Southeastern partnership with Brazilian Baptists sees first fruits

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As 23 Brazilian men and women walked across the stage to receive their Master of Theological Studies (MTS) degrees, their friends and families witnessed history in the making. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Danny Akin joyfully greeted the first graduating class of an on-going partnership between Southeastern and Brazilian Baptists. 

This cohort of students is part of Southeastern’s Global Theological Initiative (GTI), which seeks to enhance theological education in at least 15 different locations around the world through strategic partnerships. The invitation-only cohorts are for students who are proven leaders and teachers in their national contexts. 

“Southeastern loves its Great Commission partnerships around the world. None brings me more excitement and joy than the one with have with Brazilian Baptists,” said Akin. Our vision and passion for theological education, personal evangelism and world missions is one! We are true partners in building God’s kingdom. What a blessing!”  

In Brazil in particular, Southeastern partners with the Brazilian Baptist International and National Mission Boards of the Brazilian Baptist Convention, in cooperation with the International Mission Board (IMB). Representing Southeastern at the graduation in Rio de Janeiro were Akin, Associate Vice President for GTI John Ewart and Professor of Counseling Sam Williams.  

“This MTS endeavor has demonstrated Baptist cooperation at its highest level,” said David Bledsoe with the IMB in Brazil. “Southeastern offered the program and strived to do so in a contextual manner. IMB offered a missionary professor to assist in the coordination…[and] the Brazilian mission boards provided much of the logistic assistance to pull off the program on Brazilian soil.” 

The first graduating cohort consisted of executive and regional leadership in Brazilian Baptist entities, including Pastor Fernando Brandão, president of the Junta de Missões Nacionais, or the Brazilian Baptist National Mission Board. The goal of the GTI is to train the trainers who could spread their knowledge to other pastors and teachers, multiplying the reach of sound theological education.

“It would be hard to overestimate the historical as well as missiological importance of this first cohort working through this degree,” said Ewart. “They literally talk about how this degree has transformed the way they see and do missions and how that impacts the nations around them. We hope that this spreads to all of South America.” 

Students who graduate from the GTI program in Brazil complete a 48-hour MTS degree, which includes 24 hours of core classes, 18 hours of missiologically-focused electives and a six-hour thesis. Classes are structured as distance learning courses with occasional face-to-face intensives with Southeastern professors, IMB personnel and Portuguese-speaking adjunct professors. Students complete the entire degree in their native Portuguese.

For the cohort students, the thesis projects are based off real-life issues they face in ministry. Each student writes a 10-page journal article that is put to immediate use for educating other Christian leaders in Brazil. 

Williams travels to Brazil often to teach the cohort classes. Along with attending the first graduation, he taught an intensive for the second cohort during the trip. “The MTS in Brazil was a glorious culmination of [many] years of partnership with Brazilian Baptists,” he said. 

During the trip to Brazil, Akin and Ewart participated in strategy meetings with IMB personnel and Brazilian leaders to discuss the future of their partnerships. Akin also took the opportunity to visit schools and strategic neighborhoods in Rio with IMB personnel to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The first GTI cohort began in Brazil in 2011. Classes for a second cohort of Brazilian Baptists are already underway with plans to possibly begin a third in the near future.

Williams commented on the value of such partnerships: “Cooperation works, not just for us in our own convention, but also with Baptists around the world that share our passion for God’s word and mission.” 

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