The GPTS Experience
Our mission is to equip men to be preachers, pastors, and churchmen for Christ’s Kingdom among the nations in the context of biblical fidelity, confessional integrity, experimental piety, and ecclesiastical accountability. As a theological seminary in the confessional Presbyterian and Reformed tradition, we exist to serve the church of today and tomorrow by equipping men for the ministry without saddling them with a burden of student loan debt. The seven core values and distinctives reflected in how we pursue our mission are articulated below.
Our academic program stands upon the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word. As expressed by the Psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. I have sworn and I will confirm it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances” (Ps. 119:105-106). Likewise, Paul wrote to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We instruct our men to preach God’s Word, and to live and worship in obedience to God’s Word. The great Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone) finds its fullest expression in Westminster Confession of Faith I.6: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” Our commitment to biblical fidelity is most clearly seen in our emphasis on training in biblical languages (Greek and Hebrew); expository, exegetical, and applicatory preaching; and our growing Biblical Studies department. It is also demonstrated in our Faculty Statement on Creation.
All members of our Board and Faculty annually sign a statement affirming full subscription to the confessional standards of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), as adopted at the church’s formation in 1973. Without any exceptions, the leadership of the Seminary annually adopts the Westminster Confession of Faith, together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, as the doctrinal statement and standard of the Seminary, as well as the clear belief statement of the individual signatories. The idea of confessional subscription is that of formal committing of oneself to that to which he subscribes. Our Board and Faculty are committed to upholding the doctrinal standard of the Seminary in all of their public teaching and private devotion. Our confessional integrity is also our confessional transparency. Our students come from a variety of confessional, theological, and denominational backgrounds – but they know where their professors are coming from. They know what to expect from the instruction they will receive at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Our individual and church supporters know what kind of education they are backing when they invest in the Seminary. As a Seminary, we are committed to an unabashed Reformed Protestantism as we advance an enduring Reformation into the 21st Century. Our commitment to confessional integrity is most clearly seen in the content of our classes, and particularly in our Systematic Theology and Church History departments.
Though academic institutions are primarily focused on cultivating the life of the mind, we recognize that it is not enough for a Seminary to be concerned merely with intellectual pursuits. Our valuing of experimental piety is simply our desire to promote in our students a healthy experience of holy living for God’s glory. Our students are held to a high moral standard, and are encouraged to pursue lives lived Coram Deo (in the presence of God), to the glory of God. Our instruction and Seminary activities promote the nourishment of a rich, Christ-dependent, trinitarian piety. As professed by the great Puritan John Owen, “Thus, I say, have the saints communion with Christ, as to their sanctification and holiness. From Him do they receive the Spirit to dwell in them; from Him the new principle of life, which is the root of all their obedience; from Him have they actual assistance for every duty they are called to.” Our commitment to experimental piety is most clearly seen in our close partnership with local churches to provide accountability and guidance to our students, as well as our Faculty’s investment in the spiritual development of our students, as part of their ministerial formation.
Though Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is not a denominational seminary in the classical sense of the designation (we do not belong to any one denomination), we have established ties of accountability with a number of church courts (local Sessions, Presbyteries, and even Denominations). We are a recognized institution of theological instruction to all denominations affiliated with the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC – more information here), including the ARPC, the OPC, the PCA, the PresRC, the RCUS, the RPCNA, and the URCNA. We have relationships with smaller North American (BPC and others) and international denominations (EPCEW, RCSA, and others) as well. We have not sought academic accreditation with accrediting bodies of the United States government, though we seek to comply with all rules, regulations, and laws for non-profit charitable organizations in the State of South Carolina and in the United States of America. We have entered into an academic accountability arrangement with the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries (ARTS – more information here). Our commitment to ecclesiastical accountability is most clearly seen in our sponsoring session/presbytery program. For more information about this program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our students experience close personal relationships with faculty members. One of our particular goals at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is to keep a low student-faculty ratio so that we will never lose mentoring relationships between faculty and students. We recognize that we cannot accomplish our goals only in the classroom. Mentoring relationships must be developed and sustained. Faculty members frequently host students in their homes for meals, are active in the congregational life of local Presbyterian churches, and lead prayer groups on a weekly basis while classes are in session. As observed by Rev. Dr. Richard D. Phillips of the Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville (PCA), we have nurtured “a fraternity of holy men pursuing the ministry together” at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The overwhelming majority (80% of main campus students in 2018) of our students are enrolled in our Divinity program (MDiv, BD, MMRE), which means that our instruction is laser-focused on equipping men for gospel ministry and/or ordained service in the church. Our commitment to individual instruction is most clearly seen in our low student-faculty ratio, focus on equipping men for gospel ministry, and mentorship relationships between faculty and individual students.
Our students graduate with a burden for the Lost, a burden for preaching the Gospel, and a burden for serving Christ and His church – NOT a burden of student loan debt. Men preparing for ministry are not helped when they are saddled with student-loan debt from Seminary. Christ’s church is strengthened when faithful, transparent, pious, and debt-free ministers step into pulpits to preach the gospel with words (and hearts) of integrity. Upon the ordination or installation of a minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church in America, congregations are asked four questions, including, “Do you engage to continue to him while he is your pastor that competent worldly maintenance which you have promised, and to furnish him with whatever you may see needful for the honor of religion and for his comfort among you?” (see PCA BCO 21-6). It is our commitment to the church that fuels our commitment to providing affordable theological education to our students as they prepare for ministry. Our tuition rates are kept low due to two complementary factors: our practice of keeping our administrative overhead very low, AND the generosity of individual donors and congregations, who provide for up to 80% of all of our operating expenses on an annual basis. Our commitment to affordability is most clearly seen in our low tuition rates ($200/credit-hour, as of Fall 2018), and our reasonable fee schedule.
Our programs are accessible to called men in a variety of situations and life circumstances. Some men are unable to uproot their families in order to move to Greenville, SC to join us in-residence, and so we offer a full-orbed distance program, in partnership with volunteer mentors around the country. Other men are unable to take on a full-time courseload, and so we make our program available to part-time students while they work to provide for their families. Some men come to us without a traditional undergraduate degree, but with the backing of their local Session and clear giftedness for the ministry. Some of our students begin their program from prison, study with us by correspondence, and then complete our program once they are released from incarceration. Our facilities are wheelchair-accessible, as well. Whatever the situation men find themselves upon encountering an inward sense of call accompanied by an endorsement from their Session, we work with them, for the good of the Kingdom. Our commitment to accessibility is most clearly seen in our full-service distance program, and our making available a Bachelor of Divinity (BD) degree for men over 30 years old without an undergraduate degree.