Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University and The Wesleyan Church are seeing shared fruits from the first 10 years of having a dedicated TWC seminary.
Association of Theological Schools (ATS) data shows that from 1997 to 2009 — the year Wesley Seminary launched — around 165 Wesleyans annually self-identified as attending an ATS seminary. Beginning in 2010, the annual number of Wesleyans attending an ATS school doubled, with half consistently being enrolled at Wesley Seminary.
This past year, 360 Wesleyans self-identified as attending an ATS seminary; 180 were enrolled at Wesley Seminary. Dr. Colleen Derr, Wesley Seminary president, said this data indicates that the seminary has successfully created an education pathway for Wesleyan students.
“This data means we are supporting the denomination’s vision to equip and empower the Kingdom Force,” Derr said. “Because we exist, this population of Wesleyans now has access to seminary training.”
Wesley Seminary’s mission is to equip Christian leaders for missional ministry, locally and globally. It was designed with the atypical seminary student in mind, such as students who are already engaged in ministry or students whose life circumstances prevent them from learning in a traditional seminary setting. Although Wesley Seminary is located in Marion, Indiana, its online learning format means it can make a seminary education accessible to students all over the world.
Because of this unique setup, Derr said Wesley is creating an avenue for more Wesleyans to pursue graduate theological education. “Wesley brings seminary to you while you are serving in ministry and wherever life finds you.”
Students serve in a variety of ministry contexts, from vocational to marketplace, and are in various life stages. Their vocations range from pastors and missionaries to business leaders and health care professionals. Students are equipped to intentionally pursue their own spiritual formation and apply what they are learning to their ministries.
Seminary students Joshua and Gloria Azikiwe are serving in Kenya. They wanted an education that was practical and applicable to their lives and experiences in ministry.
“Wesley Seminary has given us just that and more. We have been so blessed to also interact across cultures, engage diverse perspectives, build friendships and grow in ways we never had envisioned in our knowledge of God, his work of grace in us and his transforming power through us,” Gloria said.
Dr. Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, said the seminary has succeeded at anticipating the needs of the denomination and escalating the desire for Wesleyans to pursue a seminary education.
“The seminary is so in tune with The Wesleyan Church that it’s able to customize its curriculum and partner with local churches to accelerate the mission of the Church.
“Another amazing blessing Wesley Seminary has helped bring about is the increased number of Wesleyans attending seminary,” said Schmidt. “Wesley Seminary didn’t just redistribute the same pool of students, it doubled it.
Thanks be to God for the multiplication occurring within our training and equipping of women and men called to lead! Each is a critical part of the Kingdom Force we need to become in order to close the Gospel Gap.”
Derr said Wesley Seminary has been blessed by the support of The Wesleyan Church. The relationship has been mutually beneficial.
“It is our privilege to serve as The Wesleyan Church’s only seminary, partnering with the denomination to achieve her vision of transforming lives, churches and communities through the hope and holiness of Jesus Christ.”