Tennessee Temple University may leave its longtime home in Highland Park for a new campus at Woodland Park Baptist Church, the church congregation was told Sunday.
Dr. Wayne Barber, Woodland Park pastor, and Dr. Steve Echols, TTU president, both spoke on the topic during the morning worship service.
They said talks are underway that would have Temple sell its campus with over 20 acres and move by the church, which has 170 acres on Standifer Gap Road.
TTU once had over 4,000 students, but the enrollment has dropped to just over 400.
Tennessee Temple School earlier closed. Highland Park Baptist Church, which was long the supporting church for TTU, earlier this year sold its holdings in Highland Park and moved out to its Camp Joy property.
Under the plan, Woodland Park Baptist Church would take a role of involvement in the school to seek to help rebuilt its enrollment and mission of training young people for Christian service.
Some of the Woodland Park facilities might initially be used for some classroom and office space, it was stated.
Tennessee Temple has begun to shop its property, which includes a number of offices, dorms and gyms.
“The potential for an expanded campus together with the commonality of the mission that we share has sparked this conversation with WPBC. We are grateful and excited to explore such opportunities,” stated Dr. Echols.
“Since the fall of 2011, TTU has been blessed to have experienced a 47 percent growth in residential students,” said Dr. Echols. He added, “In order to maximize possibilities for the future, we believe it is important for us to explore the potential partnership with WPBC.
”Although it is too early for the university to discuss any major plans for the current campus and how it would fit into the development of a new campus, TTU will be considering various options. Future information will be forthcoming as details are solidified.
Dr. Echols said he sees the discussion with WPBC as "positive for TTU and Chattanooga as the school seeks to fulfill its mission in the coming decades."
The next step is the formation of a memorandum of understanding between the two institutions, it was stated.
Dr. Barber said, “We believe that ministry is ‘received, not achieved.’ This is not some idea we have come up with, but rather something we feel God may be raising up, and we are excited about the possibility of partnering together."
Woodland Park is no stranger to relocating, having moved from downtown on Holtzclaw Avenue to 7501 Standifer Gap Road in the late 1970s and again to their present campus at 6735 Standifer Gap Road in 2007. The church will celebrate its 100th anniversary in the spring of 2014.
Dr. Barber said, “We have a lot of people in our church and on our staff with ties to Tennessee Temple over the years, and we are excited about the direction Dr. Echols is taking the university. We think such a partnership has a lot of potential.”
Dr. Barber said he "sees the discussion with TTU as positive for Chattanooga and both institutions as they seek to get out the message of God’s grace."