Since March 2011, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has offered a 125-hour Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies degree to qualified long-term offenders in the Texas prison system at the Darrington Unit (Rosharon, TX).  The program operates as an extension of Southwestern’s J.Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies, and utilizes elected faculty from the Houston Campus and Houston-area adjuncts. The program prepares qualified offenders to serve as Field Ministers in Texas prisons.  Field Ministry facilitates individual moral transformation and changes prison culture through peer-to-peer ministry with the Bible.  Applications are distributed each summer, and completed applications are transmitted to the Program Director in October.  Offenders who accept admission are transferred to the Darrington Unit in January for a final interview with the Director and Darrington Senior Warden.  They begin a 5-hour introductory Spring semester as Plebes in January before beginning a full 15-hour Freshman schedule in the Fall semester. To date, the program has graduated 4 cohorts and has 130 Field Ministers serving in 26 prisons around the state of Texas.  In 2018, the program moved to a $2.1-million, newly-renovated building on the Darrington Unit, provided by the Heart of Texas Foundation.

Guest Scholars who have visited and delivered lectures at the program have included John Fea, Douglas Moo, G.K. Beale, Craig Blaising, and Lindsey Scholl.  Students and graduates of the program have presented papers at scholarly conventions, including the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, the inaugural national meeting of the African American Intellectual History Society, the National Association for Higher Education in Prison, and the southwest regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Private funding supports the entire project with no taxpayer money used for the program. Along with paying professors, generous donations provided furniture, computers, materials, and books for the library.

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Theological Education

Southwestern offers a 125-hour, accredited bachelor’s degree in biblical studies to Darrington students. Classes are taught and supervised by full-time and adjunct professors from the seminary. Offering the Fall 2018 semester classes employed 6 elected faculty, teaching 48 hours and 4 adjuncts, teaching 12 hours.  The Spring 2019 semester will employ 6 elected faculty, teaching 47 hours and 5 adjuncts, teaching 15 hours. 

“Only God could make this happen. Everybody in this project from day one focused on how God can change lives. ”
- Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick

Field Ministry

Students currently lead Bible studies and minister to other inmates in Darrington. In the future, graduates of the program will also be transferred to other prisons in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system to minister in those locations. The total current enrollment is 143 students, with a graduation rate of 84%

About Southwestern

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary assists the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention through the biblical education of God-called men and women for their respective ministries, which fulfill the Great Commission and glorify God.

The motto “Preach the Word, Reach the World” captures for a new generation of students the historic pledge of Southwestern Seminary to serve both Southern Baptist churches and a lost world by equipping ministers for their God-ordained task.

Stories about Darrington Extension

Darrington Student Profile: Roland Guerra

 

Darrington Student Profile: Tracy Williams

 

Darrington Student Profile: Trent Lantzch