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Meeting of the Board of Regents | May 2007

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - 11:00pm

sed seal                                                                                                 








Johanna Duncan-Poitier




Biola University: Permission for Talbot School of Theology to Offer Courses in New York State


May 1, 2007


Goals 2 and 4







Issue for Decision (Consent Agenda)


Should the Board of Regents permit Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology to offer courses in New York from its Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree program?


Reason(s) for Consideration


              Required by State statute.


Proposed Handling


The question will come before the Higher Education and Professional Practice Committee at its May 2007 meeting where it will be voted on and action taken.  It will then come before the full Board at its May 2007 meeting for final action.


Procedural History


              On March 30, 2005, the Department received an application for permission for Talbot School of Theology to offer courses in Manhattan.  The review included staff participation in a site visit on March 1–2, 2007 by a team from the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada.  The Department conducted a canvass of all colleges and universities in New York City and all seminaries statewide. 


Background Information


Education Law, §224(1)(a) provides that:


No individual, association, copartnership or corporation not holding university, college or other degree conferring powers by special charter from the legislature of this state or from the regents, shall confer any degree or use, advertise or transact business under the name university or college, or any name, title or descriptive material indicating or tending to imply that said individual, association, copartnership or corporation conducts, carries on, or is a school of law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, nursing, optometry, podiatry, architecture or engineering, unless the right to do so shall have been granted in writing by the regents under their seal.





It is recommended that the Board of Regents authorize Biola University’s Talbot School of Theology to offer courses from its Master of Divinity (M.Div.) program in New York City for a period beginning immediately and ending May 31, 2012.


Timetable for Implementation


If the Board authorizes Talbot to offer courses in New York City, the School of Theology will begin to do so.

Information in Support of Recommendation


Academic Review


A. Institutional Information.  Biola University, La Mirada, California, seeks authorization for its Talbot School of Theology to offer courses from its Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree program in New York City in association with Chosen People Ministries, Inc., 241 East 51st Street, Manhattan, a New York not-for-profit corporation.  An out-of-state institution requires Regents permission to offer courses in New York.


Established in 1908, Biola University is an independent, not-for-profit institution offering 145 programs from the baccalaureate level through the doctorate to about 5,400 students.  It is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges’ Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities.  Biola’s mission is “biblically-centered education, scholarship and service—equipping men and women in mind and character to impact the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.”


Established in 1952, Talbot School of Theology is one of Biola’s six schools.  It offers programs leading to the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Arts, (M.A.), Master of Theology (M.Th.), Doctor of Ministry, (D.Min.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.), and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees.  Its programs are accredited by The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS).  Talbot describes its theological position as “Christian, protestant, and theologically conservative.”  It is evangelical; its mission statement says, “Talbot is committed to the development of disciples of Jesus Christ whose thought processes, character and lifestyles reflect those of our Lord, and who are dedicated to disciple-making throughout the world.”  Talbot’s founding dean, Charles Feinberg, was a member of Chosen People Ministries’ governing board. 


B. Evaluation.  Staff participated in a visit to the proposed Feinberg Extension along with an ATS team consisting of the associate dean for academic affairs at Wake Forest Divinity School, the vice president for academics of Lincoln Christian Seminary, and ATS’ director of accreditation and institutional evaluation.  The team met with faculty, potential students, and administrators; reviewed Talbot’s and Chosen People Ministries’ documents; and examined the facilities and library to be used.  ATS’ draft report recommends that its Board of Commissioners give preliminary approval for Talbot to offer two-thirds of its M.Div. program in New York City.   

C. Curriculum.  Talbot would offer, in Manhattan, courses towards its Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree with an emphasis on Messianic Jewish Studies.  All courses are required; there are no electives.  It would offer 66 of the 98 credits required for the degree in cooperation with Chosen People Ministries.  Students would begin by taking two courses in a summer session in California and return in each of the next two summers to take the other credits for the M.Div. degree, for a total of 32 credits taken in California.  This satisfies ATS’ requirement that students in accredited M.Div. programs take at least one-third of their courses on the main campus.  Talbot has identified the specific courses it will not offer in New York. 


The objective of Talbot’s M.Div. program is “to foster the purposes for which the seminary was established—preparation for the propagation of the faith.  This purpose entails an accurate knowledge of the Word of God—the source of faith and the effective means of communication.”  The purpose of the Messianic Jewish Studies concentration is to prepare leaders in the Messianic Jewish Christian community.  It seeks to develop knowledge and understanding of Jewish history, including Biblical and religious history and languages, provide for the comprehension of and appreciation for Jewish culture and acculturate non-Jews to Jewish life and values, prepare leaders for ministry in the Jewish Christian community, and assist the Messianic Jewish community in understanding the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.


Talbot states that the program’s evangelical orientation, concentration in Hebrew, theology of the law, rabbinic thought, Jewish culture, and pastoral care of Messianic Jews make it distinctive from existing M.Div. programs in New York.


D. Students.  Talbot anticipates enrolling 15 to 30 students in Manhattan by admitting a 12 to 15 student cohort every second year.  It believes that sufficient interest exists in Messianic Jewish communities to sustain that enrollment.  It estimates that the average age of students would be about 30.


According to its web site, “Talbot School of Theology has a strongly evangelical Christian commitment and requires that an accepted applicant be an evangelical believer.  However, Talbot does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in the admission of students, employment, and in the educational programs or activities it conducts.”


Following initial reviews in New York, staff at Talbot’s main campus will make decisions on admission.  Admission requires a written statement of the applicant’s calling to and experience in Jewish Christian ministry; a statement of objectives and of how the program would relate to them; a B.A. degree or its academic equivalent, with a 2.6 grade point average; and references.  Applicants with less than a 2.6 average may be admitted on probation.  Applicants from approved, unaccredited degree-granting institutions may be granted provisional acceptance, or full acceptance with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.  Such applicants may be required to take additional liberal arts courses (not counted towards the graduate degree) to make up deficiencies.


Tuition would be $1,000 per semester.  Students would not be eligible for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), since Biola is not a New York institution.    


              E. Faculty.  The initial faculty would include 11 members, including a core of four Chosen People Ministries’ employees, four (three full-time and one part-time) of the more than 50 faculty at Talbot’s main campus, and three adjunct faculty.  Additional full- and part-time faculty would be added in future years.  Decisions about appointment of additional faculty will rest with the faculty and dean at the main campus.


Three of the initial full-time faculty from Chosen People Ministries have doctorates.  The center director has a Ph.D. from New York University; a second member’s Ph.D. is from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Both have been appointed as full-time faculty at Talbot.  The third is Chosen People Ministries’ president, who has a Ph.D. in intercultural studies; his dissertation topic was the history of missions to the Jews in the 20th Century.  Two faculty members do not have doctorates; however, both have master’s degrees and are enrolled in doctoral programs (one having completed all but the dissertation and the other being more than halfway through); one of them has 30 years experience teaching Hebrew.


The three full-time faculty members at Talbot hold doctoral degrees and professorial rank.  All have publication records.  The part-time Talbot faculty member is enrolled in a doctoral program at Fuller Theological Seminary.  The two adjunct members of the initial faculty hold doctoral degrees from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Trinity International University. 


              F.ResourcesBiolaUniversityappears to possess the financial resources necessary to accomplish its mission and to offer courses in New York:


  • The balance sheet shows a cash balance of $14.1 million with average monthly expenses of $6.7 million. 
  • The University increased unrestricted net assets by $16.6 million (17 percent) on $90.3 million in total revenue. 
  • Biola projects the new location’s operating expenditures increasing from $644,000 in the first year to $913,000 in the fifth (49.1 percent).  It projects revenues equaling these expenditures each year.
  • The federal composite score for the period ending June 30, 2004, is 2.6 and is interpreted as “financially healthy.”


Courses would be offered at Chosen People Ministries’ facility and in nearby rented space.  The center would use 3,900 net assignable square feet of space, providing 2,000 square feet of library space, computer access, two classrooms, and five offices.  Chosen People Ministries would expand its library of more than 10,000 volumes and 10 to 20 academic and professional journals, plus on-line resources.  Students also would have access to Talbot’s 460,000 volume library in California.


Planning Review


G. Need.  Messianic Jewish Christians are persons of Jewish heritage who believe that Jesus was the Messiah.  In the U.S., most Messianic Jewish Christian congregations are members of the Messianic Jewish Alliance or the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations; others are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention or the Assemblies of God.  Chosen People Ministries has identified 465 Messianic Jewish Christian congregations in the U.S., including 33 (7.1 percent) in New York State, and states that such congregations exist in at least eight other countries, worldwide.   


Chosen People Ministries was founded in 1894.  Its web site states, “Responsible Jewish evangelism has characterized Chosen People Ministries since its inception” and that “there are many Jewish Christian families whose spiritual roots began” through its outreach.  Talbot and Chosen People Ministries share an evangelical, protestant Christian theological position.


Talbot proposes to provide education and training for leaders in the Messianic Jewish Christian community, “for whom no other comparable program exists,” according to the application.  An interest survey that Talbot commissioned from an outside organization reported that:


a worldwide Messianic Jewish movement, anchored in the U.S., has grown to encompass several hundred thousand people, hundreds of congregations and is now experiencing growth of the second and the third generations.  There is also a 3% growth per year through conversions.  An equal number of Gentile Christians have also become identified with the messianic Jewish movement.  



Talbot states that the interest study found that sources of potential students include Messianic Jewish communities, supporters of Chosen People Ministries, and students at Christian colleges.  It expects at least 80 percent of students who complete the program to be employed by Jewish Christian organizations within two years of graduation.  According to the interest survey, the Messianic Jewish Christian movement “has reached a size and maturity that usually results in the establishment of graduate seminary programs.  As a new movement, many of the Messianic Jewish leaders are either untrained in formal seminary programs or have struggled to adapt ordinary seminary education to a new context.”  It notes, “The Messianic Jewish congregational life is a blend of synagogue and church terminologies, structures and practices.  The special characteristics of Messianic Jewish religion indicate specialized educational needs.”  Among its activities in support of congregations, Chosen People Ministries employs clergy whom it assigns to congregations.  


H. Effect on Other Institutions.  In New York City, the following institutions offer M.Div. programs in the subject field of Theological Professions, General:


  • General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States
  • New York Theological Seminary
  • Saint John’s University
  • Union Theological Seminary


General Theological Seminary is a seminary of the Episcopal Church.  Saint John’s is Roman Catholic in affiliation.  Neither would be likely to attract persons seeking to become ministers for Messianic Jewish Christian communities.  Neither New York Theological Seminary nor Union Theological Seminary is evangelical or offers M.Div. programs designed for such persons; however, both are interdenominational and might be attractive to some persons seeking to become ministers to such communities.  Last fall, New York Theological Seminary had 155 full-time and 100 part-time students in its M.Div. program in ministry and Union Theological Seminary enrolled 164 full-time and 11 part-time students in its M.Div. program in theology.  Both seminaries have had some growth in enrollments in their M.Div. programs in recent years.  Since 2004, headcount enrollment in New York Theological Seminary’s program increased by 10.9 percent; headcount enrollment in Union’s program increased by 57.7 percent.


Seven institutions responded to a canvass of all colleges and universities in New York City and all seminaries in the State.  None raised concerns or objections.