October 2013 – The Four-Year Milestone (Wayne Schmidt)

This month began with a celebration and a dedication.

A celebration of our 4th “birthday” or “anniversary” as a Seminary.  We held our first cohort in August of 2009.  Here’s a snapshot of how we’ve grown in enrollment:

August:           2010               2011               2012               2013

Students:        187                 243                 278                 401

Of the 401 students enrolled in August of 2013, 41% are Wesleyan with 59% coming from 42 other denominational groups (including nondenominational).  68% of the students are male and 32% female.  29% identify themselves as ethnic minority.  They are residents of 40 different states, and 28 of them are international.

That places Wesley Seminary at IWU in the top 15% of student enrollment in member institutions of the Association of Theological Schools.  Numbers themselves are not the whole story, but they do answer a question that Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, raised at the Seminary facility dedication – “With most Seminaries experiencing declining enrollment, why would IWU and The Wesleyan Church choose 4 years ago to start a Seminary?”

The answer?  Those who founded the Seminary believed there needed to be a different model – one that is

  • affordable and accessible
  • geared to those already in ministry (they stay in and apply what they learn in their ministry context)
  • practical, not only because the assignments are relevant to their everyday ministry but because the disciplines (Bible, theology, history) are integrated with the practices of ministry
  • spiritually formative, as they journey with a small group of fellow students in reflection and formation throughout their time in Seminary

This approach to Seminary is serving students from 22 to 79 years of age, with the average age being 40.  There is such richness to intergenerational learning with leaders in different seasons of ministry.

At the dedication of our new facility on October 3 a standing-room-only crowd gathered to

  • be welcomed by Academic Dean Ken Schenck, with Russ Gunsalus and Keith Drury standing with him – the three principal designers of the Seminary’s unique approach.
  • receive an update from Seminary Board Chair Stan Hoover, who also prayed for our gathering.
  • hear from IWU President David Wright, who has been a consistent supporter of the maximization of the Seminary’s mission.
  • get a glimpse of the life of Seminary student Johanna Rugh, who takes classes in both the Spanish and English versions of the Masters of Divinity
  • be led in a litany of dedication by General Superintendent Jo Anne Lyon and the full-time faculty of the Seminary, with Dr. Lyon then praying for the future of the Seminary.
  •  move from the indoor common space to the outdoor amphitheatre to receive a benediction in song from the 80-voice IWU chorale.

Our new facility is not only beautiful and functional, but “tells a story” of the vision and values of the Seminary.  To take a tour is to experience visually what we seek to always be true missionally of our Seminary.

While the facility is truly a gift, we were also reminded that our Seminary is not limited to a location at Washington & 45th in Marion, Indiana.  In June of this year we launched the M.A. in Ministry Leadership with intensives meeting at 12Stone Church in Atlanta, Georgia – our first “Teaching Church partnership” nationally.  In August we launched the Spanish Masters of Divinity in Bogota, Colombia – our first international partnership with the Church globally.  In obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and in the spirit of John Wesley, “the world is our parish.”

But as captured in the responses of the litany of dedication, we were not only presenting a facility but presenting ourselves:

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves to make disciples of all nations.

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves knowing the triune God.

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves to the communication of the Gospel.

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves to prayer.

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves to edify the Church and one another.

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves to understanding and obeying God’s Word.

All:  We dedicate this place, and ourselves to practice hospitality.

A celebration and dedication that leads to a presentation of ourselves – now that is “true worship” (Romans 12:1)

  • Jose F Flores

    I am very proud to be part of Wesley Seminary. As the programs are practical, even a retired minister can benefit of what is taught in this Seminary. I have been talking about the Seminary everywhere. I hope we continue to grow as fast as possible having the best retention in the country. God bless everyone who is part of Wesley Seminary.