Sunday, February 26, 2006

Whatever became of Asbury?

When I finished studying at Southern Wesleyan University in the late 80's, there was never any question where I would go to seminary. I had a brother-in-law finishing up at Asbury who graduated from IWU. Another brother-in-law who grew up in the Wesleyan Church of the Philippines finished the year before him. I guess I would sum up the seminary situation of the Wesleyan Church at the end of the 80's in three points:

1. Most Wesleyans did not go to seminary. Indeed, many viewed seminary education with suspicion.

2. Those that did go to seminary mostly went to Asbury. Those who went elsewhere often did so for geographical reasons.

3. Asbury courted Wesleyans and Free Methodists (President McKenna in the 80's actually was FM) and hired significantly from this pool (e.g., the Bible department of that decade included David Bauer, a FM, David Thompson and Joe Dongell, both Wesleyans).

Now flash forward to today. The situation is not the same. Again, three points:

1. An increasing number of Wesleyans are going to seminary. Many dream of even teaching somewhere one day and recognize they will need a doctorate to do it.

2. I haven't collected the data, but I would be surprised if Asbury is catching even the majority of those going to seminary from our colleges. I can name IWU students from these last three or four years alone who have gone to Princeton, Nazarene Theological, Wesley Biblical, Gordon-Conwell, Azuza Pacific, Fuller, Bethel in Mishawaka, and Duke. If you extend the list back a few more years we could add Wheaton.

Here's the way things seem to stand at IWU at the moment. Our best and brightest have been going to Duke or Princeton. Our Calvinist students go to Gordon-Conwell. But I might mention an email conversation I've been in with a Wesleyan from another college who is considering GC because of its urban opportunities and reputation for detailed exegesis.

Our more conservative students and those who want more intimate contact with professors are increasingly going to Wesley Biblical (which has supplanted Nazarene Theological's bid to be the more "traditional Wesleyan" place to go).

Then a few will feel a call to the West. With David Wright at Azuza, the ads to attract Wesleyans out there have begun. Fuller is also an option for those with a westward call and a more mainstream evangelical (=less Wesleyan) bent.

The conformists still go to Asbury, sometimes with a sense of tradition and duty. It may still hold the largest single percentage, but I bet it isn't 50%.

3. Asbury doesn't feel as much like home as it used to.

Some anecdotal material: One of our best graduates from last year felt disappointed with the academic side of things when he visited Asbury as well as the financial aid package. He took a nearly full ride to Duke instead. Important to note that he remains fully committed to the Wesleyan Church even if he feels rather isolated. Another IWU student took a full ride to Princeton last year, and one of our best from this year will probably be going there as well for similar reasons.

In short, Asbury is failing to impress a good percentage of our best and brightest.

Asbury has become more mainstream Methodist. Now don't get me wrong, I would fit right in there and indeed three profs in our department teach online for Asbury. I am not a "liberal basher" by any means.

Yet it's clear that Asbury is making a move toward Methodism after spending most of its existence on the fringes. It used to have as much or more in common with other Methodist derivatives like the Wesleyans than with mainstream Methodism. But now I would say it is trying to become the mainstream Methodist option (and may even be distancing itself a bit from the Good News movement).

I would say that Asbury has made many of its most recent hires on the basis of scholarship with Asbury tradition itself as a lower priority. I want to make it clear that I view these as good hires--just hires that have moved Asbury more away from than toward the average Wesleyan.

Asbury hasn't done anything wrong... but I don't think it is as familar or as attractive to Wesleyans as perhaps it once was.

Here's my point: The Wesleyan seminary door is open and we're losing a lot of heat.

We have no seminary to call our own. It's not that there's anything specifically wrong with the options that are out there--it's just that none of them are clearly "us." It's just one symptom of the overall identity crisis that the Wesleyan Church has been experiencing these last few years.

Of course a Wesleyan Church seminary would have the potential to address some of these issues. If it was done right, it could help the denomination itself find a focal point of identity. Of course I'd like to see this become a self-fulfilling prophecy: "Indiana Wesleyan Seminary." But I'd be happy wherever it came as long as it adopted something like my three point ethos:

1. Wesleyans are people of the Spirit, started in part as a revivalist movement and pietist in flavor, heart over head, and committed to the sentiment "in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

2. Wesleyans are Bible-focused people. The Bible is our playground, and every discussion begins with the Bible. Evangelicals feel at home with us because of our focus on the Bible, although we affirm the importance of the Spirit and the Church in its proper appropriation.

3. Wesleyans are Wesley-an. We don't idealize John Wesley, but we sure like a lot of the things he thought. We affirm his optimism of grace that makes it possible for anyone to come to salvation, for individuals to live lives above sin, and for societies to be changed.

How about it, Wesleyans?


Kevin Wright said...

Ken, a few questions.
1.) IWU seminary- Not a bad idea but let me throw down the typical, "with what brain power are you going to use to fuel this new Wesleyan seminary?" Are there really enough Wesleyans out there to teach at an institution like this?
2.)Asbury moving towards methodism?Do you think Asbury is trying to be more like a school such as Duke? And speaking of attracting Wesleyans, Duke just hired Randy Maddox and Paul Chilcote.
3.)Which leads me to the final thought. If Asbury is going to be more mainline methodist, then why not go to another mainline methodist school like a Duke where you have better resources and a more rigorous and prestigious program? If IWU can get students into the big league programs, why not take advantage of them?
Just some thoughts.

Ken Schenck said...

1) If IWU started a seminary, it would not try to reinvent the wheel. For example, We might create something on a problem based model rather than a straightforward module by module sequence. Courses would be team taught and would be very specifically, outcome based, in depth group projects with instruction more google-like (chaos theory order, situationally generated). This model requires fewer "mega-scholars" and more gifted facilitators.

In addition to a main campus, it would likely have satellite and online variants, which could be populated at least in part by professors from other Wesleyan Colleges (who aren't always paid too admirably).

I would want a core of about 7-10 "scholars-in-residence" at home base (Indianapolis?), which I think is very attainable. I'm betting if we sweetened the pie enough, we could get people like you--the next generation--to come teach. And if it's an attractive situation, we could get the magical 66% by conversion.

2-3) I wouldn't be surprised if the best and brightest will continue to go elsewhere. I'm okay with that. I hear the profs at Princeton are incredibly boring, but have the brilliance to compensate. Duke and Princeton will always be here and will always be better funded. But perhaps you are right that Asbury is less distinctive in any category now that it is becoming more mainstream.

Keith Drury said...

I don’t know about your hunch on 50% (at least the official records will probably not support it since people who go to “unapproved” seminaries often evaporate from record-keeping). But I do think the shifts you describe at Asbury since the 1980’s are undeniable—especially related to the United Methodist church. I’m looking forward to responses to this post, but my preliminary blurted-out response is this:

*1 If Wesleyans leaders want us to merge with the United Methodist church we should stay tightly tied to Asbury Seminary.

*2 If Wesleyans leaders want us to merge with the Nazarenes we should make NTS in KC our primary seminary.

*3 If Wesleyans leaders want us to merge us with the Free Methodists we should make powerful ties to Roberts in NY.

*4 If Wesleyans leaders aren’t moving toward any mergers we should start our own seminary—it is one of the things [permanent] denominations do—train their own ministers.

*5 If Wesleyans leaders have no idea what we should do in the future we should do nothing whatsoever.


JohnLDrury said...


Thanks for the three constructive points at the end. Now wherever it may happen, we can see the kind of shape it should take.

Won't it need a better name than "Indiana Wesleyan Seminary"? On the other hand, I guess that is better "Maxwell Wesleyan Seminary" ;-)

Matt Guthrie said...

Interesting post. I started my five year stint at Asbury in 1994, the same year Maxie Dunnam began as president. Maxie was one of the leaders of the Confessing Movement I believe they called it. It was group of UM leaders who were trying to steer Unied Methodism back to its Wesleyan Holiness roots. One of the things I grew very tired of during my time was the constant focus on the problems in the UM church. As a Wesleyan, I did at times feel like a second class minority. And because of our historical suspicion of seminary education, I was totally amazed to meet guys like David Thompson and Joe Dongell.

Despite the UM focus Asbury seemed to have, one thing was always evident. There was a emphasis on Wesleyan Holiness theology at Asbury. I remember being quit shocked at meeting UM students with conservative theological perspectives. In fact, some of them could have passed for Wesleyans. I could not believe the kind of crap they would endure from their ordination boards when they would go back home for their annual reviews because they went to some "backward conservative" school.

Acknowledging that Princeton and Duke probably had the scholastic edge, I still believe that I received one of the best academic seminary educations available at the time. Yes we began to hire guys like Joel Green during my time there, but when you took a class with him, you knew what you were getting. You were going to get a very thorough scholarly perspective on whatever the content. And to say that GC is better because of its emphasis on exegesis? Yes, my original language training is weak, but I would trade any of my inductive bible study classes for it (they were called EB, English Bible, classes back then). Especially since guys like Bauer, Thompson, & Dongell relied on original language in their teaching.

I don't think the problem is what has happened to Asbury but what is the stand of TWC? If Asbury continues to be the seminiary of choice, then make it more financially attractive for folks to go there. Kevin can possibly confirm, but I'm fairly certain that students from the NC Conference of the UM church get a pretty substantial break, if not a free ride, at Duke. When I was at Asbury, we Wesleyans would get together and gripe about the measly Wesleyan Seminary Foundation grant.

The idea of a Wesleyan seminary is really attractive to me in many ways. I know at least a dozen of my former classmates that would jump at the chance to teach there. But, if ATS is the preferred seminary, what is TWC doing to ensure that Asbury does not become mainstream United Methodism? Having spent the bulk of my free time at the ESJ School of World Missions at Asbury, I can't imagine that I would be as well prepared for the pastorate if I had not gotten that contextual training from the missions guys so that I could better apply my knowledge from my theology and bible classes. Not to mention the gains I received by constantly interacting with my UM buddies, and believe or not, quite a few Southern Baptists! Of course Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was Asbury and Indiana Wesleyan Seminary or Southern Wesleyan Seminary, wherever Wesleyan Seminary won't be either.

I'll stop now. My comments may be longer than Ken's original post. ;-)

Kevin Wright said...

Keith always brings it around to mergers :) I think he secretly wants to be a Free Wesleyan Methodist.

In regards to Matt's comments on financial stuff, all UM students receive hefty grants and financial incentives from their conferences. These typically average out to be around $6,000-$7,000year Many students, however, often receive smaller scholarhips as well to supplement their aid package and about 20% of each class receives institutional aid which is usually 75%-100% of tuition.

Money is a big issue in regards to a seminary. Where is the Wesleyan Church going to get the money to start something like this? Asbury is around $12,000/year and after denominational/institutional aid, a Wesleyan might expect to pay $8,000 plus living fees. Could the Wesleyans do something comporable to that?

Ken Schenck said...

Matt, I would put Joel Green up there with the world class players. I think a few other Asbury profs have the potential if they would publish more. But they give it back in personal mentoring.

But the issue here is, "Who knows it?" Joe Dongell and David Bauer are incredibly gifted mentors who give individual attention that I promise you don't get from profs at Princeton or Duke. But which of our Wesleyan students even know of them?

And here's an interesting statistic to the best of Russ Gunsalus' calculations: our religion department may put out more seminary students than any other CCCU school! One possible outcome of this discussion is a wake-up call to Asbury. They're losing significant market share.

Also, I was not at all suggesting that Gordon-Conwell's exegetical skills are better than those at Asbury. I actually have a rather pompous and condescending attitude toward them as micromanaging pencil pusher exegetes, scholars who spend all their time diagramming sentences and then swallow the camel of eisegesis because of their theological presuppositions.

I think I am describing something real here: no matter how great Asbury is, for whatever reason it either has lost significant appeal to Wesleyans or it has dropped the ball with regard to the growing crowd of "extra" Wesleyans who are now going to seminary.

Ken Schenck said...

John: Regardless of seminaries, I wish we could embrace something like these as an identity.

Kevin: Drury suggested in a previous conversation that a seminary could be founded here for the cost of one already planned building here at IWU. I think if it is based on a clear sequence of skills, especially initially, then we only have to hire a couple or three core profs a year until it is fully staffed. We already have online critical mass to gain funds from this medium virtually from the get go. We could probably fill onsite spots with about 10-20 students a year from our program alone. I've suggested profs teach 2 on site/2 online per semester of the same 2 courses. All this is just coffee talk, but I think it could be done easily with a little initiative.

Anonymous said...

We're at Asbury for the forseeable future. Kerry Kind will never let Wesleyans break their ties to Asbury Seminary. Kerry Kind was raised a Methodist and is so blindly committed to ATS that he will fight even a study of any other option. --Matt

Ken Schenck said...

The thing is that we're already half not at Asbury. If we're going to be at Asbury, we need to find a way to be at Asbury. At least that's what I think.

David Drury said...

Full disclosure: I attended a NWAS (Non-Wesleyan-Approved Seminary)… of course I cringed when you said, “our Calvinist students go to Gordon-Conwell” since I was neither Calvinist before I went there, while studying there, or after I graduated. And neither were the other two IWU grads who went there that I am familiar with. However, I’ll put that aside and address your core statement (announcement?) here, Ken:

I think you’re on to something. I fully support this notion even if Asbury were not moving in any direction at all. At its core a denomination could only be better-served by having one of its institutions start a seminary. In fact, I hope more than one starts eventually (You never know what will happen in 20 years—how likely was this for IWU 20 years ago?). Competition is almost always a good thing. How could anyone be opposed to this unless they had loyalties to an organization or denomination outside our own? Great idea!

In fact, I might even say God predestined this to happen. (Just kidding!)

Keith Drury said...

Yes Kevin I do use merger-glasses on matters like these though I’m not a great fan of mergers

FREE METHODISTS: I admit I really like Free Methodists a lot and would love to marry them. if their Bishops weren’t so darned arrogant in the past we’d already be merged with them.

NAZARENES. Yes, I’d even merge with Nazarenes—though I’d probably drag my feet kicking and screaming all the way to Kansas City and would expect a major “attitude adjustment” on their part before the honeymoon.

UNITED METHODISTS. As for the United Methodists… ten years ago I’d have laughed all the way to Epworth at the notion—but now I’m less sure… some of my best friends are UMs and they remind me of old fashioned Wesleyans… there are ten times as many evangelical UMs as there are Wesleyans ---who who knows what 10 more years will bring us—in my town the best week-long revivals are all at UM churches while many Wesleyans hold “one Sundayy revivals" now or none at all (I know, I know—this is not the “test” ---but I could list others if that were the topic of the post.

The reason I mention mergers is that denominational leaders have to think of where we’re headed in 10-15 years, not just how to train ministers for the next 4 years. Seminary decisions are one of the ways denominations set their sails for the future even if they deny it to be so. Thus I believe if Wesleyans plan to be a [permanent] denomination they’ll eventually have to take seriously training their own ministers—or at least half of them.

If Wesleyans plan to continue as a [rather permanent] denomination and develop their own seminary where would they do so?

I think HOUGHTON has the best academic reputation and would make the smartest ministers, though I don’t think they’re interested in an MDiv..I think they’ll develop a quality MA in religion (and eventually a PhD too I hope). OWU is not ready to try yet I think. BETHANY as a Bible school already is an “undergraduate seminary” of sorts and probably won’t do it. I would be delighted if SWU did one—they have a good track record in the undergrad program already and they’d be great at a seminary if they could plunk down ten mil to start a serious one. IWU could do it if they decided to—tomorrow afternoon-- if they were that committed to the church and wanted to. And of course ALL THESE SCHOOLS COMBINED could launch one if they’d lay aside their competitiveness and decided to serve the church first and themselves second—though there are challenges in such co-op arrangements I know.

So Schenck laid out the question for public consumption (Kudos to you Ken) and called us out—so my opinion is pro-seminary, a Wesleyan one, (I’ve had that unchanging position since 1972). HOWEVER this decision will have to be influenced by denominational leaders I think—mergers and long range viability of the denomination figure in. If Schenck’s numbers are even partially correct we are moving from a favored seminary to multiple choice seminaries… but I have no “Asbury experience” to love… some know that when I applied there in 1970 I was not even accepted as a student and was forced to attend a “non-approved seminary” for my education (true story).

Anonymous said...

I don't know about the internal Wesleyan agenda???? But I do know you have hit the nail on the head with the current regime at Asbury. The new president is very clearly taking the church in the direction as the reform wing of methodisism. He told us that is where most of the money comes from and so that is where he will primarily play to. Just look at the recent hires, the significant ones come from one church. The Beeson Pastor program has been tamed from the days of Dale Galloway, apparently the graduates upset too many Methodist bishops. There is now a methodist in charge, a very nice man, but very clearly a methodist. The great hope is that when the Methodists finally ordain gays, most liberal seminaries will support the move and Asbury will then attract the orthodox students and money. Those who have been here before and have returned say it is a very different atmosphere now. The whip is being cracked on the faculty too, if they are Methodist elders they are now expected to attend Methodist churches.
It will be interesting to see if there is an exodus of non-Methodist faculty and students.

::athada:: said...

A proposal:

If Wesleyans prohibited blogging along with alcohol and dancing, they'd have more than enough staff-hours to start a seminary.


::athada:: said...

P.S. Keep blogging, drinking, and dancing.

Or at least blogging. I once saw a Wesleyan dance at a Friday Night Live in 2003. I think his last name rhymed with "spank".


Samuel Bills said...

I had bought into Kevin Mannoia's vision for a radical Wesleyan type seminary at Haggard (APU) - sounds to me like David Wright has similar ambitions. The problem when I was at APU seemed to be a division between the admin. higher-ups who didn't think stirring up the schools roots in radical holiness denominations was good for image and thus for enrollment numbers etc. (I don't know that was just my impression) Evangelical schools have benefited from a watered down label like Evangelical to put in their promotional material - it seems that it would be difficult to have a seminary function under that identity without challenging it. Maybe a kind of underground seminary network would be appropriate for a "Wesleyan" seminary. Maybe not having a seminary allows us to maintain our theology-from-the-margin. As it is the most interesting people in my theo. educ. have been Wesleyans who have a kind of covert theological operation underneath the radar.
I think I am for the subversive "underground" seminary type idea or the kind of work your way into the conversation at non-Wesleyan institutions method. Is there a structure or form for a seminary that is faithful to the tradition?

Ken Schenck said...

Sam, one of the things that attracts me about starting a seminary now is that we could be really innovative about it and "emergent" in the best sense. I think of the worship service I lead that in so many ways is more faithful to the tradition than ever, and yet in so many ways is new and "post-modern." I'd be the first to bail out on the idea of a seminary if some committee started to spin out just an APS style seminary or just some banal old fashioned seminary.

Adam: I have forever been banned from anything like clogging since that FNL.

kerry kind said...

Haggard School of Theology 9
Nazarene Theol. Seminary 7
George Fox Seminary 2
Asbury Theological Seminary 80
Evangelical School of Theology 2
Wesley Biblical Seminary 8
Tyndale Theological Seminary 2

Here are the current numbers of Wesleyans at the seven General Board approved seminaries. Haggard, NTS, and Wesley have all seen an increase in the last couple years. Asbury had 45 Wesleyans in 1990 and has been gradually on the increase. Anecdotally, more Wesleyans than previously are going to Fuller, Trinity, Duke, Princeton, GC, and others, also. There seems to be a rising tide of interest in seminary among Wesleyans that is lifting all the boats.

The jury is still out of course on where Jeff G. will ultimately take Asbury. (Don't underestimate the role of the board on that.) But there are some encouraging signs that he truly wants it to be a seminary for Wesleyans and Free Methodists and is not taking every opportunity to reach out to the Methodists. He has hired Jack Connell (NY Wesleyan) as a preaching professor and to be associate dean of Beeson. Although he already had a Wesleyan General Superintendent on the board of trustees, he inquired as to who he might invite to strengthen the Wesleyan presence there. Charles Joiner's name was offered, and now serves on the ATS board. (Dr. Joiner is chair of the board of SWU, and has been on the Wesleyan General Board forever.) Jeff called me up a few weeks ago after taking his board on a strategic visioning retreat. His purpose in calling was to tell me how grateful he is already for Dr. Joiner's presence and participation---he sees him as a tremendous ally in the task of keeping/strengthening the seminary's committment to scriptural holiness, among other things.

At a recent gathering of perhaps 80-100 Wesleyans in Wilmore, Jeff dropped by. In his remarks he said he has NO interest in making Asbury a seminary of the Methodist Church. Dave Medders, by the way, was named the distinguished alumnus of the year. Four out of the last eight distinguished alumni have been Wesleyan (incl. Paul Honz, Steve Babby, and Donovan Shoemaker), in spite of Wesleyans being somewhere less than 10% of the alumni. At the last May commencement, a Wesleyan student was honored and spoke as the senior class "visionary," a Wesleyan leader from overseas was awarded an honorary doctorate, a Wesleyan vice-president (Dr. Toddy Holeman) passed out many of the diplomas, and a Wesleyan church leader from North America was the commencement speaker. A Free Methodist was the commencement speaker at the December graduation in 2004. These were the first two commencement speakers after several years of not having any commencement speakers.

If a problem emerges at Asbury--- if I sense that they are moving away from us, I think our strategy should be to confront and address the problem, not withdraw.

There are "full rides" for some students at Asbury, too. Andy Benson, a Wesleyan, recently graduated from Asbury with a presidential scholarship.

The amount of Loan-Grant aid that The Wesleyan Church can afford is extremely insufficient considering the need. But it did double from 1998-2005, a rate twice as fast as tuition.

-----I'd like to see more Wesleyans at Asbury.
-----I recently made a visit to NTS on "Wesleyan Day" and met with the leaders. I would like to see more Wesleyans attending NTS. (Two of our three current General Supers are NTS grads!).
-----I have taught a seminar at Wesley and was favorably impressed with the school. One of my dearest friends is on faculty there--we were co-laborers during our Africa years. I would like to see more Wesleyans at Wesley Biblical.
-----In a few weeks I'll be making another visit to Haggard and see my dear friend David Wright and meet with faculty, students, & admins. What a fine seminary. I would like to see more Wesleyans there.

I am very open to the idea of a seminary of our own, with its obvious advantages. I would like to examine every facet of that. I could very easily end up pushing that idea forward. I'm not sure, however, that the most helpful way to address the topic would be in the context of detracting from other seminaries that are currently serving us well. It makes it looks as if the purpose of the detraction, justified or not, is just to set up the argument for having one of our own.

I am also open to the idea of merger with FMs and Naz, etc. The holiness denominations could make more of an impact if we unite, and I think we would be not just larger, but better if we did. Our current leaders seem to be open to explore mergers, perhaps more open than their counterparts elsewhere, sadly.

Matt, my childhood in a Methodist church is a distant memory. I was never saved then. During my high school years I was unchurched until saved in a Wesleyan Church my senior year of HS. I don't even think of Asbury as anything like the 13 Methodist seminaries.

All for now. Blessings, Ken.


Ken Schenck said...

Thanks for evidence to give some grounding to anecdotes. I wish we had (do we) statistics for those attending unapproved seminaries (I would imagine no single unapproved institution would have more than than 2 or 3). I'd also be interested to know what the breakdown of these is in terms of first out of college/second career. And IWU itself has a lot of non-Wesleyan students... I wonder if we have some hard statistics on where they're going.

I still feel that Asbury has failed to communicate this Wesleyan-ness to us. I can't remember when they've had a noticeable representative on campus here (in other words, I can't remember when a representative has recently been here). Duke actually sent their head of recruitment to have lunch with faculty in our religion department. The Wesleyan profs at Asbury are not brought in communication with us (I don't blame them but a good pr person would be on that). It feels like because Asbury has so many alums at IWU and such favorable HQ attitude toward it that they have counted on us without courting us.

If I were Asbury, I would find a way to get your list out. And I still think that the logical next move for IWU is a seminary--as you say, in its own right and not simply because of any failing on any other part.

Thanks for taking the time to weigh in!

Anonymous said...

I say about Jeff and Asbury, watch what he does not what he says. He appointed "Jack Connell (NY Wesleyan) as a preaching professor and to be associate dean of Beeson" .... but of greater significance was who got the post of dean, a Methodist who has been highly successfully at turning around liberalish methodist churches. Nice guy, but truly a strategic change in direction for the Beesom program, one of the most "ecumenical" of Asbury's courses.
Atmosphere is a very difficult thing to put your finger on, but those who were here and have returned for further study ALL say that the atmosphere has changed and they hear far more about Methodism, than was ever the case before.
I think if you are tooling up for a seminary take the opportunity to be radical, I think Bethel are doing some good things, especially at doctoral level.

Kevin Wright said...

I like Asbury.
I like Wesley Bib.
I like NTS

There can be little argument made that these schools (primary Asbury and NTS) have served our denomination well. Many of our best and brightest pastors are alumni of this school and would highlight Asbury and NTS are crucial components of their ministerial formation.

At the same time, I recognize that God has not called every one of our ministers to attend a Non-General Board Approved school. However, I am not advocating that the General Board all of a sudden approve Princeton and Gordon-Conwell tomorrow (things of this nature take committees and more committees and even more committees). But, until the Wesleyans open up their own seminary or merge with a denomination that already has one, I think we should have an open mind regarding where God is leading our young ministers in terms of education. We can prefer Asbury or NTS, but that doesn't mean we can't like Princeton or Fuller as well.

What I'm saying is that the jury is still out in regards to some of these schools. Sure, we have a few Princetonians like Drury, Wilson and Garlow who make us say "WOW, those presbys sure know how to train ministers!" but by and large it will take more proof and time before people might be comfortable in sending a young Wesleyan off to Princeton for an M.Div.

One of the benefits of not having a denominational seminary is that our students are not tied down to one particular school of preference. You can make a list of "approved" schools with financial incentives but it's not the same as having "Wesleyan International Seminary" (hey, I kind of like that name :) So let's take advantage of other schools while we can. Let's see what kind of pastors/theologians/teachers that Princeton, Fuller, Duke, and GC turn out. If we like what we see, perhaps we need to reconsider how that shapes any future debate or actions by the General Board.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is time to quit "approving seminaries" and start approving "seminary students?" Granting support for students may the the next stage as Wesleyans disburse into a dozens of seminaries in th future. Who can blame us? The denomiantion started it by having a "list" of seminaries... all we are doing is expanding the list. A student at ATS is not automatically "more Wesleyan" than one at GC or Duke. Is it time to start a system of interviewing and approving PEOPLE not institutions?

Steve Blakemore said...

As a non-Wesleyan (in the denominational sense) and a prof at Wesley Biblical Seminary, I am reticent to enter this very good intramural debate. However, reading some of the comments (and especially thinking about Keith Drury's comments about mergers and evangelical UMCs) I thought I might offer the following.

What if the most pressing issue of the day regarding seminary education is not the best way for denominations to train THEIR particular pastors? What if the most crucial question today is the recovery of a dynamic, vital and faithful articulation of a theology of holiness and Christian life for the Church? What if a pan-Wesleyan seminary that truly wants to serve the broadest constituency of those who are commited to a deep exploration of the theology of holiness would best serve the CHURCH (not simply the churches)?

If the need is trans-denominational, and the theology of holiness and perfect love is the natural home for many of our denominations, then I contend that what all of us should be interested in is an academy (seminary) that can express the most vibrant pan-wesleyan Trinitarian theology of perfect love that is possible. This wider picture should concern all of us who are troubled about the attenuation of theological distinctives of the wesleyan tradition. Our tradition has something to say to the wider church, but no single denomination can say it well. It is an endeavor that should require all of us. Hence, the need for thinking in the broadest of pan-wesleyan theological categories.

Sorry for the intrusion, but sometimes I can't help myself. Thanks for the good discussion.

Steve Blakemore

Ken Schenck said...

Not an intrusion at all--an important perspective and one to which some in our religion department lean! Thanks for posting this thought and please continue.

Following my own irresistable desires and predilections (not really, I am Wesleyan-Arminian), I smiled big at the thought that you were giving a pretty good description of Wesley Biblical :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Ken: Enough with the pointed jabs at Princeton. When I was at Princeton, and granted its been 10 years ago now, I found my profs to be anything but boring and greatly appreciate the faculty mentoring that I received while there.

I share Kevin's concerns about sending a "young Wesleyan off to Princeton for an M.Div.," but only because we Wesleyans do such a poor job of grounding our young people in Wesleyan theological distinctives. For those who comprehend the meaning and significance of what it means to be Wesleyan, the Princeton M.Div. offers an invigorating (not to mention well-funded and resourced) opportunity to study amid a very theologically diverse and intellectually gifted group of peers.

Keith Drury said...

Excellent thoughts from Steve Blakemore... thanks for the prod--this need NOT be an intramural discussion... the notion of a pan-Wesleyan seminary emerging that served all these denominations" is a grand idea. I have said "one of the things a [permanent] denomination does is train its own ministers... in saying that I am thinking like a "denominational man" and thus I see most seminaries as denominational (i.e. Asbury-UM, Roberts-FM, NTS-Naz or even a SWU-Wes. or IWU-Wes. (though WBS is harder to do that with, I admit)

But your idea was once fairly true. Indeed in the 70's ASBURY was just this... It was the seminary of choice for FM & Wesleyans along with conservative UMs. Though they never achieved that status for Nazarenes (who tend to invent their own edition of a thing before encouraging it) the school was largely an pas-Wesleyan institution serving all these churches.

However things have changed. Not just at Asbury but among Pan-Wesleyanism. First the Nazarenes started their own seminary in KC. Now the FMs have done the same at Roberts in NY. At the same time (as pointed out by Ken and confirmed by Kerry) more Wesleyans seem inclined to choose from a broader selection of schools.

ALL THAT TO SAY I see things going two opposite ways at once and I find myself headed both ways simultaneously! On the one hand there is talk of mergers and pan-Wesleyan schools that heads toward one or a few seminaries serving a large pan-Wesleyan constituency. On the other hand we/I speak of “a denomination training its own ministers” and cite the trend of denominations starting their own seminaries. I’m not sure which way I’m going!

However, as for Wesleyans we are at a crossroads. ALL OUR HOLINESS SISTER DENOMIANTIONS NOW HAVE THEIR OWN DENOMIANTIONAL SEMINARY. NTS spends ample amount of time on our campus recruiting IWU students to go there instead of ATS. WBS sends whole armies of cool people (like you Steve) to do the same—and has been very successful at positioning themselves in a place that supplants the "too denominational" NTS But now we are in an almost “rushing” situation with these other seminaries. Students no longer bet-against-odds “hoping to get in” to schools like Duke & Princeton –these schools send their student head-hunters here to recruit our students and buy our faculty coffee. And, as we all know these schools have enough endowment that students need not worry about tuition for the rest of their lives.

So for Wesleyans we stand soon at a fork in the road: to seminary or not to seminary—that is the question. Shall we start one like our two sister denominations have, or we should we actually lengthen the list or (as Nate above suggests)—switch to approving students not seminaries.

I am pro-seminary for our students—even the marginal ones (perhaps especially the marginal ones!) And I’m pro-seminary for the denomination too—I think Wesleyans ought to get with it and become a full-fledged {permanent} denomination like Nazarenes and Free methodists and start our own seminary…

BUT if we do not want to do this I think we should make serious, public and official bids for merger or even a take-over. I’ve watched my denomination talk about a seminary for 30 years--I recall when Tom Armiger (Now a GS) was a kid gofer for Lee Haines' seminarey study committee) We're made several studies and lots off off-record talks. Every time we find we are impotent to launch one. So, I think if we really are that impotent then we ought to join a denomination with a higher sperm count. As for me and the Wesleyans the issue is a simple A-B decision: seminary or merger.

Heidi said...

I am intrigued by all the answers. Having grown up UM and become Wesleyan upon coming to Asbury, I am honestly surprised that Duke et al (Perkins, Candler, etc) are even classified in the same category theologically as ATS!

When I was looking at seminaries in 2001-2002, I could have gotten a full ride to Perkins since I lived in the same geographic area and was UM. However, I wouldn't study there if my sanctification depended on it. ;-P Theologically, UM seminaries are worlds apart from ATS. I was not interested in studying process theology.

Please come visit if you think that ATS is becoming mainstream. As a current student, I can tell you that many of my classmates are UM, but it has always been that way.

Financially, ways can be made to attend seminary, and I would challenge students at IWU and elsewhere to consider theological issues as well as financial packages when discerning where to go to seminary.

I would say that the current purpose at ATS is still to grow students in "personal and social spread scriptural holiness throughout the land." I was personally struck lately with how similar that is to the mission of TWC according to the Discipline.

And I'll concur with the person who made the statement that Jeff Greenway has no intention of making ATS a mainstream seminary of the UM church. As a recovering UM, I can say that would take a LONG time to happen anyway. People outside the ATS community in the UM church are still scared as to what they are going to get if they hire an ATS grad. It's because they don't understand scriptural holiness.

Heidi said...


I just re-scanned the posts and read that Kerry Kind said what I referenced in Jeff G. not making ATS a mainstream UM seminary. Just wanted to acknowledge his comments. I doubt ATS will become a mainstream UM seminary. Especially because most of the UM church still sees it as a subversive, scary school!

In addition, statements have already been made about TWC really needing people trained in postgraduate disciplines to teach at our institutions. Where are we going to find enough people to support a seminary?

Anonymous said...

I think many of you are headed the wrong direction--perhaps it is the lack of sunshine up in the northland?

Here's what I think:
1. The Wesleyan Church should have one a single seminary.
2. That seminary should bs Asbury Seminary.
3. Thus, we should discontinue all support for students attending any other school--including Asuza, NTS, Meyerstown (or wherever that one in Pennsylvania is called)WBS and any other seminary except Asbury. Putting all our eggs at Asbury (where 80 eggs already are) is the smartest move for our denomination. Someone above said that the multiple choice list already urges Wesleyans to think options. It is time to shut off ALL the options but one single seminary for Wesleyans--Asbury theological Seminary.

Mike Cline said...

I honestly pray to God that living in sunshine's option is not taken! That's like saying "the NASB is the best translation, we aren't going to let anyone else read for themselves anything else." Where is the ecumencial spirit that I have heard is growing up around the U.S. evangelical world? It's definately not in the sunshine...

Nate:"Perhaps it is time to quit 'approving seminaries' and start approving 'seminary students?'"

I concur 100% with Nate. It is unfortunate that denominations have taken the easiest, most convenient route of approving entire seminaries rather than individuals. It is its ease that makes me think this method is probably not the best route to take in the first place. Occam's Razor is not fail proof. However, I see no denomination that will take the time to interview and get to know individuals. It is simply too inconvenient and impractical.

And American civilization will never do the hardest option (no matter how much better it truly is) if there is an easier, almost as good, option.

Anonymous said...


Consider the personal freedom that would be taken away if such a mandate were to be made. Also consider that Wesleyans are people who believe that God cared so much about the "dignity" of humans to give us a free will. As such, it would behoove (and has) Wesleyan authorties to allow for individual choice---this is honoring the student's development of personhood (our God-installed "selfhood"). God is a gentleman, and he does not "force" himself upon anyone. To mandate attendance to one seminary and dismiss ALL others is arrogant, invasive, and atheistic--in the sense the authority of the church is not acting mimetically of our trinitarian God's relation toward us (Isn't that holiness, afterall?). If such totalitarianism were to be instituted in our Wesleyan governmental structure, I don't know if I could remain a part of this church. You know why? Because our praxis would not line up with our theology. I'm thankful that in the seminary-choosing situation that this is not the case! (Now, about the "There is no holiness without social holiness" part of our doctrine, AHEM...).

So, don't take away my freedom of choice. If you do, you are taking away the dignitiy of my humanity.

-Jo (apparently, I'm a "non-conforming" Wesleyan, (HA!) you can track me down at ATS).

Anonymous said...

ooops! I meant to say "conforming" there in that parenthesis...which is doubly ironic.

Nathan Crawford said...

Where to begin? First off, I am a recent (May '05) graduate of ATS. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out if I wanted to go there or PTS or GC or Candler and chose ATS. I really chose ATS because I got to work with good scholars, mostly Larry Wood.

After attending ATS, I definitely think it is not going "liberal" or mainstream UMC, but is trying to be a corrective. They definitely feel like they can correct the problems in the UMC by putting out tons of pastors (Maxie started this, Greenway seems to be following suit).

Now, I got an outstanding education. I am just as well qualified in my Ph.D. program as people from University of Chicago and Harvard. I have even read more on my Comps list. However, many students there are not there for the education but to get a job as a pastor. I went there to get an education and left with one.

In conclusion to my manifesto in response to Schenck's manifesto, I think it would be great to have a Wesleyan seminary, if for no other reason than they may ask me to teach there.

Cody Thomas said...

So, where to begin? Well, my name is Cody Thomas. I am the "Wesleyan from another college who is considering GC because of its urban opportunities". I have been emailing back and forth with Ken about seminaries and training. Basically, I'm looking strongly at GC (this will sound odd at first) to fulfill my calling (as I see it right now) which should benefit TWC. I am looking at GC for the benefit of TWC (sort of). How? Two ways:

1. As Ken said, I want to do urban church planting, and if my vision really is from God, I want to do it in Boston. So I am looking at GC to do a MA in Urban Ministry, which will allow me a couple years in the city to do a lot of pre-work for the plant, get trained in urban ministry, and complete a grad degree all at the same time. Then, start the plant afterwards. TWC is, overall, a rural church and I'm sick of seeing 10 Wesleyan churches within one town of roughly 20,000 or 30,000 people. We are scared of facing urban ministry even though the masses are there. I want to be another pioneer, standing on the shoulders of giants that have come before me, to move TWC (with its evangelical and Scriptural holiness focus) back into the Northeast (especially a state like Mass. where liberal ideas and homosexuality are blinding the masses to the Truth) and into the cities (especially in a city of such high academia and self-reliance on intelligence).
2. I also want to help TWC by going through a Ph.D. In this day, too many people are well-educated. The ones who are supposed to represent God in this world should be up there with them. I hope to get the highest form of education I can get. If that includes names like Harvard (since it is in Boston), at least that's a name on a degree that shows credibility with people who are already skeptical of you just because you're a pastor. However, I will gain credibility with them, yet be questioned by TWC for not going to the approved places.

I am still greatly considering ATS (I just blogged about my 2nd visit there). However, with my goals in mind of urban church planting, I have little reason to go there for a practical degree to prepare me best for that. Financially, unless I can get the Presidential, I won't see a better deal there. The Wesleyan Loan-Grant is just enough money to remind you how screwed you are. I understand the church probably doesn't have tons of money to throw around though. However, I am basically getting minimal financial support to encourage me in continuing into graduate and post-graduate programs. So I basically am getting no better options with ATS.

I'll throw in my opinion that Nate is on target about approving seminary students. My SOLE purpose in going to GC is to spend 2 or 3 years in Boston so that I can start pre-work (contacts, connections, surveying, studying the city, cultures, problems, social agendas, etc.) towards starting an urban church plant there, but still giving me the opportunity to get a MA in the meantime towards my urban ministry training. Three birds (pre-work in city, grad school, training in urban ministry) stone (working on all 3 simultaneously for 2-3 years). So this is the best option for me and my vision for church planting there. BUT, so that I can church plant for TWC in Boston, without having to do each of those 3 things at separate times, I have to forfeit any Wesleyan financial help (although it is minimal anyways). Why not look into students who show great potential (not saying that I am necessarily one of them) and help fund them as they pursue the education that will best prepare them for how they want to serve TWC?

About a seminary of our own, I just finished discussion on this topic in my History of Wesleyan Church class with the amazing and brilliant Dr. Black. I am all for it. How else to prove that we DO want our ministers to receive a great training for the ministry than to have a seminary? Ken also pointed out that there are an increasing number of Wesleyans going to seminary and through doctorates. If this trend continues, we could come up with enough faculty. I know I plan on going through my Ph.D. with two-fold purpose: 1) credibility among intellectuals in Boston (come on...Harvard, MIT, a billion other colleges...I'm sure I'll face them) and 2) later in my life to teach and train new generations of Wesleyans. I could only dream of the opportunity to teach at a Wesleyan seminary. In that History class with Dr. Black, I did have a quick dream about that after the discussion about a Wesleyan seminary. I guess I need to finish my education before I start dreaming too much.

I know I am not familiar with all the implications of starting our own seminary. I don't know all the stats, numbers, charts, projected stats, or whatever else. However, I still have the opinion that having our own seminary is worth a SERIOUS look.

It's after 3am, so I'm not proof reading this. I hope it comes out logical and understandable. God bless!

Ken Schenck said...

I think Jo and Cody have given strong reasons, both theological and practical, why it would be inappropriate to have a single Wesleyan approved seminary. I think approving individuals on the whole should probably be the primary concern. But I also think a "favored" list is completely appropriate also.

I wonder if people hear a lot of Harnack, Bultmann, and others from the pulpit without even realizing it because almost no individual is "aware" enough to be able to filter everything they hear at a particular place. In other words, a lot of "filler" seeps through no matter where you are. So without realizing it I suspect you get a lot of Barth filler at Princeton, a lot of Calvinist filler at Trinity, Wheaton, and GC, etc... We tend to become (or anti-become) the people we live with without even realizing it.

But here's my ultimate catechism:

1. If a church considers itself a distinct church for whatever reason, is it appropriate to have a special course of training particular to it? Answer, yes.

2. Where is the most appropriate place to give that training? Answer, depends on the nature of the beast. If the group is lower on the education scale, study programs and Bible colleges will do. If the group is aiming at Cody type individuals, you will need some sort of graduate level training.

3. If we could blink and create a Wesleyan Church seminary that was quality and we were proud of, that increased the overall quality of our churches and ministers (this wouldn't have to be on the back of competition... the more churches in a city, the more total people attending church statistically), would we all assent? Answer: I can't imagine that we wouldn't.

Overall conclusion: the main reason we don't have a seminary at this time is our lack of confidence in what that would end up looking like along with all the logistical questions.

But these are not good reasons in themselves not to have a seminary. In the face of these, the appropriate response is, let's look at this some more.

Ken Schenck said...

By the way, if you look through the respondents in this discussion, we have about a half a dozen Wesleyan students in the pipeline at PhD or almost PhD status. Many of them are at non-approved places. Someone also mentioned a number of 90's PhD Wesleyans out there as well. Here is your answer to where we would staff such a seminary. Where are most of them destined right now? They are destined to leave our denomination for another or to teach outside our walls and fade into a non-Wesleyan oblivion. Which is not a bad place (Wesleyans aren't the only Christians out there, after all)... but just more of the heat we're letting out the door.

Josh Jackson said...

Whew (wiping the sweat from my brow)...

As a recent Fuller drop-out and a probable Fuller returnee, I really (kind of) seriously think we should consider where Asbury is LOCATED.

I know for me (and countless others), the reason to diss out on Asbury had more to do with climate, proximity, and urban dreams than it did with theology, tradition and professors.

Sure, maybe the later is more important when it comes to decision time...but why go to Wilmore when you can probably get just-as-good teaching and tradition at a School with some extra-curricular benefits (ala sunshine, mountains, other schools, diversity, beaches, city life)? Not to mention, places on the East and West Coast allow for ample (at least more than Asbury) opportunities to interact with "famous" theologians and teachers who might not book a flight into Kentucky.

THEN throw a spouse into the mix who would rather chew salt than move to Wilmore...

I'll speak for the other half of graduates who *gasp* think about location as much as tradition when it comes to choosing a seminary.

Jonathan Dodrill said...

I'm with Josh, let's start our Wesleyan Seminary in California. No more snow and bitter wind, that's what I'm talking about. But (from another outsider view) sometimes it's good for us Wesleyan kids, who've known only Wesleyan tradition, to get a different view of Christianity. Now that I'm surrounded by Evangelical-bashers, die hard Reformers and Barthian idolizers, I can take a step back and say, "Hey, I really do like Wesley and his Wesleyans, I think we're on to something." -Just something to think about. Schenck, how about pitching this California Seminary idea to HQ? I'd enroll!

Nathan Crawford said...

Coming to the defense of my alma mater, Wilmore is not that bad. Well, yes it is. But, Wilmore is only 20 minutes outside of Lexington, which is a great city. University of Kentucky is right there. Lots of great ethnic places to eat. Good people. Terrible traffic. Also, the area is incredible beautiful, with horses running and mountains and rolling hills. My wife and I, who live in Chicago, sometimes long to get back to that area.

Also, in relation to Urban Church Planting, there is a great church in Lexington. I forget the name, but it is plant of house churches, working with the poor, but non-Wesleyan.

Also, I did get to interact with some great theologians through other theologians there. I had friends who got to talk to Wolfhart Pannenberg, I spent an evening with Roger Olson and Raddy Maddox.

Overall though, I think the Wesleyan church should begin its seminary. The crux for me though is whether it is going to be a place to train theologians to be pastors or whether it will be a place for pastors to come and get some theological backing for what they are doing in ministry. It seems that the Wesleyan Church wants the latter while the Church Universal has said the former.

Ken Schenck said...

We could always do two or three (east coast, west coast)...

Maybe we could take over Azuza (oh wait, I don't think I was supposed to let that out).

Ken Schenck said...

Quick thought for discussion... I think when only a few unusual, sometimes above average Wesleyans went on to seminary, Asbury was a perfect fit. People who went to seminary were leaving the norm and "going off" in more ways than one.

But I feel we're in a slightly different day now, when getting education beyond the bachelor's is becoming much more normal for Wesleyans. It seems to me that Asbury makes far less sense as a focal point of Wesleyan graduate training when this becomes the case (maybe we're not there yet, only in the birth pains). The advanced (with the line of where that occurs having moved significantly) can still "go off" to be above the norm. Indeed, it may be more likely than not that Asbury would still be a place where those above the norm would go instead of the Wesleyan Seminary. And the highest academic tier may want to go to even more advanced places.

But if going to graduate school or seminary is becoming the norm for our denomination, then I think Keith becomes right. There should be a default Wesleyan seminary for the normal Wesleyan. As for those outside the norm, "the other seminaries you have always with you."

Cody Thomas said...

I am graduating from SWU in May 2007. I would be honest to say that if a Wesleyan seminary started this fall, I would be highly reluctant to go there after I graduate because I want degrees that have academic credibility. However, for the majority, high academic credibility in grad and post-grad work requires leaving the "approved seminaries". I'm not bashing Asbury. I think ATS has academic credibility, but not like GC or Princeton has it. I would, however, love to get in on the beginnings of the seminary as faculty someday. If I can make it through a Ph.D. someday, I would love to help get the seminary off the ground. I think over time it could gain academic credibility. For my own grad work though, I want more credibility.

Kevin Wright said...

Three cheers for Ken for bringing up such a pertinent and invigorating topic. If we're not going to merge with the FM's (although I wish we would), then we need to have a seminary of our own. Cody brings up a good point regarding academic credibility, however, every seminary/divinity school has an infant stage of some sorts. The sooner we start, the sooner we can begin building up a strong and credibile institution to train Wesleyan pastors. So let's lay the politiking aside, stop worrying about educational competition, and start moving towards making a Wesleyan seminary a reality (unless, of course, you want to go the route of merger :)

Matt Guthrie said...

Couple of quick responses:

1) Yes, theologically, we have to have more than one choice of seminary. Plus, we don't want to become militant fundamentalists, do we? (see Keith Drury's latest post)

2) What district out there approves and ordains guys basesd on their degrees and from whence they came? I got my M.Div from ATS, but still went thru a pretty seriouse grilling by the DBMD. In fact, our district is actually one that DOESN'T ordain everyone who comes along.

3) I was in no way knocking the academic credibility of ATS, especially Joel Green. I mentioneed him in particular because I did not get the impression he fell into the "mentoring" category that Dongell, Bauer, etc. do. But if you want to compare credentials, Green and Witherington are just a starting point. Look at the list of faculty and their track record. I think you'll surprise yourself.

4) Preparing for the pastorate vs. preparing for a PhD? Why does it have to be either/or? Can you not do the both simultaneously?

5) And I still think a Wesleyan Seminary can be a good thing as long as it one of many options and we all realize the growing pains associated with it.

Aaron Perry said...

Speaking of mentoring, there are two sides to it: one is knowing how to mentor; the other is knowing how to be mentored. It was a wake-up call to me when speaking with an Anglican of heavy Augustinian flavour who (rightly and seriously) considered John Wesley his mentor. How could you be mentored by him? I think the best definition of learning how to be mentored is to engage with someone to become like them in the resources they've made available.

Resources made available are their own time, their thought, their personality, their very self, the resources they considered valuable. A college professor did not mentor me himself as much as facilitate my introduction to his mentors.

That being said, Joel Green was an extremely strong mentor for those who cared to mine the resources he made available: classes, book suggestions, edited materials (e.g., Catalyst), even while publishing and editing quality and original materials in diverse areas.

Ken Schenck said...

I feel bad because I'm feeling like the discussion has at times wandered into "Is Asbury a good seminary?" and "Are the profs good mentors at Asbury?" I tried to make it clear in the original post that I think Asbury is a place that I feel comfortable with--dare I say I'm probably as "liberal" as anyone at Asbury?

The political question we northerners :) are pushing is "Are we grown up enough as a denomination to have a seminary that is focused on the concerns of Wesleyans?" Asbury still loves us (I'm glad to hear) but it's primary focus is on reforming the Methodist Church (no complaints, but not the primary concern of Wesleyans). It just like if someone (Sarah, are you out there?) were to go to NTS--good school, but the focus is on things Nazarene.

So Asbury's great--Cody is no doubt correct that a fledling Wesleyan seminary will not be shutting Asbury's doors. But real denominations have their own seminaries. If we're not a real denomination, let's hook up with one that is.

Summers said...

Hey Ken,

As I have read your post and the many different responses, I have to conclude that there are two main arguments being presented: 1. the current state of Asbury and 2. it is time for The Wesleyan Church to begin its own seminary. Let me first address the state of Asbury.
1. I am only a student (of Asbury Seminary), and do not see the politics involved behind the scenes, so this view is somewhat limited. However, I must state that my experiences at ATS have been more Wesley(an) than that which I experienced, and was exposed to, while attending IWU (maybe that has changed). I am currently having many positive experiences, specifically with the institution’s emphasis on Holiness - both personal and social—(and let me just add that most current Wesleyans are like most current Evangelicals, focusing and living out personal holiness but neglecting social holiness…in my opinion it is not an either/or, but both/and) and on John Wesley. Now this emphasis has trancsended the classroom and into the community, with such classes being offered as “Kingdom, Church, and World” and “Theology of John Wesley”, along with Social Holiness groups meeting on campus and serving throughout our Nation and World. Furthermore, Wesleyan holiness seminars are presented frequently by key and well published Professors (Green, Bauer, Witherington, Gutenson, Walls, and our own Joe Dongell). May I add that Joe Dongell is the best kept secret of The Wesleyan Church. He is currently a mentor of mine, and his love and appreciation for the Church, the Kingdom and the Wesleyan Church transcends throughout his teachings and conversations.
However, I agree that ATS could do a better job job recruiting and winning over the undergrad student…no matter how bright and gifted. They should make more of an attempt to reach our Wesleyan institutions (IWU, SWU, OWU, Houghton, and BBC).
Overall, I believe ATS is preparing me well for a foundation of strong Biblical and Wesley(an) teaching, and is exposing me to the importance of balancing personal and social holiness…something that was underemphasised when I attended IWU (yet I think that may be changing). Furthermore, in agreement with recent ATS grad., Nate Crawford, I know I am receiving an outstanding, competitive, and well-rounded education, and as a restlt I am more appreciative of my Wesleyan Heritage than ever before.
2. As for a “Wesleyan Seminary”…I think this is a great thought, and should be acted on immediately, however, it should be done with the right motives and with the right attitude. I believe as you have already stated, the time is ‘now’ and the fire is hot, and having our own Seminary should be ‘strongfully’ considered.
Nevertheless, criticizing institutions like Asbury without thorough research is not the best way to start the conversation about a Wesleyan denominational seminary. As long as seminaries in the Wesleyan tradition are training people for effective ministry and scholarly (which I believe ATS is doing) we should embrace them, cheer for them, attend them, teach at them, and more importantly minister with them.
Now as this argument will not cease anytime soon, I believe it is one that must be embraced but must be done with the right attitude and wisdom.

Thanks Ken for opening up the conversation about a denominational seminary…keep it going!


side note: Great points Kevin and thanks Nate for giving a current Ph.D and former ATS perspective on the ATS issue.

David Drury said...

Ken - that was a good summarizing line on this entire thread:

"Real denominations have their own seminaries. If we're not a real denomination, let's hook up with one that is."

MMMmmmm. I may quote you on that one.

Of course, in looking at those "real denominations" I'm not sure if I want to become more like them. The way you describe this new seminary leads me to believe that it will not be a run-of-the-mill seminary, however. That would raise my hopes for helping we Wesleyans become more than just a run-of-the-mill denomination.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks Jeremy for an on the ground Wesleyan perspective (Nate and others too). I thought your breakdown of the discussion was spot on!

P.S. Joe D. is the bomb!

David: you can quote me, but at this point I'm not sure if I said it first or your Dad

pk said...

I've been lurking on this post and the ensuing comments since there was one comment. Since I'm in the pre-seminary phase I thought I would let other more informed voices weigh in first.

Here's my thought. I'd be interested to know of more examples of those who went to seminaries not approved by the General Board but ended up pastoring in a Wesleyan Church. Dave Drury is an example of this in my mind...IWU...GC...Wesleyan local churches. Are there others? Many others? I know there are the John & Mandy Drury's and the Kevin Wright's who will hopefully be future leaders in TWC, but are there more who have actually done it? (And I'm not talking about transfers from other denominations.)

If there aren't many more, why is that?
Is it becasue this trend to going to other seminaries is relatively new?
Is it because once somebody goes to a non-approved seminary they statistically end up in other denominations?
Is it because TWC doesn't do a good job of keeping in touch with those students (in essence we let them fall off the map)?

I think these are questions that need to be assessed so that we can stop letting the "heat out the door" as Ken put it. I want to keep the Drurys and Wrights in the Wesleyan Church (and maybe do ministry with them someday?).

Heidi said...

So there are several issues:

1. Ability to minister in an urban environment, which Wilmore is not one. With that said, I agree with Nate; there is ample opportunity to do urban ministry in Lexington. Granted, the ministry is not as vast as one can get in Boston.
With all due respect, Cody and Ken, the question is not then the theological climate at ATS but a cultural one.
2. The question of having an "approved" seminary for students of TWC. I agree with Jo; think it's appropriate to leave things the way they are, and have choice for our Wesleyan graduate students. If we are thinking of starting a seminary in conjunction with IWU or another institution, let's come out and say that.
3. The opportunity to develop and grow for the sake of the kingdom, whether that includes PhD work or not. I am also considering PhD work, and I can say that after going to a top 20 school for my bachelor's and other masters' degree, I have been challenged at Asbury and have grown significantly in my critical thinking skills and personal and social holiness. It's been a great institution to study at.

This does not take into consideration the different opinions out there of whether ATS has settled into mainstream Methodism; it just summarizes what I've been reading. It's late and I am at work. I'm just looking for something to do!

Heidi said...

PK, I like the questions you're raising and I think we do need to be asking these questions. To be fair, the same thing (exodus) happens with Wesleyan students at Asbury.

I think there are many reasons for this that may start another thread!

Heidi said...

It's late; I just scanned all the posts (should do that before posting) and read that people ARE suggesting a denominational seminary and are going so far as to try to link it with IWU. You know, one thought to that is linking with an existent accredited institution might lend it some credibility as it gets started. I'm not opposed to the idea totally, but I do think like has been said that we need to do it for sound kingdom-building reasons.

Keep in mind, as has also already been stated, that with a denominational seminary comes denominationalism. There's a risk here of becoming more rigid, institutionalized, and bureaucratic than we are (which I don't think we are too much, probably b/c I grew up UM). However, I don't know which comes first.

Ken Schenck said...

Paul, I would like to know how many Wesleyan students went somewhere off the map and disappeared. And Heidi's right that many leave the WC even from Asbury. When I was at Asbury it seemed to me like every Wesleyan student had some quarrel with the WC. We were learning so much that was off the map of our church then (e.g., Ash Wednesday). It made me really feel stupid qua Wesleyan and I know I wasn't alone. I would indeed be interested to know how many Wesleyans have converted to something else at Asbury alone.

Maybe it's just because I'm at IWU, but the WC doesn't feel like that anymore to me. I would attribute this new spike in students going to Duke and Princeton to the fact that they are more equipped leaving our colleges than ever. So are we (on the educational scale) grown up enough now to have a seminary, do we need to advance a little more, or do we lack the identity and brain power even yet to do it?

Heidi, I want to REEMPHASIZE that I have no problem with the theology of anyone at Asbury--in fact I'm teaching online for Asbury this semester!

But I have noted anecdotally that several students have not felt drawn to Asbury lately even after visiting the campus. Kerry's statistics have made it clear that more Wesleyans than ever do feel comfortable there. What I am observing (I think) is more the fact that more are going elsewhere than ever before.

It would also be easy to mistake this "pro-Wesleyan" rhetoric as a narrow denominationalism. It could never be that from my mouth. Denominations to me are sociological collections, not corners on truth. I am a Wesleyan by sociology as much as by doctrine. Doctrinally I could just as well be an FM, Nazarene, or Methodist. I don't drink because I am a Wesleyan, not because I have some unjustifiable notion that wine is unbiblical or unchristian. Real denominations have seminaries. If we're not a real denomination we should hook up with one that is.

Matt Guthrie said...

I'm relatively knew to your blog Ken. Do all your posts generate this much response?

"Real denominations have their own seminaries" Really? Would the Willow Creek Association be considered a denomination, despite the word "association" in it's name? If the trend is towards a more decentralized church government, as has been promoted by many people on this blog in other places, then wouldn't a seminary push us in the other direction? As much as a Wesleyan seminary interests me, the idea of taking over another one (or ones) by flooding it with qualified Wesleyan faculty. Don't subversive, grass roots movements accomplish more anyway?

Ken Schenck said...

Matt, I agree that one trajectory of the American church is toward individuation. As the Willow Creek universe cools down, I'm sure it will have (and probably already has) approved places of education.

And I would be different from many in that I don't feel a need to be subversive of places like Princeton and Duke, certainly not of Asbury. P and D are far more conservative today in the broad scheme of things than most think. Princeton is in a Barth resurgence right now and Duke has been hiring Asbury type people of late.

The other trajectory in post-evangelicalism is a regained sense of the church as the community where the proper appropriation of Scripture is hammered out. This is the wing I'm on. Generic colleges and seminaries can find themselves with no fixed point and thus end up with a non-plus evangelicalism. Parts of the emergent church not surprisingly are looking like turn of the past century Harnack type "liberalism" (in the technical sense).

So I don't have a problem with denominational institutions who have a fixed point--one that they then engage with critically and diversely. Rather than everyone believing a generalized same, we have a sociological group that departs from one fixed point.

Not all will have my perspective...

Jonathan Dodrill said...

Quick note to PK about TWC keeping in touch with Wesleyan students at non-Wesleyan approved Seminaries. I've been at Princeton Seminary since August. Besides the little contact I have with old IWU profs (which I initiate), I've had one Wesleyan pastor be in contact with me, my father. I've had no contact from HQ education dept, my DBMD, or any other Wesleyans (except the PTS Wesleyan welcoming party, i.e. John Drury). So maybe TWC isn't doing such a great job of keeping in contact with us "rebels". That's just one point of view.

theajthomas said...

I think seminary affordability is an issue we need to address. I think having our own might make it cheaper but there are several places I can get a good wesleyan education. Just non that I can afford. Part of me thinks having our seminary in Indiana is great because all things wesleyan are already there. Part of me thinks it's stupid for the very same reason.

Anonymous said...

Jon, just curious as I have endured my own seminary prep and DBMD as well as watching others from all denoms, how often did your DBMD touch base with you while at IWU?

Jonathan Dodrill said...

they touched base with me a lot actually. I had annual meetings (I remember driving 3 hours to columbus for a 45 minute meeting, and three hours back in one night) and my DS came at least once a year to hang out with us G.O.D.ers (Greater Ohio District). Most of my Ohio leaders (My D.S. particularly) are very supportive of my seminary choice, but the fact still remains that @ IWU they contacted me a lot, @ PTS, haven't heard a word.

Kevin Wright said...

I, for one, am excited when I see a list like the one above. I'm excited because I know that we'll have people in our denomination who have studied under Ellen Charry, John Oswalt, Joel Green, Richard Hays, David DeSilva, Gordon Fee, and Stanley Hauerwas. This is something that our denominational leaders, scholars, and pastors should be rejoicing over! Our denomination will only be enriched by the various experiences our future ministers encounter in this diverse milieu of schools. I believe that we are a denomination that has much to offer the world and the Church. And if we ever do get a Wesleyan Seminary up and going, we will owe much of it to the graciousness of other denominations who have so willingly welcomed our Wesleyan students into their schools so that Christ's Church might be ever more enriched and emboldened. May we some day be able to show that same type of charity to others.

Ken Schenck said...

P.S. Kevin's referring to the following stats:

David Smith (chair) had Bonita (secretary) organize some data on IWU graduates from 2003-2006. This is a collective best estimate of where our graduates have gone when they've gone:

Asbury 11 (5 Wesleyan)
Fuller 4 (1 Wesleyan)
Gordon Conwell 4 (1 Wesleyan)
Azuza Pacific 3 (1 Wesleyan)
Anderson 2 (non Wesleyan)
Duke 2 (1 Wesleyan)
IWU MAs 2 (2 Wesleyan)
Alliance Theological Seminary 1
Ashland Theological 1 (Wesleyan)
John Brown Seminary 1 (Wesleyan)
NTS 1 (Wesleyan)
Northern Baptist 1 (Baptist)
Princeton 1 (Wesleyan)
Southern Baptist 1 (Baptist)
University of Durham MA 1
Wesley Biblical 1 (Wesleyan)

For next year we have at least 1 Wesleyan probably bound for Princeton.

Totals: 37 went to seminary or related graduate school, 16 were Wesleyans, 31.3% of the Wesleyans went to Asbury (since Jeremy and Andrea transfered, we could count them and bolster the numbers a little).

If this approximation is right, 68.7% of IWU's 2003-2006 Wesleyan graduates did not go to Asbury!. Only 29.7% of our total graduates went to Asbury.

Another interesting stat is that 31.3% of those who went to graduate school were Methodist (5) and of these 60% went to Asbury (3). The other two went to Duke and Azuza.

Keith Drury said...

Several quick thoughts as I pack for Spring break:

1. Ken’s stats from IWU say to me that more IWU students are going to seminary—and I think that’s good.

2. They also show that IWU has more non-Wesleyans graduating even though we have more Wesleyans than ever here.

3. The above posts collectively illustrate the caliber of people in my denomination—I can rest in peace when I leave this stage—they are bright and committed people.. Woah! I love you guys!

David Drury said...

Wow... those stats are interesting, Ken. I think they lend creedence to the previous comment someone made about an potential IWU seminary being far more than just a "Wesleyan" seminary (but then that would defeat much of the original tone of your post, wouldn't it?)

I must comment on the Gordon-Conwell number (I can't help myself - G-Con grads are prone to wordiness as you no doubt have assessed. But at least they are not as prone to worldliness as the graduates of some other unnammed institutions members of my family happened to attend in New Jersey.)


Matt Furr went to G-Con and was Wesleyan when he went in and when he came out. He planted a Wesleyan church in New England then went on staff at a Wesleyan church and only then did a non-denom church come calling.

Phil Shaw currently attends there and was Methodist going in (I suspect he'll be Wesleyan going out... he interned here at our church which is a bit of his "home" now).

And this anecdotal evidence is from what might be one of the more Non-Wesleyan schools on the list (ironically, they thought I was a flaming liberal as a Wesleyan there.)

I do not know the 4th GConn grad personally. I believe he was before me.

I consider myself a "Wesleyan Boomerang" who attended a Non-Wesleyan-Approved-Seminary and then "swung back around." In many ways I needed to go "away" for school having grown up in TWC and attending IWU. And seminary in many ways CONVINCED me to be Wesleyan as long as they'll have me. I'd tear my hair out in those other denominations! As it is our denomination merely turns my hair grey which is not enviable but still better than the other options.


PS: Long live the new Phoebe Palmer School of Theology - Marion campus!

Ken Schenck said...

I'm sure I will crumble under any careful scrutiny :)

The Wesleyan at GC I had in mind was Calvin Johns. Dave Larson was Lutheran (I think he's switched to Boston). You mentioned Phil, and the fourth was Scott Smith who I don't think has a denomination at present. These are all since 2003.

pk said...

Prior conversation has suggested that Asbury's resources would be well spent to "wine and dine" potential students on the Wesleyan undergrad campuses.

Similarly, would TWC's resources be well spent to stay in close communication with its ministerial students, whether they be at Asbury, OWU, Princeton, or a FLAME class? Maybe we're doing better at some of those locations than others?

Anonymous said...

I rarely enter into blog discussions. I think this is my second or third posting ever. However, being a recent grad of ATS and a life-long Wesleyan (and now a pastor)...these topics interest me and I make the following observations:

1. I am thankful that the Apostle Paul wasn't nearly as concerned about geographical location as an earlier blogger seemed to be...we wouldn't even be able to have this discussion if that was the case.

2. I worked in Jeff Greenway's office as a research assistant and was in a small group of 4 guys that met with him in the mornings to pray and share--he has no aspirations of Asbury being a UM seminary

3. Very interesting that most of these discussions are being held by the very people who would not have chosen our hypothetical Wesleyan Seminary... In my quick overview, I note that many if not most of the people posting here are more academic than pastoral in their primary focus...

4. A cutting edge seminary that trains pastors to move the Mission of God forward in a way that people both understand and embrace is an impossible goal in our present church culture. We would be far too concerned with pleasing the accrediting bodies (people who are more concerned with checklists and control than education). Unfortunately, I think we have become far more interested in degrees than in education... More with status than information and experience. Seminary has largely become impractical for pastors who can access the important information and mentoring relationships apart from a seminary that is more focused on program checklists... In any graduate degree, there are still courses that you will pay large $$$ to please the accrediting body and gain little to no insight on how to reach a lost world. If it is ministerial education you are after, you may get a better one away from seminary (of course you wouldn't get the nice peice of paper with the pretty coligraphy on it)...consider long and hard about what you want to obtain from a seminary experience. Don't go to seminary because "that's what people do after college"...there are more exciting ways to spend $40,000 and you may even get more practical education out of a different experience. If your future job requires you to have M.A., M.Div. or Ph.D, then it could be that our hypothetical "Wesleyan Seminary" wouldn't be "prestigious" or "famous" enough anyway. Peace.

Ben said...

Before I post my thoughts I must confess that I have not read through all the comments so if my thoughts seem repetitive please forgive me.

I must also confess that I am not a wesleyan per se. My denominational heritage is Christian and Missionary Alliance but my heart is more wesleyan than anything and I am a recent graduate of Houghton College.

As a current student at Asbury I find your thoughts interesting. I do feel that Asbury's ties are closest to the UM tradition than they are with other Wesleyan denominations and I also concure that on the surface the academics of Asbury seem to be a mere shadow of what I was hoping for. I am by no means Houghton's "best and brightest" but it did take a while to find people here to relate with on intelectual level that I was anticipating, and do a certain degree I am still searching for this level. To be sure some of the profs are excellent and intellectually challenging, but I often feel that many of the students have tunnel vision and don't stretch themselves academically.

I would also like to say that your dreams for a Wesleyan Seminary may not be far from actualized. Houghton College is currently working on developing a Master's program. Although this will not be a seminary and will most likely not be an MDiv degree it does open yet another option for students who want to stay strongly wesleyan while continuing on to graduate studies.

Although a Wesleyan seminary may be helpful for denominational reasons you may also want to be careful. My denomination currently has a seminary of its own and although I do love my denomination I must confess that I barely gave it consideration. It seems to me that the only use the C&MA seminary serves is for those who are only desiring to be C&MA and not gain a reputable degree outside of the C&MA. I would assume Wesleyans would want to avoid this. I am sure it can be done, but it would take some thoughtful initiative.

All this to say that I sympathize with your thoughts about devloping a Wesleyan seminary and think that the greatest danger with denominational seminaries is tunnel-vision.

I also agree that Asbury may have fallen from the prestige it once had.

I am by no means an authority on any of these topics, and these are just some thoughts from from a young seminary student.

Ken Schenck said...

Paul, I've of course thought about the kinds of outcomes that could come from this discussion, all of which would be great:

1. A renewal of Wesleyan attachment to Asbury... revigorate the connection to where we embrace Asbury as our seminary.

2. The creation of a Wesleyan Seminary Association that focuses on Wesleyan seminary students more than on approved seminaries. The goal would be to let Wesleyan students take advantage of a free market economy where our students can get the best that is on offer no matter where.

3. The creation of a Wesleyan seminary where we could at the very least entice a whole bunch who aren't going to seminary anywhere now. We would lift the overall competency of Wesleyan pastors in every category.

Andrew, you're right. A Wesleyan seminary would not be heavy academic but heavy practical ministry. Our intellectuals would still go elsewhere. If I had my way, it would strike the balance we have here at IWU. We train ministers here, not academics. Let it never be said from here, "I didn't learn anything I needed to know to do actual ministry there." I don't think our graduates say that.

But... we also teach on our own time (=overload) "impractical" courses like Latin, New Testament Scholarship Today, Philosophy and Film, etc...

Ben, I wouldn't dare criticize the Asbury profs on brilliance... my only advantage is that I can churn stuff out. Some of them remind me of Fenton Hort, who was absolutely brilliant but whose perfectionism led to little publication. Of course Joel Green and Witherington make us all sick because they can both churn it out and it be world class quality :)

I think I'll go shoot myself now...

Keith Drury said...

I recognize you are probably trying to harness and control this tiger you let out of the cage… but one more thing….

At lunch today Chris bounds thought the figures from IWU were low claiming the ATS catalog gave higher numbers for IWU graduates.
As I was packing for Spring Break I checked the ATS catalog…and here is what I found.

1. There are 21 IWU grads at ATS, 4% of the total student body.

2. IWU is the fourth largest college represented (after Asbury, UK & UCF)

3. Wesleyan is the second highest denomination after Methodist (excluding non-denominational)

4. They list 77 Wesleyans – 4% of the total student body.

5. There are 13 Methodists for each one Wesleyan at ATS.

There is more but that’s a quick summary of a few relevant stats. Here is the link

Ken Schenck said...

Keith, thanks for a more complete rendering. My stats were not total IWU grads but IWU from 2003-2005.

Keith Drury said...

Chris Bounds just observed (why doesn't he post his insiteful observations--am I his secretary???) that we get an idea of the outnumbering ratio best like this:

--A Methodist attending IWU among 250+ Wesleyans is outnumbered 5 to one by Wesleyans.

--A Wesleyan attenind ATS is outnumbered 13 to 1 by Methodists.

It is an interesting observation I'd not thought of. that helps me get the feel of what this conversation is about--it also shows that Kerry is right--Wesleyans get a disproportunate amount of attention given their small proportion of the student body...

If ATS would gave a similar stronger effort to recruiting IWU seniors they might have substantially increased our numbers, but. alas, as we know, IWU has been "taken for granted" so long that Asbury has perhaps passed the point of no return.

Ken Schenck said...

I wouldn't touch that last comment with a ten meter pole (see how modern we are here at IWU :).

For unsuspecting Asburians who need a Drury translation, that's an invitation to wine and dine our students (with non-alcoholic grape juice).

Nathan Crawford said...

I have kept up with this conversation and been challenged by it. I have a few thoughts.

1. A theme that keeps coming up is that academics (read: theology/doctrine/etc.) is not practical and that we need to learn the practical over the academic. Now, I am not sure what it means to be "practical". (I'm in a Ph.D. program and sometimes I'm not sure what it means to do theology). However, if practical means helping people grow deeper in faith, then the most practical people I have come into conctact with are Bud Bence, Larry Wood, Chuck Gutenson, and Mike Pasqaurello. I think it must be remembered that Augustine, Aquinas, Origen, the Cappadocians, and all major theologians for the first 1500 yrs of the church were pastors or in a monastic order. They were the practical people.

2. I think that IWU needs to start some sort of grad program in religion beyond what they already have. The main reason though is not because the denomination needs it (although, it does) but because as IWU expands and becomes more of a traditional university, it is going to need strong grad programs. The strongest program at the school right now is their religion program - why not build on that and make a strong religion graduate degree? I'm not saying MDiv, but something that can be done in residence like a more traditional grad degree.

3. I would like to see a grad. degree based more on an English model of education than an American. I'd like to see students enter a program who then are taken under a prof's wings (even if the student has no academic interest in what the prof does) where the student can be mentored. Also, I'd like to see the students placed in small groups where they can discuss and work through class issues together as a community away from class. It'd be more work, but I think it would be a good way to make sure students are getting the spiritual formation that I think is necessary for doing good theology and pastoral work.

Keith Drury said...

Nathan, you have a great point. Some of the keen interest in graduate programs at IWU is simply a “supply side” phenomenon. Face it we are adding to the undergraduate electives all kind of advanced courses that many seminarys would envy—who gets to take a course in Cyril of Jerusalem, advanced Ecclesiology, Augustine, or a dozen other courses IWU now offers.

Many graduating seniors (especially since Bounds came) now scan the catalogs of seminarys and yawn “been there, done that.” You have placed your finger on a key issue—we just have too much brainpower and creativity among these newer professors and they are producing too many seniors who have been down some pretty seminary-ish lanes already by graduation.

And that’s just the courses—besides these new courses we’ve got these no-credit “reading groups” springing up all over the place with students reading Barth, the Cappadocians, Descartes Kant or Aquinas or doing impressive advanced studies in New Testament…and the new ancient languages professors haven’t even started up their groups.

I think you’ve put your finger on the “supply side” problem we have at IWU—and it may be driving some of this talk about seminary training.

Anonymous said...


I have probably entered this stream (as is my custom) after everyone else is already finished with it. But I thought I would post just for fun since I happened to be thinking "why doesn't IWU have a seminary?" just last week...apparently a lot of others have had these shower stall ideas as well.

I like the idea of a Wesleyan seminary. I do not like at all the idea of attempts at containment. I think the more we try to contain students through any means of control (such as strictly regulated loan/grants) the more we turn our own students off. Ask UM students at ATS how they feel about the ordination process and how much it makes them NOT want to stay. As a product of my generation when anyone tries to control my end point I my first gut reaction is to rebel and run. When someone releases me to pursue my dreams wherever that leads I am much more likely to return...and happily.

The recommendation that we explore WHY students from any institution leave the Wesleyan church would probably be extremely revealing if we were honest with ourselves.

Further, I am for a Wesleyan institution if that institution is kingdom minded understanding that it isn't just our distinctions that need to be brought to the greater church world. I think I am only seconding some of your inclinations there (maybe not). But I would love to see a Wesleyan institution with bright, capable, non-Wesleyan faculty. One of the things which is so attractive to me about Princeton is their somewhat interdenominational atmosphere to which I plan to apply in the near future. So maybe my concern with keeping top students is more of the total culture and feel of TWC's community rather than its lack of higher institutions. I think when we get scared of losing people we lose more. When we realize the benefits of sending people we gain more.

If I wanted a door-opening PhD and there was a choice between an innovative Wesleyan option and a more interdenominational option (whether Wesleyan or not) I would choose the latter. The former can only open limited doors (I can be innovative on my own). The latter by nature of it's relational network is much more appealing. Maybe that is why some students choose to head outside of the Wesleyan world?

But what do I know? Probably next to nothing on this subject, but I am absolutely fascinated by the idea...and I am finally subscribing to your blog. I have bounced around anonymously on it long enough. :) And this was obviously an excellent post.

- Dave Ward

p.s. I remember a set of tight green pants for a different FNL than mentioned above...are those still walking around?

Ken Schenck said...

Hey Dave, thanks for jumping in. I was almost ready to summarize since things have died down :)

I think several would "Amen" or at least "second" (since we don't Amen so much any more :) your thoughts. I don't think the idea of an exclusive seminary where all Wesleyans had to go would survive the first meeting of some planning committee.

On the other hand, the theological/denominational diversity issue is much more of a tight rope, since 66% of religion divisions have to be members of the Wesleyan Church. So even if some day there were some allowance for Wesleyan in theology, we would only have about a third who could even theoretically be from other perspectives.

I think one way to accomplish similar goals is to be intentional about bringing in diverse perspectives for students to engage with. To be honest, there are some issues where I personally wouldn't want diverse faculty perspectives (e.g., women in ministry).

Well, we're getting into hiring already... I'll give a year before this is a real conversation... ;-)

P.S. I have successfully hid those green pants from my wife. Don't tell her but they're tucked away in the garage for the next time I am needed in full nerdity (note the spelling carefully).

kerry kind said...

There are several who posted comments who are either current doctoral students or are planning to be. Great! Maybe this is the chance to get the word out to you. If your plan is to teach at a Wesleyan college or university, then the church would like to help you with some financial support. Currently, it is $7500 over a three year period---not a huge deal, but one piece of a budget package that you may be assembling. Check it out at and click on faculty development. Blessings, Kerry Kind

Brian B said...

Wow, these are some great posts. I will do my best to add to the discussion! As a 2000 graduate of IWU and a 2003 graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, I feel as though I have a fairly recent perspective on the issue. However, I am now realizing I am almost 3 years out of seminary...ahhhh! I'm getting older quickly!
Regarding all the previous 78+ postings about Asbury, etc., I want to address just a few of the points for what it's worth.
1. Courting - At least when I came out of IWU, Asbury did not essentially court me at all. I went there based on a few reasons. My father spoke highly of it (a Free Methodist pastor himself), as did most profs at IWU. They all stated it was well grounded theologically and yet would challenge me not only academically, but practically. And I needed still a lot of the practical ministry experience since I was a religion and philosophy major and not a CM major in undergrad. Geographically speaking, it was a win for me. I could still maintain a moderate driving distance from all that was important to me, i.e. IWU, home, friend's houses. Lastly, ATS had a Wesleyan Seminary Foundation. This was a huge win for me since there was a part time pastor there who would handle all of my loan-grant info for me, provide a social out for me and other Wesleyans, and even provide me with scholarships here and there that were above and beyond the norm that the school would offer. Another benefit is that Steve would provide ample networking opportunities with school, pastoral, and denominational "big whigs." All of these benefits made ATS a no-brainer for me at the time.
2. ATS is not home like it used to - I know for me, I cannot speak to the "used to" part but here again I can speak to my experience.
I always felt as though I was part of the Wesleyan "underground" while there. We were vastly outnumbered by the Methodists and everything really seemed to cater to them and their needs for sure, as they were the majority.
Regarding a Wesleyan denominational seminary and the door being open to that, I am all for it and would argue it should be called Drury Theological Seminary - ha! (ok that was for you Dave). In all seriousness though, I would love to see that happen. I think it would only help to place us more on the map within academic circles, would help in promoting The Wesleyan Church in general, and would aid in retention of our Wesleyan students that are going elsewhere to seminary. All said, I would love to see a seminary occur at some point, and even sooner than later.

Ken Schenck said...

Hey Brian, thanks for weighing in! I know a lot of people just passed reading all these when it got so long. That means you get years off of purgatory for reading through the whole thing. It also means that very few other than me may read your comments (which since they support my case, I wish could be featured :)

Despite Asbury's greatness, I think a Wesleyan seminary's going to happen! Drury Theological Seminary wouldn't be too far off... But I also like Wesleyan International Seminary, that I think Dave may have suggested as well.

Brian B said...

Ken, I am so glad I get years off in purgatory now...what a relief! And yes, I must admit I do like Wesleyan International Seminary as well...In general, the courting aspect was what bothered me the most about ATS when I was first attending. I felt as though the Nazarenes recruited me harder than anyone else. They even came and spoke to us in class (that was when the Prince of Egypt film came out) and answered questions, etc. I just wonder how much they really desired for me, as a Wesleyan, to be there...but in the end they obviously still won out, but it was more on reputation and location than a personal connection, which I feel a Wesleyan seminary could provide. This personal aspect is so huge, especially coming out of IWU where the profs invest so much of their personal time in you.