A Baptist seminary is defending the admission of a Muslim student to one of its PhD programs, noting that it was a one-time exception that does not signify a change in school policy.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, accepted Palestinian student Ghassan Nagagreh to its archeology doctoral program in 2012, though news of the decision is just now making headlines.

“The student was a part of a dig site … and had a great relationship with our folks and wanted to study archeology,” explained Southwestern Baptist spokesperson Steve A. Smith, according to the Christian Post. “The best place to do that, of course, are the top archeology schools, which are in Israel, but he doesn’t speak Hebrew.”

Smith said that the school — the third largest evangelical seminary in the U.S. — “took a great chance” in admitting Nagagreh, noting that it is a one-time decision that does not signify a change in policy.

Considering that the school requires “a mature Christian character” and “evidence [of] a desire for Christian ministry,” among other sentiments, it’s clear that the admission of a Sunni Muslim is truly a rarity. 

Southwestern Baptist president Paige Patterson said in statement that it isn’t uncommon for non-Christians to participate in archeological digs alongside the school’s students. That in mind, the seminary came into contact with Nagagreh at Tel Gezer, a dig site in Israel; the student has volunteered there since 2008.

Nagagreh subsequently inquired about studying at the school and after agreeing to abide by its rules, including participating in a weekly congregation and abiding by its moral code, he was admitted.

Patterson described Nagagreh as a “man of peace” in a recent press release addressing the situation.

Southwestern Baptist describes itself as “one of the largest seminaries in the world,” claiming that it “equips men and women with a strong theological foundation to fulfill God’s calling on their lives.”

(H/T: Christian Post)