Bethel West celebrating 20th year in San Diego, 125th in Minnesota


Bethel West, located on Arosa St. in San Diego, is 20 years old!

In 1977, Bethel College and Seminary of St. Paul, Minn., broadened its ministry westward and opened a second campus in San Diego. Utilizing facilities at College Avenue Baptist Church, Bethel West began courses which would lead its students toward the Master of Arts in Theological Studies, the Master of Arts in Christian Education and the Master of Divinity degrees. A Doctor of Ministry degree was soon instituted.

San Diego was chosen as the location for Bethel Seminary West because it is a community of ethnic diversity, burgeoning growth, enormous spiritual need and a large concentration of military personnel  all which offer unlimited opportunities for intercultural ministry experience. Proximity to Mexico offers another opportunity for cross-cultural ministry experience.

In February 1990, the Bethel West Campus moved across the street to its newly completed $2 million seminary complex which houses offices, classrooms, a student center, and expanded library facilities with more than 70,000 volumes.

Bethel College and Seminary of St. Paul, Minnesota is also celebrating an anniversary this year; it is 125 years old. Founded in 1871 by John Alexis Edgren, a Swedish immigrant, for the training of Swedish-speaking pastors, Bethel College and Seminary now has more than 3,000 students from a wide variety of denominations. The institution is an evangelical liberal arts college and theological seminary under the auspices of Baptist General Conference.

Bethel Seminary West currently has 125 traditional master of divinity students, two master of arts students, and 22 doctor of ministry students. They represent a wide variety of vocational, cultural, and denominational backgrounds, with undergraduate degrees from colleges and universities across the country and abroad.

A wide diversity in age and ministry experience exists among students at Bethel West. While some students enter Bethel immediately following graduation, many come to seminary in the midst of a career change, sensing God’s call to ministry later in life. Because many post-graduate students must juggle careers, ministry, family life, and studies, classes at Bethel West are scheduled during mornings, late afternoons and evenings.

The dean and executive officer of Bethel West is Steven Voth. The son of missionaries, Voth spent his formative years in Argentina. Both he and his wife, Mariel, are graduates of Bethel College, and Steven is a graduate of Bethel Seminary, St. Paul. Since 1981, he has served in the pastorate, and for 15 years has served as academic dean of graduate studies and professor of Old Testament at the Buenos Aires Bible Institute. Voth describes Buenos Aires as “a cosmopolitan city of 12 million people.” He is the author of Génesis, a Spanish language commentary.

Voth is energized by a vision of contextualized seminary education. “We will be incorporating methods and strategies which address a multicultural setting that needs qualified and trained leadership more than ever before,” he explains. Voth and his wife are committed to cross cultural education. That is why they were willing to leave behind successful ministry in Latin America for an opportunity to become a part of an exciting and diverse ministry in San Diego.

Mariel Voth, who has a master’s degree in library science, was the head librarian at the Buenos Aires Bible Institute, and was also a member of the executive committee of the Association of Seminary and Theological Schools of the Southern Tip of South America. In that capacity she oversaw the operations of 40 libraries in Latin America. She also taught in Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina.

Because Voth was so involved in adult seminary education and administration, she was chosen to be the director of Bethel West PACE program. Begun at San Diego in 1992, PACE (the Program in Adult College Education), is a degree completion program for adult learners who have the equivalent of two years of college education. A similar program at the St. Paul Campus has been in place for seven years. Bethel West currently offers a bachelor of arts in organizational studies degree; 60 adult learners attend classes one evening a week for 15 months to complete their college degrees. A unique “cohort” concept allows the same group of students to progress through the program together, thereby creating a support group for those times when full-time work and school and family responsibilities might seem overwhelming.

Enthusiastic comments from students indicate that the one-evening-a-week format makes for a very workable means for adults to return to college and successfully earn their degrees. Voth hopes to expand the program at Bethel, drawing even more students, and perhaps adding new degree options.

For more information about Bethel Seminary call Rob Mahan at 619-582-8188.

For more information about the Program in Adult College Education (PACE), contact Lois Hare at 619-582-3177 or call 800-570-5815.

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