On May 28, The Division of Education and Clergy Development hosted a meeting of Wesleyan Higher Education faculty at Indiana Wesleyan University for the 2015 Doctrinal Symposium. This year’s symposium was a working meeting that followed up on last year’s theme, “The Nature ofWesleyan Higher Education.” The participants focused on creating a planning and production strategy that will result in eventual publications such as books, chapters, and other products. The purpose is to draw on our Wesleyan theology and heritage for implementation in all spheres of our higher education institutions. During this working meeting, faculty from every Wesleyan educational institution and Point Loma Nazarene University, worked to identify Wesleyan distinctives as they relate to higher education. The 26 participants identified key themes and audiences for publishable resources.

As the meeting progressed, five core foci for Wesleyan higher education emerged, providing ample material for publishing. Faculty determined that Wesleyan education should be:

Rooted in Love:

Faculty determined that students should be both formed and transformed. At its best, education shapes more than the mind—it alters the heart. A successful educational experience is a sanctifying one: it helps community members orient their loves toward God and neighbor. Wesleyan Higher Education institutions have intense formational commitments in addition to rigorous academic standards. We desire to outfit students, faculty, and staff with resources to build the Kingdom through their work.

Hospitable Toward Other Traditions:

The Christian community is a diverse one. At our best, Wesleyan educational institutions represent a mosaic of denominational affiliations and life experiences. Our educational institutions commit to invite diverse viewpoints to the table. With Christian doctrine as a guide, we hope to foster meaningful dialogue against a backdrop of Wesleyan commitment. Rather than engaging in an “us vs. them” paradigm, Wesleyan institutions appreciate Church unity with diversity—inculcating hospitality through culture-shaping conversations.

Focused on the Spirit:

The Holy Spirit is at work in the educational setting. By His presence among students, faculty, and staff, the Spirit makes the university a sanctifying context. The Spirit renews the image of God in students and employees alike; our educational institutions should be part of that renewal. Wesleyan education recognizes the Spirit’s role in unifying the intellect, heart, and will. By focusing on the work of the Spirit, the Church partners with God in appropriating collegiate experiences for holistic transformation.

Steeped in Vibrant Community:

There is no such thing as a solitary Christian; the Church is a collected community. Wesleyan universities help students, faculty, and staff to live a grace-centered, sustainable, winsome Christian life. University programs, classes, and extracurricular activity occur in the context of community development and Christian calling. In all things, the Wesleyan Church strives to help students and staff embody a Christian rule of life.

Grounded in Solid Theology:

Students and faculty need to know how their work contributes to God’s work. Wesleyan education strives to provide community members with a fluency in Christian orthodoxy. Wesleyan institutions help form students’ doctrinal understanding, underscored by the authority of Scripture. Guided by sound doctrine, students will be free to explore the Wesleyan tradition in light of the larger Church history.

Ongoing Work:

This working session was only the start of the ongoing work toward a fuller expression of our Wesleyan contributions to higher education. After determining the previous five foci, faculty developed four main working groups to implement them. From these topics, our production groups are now working to produce pamphlets, websites, books, academic papers, curriculum, TED talks, and other resources. Currently, the four topical production groups are as follows:

  • Online Education: This group is working on ways to leverage online educational resources to build character and connection among students, faculty and staff. This group will be writing a paper on embodying Christ through online education.
  • Faculty Development Materials: This group is working on publishing resources that will help faculty understand their role in the Wesleyan academic community.
  • Rule of Life: This group is identifying specific publishable resources for inculcating Christian practices into academic communities.
  • Independent Projects: Faculty in this group are pursuing a variety of independent projects and resources. For example, Dr. Steve Lennox—the President of Kingswood University—is writing a book about the potential for Wesleyan Higher Education institutions providing sanctifying contexts.

The 2015 Symposium is just the beginning of further dialogue, planning, and production in identifying Wesleyan distinctives in higher education. Stay tuned for more resources, perspectives, and products emerging from this ongoing conversation.

Header Photo Credit: Gabrielle Engle