FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s William R. Marshall Center for Theological Studies is moving to Castle Hills First Baptist Church of San Antonio. Rudy González, dean of the San Antonio extension center, reported that the seminary hopes to finish the move in time for fall 2008 classes.

 “Pastor James Shupp (of Castle Hills) has a heart to call people to the gospel ministry,” González said. “We at Southwestern share that burden as well.  In the years ahead we will work to produce top-notch biblical scholars but with a heart for the local church, evangelism and missions.  We believe that Castle Hills can serve as a platform where this kind of passion is on display.”

According to González, the move to Castle Hills will benefit the extension center, enabling the program to expand in the anticipation of becoming a degree-granting site. It will have access to larger classrooms and will triple the size of its library, allowing for computer stations, study carrels and office space for adjunct professors. The extension center will also begin a weekly chapel service in Castle Hills’ Grace Chapel.

Located off the northern portion of Loop 410, the new site will make the extension center more accessible to students. Its proximity to the airport will also allow greater accessibility for adjunct professors from other cities.

 “I owe a great debt to the people who have dedicated themselves at Southwestern Seminary to theological education,” said Shupp, pastor of Castle Hills and a graduate of the seminary. “They enriched my life and gave me the tools that I needed to be better equipped to minister the gospel of Jesus Christ, and whatever I can do to help Southwestern achieve its dreams is a personal joy to me. I feel like I get to pay back some of what was deposited into me.”

According to Shupp, many young people called to the ministry do not see the “long-term value of theological education.” Through their partnership with Southwestern Seminary, Castle Hills will play a part in countering this attitude and encouraging young ministers to train for their calling. Castle Hills hopes to provide ministry opportunities for those students who do not serve elsewhere, in order to give them the “best of both worlds: They can get the benefit of theological education and the practicality of applying that education in the context of a church.”

 “There are some people for whom the distance is a barrier, and what we believe is that we’re removing barriers and creating opportunities for more people to experience the value of theological education,” Shupp said. But the extension center is not only an investment in students who would otherwise have to drive hours to receive theological education. It is also an advantage to San Antonio.

Shupp pointed out that Texas is currently growing and changing, and San Antonio is a major point of growth in the state. “I see a great opportunity for us to grow theological education in this city that will prepare us to reach Texas as it continues to grow and to change,” he said.

Southwestern Seminary’s extension center in San Antonio began in 1977 as a cooperative venture of the seminary and the Southwestern Baptist Correlation Committee, composed of representatives from a number of regional Baptist associations. The center has been located at San Antonio’s Parkhills Baptist Church since 2001.

“Words cannot express adequately the gratitude that I personally have toward Parkhills Baptist Church,” González said. “Everyone, from the pastor, Robert Welch, to the staff and church members, has made the seminary extension feel welcomed on their campus.” Welch, a sought-after professor at the extension center, will continue to teach adjunctively at the extension center after its relocation. “You might say that through him, Parkhills will continue to make a valuable contribution to the William R. Marshall Center in San Antonio,” González said.