The Graduate Student Theological Seminar (GSTS) is a cooperative event for The Wesleyan Church and the Free Methodist Church USA to gather graduate students in Old Testament, New Testament, ministry, theology, philosophy and more. This seminar provides an opportunity for paper presentations, networking, mutual encouragement and fellowship among doctoral students and theology faculty from Free Methodist and Wesleyan educational institutions.

GSTS began as a way to support Wesleyan and Free Methodist doctoral students studying at non-Wesleyan institutions and to help them remain connected with their respective denominations. GSTS has now broadened to include those anticipating or strongly considering doctoral study and faculty at Wesleyan and Free Methodist institutions.

“Attending GSTS was a great opportunity to be inspired by a diverse range of papers and presentations from peers and current professors,” said Logan Patriquin, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) student at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana. “I am grateful to be a part of a denomination that is committed to investing in graduate student success and fostering a strong academic community.”

Held on February 28-29, 2024, at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee, this year’s GSTS covered subjects such as microchurch effectiveness, narrowing the gap between egalitarian theology and practice, and issues of hermeneutics, theology, exegesis and biblical literature.

“GSTS provided a positive opportunity to join the academic and practical conversations of God and his kingdom mission together,” reflected Reverend Janelle Phillips, lead pastor of Bridges Wesleyan in Roxborough, Colorado, and a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) student at Asbury Seminary. “This strengthened my heart and head to continue my own research and writing process as not just an obedient act for personal transformation but as a necessary action on behalf of the greater church. While this was always the intent, attending GSTS brought me out of the isolating dissertation process into this often-needed reminder.”

The variety of subjects represented one of the best elements of GSTS: the chance for researchers and practitioners to digest the most recent scholarship and its implications for the way our theological family absorbs, understands and responds to God’s invitation.

“This year’s GSTS gave our doctoral students and faculty the chance to hear from one another, fellowship together, and be resourced for the ministries of teaching and soul care,” said Dr. Jerome Van Kuiken, professor of Christian Thought at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

Amid the research and academic-based conversation, GSTS provided moments of spiritual renewal and communal worship. Katie Betts, a D.Min. student at Biola University, invited participants to reflect on their vocational callings and renew their commitment to God’s mission. The event’s culmination in the John Wesley Covenant Service and the chance to partake communion together served as a poignant reminder that this event — and the scholar-practitioners formative work — really is rooted in benefit to the larger church.

“GSTS was a breath of fresh air,” said Reverend Stephanie Junker, assistant pastor at New Life Community, Lexington, Kentucky (Masters of Divinity and Masters of Theology, Asbury Theological Seminary). “As a pastor-theologian, leader and mom it was encouraging to network with other leaders and academics; especially with other women who are working on their advanced degrees. It helped me focus my own research and strengthened my resolve to run the race to which God has called me.”

“Education and Clergy Development (ECD) of The Wesleyan Church is deeply invested and committed to our doctoral students because they strengthen our Wesleyan universities and training programs to be effective in forming present and future ministers of the gospel—whether clergy or lay,” said Dr. Aaron Perry, director of Wesleyan Academic Initiatives and co-director of this year’s GSTS.

If you are a current or prospective Wesleyan doctoral student and are interested in attending future events and for more information on how The Wesleyan Church is forming practical theologians in every vocation and zip code, email ECD or visit

Rev. Ethan Linder is the pastor of discipleship at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana, and contributing editor at The Wesleyan Church’s Education and Clergy Development Division.