MARION — Indiana Wesleyan University plans to open a seminary for the Wesleyan Church next September on its Marion campus.
The school says the seminary will include about 200 students currently enrolled in master’s programs and 75 other master of divinity students entering over the course of its first year.
Only about 15 percent of Wesleyan pastors hold seminary degrees, but leaders of the Fishers, Ind.-based denomination say they hope the seminary will double that number.
Indiana Wesleyan says all of the seminary’s students will be required to have full-time ministries in local churches while they pursue their degrees.
The Wesleyan Church has 400,000 members in 80 countries.
Seminary to Open At Indiana Wesleyan University
The first seminary in the history of The Wesleyan Church will open in September on the Marion campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. The IWU Board of Trustees unanimously approved the historic proposal on April 3.
The seminary format will be similar to IWU’s successful adult education programs, which allow students to further their education while maintaining family and professional responsibilities.
"We have taken the very best of the future and the very best of the past to create a new model," IWU President Henry Smith said. "Our purpose was to make a seminary education more practical, more accessible and more affordable."
Although seminary training is encouraged, only about 15 percent of Wesleyan pastors have seminary degrees. Denominational leaders are hoping the new IWU seminary will double that number.
While Wesleyan pastors are seen as key candidates, the seminary is expected to draw ministerial students from other evangelical Christian denominations.
A seminary task force, consisting of officials from IWU and The Wesleyan Church, met for two years to consider creating a seminary in Marion. Dr. Ken Schenck and Rev. Russ Gunsalus, IWU religion professors, guided the task force.
The idea gained momentum in December when the Higher Learning Commission extended IWU’s accreditation to include the Master of Divinity (M Div.) degree. The M. Div. is the foundational degree for a seminary.
The seminary will open this fall with an expected 200 students who currently are enrolled in master’s programs plus 75 M.Div. students over the course of the first year.
A $6 million building, that would include classrooms, offices and lodging for students, already is on the drawing board, but no date has been set for the start of construction. The building is planned for the 4400 block of South Landess Street.
All students will be required to have – and to maintain – full-time ministries in local churches while they pursue a seminary degree. "We do not want to take seminary students away from their local churches and their ministries," Smith said.
Many students, who do not live close to campus, can take two-thirds of their classes online and come to campus for intense one-week classes. Students within driving distance of Marion can take all of their classes on campus.
The 75-hour M. Div. degree will take four years to complete. As many as four professors will teach each class to better integrate various components – such as Bible, theology, church history and practical applications – into each course.
"I firmly believe this will be the most practical seminary in the world," said Dr. Kerry Kind, General Director of Education and the Ministry for The Wesleyan Church.
The IWU Board of trustees will govern the seminary and will appoint a seminary board. The seminary, which does not yet have a name, will have a chief operating officer, an academic dean and its own faculty.
"Several faculty members already are teaching in our graduate religion programs, and we are in an active search to build a new faculty of ministry scholars," said IWU Provost David Wright.
The Wesleyan Church was formed in1968 through the mergers of several like-minded denominations, dating as far back as 1843. The denomination has 400,000 constituents in 4,000 churches and missions in 80 countries.
In addition to IWU, the denomination operates colleges in Houghton, New York; Central, South Carolina, and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. There also is a Wesleyan Bible college in Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada.
Indiana Wesleyan University is an evangelical Christian comprehensive university of The Wesleyan Church, which has its world headquarters in Fishers, Indiana. IWU was founded in 1920 and is committed to liberal arts and professional education.
More than 3,200 students are enrolled in traditional programs on the University’s main campus in Marion. Another 12,200 adult learners attend classes at regional campuses in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio and online.