Saturday, January 10, 2009

IWU Accredited to Offer Master of Divinity Degree!

Originally posted January 8, 2009

We received notification over Christmas break that we are now officially accredited as an institution to offer the MDIV degree at Indiana Wesleyan University. This is exciting to say the least, as we have been designing and preparing for several years now!

Pray for the President and Board of IWU this April as they make decisions on how to configure the degree within the university. There is an excellent chance that it will be housed within a seminary (under the overall umbrella of the university of course) with a dedicated building on the south side of campus. It is hard to imagine how it wouldn't turn out this way.

Regardless of the final decisions on those matters, the MDIV degree will be available for its first cohorts this Fall, starting in August. We have planned for 30 students--one online cohort and one onsite cohort. But I anticipate we will have so much interest we will allow for at least 15 more onsite if necessary. Final admission materials should be available later this month so be contacting the Graduate Ministry department as soon as possible if you are interested.

If you have a PhD or DMin in a field of practical theology, especially fields like evangelism, church multiplication, community development, service, discipleship, etc... we will be making two hires for next year, then at least two the following year, and so forth. We're wanting to hire major players in the practice of ministry, not just nerds like me.

I anticipate that Russ Gunsalus and I will probably be involved with the seminary/MDIV next year in some way (although nothing is certain at this point). Bob Whitesel will also almost certainly be one of our professors. Of course you should expect to see current undergraduate faculty teaching the odd course now and then as well, people like Chris Bounds.

Because we are not starting with existing academic turf, because we all recognize that ministerial education is about training ministers--not about training bible scholars or theologians proper or church historian experts--we have designed a truly revolutionary program that is what ministers want and need, rather than what you usually get at a seminary. In other words, it isn't a program for professors to do their thing whether it is useful in ministry or not.

If you want to go on to get a doctorate in Bible, theology, or church history, go somewhere else for now. We train ministers.

Here are our distictives:

Missional: ... focused on serving the kingdom and transforming the world both near and far, ministering to whole persons and addressing world concerns.

Accessible: You don't need to leave your ministry to retool or deepen your skills and knowledge. The MDIV will be conveniently available online and onsite, will be highly affordable (Lord willing), and will welcome ministers of any culture, gender, race, or class.

The onsite version will probably require one full day a week--from 9 to 5, probably Tuesday in the Fall. You could thus easily drive in from anywhere in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, or Illinois. You'll come to campus for two weeks in the summers and graduate in 4 years. One more course a semester and you'd be able to finish in 3 years (accelerated).

In Ministry: You take courses as you do ministry, taking your church with you to seminary. You get immediate pay off and insight where you need it most. If you are not at least doing 20 hours a week in a church (the precise amount is being discussed), we'll work with you to find a church, which of course should be near where you live.

The MDIV is for pastors and for people involved in church ministry. If you are a parachurch person or a layperson who wants to tool up in specific areas, an MA is more appropriate and we welcome suggestions for specialized MA's you think we should design and add to our program. One prognosticator among us pictures a seminary with far more MA degrees and students than MDIV students!

Application Oriented: The MDIV curriculum is shaped by the nitty-gritty goals and problems of ministry rather than the ivory tower concerns of the academy. We present theory in the service of the practice of ministry by way of adult education models.

Spiritually Formative: A process of personal and spiritual change follows the student through the degree, leading toward increased wisdom, self-understanding, holiness, and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. This is not the myopic "go read your Bible and pray," highly individualistic Western spiritual formation program. We're Wesleyan here. We're interested in real change with a corporate twist.

Integrative: Other MDIV programs typically present Bible, theology, and Christian history in isolation from courses like preaching, worship, and discipleship. All the praxis courses of our MDIV involve problem based learning that involves a team of biblical, theological-historical, and practical experts. You'll do pastoral theology relevant to your on the ground ministry in every praxis course.

Residential Requirement
The default expectation of the MDIV program will likely be to take at least 18 credit hours of the degree in intensive onsite courses. The student could then take the remainder of the program (57 credit hours) either online or onsite. Intensive courses will likely be offered around a weekend of yearly convocation, during which all students and faculty in the program come to campus to worship and fellowship.

The Curriculum
Here's the normal curriculum:

1. Pastor, Church, and World (3 hour onsite intensive)

2. Cultural Contexts of Ministry (3 hour onsite intensive)

Fall Semester 1
3. Missional Christianity (6 hours onsite or online)

4. Spiritual Formation 1: Change and Transformation (1 hour onsite or online)

Spring Semester 1
5. Christian Leadership (6 hours onsite or online)

6. Spiritual Formation 2: Self Awareness and Appraisal (1 hour onsite or online)

Summer 2
7. The Bible as Christian Scripture (3 hour onsite intensive)

8. Introduction to Christian Theology (3 hour onsite intensive)

Fall Semester 2
9. Congregational Relationships (6 hours onsite or online)

10 Spiritual Formation 3: Goal Setting and Accountability (1 hour onsite or online)

Spring Semester 2
11. Christian Worship (6 hours onsite or online)

12. Spiritual Formation 4: Mentoring and Spiritual Direction (1 hour onsite or online)

Summer 3
13. Global Christian History (3 hour onsite intensive)

14. Elective (3 hours online or onsite)

Fall Semester 3
15. Congregational Spiritual Formation (6 hours onsite or online)

16. Spiritual Formation 5: Personal and Corporate Disciplines (1 hour onsite or online)

Spring Semester 3
17. Christian Proclamation (6 hours onsite or online)

18. Spiritual Formation 6: Recovery and Deliverance (1 hour onsite or online)

Summer 4
19. Integration Capstone (3 hour onsite intensive)

20. 12 additional hours of electives (or concentration in leadership or youth ministry, 15 total hours of electives)

It's a 75 hour MDIV, with 15 hours of electives. It is likely that you would be able to transfer in up to 27 hours of prior graduate courses, including up to half the hours of a completed MA.

God will get the glory for any success, but let me just say that this is BIG. If God enables us, this will end up being, in my opinion, one of the best MDIV's that has ever existed. Pray for us as we continue the writing process this semester and summer.

This will be a heavily "outcomed" program. Individual professors obviously will get to teach electives (if it's something students will sign up for! no esoteric courses you can't attract students to take). But there will be carefully set out objectives for these courses to where a professor can't just blab about their stuff. In fact, blabbing is not an effective teaching method and shouldn't be more than about a third of the time. Courses will be more about action research in your local church, and we will use tested adult learning methods.

Pray for us!


Keith Drury said...


It has been a looooong journey to this point with thousands of hours labor..but it is goona be worth it all!

Anonymous said...

I am excited! This looks great!

John C. Poirier said...


Congratulations on getting this program going, but I have one concern: I see you only require one class in Bible. Is that for real? Couldn't you have sacrificed some of the leadership and "practical" ministry stuff to give your students some more grounding in the Bible? (IIRC, the first grad school I attended required at least *seven* classes in Bible!)

Can I assume that you didn't have much say in the curriculum?

Ken Schenck said...

There is more Bible here than meets the eye. Take the Missional Christianity course. 1-2 hours of the 6 will be engagement with the biblical text in relation to the topics of evangelism, church multiplication, and service.

Each praxis course will also involve an iconic pastoral theology process, the second stage of which will involve exegetical work on biblical passages throughout the canon relevant to an actual situation in your church. This exegetical work will get its feedback not from the facilitator of the course but from an Old or New Testament scholar.

So there will be 12-15 hours worth of Bible out of the 75 or about 20% of the overall curriculm. Of course a person can take as much Bible as they want in the electives.

Part of the rationale here is that the way Bible is done at seminary doesn't really do what everyone thinks it does. For example, what pastors preach is, in practice, much more theology loosely linked to the biblical text than theology derived from the biblical text. It's a game we play.

And to some extent, we have to play the game because the biblical material isn't directly addressed to us. To connect it and "make it speak" we have to engage in a spiritual art that is quite distinct from exegesis, in my view.

Most evangelical seminary Bible classes are much more about critical issues and the pet projects of professors than anything the vast majority of pastors will actually use in ministry. Most seminary students have no sense of any connection at all between the massive amounts of Bible they took and their preaching class.

Also, if I am involved with this as a seminary, I hope that we will soon be able to develop an MA in New Testament that, aside from some core competencies, functions a bit on an OxBridge model where each professor has 3 mentees who set their own 48 hour program of study, one on one. This would be hard core biblical studies, just as the MDIV is hard core practical.

The last thing is of course a dream...

John C. Poirier said...

Thanks for the clarification, Ken. Still, going by course titles, you have to admit that it *looks* unbalanced.

I, for one, think that ministerial students *should* take a smattering of hardcore Bible courses. If they don't understand the importance of those courses, then let the professor explain it to them. I've met too many seminary-educated pastors whose "misadventures" with the Bible could have been avoided with a less praxis-driven approach.

Ken Schenck said...

I might add that the praxis courses are being team written, especially the online versions whose curriculum is set in stone rather than created by individual professors.

So in the same room designing the content and assignments for the Missional Christianity course were Keith Drury, Norm Wilson, Russ Gunsalus, David Smith, and Ken Schenck, with a cameo at the retreat center by Bob Whitesel. The leadership course is currently in its phase 1 design, with Bob Whitesel as lead writer and "stitcher," Steve Lennox as Bible content generator, Chris Bounds as theology content generator, Bud Bence as church history content generator.

We will meet in an all day confab in mid-March to stitch the pieces together, then Bob will craft and fill out the skeleton. It will go back through a feedback loop with others.

In short, the Bible and such that is in these courses is very intentionally laid out. It is not at the complete perogative or expertise of the person facilitating the course.

Pat Hannon said...

Great news! Thanks for all your work on this!

The integrated and contextual nature of this program will make it something special.

Mark Schnell said...

As someone who has been a pastor for most of my adult life and is now in seminary full time, I can't even describe how excited I am about this. Of course, I mean I am excited for others that will gain the benefit of this program, it comes too late for me. ;-(

The approach your team is using is right on the money and is going have a massive impact on our denomination, but more importantly, the wider church. Not only will this program train ministers from all different denominations but it will serve as a model for other schools. I say, praise God!!

I have already been telling people about this and I will really spread the word now!

Kevin Wright said...

"Because we are not starting with existing academic turf, because we all recognize that ministerial education is about training ministers--not about training bible scholars or theologians proper or church historian experts"

At the risk of sounding like an elitist, I would like you to parse this statement out a little. One reading would suggest that you're setting up a dichotomy between seminaries that emphasize the importance of Biblical scholarship, theologians proper, or church historian experts, and those that produce ministers. While there are certainly some seminaries/divinity schools (i.e. Univ. of Chicago) whose MDiv degree probably isn't the most pastorally oriented, there are some schools that do produce phenomenal scholars who are also phenomenal pastors, and this production is not a coincidence.

I obviously was not a part of any of the conversations surrounding this new degree but it seems like the entire project is riding on some shaky assumptions.

Nathan Crawford said...


I'm feel the same "unease" with this you do. I am all for a school (div school or seminary or university) whose goal it is to produce ministers. Here, though, it seems that there is a little too much ease with which ministers are produced (or formed). Practical theology is an incredibly difficult task, bringing together the Christian fact (Bible, theology, history) and an understanding of a culture so that the minister can articulate an answer to the broader culture. Too many times, though, it seems that ministers produced from practically oriented places are light on the Christian fact and really have no idea of what the broader society is and so are lost on both ends. BTW, I offer this as someone who graduated from Asbury and dealt with many people there who were only interested in application, but had nothing to apply and did not know what to apply it to.

However, in looking at this, I think potential is there to really put together a seminary that forms ministers in a very Christian way - the explicit spiritual formation courses are a great idea to put alongside with the praxis oriented courses.

Ken Schenck said...

The comment on academic turf means that you could hardly get an existing seminary to integrate in the way we have. Specialists in each discipline would scarcely give up their piece of the pie, meaning their number of required credit hours, to integrate in the way we have.

The qualifiers Bible "scholar," theologian "proper," and church history "expert" were meant to protect against any thought that I was suggesting that these are not important disciplines for a pastor to be competent in. The goal is to prioritize Scripture, theology, and church history, to engage them in the context of ministry rather than primarily as independent ends-in-themselves. They are valuable as ends-in-themselves! But that shouldn't be the primary focus on them in an MDIV.

An MDIV is not oriented around being a stepping stone to a PhD in any of these disciplines. It can be, but that should not be its orientation. A person who expects primarily to go on to get a PhD in one of these disciplines and then to teach rather than serve in the church should get an MA in the relevant discipline and then go on for the PhD.

We are addressing the longstanding imbalance in seminary education toward historical-critical biblical interpretation and abstract theology. Over half of the typical seminary education is never connected to the actual things a minister does. Traditional seminary education is on the rocks, some say dead, and some studies suggest that there is a correlation between seminary education and diminished spirituality.

Assuming that the curriculum keeps on track, I would expect comparable graduates of our program to be better equipped for ministry in the church than graduates of the vast majority of seminaries in existence.

Ken Schenck said...

Nathan, I would say that your description of people only interested in application who have nothing to apply is precisely a symptom of the problem we are trying to address in this curriculum. Because Bible, theology, and church history are taught as self-standing entities that are not connected intentionally in the curriculum to ministry, students often don't see their relevance. Foundational material is left at the door when you reach the practical courses.

I'm excited about the iconic pastoral theology process that will be a part of each of the six praxis courses. In the first couple weeks of the course, students will pick a situation in their church related to the course, say leadership. Then they will do mini-exegesis on relevant passages throughout the canon, using standard historical cultural interpretive method, followed by a look at the reception history of those passages. This work will then get feedback from a biblical scholar.

Then they will explore the crisis from a theological perspective, running it through the rule of faith and the law of love in dialog with Christian history. This work will then get feedback from a theologian or church historian.

At the end of the course they will turn in their full pastoral response to the situation with a fully integrated pastoral theology behind it.

In other words, we are expecting that our graduates will be better equipped to use the Bible, theology, and church history in ministry than graduates of programs requiring as much as 40 or 50 hours of self-standing Bible and theology courses.

Jennie-Joy said...

Hoping that the whole thing is plugged into the vine, you know? Without that, it'll do a whole lot of nothing...

I think it looks absolutely fabulous. :)

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Does this have any connection to the "adult research learning" program?

Ken Schenck said...

Absolutely, Jeannie!

Angie, not sure what you mean by the adult research program.

John C. Poirier said...

I wish you well with your program, but I still think that teaching the Bible from a strictly praxis-oriented perspective is a big, big mistake.

If your graduates don't have sound exegetical skills (including a basic knowledge of Greek and Hebrew), how will they be able to discern the truth of what they read? How will they know what's sound exegesis and what's a scholarly-sounding smokescreen? In short, what's to protect them from what they'll read in the next Brian McLaren book? Exegetical skills are the *only thing* that will save your graduates from the winds of doctrine.

Nathan Crawford said...

Just to respond, I think that this type of MDiv program has an incredible ability to do practical theology the way I'm describing and the way you describe it would be something I'd be very happy to recommend to peopld.

And, just to add a little more creedence to what you are doing, I notice that theological work (proper, whatever that means) is moving in this direction.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

The university has sanctioned an adult learning program, which I imagine will be research oriented under the CAS...and this praxis orientation would "fit" the paradigm in engaging "culture" for the purposes of education...and education's education...

In light of the afore mentioned, it seems misguided to send ministers out into a world of who knows what and just tell them basically, survive! But, I guess it is for the "greater good"? After all, we should not be turned "inward", and thrusting someone out into the "pit" would surely make them like Daniel:)! People who believe this way do severe injustice and damage to others, because God doesn't always behave like he is portrayed in the Bible, and "the Daniels" are slaughtered under their "faith banner"....but someone's commitment would be in line with "sanctification" because we should be presenting our bodies a living sacrifice....This is misguided, as well....

Therefore, if the MDiv. program is to seek to rectify these misconceptions, then go for it! If not, then, I'm afraid, it will only further presumptive ignorance (and I am not speaking here from an attitude of superiority!)...but I am speaking from experience, what I do know, and what I do least for now....

Angie Van De Merwe said...

In light of some of the things I have been reading and thinking on, pietism and chariamatics are like those who have not law (reason), as they are a law unto themselves...the law brings order, just as reason does. Reason cannot be the sole arbitrator of truth, because absolute truth is unknowable by human minds. But, without reason, we do not have truth at all, nor any gauge for truth...thus, our authority cannot be based on "sola scriptura", as this is based on "holy spirit" teaching...whereas, reason is the ONLY aspect of man which maintains proper order...tradition, is based on reason, but is still within a context, so it is still partial....

Ken Schenck said...

John, the question of whole book or whole unit exegetical study for its own sake is a valid one. We will address it some in the Bible as Christian Scripture course, and they will do mini-versions of it in their pastoral theology work. I haven't given up doing some of it as the Bible part of the praxis courses too (e.g., some exegetical work in the Great Commission in the Missional Christianity course).

What I am hoping for in our students' developing use of the Bible (and this reflects my hermeneutic and what I think is the predominant hermeneutic of the MDIV designers) is what I am calling a "thick interpretation" of the biblical text.

By "thick interpretation" I mean an interpretation whose primary and surface use of the text is situated atop the reception of the Bible within Christendom. It is thus a theological reading of the text that not only applies Scripture but hears Scripture through the lens of common Christian faith.

But, giving depth, profundity, and gravity to the theological reading and use of Scripture is varying degrees of knowledge of what has come before--knowledge of alternative readings in the history of the church, knowledge of the various options in biblical scholarship about the original meaning of the text (which would include knowledge of Greek and Hebrew) and critical issues.

The problem with seminary education is that it reverses the order of priority. It puts the least important layers of interpretation on the top and the most important layers on the bottom. It is far more important for a pastor to be able to preach Christ's incarnation via the Philippian hymn than to know the scholarly debate over whether morphe theou refers to Christ as Adam or Christ as Shekinah or Christ as Son of God...

I think you will disagree here, and there is indeed a debate to be had. At the same time, I believe that this is where hermeneutics is rightly going and I think it will resonate with a lot of ministers and laypeople.

P.S. Kevin, even Richard Hays has backed off somewhat apparently on thinking that the original meaning must be critically involved in the theological use of Scripture. My sympathies are probably very similar to where he is at right now.

John C. Poirier said...

You're right, Ken. I disagree.

We could go on, but, judging from your apparent acceptance of "theological interpretation" [spit], my argument with you will inevitably lead out in many other directions. (I'm always game for that argument, but I doubt that your celebratory post on the new M.Div. program is the place.)

Ken Schenck said...

I do appreciate your feedback... and I had noticed that you had some sort of debate with Michael Gorman somewhere...

Blessings to you!

Brian Bradford said...

Superb! Exciting! Progressive and Proactive! Way to go Ken and Coach and others who have worked so hard on seeing this come someone who is currently writing his dissertation on "relational church leadership," the seminary described here is one I wish I could have attended coming right out of college and one that is desperately needed in the church today, especially in ecclesiastical leadership circles.

Randy said...

Found your blog today and was excited to read about your new M.Div. program.

If I were at a point that I was ready to teach full-time -- and if I were in the Wesleyan Church :-) I'm in the UMC -- that sounds like the kind of program I'd be interested in this program!


Kevin Wright said...

I wish you well with this degree. My only hope is that your students, while engaged in such a praxis-driven program, will not simply delve into the box of cereal looking for the prize, but rather take the time to savor every bite. Sometimes the things we come across do not reveal their worth until much farther down the road but are worth tucking away just the same.

Elizabeth Glass-Turner said...

This is great news for Wesleyan clergy.

I have a question: I notice an absence of reference to Bud Bence, someone who, upon reflection, I would've expected to see involved at various levels of the process, and a person for whom, along with yourself, Coach Drury and others, I have a deep well of respect. Will he be a part of the seminary education?

Ken Schenck said...

Hey Bitty, Bud was on the Seminary Task Force appointed by the President last year. He wasn't initially involved quite as much in the curriculum writing at the beginning because he was acting Vice President at the time and very busy. Now that he's back in the division he is helping generate church history material for the leadership course, which is currently under design...

He is out of this world!

Anonymous said...

Bryan Purvis wrote:

This is something to be so thankful for and a long time coming! Thanks to all who have worked to make this happen. While I understand some of the push back to the way this program is set up; it is only in the beginning stages and will continue to be molded by the Spirit's leading as time passes.
Ken I would suggest (not that I am biased) having a M.A. in Military Chaplaincy/Counseling. As a Navy Chaplain, military ministry is so different yet much the same as church ministry. The Wesleyan Church has such a great reputation with the armed forces.

Phil Strahm said...

Very interesting and thanks for the update and replying to all the comments.

I have been browsing seminaries for a nice balance of praxis and sound Bible/Theology. I haven't found to many that fit both criteria...but I am looking hard and even stumbled upon

dan said...

1.) I'm an MA Biblical Studies student at Asbury. I'm taking this degree with the intent of going back into the local church - a sort of bridge between the academic world and the local church. So I live in the tension of "does this really matter" everyday. I think the way you've described your goals seems to fit in with this, I'm glad I'm not alone
2.) what type of student is this being "marketed" (I couldn't think of a better word so I just used that)? as this degree seems to imply at least a background in a religous field. (am I wrong with this?)
3.) Would this degree meet the requirements for Ordination in the Wesleyan Church?

Ken Schenck said...

2) We have three types of students primarily in mind--

a) ministers in the field who have reached the point in ministry where they feel like they need more. They're running out of biblical and theological steam in their preaching. They're facing issues they want to retool for.

b) second career pastors who have been doing something else but don't have time to go live somewhere while they transition. "It's my ministry and I need it now" :-)

c) people who have just graduated from college who want to begin their ministry with a heavy dose of mentoring and on the job training as they enter the sometimes lonely and scary world of ministry.

d) everyone else :-)

3) Certainly with IWU's undergraduate division within walking distance, a person would be able to meet ordination requirements for the Wesleyan Church. However, simply getting the MDIV degree would not satisfy all the requirements for ordination. For example, we are not requiring any Baptist takers we have to study Wesleyan Church history. :-)

P.S. I'm serious about Baptists. We have a lot of Baptists at IWU and we are very friendly to them, despite my occasional rhetoric here :-)

Bryan, good suggestion... I'll pass it on to Russ. Phil, all good Providence in your search!

Pastor Al said...

How does this new model affect the Master in Ministerial Arts? How do these two programs compare? Why would this MDiv be an appropriate platform for a Doctorate?

As you can guess, I am enrolled in the present masters program. Congradulations for setting up what appears as a more formative program. Perhaps we were a transition model.

Ken Schenck said...

Al, up to 27 hours of an uncompleted IWU MA can count directly toward the 75 hour MDIV. If a person has finished their MA, then 18 hours of the program can count toward the MDIV.

The MDIV would be an appropropriate launching pad for a DMin, but not for a PhD in a field like Bible or theology.

36 hour MAs actually seem to be on the rise, especially the ones that target specific skill sets. Our current two concentrations are an example of this trend. However, having a broader base of full time faculty will likely make it possible for us to deepen and extend them considerably.

Thanks for the questions, Al!