A mood of prayerful celebration pervaded the expansive common area as an assembly gathered last week to dedicate the first seminary building ever constructed by The Wesleyan Church.
Flanked by the flags of several of the nations represented in the global student body of Wesley Seminary at IWU, seminary board chairman Stan Hoover called upon God to keep his hand upon the seminary going forward.
“May we see your heart, may we have an understanding of your will,” Hoover prayed. “We pray that your blessing would be upon the future.”
Wesley Seminary has been operating since 2009. Their prodigious growth in their first three and a half years put them in the top 25th percentile of American seminaries. Today, they have more than 400 students.
The Seminary’s global focus has brought in students from multiple continents and inspired degree programs in two languages. IWU’s Spanish M.Div. program brings together Hispanic pastors from the United States and Latin America to share experience and to imagine Christian ministry in a uniquely Latino context.
Though Wesley Seminary’s classes are mostly online, most students gather periodically for two-week intensive sessions throughout their course of study. They began classes this May in their new 21,000-square-foot facility on the southwest end of IWU’s traditional campus in Marion, Indiana.
“Wesley Seminary hasn’t stayed still since the day that it was first minted four years ago,” said seminary Dean Dr. Ken Schenck.
IWU president Dr. David Wright, who also spoke at the dedication, spoke to the assembly about the vital role that theological higher education plays in building the church.
“These are days when ministry is more challenging than it’s ever been,” said IWU President Dr. David Wright. “We can’t afford in the church to have a clergy that is unprepared for the complexities and the challenges of the day…the main way that God changes the world and makes the world a better place is through the body of Christ.”
Wesley Seminary student Johanna Rugh, a pastor in Southern California, told the assembly how the Seminary’s multicultural focus has been a benefit to her education and ministry.
“I’m so grateful this morning for the opportunity that I have to be in a seminary where they speak both English and Spanish. I have a unique privilege to be able to take some classes in Spanish and some in English,” Rugh said. “Everything that I have learned through the process has been a blessing not only for me personally but for my family, [for my church] and for my district.”
Wesleyan Church General Superintendent Dr. Jo Anne Lyon recalled how, when she first heard of the idea of a seminary in the Wesleyan Church, popular Christian writing was full of warnings that “Seminaries are going down the tubes!” At first, she said, she found herself wondering, “are we that far behind?” But then she realized: “No—we’re that far ahead.”
“God is creating his new vision for a new seminary, for new education,” Lyon said. “God is still calling leaders and still calling people. It’s been said, ‘the church does not have a mission in the world. God’s mission has a church in the world.’ ”
After the ritual of dedication, Dr. Lyon prayed for the attendees: “We have not just dedicated this facility to you, but we have dedicated ourselves afresh and anew to you,” she said. “To hospitality. To care for the poor. To you, Lord Jesus, the Triune God…may each of us this day dedicate ourselves anew to you.”