Pastors without bachelor’s degrees may now enroll in the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Spanish-language Master of Theological Studies degree (Maestría en Estudios Teológicos, or MET) due to revised accreditation standards approved June 25 by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools, which accredits the seminary and approves postbaccalaureate professional and academic degree programs.

The MET is a 36-hour degree, available fully online, that provides basic theological education in Bible, history, and theology. Brent Ray, director of Southwestern Seminary’s World Missions Center, says this degree is “perhaps the most unique and advantageous Spanish-language theological studies program available anywhere in the world—and because of its fully online delivery system, it is literally available everywhere in the world.”

Ray adds that, because of this accreditation change, the MET is now “within the reach of every Spanish-language church leader, pastor, missionary, or denominational worker.”

Greg Smith, associate vice president for distributed learning, says the MET program is “uniquely designed to reach our Latino pastors with solid theological education and without asking them to relocate their families and disrupt their ministries.” 

“Now, with the changes in our accreditation requirements,” he continues, “Southwestern Seminary will be able to offer master’s-level theological education to an even larger group of pastors across the state of Texas and around the globe.”

Mark Leeds, registrar at Southwestern Seminary, notes that “rigorous means” remain for “determining appropriate preparation for master’s study.” These include students who are usually 35 years of age or older, with some college or other study showing aptitude for seminary work, and ministry experience, usually eight years. 

Nevertheless, individuals like Philip Levant, pastor of Iglesia Bautista La Vid in Hurst, Texas, are excited for the potential impact of this accreditation change. 

“The truth is, not all Hispanic pastors have had the opportunity to get their undergraduate degrees,” says Levant, who currently serves as chairman of Southwestern Seminary’s Board of Trustees. “On top of that, there are many who are enrolling in this program who are not even in the United States, and so this is allowing the reach of Southwestern Seminary to be global. And the more pastors are enrolling and engaged in foundational training, then their ministries will just be that much better.”

“As a Hispanic pastor, this is very close to my heart,” Levant continues. “Hispanic pastors don’t always have the opportunities to study as they would like, and this just creates another avenue, another pathway, for them to get at least some education, some more preparation for what God’s called them to do.”

Levant concludes that this accreditation change reflects Southwestern Seminary’s purpose of equipping men and women for Gospel ministry. “Having this degree become more accessible will just allow that many more people to be trained for Gospel ministry,” he says.