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Oklahoma Christian University shutters Graduate School of Theology

Oklahoma Christian University has decided to close its Graduate School of Theology, making it the third university associated with Churches of Christ to either shut down or restructure its graduate theology programs. The closure is part of broader budget cuts, with Provost Brian Starr attributing the decision to an overall decline in enrollment.

This move follows similar actions by Harding University and Lipscomb University in restructuring or closing their theology programs. The dean of the College of Bible expressed the gravity of ending Oklahoma Christian’s first graduate program and mentioned ongoing efforts to explore other ways for the College of Bible to contribute to theological education.

The decision was influenced by a decline in graduate enrollment, which was 22 in fall 2023, down from 39 the previous year. Despite the closure, the university is committed to helping current graduate students complete their degrees as scheduled.

The broader context includes a significant decline in the number of theological schools and students enrolled over the past decade, impacting various denominations. Oklahoma Christian leaders expressed confidence in the university’s future and are exploring opportunities to partner with sister schools to continue contributing to graduate theological education in new ways.

Abilene Christian University, another institution associated with Churches of Christ, confirmed its commitment to offering a wide array of programs and actively engaging in discussions to support sister institutions in providing graduate education or training for ministry.

The Roys Report writes:

Oklahoma Christian University has become the third university associated with Churches of Christ to close or restructure its graduate programs in theology that prepare students for ministry.

The Oklahoma City university’s closure of its Graduate School of Theology is part of a broader set of budget cuts announced this week to faculty by Provost Brian Starr.

Previously, Harding University in August announced the closing of its Memphis, Tenn., campus of the Harding School of Theology and plans to move the program to its main campus in Searcy, Ark.

In December 2022, Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., announced the closing of its Austin Center, a Texas branch campus previously called the Austin Graduate School of Theology. Lipscomb still has its Hazelip School of Theology in Nashville.

In a written statement, Starr blamed the cuts at Oklahoma Christian on overall enrollment decline leading to “restructuring some areas of Academics, including sunsetting the Graduate School of Theology program.”

In an email to Bible faculty, Jeremie Beller, dean of the College of Bible, said, “The gravity of ending OC’s first graduate program is keenly felt by the leadership team.” 

The graduate program was begun in 1988, and the first class of M.Div. students graduated in 2007, a group of which Beller was a part.

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