Outside of my local area, I could name a number of seminaries that attracted me. But, none had any programs to work with me where I was. Besides this, the cost of any such program was incredible. I recently added up the tuition costs to do a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. program through a local Christian college and then a major conservative seminary: $92,000 to $98,000 in tuition alone. That adds up to nearly three years of the total operating budget of my entire ministry. I started to wonder again about how this related to Christian education, especially of ministers in the church. How can a man get such an education and then go out and pastor a small church with such indebtedness over his head? It didn't (and still doesn't) make sense.
I began writing books in 1990, and some of my books, like The King James Only Controversy, are being used as textbooks all across the nation. I was told by the head of the local branch of a fully accredited seminary that I should try to find someone to accept that book as my dissertation and be done with it. But I didn't do so. I began to see that doing scholarship might just be a lot more important than the name on the school you went to, or whether that school could, or could not, get federal funds or loans. I knew a number of Ph.D.'s who had never written a book that was read by more than a dozen people in their lives yet they were "scholars" and I wasn't? Something wasn't making sense. I began ordering doctoral dissertations for use in some of my writing projects and debates, and I discovered that most of these works, which had been accepted in fully accredited schools, were far shorter, and far less involved, than many of the books I was engaged in writing and publishing on a national level.
That is where Columbia Evangelical Seminary comes in. Columbia is a non-traditional school. It operates very much like the European "mentoring" method, where you design a program and work with an individual scholar on achieving your goals. It does not have a campus or all the attendant trappings (and costs), hence, the tuition is about 1/10th to 1/5th of the traditional schools (not free, or even cheap, but affordable to someone involved in ministry). Most importantly for me, I was able to design a program around my writing projects, making classes out of entire books. Of course, when I look back, I realize that I did far more work for my own program than I would have had to do in any secular setting, but that's OK. Everything I did ended up helping others, which made it seem, to me anyway, like a truly Christian experience of education.
There was no "skating by" with Columbia Seminary, and as a result, I'll pile up the work that I submitted to Columbia against any person who has a comparable degree from anywhere, with full confidence that no programs require more than Columbia did.
James R. White, Th.D.
Director of Alpha & Omega Ministries
As a recent graduate of Columbia Evangelical Seminary (M.Div. '08), I feel compelled to give a full and unsolicited recommendation for this excellent school. I have attended several traditional schools over the years (Biola University, Talbot School of Theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, UCLA, University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and Howard University) and I can unreservedly say that Columbia Evangelical Seminary is an excellent school at the highest levels and at a fraction of the price of the tuition of traditional schools. But I must say that if anyone thinks that enrolling in a Columbia Evangelical Seminary program is the easy way out because it is non-traditional and affordable, readjust your expectations. This is a tough school, and the degrees are earned only with discipline, fortitude, and a strong vision to the goal. The President of Columbia Evangelical Seminary, Rick Walston, PhD, holds everyone to the highest standards. For anyone looking for a top-drawer theological education who does not need an accredited institution, I recommend Columbia Evangelical Seminary from the top of my list. My recommendation does not come lightly but with my full commitment-I have recently enrolled in a CES doctoral program.
The Rev. Darryl Wooldridge, M.Div., DeepLight Ministries, Founder (now a Th.D. Student with CES)
I am currently in the second semester of the Master of Arts in Apologetics program at Southern Evangelical Seminary. There was a time when I needed a respected unaccredited Bible school in order to fulfill my undergraduate requirements for the graduate program at S.E.S. Columbia Evangelical Seminary was able to help me meet those requirements.* I am grateful for CES and would highly recommend the program to anyone who is interested in pursuing theological studies. May God bless CES!
Simon J. Woodstock, B.R.S.
*Southern Evangelical Seminary reviews all unaccredited degree submissions on a case by case basis.
I thought I would pass on a brief update. In early February, I received a letter from the Academic Dean at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. In the letter he told me that based on my Fall '03 grades, he was removing the probationary status from my student file. It was really encouraging to have that status removed. I had up to two semesters to get my GPA to an acceptable level (2.0). I am grateful to the Lord that at the end of the Spring semester my GPA was up over 3.5. You and CES did an excellent job preparing me for this step! CES played an essential role in my academic development by helping me learn to write better, think deeper, and (particularly as a home-schooler) develop confidence in a different academic environment. CES's concept of having a student work one-on-one with a mentor/professor was particularly helpful. Having relatively easy access to my mentor was a great help as I learned the ropes of secondary education.
Luke Ahrens, Th.B. Graduate, 2000
Graduate student at TEDS, Deerfield, IL.
If you are a motivated student who desires mentoring and accountability in pursuing your academics, Columbia Evangelical Seminary is the place to be.
My work at CES has opened many doors for me both within the church and without. On the strength of my education and experience, I was employed as the academic dean of a two year college. I left that position and founded a new church from scratch almost four years ago. We have a thriving congregation, a counseling center with a full-time therapist, a fitness coach, office manager, director of pastoral care, and preschool. We outgrew our first little building and have since built a new facility that now serves over 180 a week. Most important, we have not had to borrow a penny and have never gone into debt. At the same time, we've been able to invest 26% of our budget of $150K into missions. From the get go the church has been able to support me full-time. The Doctor of Ministry degree from CES, combined with two Masters from other schools, has helped me start Inner Performance, a proprietary company that works in the area of peak performance consulting. I know that my D.Min. has been an incredible support in helping propel me towards my future.
CES, thanks for your vision of what higher education could be.
Journey with passion,
Brian Beckett, D.Min., 1998.
One of the greatest things about C.E.S., in my opinion, is the willingness of the school and faculty to tailor a particular degree program to the needs and concerns of the student. It is a testimony to both the excellence of the school and its faculty that Columbia's high academic standards and rigorous course requirements are maintained even in the midst of such great flexibility. It speaks of Columbia's commitment to make education useful and purposeful; not merely a process of "jumping through the hoops" to accomplish a goal that is completely detached from the life and work of its students.
As any prospective student knows, there are many choices available when it comes to quality Christian schools. In my case, the choices were limited by my inability to relocate and participate in a program requiring lengthy residency. For this reason, I was very pleased to discover the off-campus programs offered by Columbia Evangelical Seminary. Through its demanding mentored program, CES provided me with the opportunity to pursue advanced biblical and theological studies under the guidance of their well-qualified faculty. The seminary worked closely with me in designing a course of study that was not only academically rigorous, but one that was well suited to my particular needs and desires. CES is composed of capable professionals who provide quality education and personal guidance to its students. If you are looking for serious theological education and don't mind working hard to achieve it, I heartily recommend Columbia Evangelical Seminary.
David Peterson, Th.B., M.T.S.
Graduate of CES
From North Carolina
When I first considered distance education, I did not realize how much self-discipline and effort it was going to take. I have spent many years in educational settings, and I must say that I believe that CES is one of the best distance learning seminaries in the this country. I would like to thank CES for having the vision and the desire to develop such a program. With God's continued support, you can and will continue to produce graduates that are well prepared and capable of shepherding Christ's church. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my professor and mentor. Thank you for being my go-to-person. Whenever I needed help, you were right there with the answers. Though our relationship started of as student/professor, it has developed into a friendship. God Bless.
Wayne Beatty D.Min. with CES, (Sergeant with the Wake County Sheriff's Dept., B.S. criminal science, and Master of Public Administration).
I almost made the biggest mistake of my educational career. I nearly dropped out of Columbia Evangelical Seminary (CES). Coming from a traditional educational background, I knew nothing about Distance Learning and was unsure of what kind of education I would receive. The education and interaction that I have received with CES has actually exceeded my previous educational experiences at traditional, on-campus colleges. The faculty and staff of CES have a passion for preparing Christian men and women to study God's word. Throughout my studies I have learned to think "critically" and "evenhandedly."
Rob Myers, Bachelor's Student with CES
Greetings inquiring minds. I am Master of Divinity graduate with Columbia Evangelical Seminary. My experience there was wonderful. Every person I spoke with at CES was very helpful and pleasant. I obtained an associate degree in the traditional method, and a bachelor's degree non-traditionally. Because of my age, goals, and family and time constraints, I again chose a distance-learning approach to earn my master's degree. After researching several schools and seminaries, I determined that Columbia Evangelical Seminary was my best option. The program was challenging and stimulating. It exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend Columbia Evangelical Seminary to motivated students who want to receive a quality education.
Cathy Crosby, M.Div.
One of my goals in life has been to continue the learning process, but without a challenge, my efforts remained on low ebb. I searched for a distance-learning school of quality religious education, and I selected Columbia Evangelical Seminary. It took seven years, but in that time I earned a Master of Biblical Studies and the Doctor of Religion degree from CES. Columbia definitely fills the academic standards for anyone who is serious about hard work and excellence. God's blessings to my mentor and all the faculty members who help make this quality education a possibility and a reality.
Dr. Barbara Schlautmann, Gillette, Wyoming
To anyone interested in Columbia Evangelical Seminary,
I earned my Master of Divinity degree as a full-time student in a traditional, academic seminary: North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I also earned an accredited B.A. though independent study classes, and I studied at two other seminaries for graduate studies. This has given me a broad background as a student. And, then had the distinct honor of attending Columbia Evangelical Seminary (CES).
I discovered that CES is an outstanding and unique institution. Columbia offers a God-centered, educational opportunity for those looking for creative and exciting ways to engage in scholarly pursuits. Dr. Rick Walston, the President of Columbia, has set a fine standard that the seminary follows in seeking to build people intellectually, spiritually, and academically.
However, CES is not for everyone. For instance, if one is looking for a simple and quick place to "get a degree," Columbia is not the place! Unlike other schools that claim to be seminaries, Columbia does not offer "canned" lesson plans and simplistic study guides. Columbia offers actual undergraduate and graduate level classes, which, while offered in a unique format, are truly scholarly. You would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else what Columbia Evangelical Seminary offers.
John Thornton, M.Div., D.Min.
Sioux Falls, SD
I earned three bachelor's degrees and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology all from accredited schools. Then, I was nearly finished with my D.Min. (with nearly straight A's) from another accredited school. But, I dropped out so that I could transfer to Columbia Evangelical Seminary. I did this for two reasons. (1) CES has very high academic standards, and (2) it provides the mentoring model of education (i.e., one-to-one professor to student), and the other school did not. I completed my D.Min. with CES.
Steve DuCett, D.Min.
Columbia Evangelical Seminary allows students to design their own programs of study; therefore, they do not waste time and money taking classes they don't need. If you want an affordable education studying what you want to study, then Columbia is for you.
Brent Emery, Th.M. candidate with CES
Dear Dr. Walston,
Thank you for building a seminary program whereby students are allowed to design their own curricula under strict academic tutelage.
As a result of earning the Associate of Theological Studies degree with a concentration in Old Catholic studies through CES, I, along with my colleague Bishop Blackerby, will spend the ensuing months developing an ordination program for the Independent Catholic Church International.
This would not have been possible without the knowledge gained in your flexible seminary program.
May God look upon your work with favor.
Bishop Enrico Peppe
B.S., M.S., State University of New York
Ph.D. Walden University
A.T.S. Columbia Evangelical Seminary
To prospective students and others,
After earning the B.R.E. and M.Div. degrees from traditional, accredited schools, I applied to and was accepted by CES for the Doctor of Theology. The courses are challenging, rewarding, and affordable. I especially appreciate the broad exposure to theological material, the concentrated focus that is part of each class, and the opportunity to demonstrate the level of mastery of the material that I have reached. I am thankful for the opportunity to further my education at such a quality institution. May God always bless its ministry.
Joel Dunn, Th.D. Student
Columbia Evangelical Seminary has been an incredible blessing to me. Studying with CES allowed me to continue my ministry here in Puerto Rico while honing my exegetical and theological skills. While I didn't move to another location, I was still able to work closely with my mentor and structure a program tailored to my educational goals at the time. The regular interaction with my mentor was encouraging and challenging to me as a student and as a pastor. If you are looking for a pre-packaged degree program with plenty of fluff classes that are not too challenging, this is not the school for you. But if you desire to work with dedicated people who want to help you accomplish your educational goals, if you want to design your own degree program to focus on the theological areas that you want to study, and if accreditation is not a necessity for you, I heartily recommend Columbia Evangelical Seminary.
Curt Parton, pastor
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