(SAN ANTONIO, TX) – In recent weeks, the Jesse C. Fletcher Seminary received a generous award from the San Antonio based Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. The gift from the Baugh Foundation will help Fletcher Seminary establish operations in San Antonio and begin to serve students across south Texas. Coming out of generous and big-hearted Baptist roots, Fletcher Seminary aspires to become the only San Antonio seminary to embrace fully an inclusive partnership with Christians from varied denominational traditions.
The vision for Fletcher Seminary was birthed out of a need for a south Texas school that welcomes all people in their call to ministry, and one that is built on diverse partnerships and innovation, and practical education. Fletcher’s board is made up of women and men from six denominational bodies in Texas and Oklahoma, including Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal traditions.
The Fletcher Legacy
The young seminary’s namesake, Jesse C. Fletcher was the 14th President of Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene Texas serving for fourteen years. He had a lifelong passion for theological education, and was the visionary leader who helped found and create Logsdon Seminary. Dr. Fletcher had a global perspective on ministry and it is fitting that a seminary located in a diverse city like San Antonio be named in his memory.
Jesse Fletcher’s son, Scott Fletcher, said in a statement on behalf of the Fletcher family, “It is our hope that the new seminary will serve the needs of many future students who are called to ministry. Our prayer is that God will be with the leadership, board members, faculty and staff as they chart this course day by day.”
Innovations in Theological Education
Fletcher believes that in the present cultural context, ministers must be educated, equipped, and empowered to function with compassionate sensitivity to our pluralistic culture. Fletcher is committed to address the fundamental gaps in current theological education in San Antonio, South Texas and the international community.
Deborah Gin writes that The Association of Theological Schools surveyed 940 graduates about their lack of training to meet the ministry demands. Ten of the top fifteen rated needs included: administration, counseling, leadership, active listening, communication skills, interpersonal competency, finance, formation, conflict resolution, and intercultural competency (Colloquy Online, September 2018). Fletcher will weave these competencies into our core curriculum giving our students and graduates practical skills needed to be highly contextualized ministers.
Beginning their first semester, seminary students will begin field placement in a supervised ministry setting. These field placements will primarily be in local churches, denominational agencies, faith-based non-profits, and other health and human services areas. Each semester, the practicum class will be complemented by two academic classes that help bring academic learning into applied learning and experience. Hybrid-model classes will also serve as one of the means of offering courses for the Jesse C Fletcher Seminary. Under this model, students will come for a week in person at the beginning and end of each semester, respectively.
Conveniently located on Intestate 10 just minutes from downtown, Baptist Temple in San Antonio (901 E. Drexel Avenue, San Antonio, Texas 78210) has graciously given Fletcher Seminary 1475 sq feet of educational space. Pastor Jorge Zayasbazan and his team are very committed to the vision of Fletcher Seminary, and excited about a new school focused on practical preparation for ministry.
The space Fletcher will occupy includes two classrooms and a large meeting area that will be utilized for gatherings and to house a reference library. Several months ago, a team of volunteers from First Baptist Tulsa Oklahoma came for a week and did major renovations in the space, including paint, electrical and carpentry work. In addition, spaces at Baptist Temple utilized by Fletcher Seminary include two partially furnished offices, use of the office workroom, and access to two chapels and other meeting spaces.
A Strong Start
The Baugh Foundation grant serves as a major lead gift for the launch of the seminary and will help ensure a stable startup phase. Fletcher’s Founding President, Dr. Donald Williford, gave thanks for the gift, stating, “The Baugh Foundation’s generosity will help us launch with a strong footing, and put us on a good path to meeting the challenges of theological education in the 21st Century.” Williford continued, “we place a high value on creative, inclusive, and generous partnerships with a variety of like-minded organizations and the Baugh Foundation clearly shares those values with Fletcher. We look forward to a fruitful and productive partnership for years to come.”
When asked what the gift means for Fletcher Seminary, board member and Director of Pastoral Care at Mission Trail Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, Katie Ivey stated “This lead gift will no doubt inspire other gifts both large and small, because other potential donors will see that Fletcher Seminary has started with strong financial backing due to the generosity of a foundation with a strong reputation of funding successful projects and initiatives.” More information regarding Fletcher Seminary can be found at www.fletcherseminary.org.