Perkins School of Theology

October 20, 2003

Co-Sponsored Oklahoma Graduate Theological Program To Conclude Classes in May

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- The sponsoring institutions of The Oklahoma Graduate Theological Program, a non-degree program that offers United Methodist students an opportunity to complete certain educational requirements for ministerial leadership, have announced that course offerings will conclude at the close of this academic year in May 2004 due to continuing low enrollment.

The program was established in 1998 through the cooperative effort of the Oklahoma Annual (Regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church, two United Methodist-related seminaries - Saint Paul School of Theology of Kansas City, MO, and Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX, - and United Methodist-related Wimberly School of Religion at Oklahoma City University, where classes were conducted. While the four institutions renewed their commitment to the program prior to the start of this academic year, continued declining enrollment has forced the partners to this new decision.

While applications and enrollment are increasing in degree-based programs, applicants to the Oklahoma Graduate Theological Program were 87 percent short of targets this autumn. To sustain the program, organizers had hoped for enrollment of 15 students per year. Only two new students enrolled this year. The 17 students currently enrolled will be able to complete coursework through May 2004 and will be offered various alternatives to complete their studies through programs at the sponsoring institutions.

“This partnership assisted many Oklahoma students in making the transition into ministry. The program’s conclusion will allow our schools to focus energies and funds on new and more effective ways to help persons prepare for church leadership,” said Dr. Mark Y.A. Davies, dean of the Wimberly School of Religion.

According to Dr. William B. Lawrence, dean of Perkins School of Theology, the schools remain committed to the students who have begun studies through the program. “We are pledged to work with current students, helping them find opportunities to complete their required classwork and, where appropriate, transition into other programs to further their preparation for ministry.” Lawrence and representatives from other sponsoring institutions will meet with current students at a conference on November 14 at Oklahoma City University.

Since the program’s inception, professors from the three schools’ full-time faculties provided classroom instruction and leadership. Weekend classes were available for persons seeking credit for The United Methodist Church’s programs for ordination as a deacon, professional certification and Advanced Course of Study. Students also completed courses in preparation for application to master’s degree programs at the sponsoring institutions.