The first is that there are moments of opportunity. They come and go. If you're at the right place at the right time and have the courage to act, great things can happen. You can call them God-moments. You can call them kairos moments. I'm a Wesleyan. I don't think God always manipulates these. But I believe he does sometimes.
What was the key moment in the founding of Wesley Seminary? IWU had considered starting a seminary several times for the Wesleyan Church in both the 80s and 90s. It came somewhat close in the late 90s, with a task force that actually drafted a proposal. Each time, the question of money seems to have derailed it. I might also add that Asbury Seminary had served the denomination so well over the years that many wondered whether it was really worth it to go to such an effort. Did we even have the resources as a denomination?
So what was the key moment that led to the start of a seminary? Here are some of my thoughts:
- An undergraduate religion faculty and graduate ministry faculty (basically, Russ Gunsalus and Bob Whitesel) who were enthusiastic about starting a seminary.
- The financial stability of IWU in the early 2000s, coupled with a new President (Henry Smith) who came to see the Seminary as a matter of mission.
- A somewhat cooling of the Wesleyan Church's closeness with Asbury. I personally believe that if Jeff Greenway had remained president, Wesley Seminary probably wouldn't exist.
- A potential relationship between IWU and another seminary that fell through. Keith Drury raised the question, "If we only have one seminary card to play in the next 10 years, how do we want to play it?" This situation was the trigger.
The moment might easily have passed. A year or two later, President Smith might have been deep into other projects. This moment came just as he was about to become president. President Greenway of Asbury had been reaching out to Wesleyans when his attention was diverted. If he had continued, there might not have been any felt need.
So that's my first take-away. There are moments of opportunity. When they come, you either act or they pass you by. Some people never get these moments. Others miss them because they do not discern the kairos moment.