Westminster Standards to Inform RTS Quality Enhancement Plan

The Provost, Chancellor, Board of Trustees, and administration of Reformed Theological Seminary have announced that the seminary has undertaken a new Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) to be implemented over a period of five years.

Termed “Reaching Our Standards,” the QEP will introduce a collaborative effort to integrate the study of the Westminster Standards— the Confession of Faith and Larger and Shorter Catechisms— more consistently in the RTS MDiv curriculum.

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the seminary’s accreditors, requires member institutions to undergo a comprehensive review every 10 years. The submission of a QEP is part of the reaccreditation process and reaffirms the seminary’s commitment to enhancing the quality of its education and maximizing student success.

The QEP topic was identified over an eleven-month period that involved the faculty, administration, and board of the seminary, beginning in 2019.

In May 2020, after the topic was determined, Chancellor Ligon Duncan appointed John Muether, Professor of Church History and Dean of Libraries, to chair a QEP steering committee that included Drs. John Fesko, Thomas Keene, D. Blair Smith, and Charlie Wingard, along with Polly Stone, Chief Institutional Assessment Officer. Director of Academic Administration Angela Queen joined the committee following Stone’s passing in August 2020.

Reaching Our Standards

John Muether

Since its founding in 1966, RTS has stressed the Westminster Standards in its theology courses. In fact, memorization of the Shorter Catechism is among the requirements for the MDiv degree.

“Why a QEP on the Westminster Standards? We believe we can go even further,” said Muether. “Students graduate with general competency in the standards, but it is less clear that we have equipped them to practice the standards in their ministry. Here is where we seek to focus the attention of the QEP.”

The major objective of the plan is that MDiv graduates from each RTS campus will demonstrate knowledge of the Westminster Confession of Faith and catechisms, understand the role of subordinate standards in the life of a healthy church, and develop skills in employing the standards in the work of pastoral ministry.

“The RTS QEP ‘Reaching Our Standards’ will better equip RTS graduates with a mastery of confessional Reformed theology and a comprehensive familiarity with the Westminster Standards,” Dr. Duncan said. “We want to chart a path that will challenge and improve the way all of confessional Reformed graduate theological education is done. Of course, what we want for our students is that they will be even more fully prepared to serve the Lord’s people with the rich truth of God’s Word.”

The QEP will be executed through several curricular initiatives and adjustments, including special attention to the standards in MDiv courses like Church Polity, Worship, Leadership & Discipleship, Classics of Personal Devotion, and Pastoral Ministry.

“RTS has always emphasized and integrated the Scripture— the primary standard and final authority— into the curriculum well,” said Provost Robert Cara. “It has not done as well with the Westminster Standards, which are secondary and subordinate. This new initiative better integrates the Westminster Standards where RTS has been lacking, while at the same time maintaining that Scripture is always primary and the Westminster Standards are secondary.”

As a supplement to the plan, professors from across the seminary plan to produce a faculty volume on the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.

RTS will measure the QEP’s success directly and indirectly on an annual basis throughout the five-year implementation period. Muether believes it will have a real bearing on the ministry of future RTS graduates.

“We’re confident that this is a fitting QEP for RTS to undertake,” he said. “Rightly implemented, it will improve what we believe lies at the very heart of our institutional mission.”