enroll in a DE course, available in the Seminary office or online. Students are responsible for purchasing textbook(s). Four months is the maximum time allowed for completion of a DE course; however, these four months do not have to correspond with a seminary semester. To obtain a distance education course, please contact the seminary administrative assistant at 205-776-5356 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The student is expected to spend the same amount of time that he/she would if they were taking a scheduled class. If a student exceeds the four month allotted time frame, a request for a one-time extension must be applied for with a fee of $50.00. The extension is for one month. The required extension forms are available on the BTS website or in the Seminary office. If the course is not completed in this time frame it will result in a failing grade, the student must then re-enroll and re-pay the course tuition.
In order to receive exams, a student must select a proctor to request and oversee the administration of the examination. A proctor may be the student’s pastor, an elder, deacon, etc. He or she may not be the student’s spouse or other family member. Please have the proctor contact the seminary office for the proctor form and request each examination when ready. This may be done via mail, fax, or e-mail to email@example.com.