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Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem changes name

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Piedmont Baptist College in Winston-Salem has changed its name to Piedmont International University.

The apparently simple change took effect Jan. 1. But at a closer look, the simple change could help make things safer for Christians abroad.

Enrollment at the school has doubled since online courses were opened up in 2004. The university now has 250 online students in 25 different countries like Zambia, China and North Korea — each countries where they must keep their Christian studies quiet.

Professor Jim Hayes, who served as a missionary in Thailand and Cambodia for 32 years, says he has witnessed first-hand how foreign governments and religious leaders can prevent others from learning about God’s word.

“There’s that idea of, ‘Oh yes… Colonialism… Religion.’ Goes together hand-in-hand,” Hayes said.

Hayes said the school’s change in identity could help missionaries like him to better fly “under the radar.”

“It helps us to have freer access, less stigma to our name,” Hayes said.

University President Charles Petitt says the changes could confuse government officials who would otherwise disrupt their work overseas.

“This is just a way for us to get good quality training to them without rocking the boat or creating problems,” Petitt said.

While Hayes is now back in the U.S. and focused on getting his Ph.D., he also hopes the change will make it easier for future students abroad.

“Their country and culture is rich. We just want to infuse Christ into their culture and let them see new life,” Hayes said.

Although ‘Baptist’ is no longer in the name of the school, the curriculum will still focus on Christian ministry training.