Tennessee Temple University has entered into exploratory discussions about the development of a new campus at Woodland Park Baptist Church in Tyner.
The school, which is landlocked within 21 acres in Highland Park, potentially would relocate to the 170-acre church site on Standifer Gap Road.
If such a move appears viable in the coming months, a nonbinding memorandum of understanding between the two institutions would likely be written, officials said.
Dr. Wayne Barber, senior pastor of Woodland Park, said he believes an initial partnership might involve the church and the school sharing space in the manner that Johnson Ferry Baptist Church and New Orleans Theological Seminary do in Marietta, Ga.
Tennessee Temple has been without a partnering church since Highland Park Baptist, now Church of the Highlands, moved to Harrison in January.
"The potential for an expanded campus together with a [common mission with Woodland Park] has sparked this conversation," said Dr. Steve Echols, president of Tennessee Temple since January 2012.
Tennessee Temple grew to around 4,000 students by around 1980, decreased to about 650 students by 1992 and dwindled more slowly over the next 15 years. However, the school has experienced a 47 percent increase in resident enrollment since 2011, Echols said. Its fall residential enrollment is 417, according to numbers on the front page of the school's website.
For more on this story, see Monday's Times Free Press.