Now is the time to take advantage of online education!  We have five great summer online courses available.  Have you ever taken a class with WTS?  If not, you’re in luck!  First-time students will receive a 50% tuition discount off normal per-credit tuition rate.* We have made the application process fast, easy and FREE.  Just click HERE and look for the Non Degree | Summer 2020 application in the drop down menu.

Below is a description of what is available.  Please note the course dates for each as well as the application deadlines:

MN102 Practice of Discipleship – Dr. Thomas (Tee) Gatewood  
Jesus commanded his followers to make disciples. In this course, learners will explore how Christian practices have shaped them into disciples and learn how to use these practices in the making of 21st century disciples.   The class will focus on the theology and practice of discipleship and will help learners develop practices and perspectives for life and ministry in this moment within Young Life. (Class is open to non-Young Life staff as well).  This class runs May 18 – June 19.

APPLICATIONS MUST BE COMPLETE AND SUBMITTED BY MAY 15.

TH561-DL History of the Black Church – Dr. Fred Johnson
Galatians 3:28 beautifully asserts “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ.”  Even so, early in the history of the United States, African Americans found it necessary to establish the Black Church. This course examines the events and conditions necessitating that development and how the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and persistent racism impacted the theology and worship of the Black Church.  Also explored is the extent to which those and related issues still prevent achieving full unity in the body of Christ and the strategies that can be employed to finally achieve the Lord’s vision.  This class runs May 20 – June 26.

APPLICATIONS MUST BE COMPLETE AND SUBMITTED BY MAY 15.

BL523-DL The Gospel of John – Dr. Jim Brownson
In the summer term I am teaching a favorite text of mine and the gospel I did my dissertation on – The Gospel of John.  This course will give you opportunities to wrestle with the single text in the NT that deals with Christological questions like “Who is Jesus” at the deepest possible level.  If you are interested in looking in detail at this gospel, carefully interpreting a variety of specific passages and then developing lessons or teaching plans to use for your ministry. I encourage you to register for this course.  This class runs May 20 – June 26.

APPLICATIONS MUST BE COMPLETE AND SUBMITTED BY MAY 15.

MN570-DL Worldview and Lifeview – Dr. Wayne Brouwer
We and our congregations are experience-oriented people. Because of this, we often relegate “vision” and “worldview” into the unused part of our leadership tool kits, marginalized by the active stuff of hands-on ministry and the consuming demands of Sundays that show up with amazing and unforgiving regularity. But, as Kouzes and Posner have brilliantly shown through four decades of research, two of the five things that good leaders do are “challenging the process” and “inspiring a shared vision.” These prophetic and kingly pastoral leadership tasks require a thoughtful worldview that rises above the experiences to see the meaning. We will read three books (an autobiography, a biblical worldview primer, and a social worldview critique) that will help us build and clarify the contours of our Christian vision, and carry on conversations that will hone our congregational leadership skills.  This class runs May 20 – June 26.

APPLICATIONS MUST BE COMPLETE AND SUBMITTED BY MAY 15.

MN503 Global Leadership Conference, August 6-7 – TBD
This course is in partnership with the Global Leadership Summit (GLS), a two-day leadership event in partnership with Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  The purpose of this course is to appreciatively and critically engage The Global Leadership Summit.  Students will explore, question, and develop the skills, practices, and habits for leading Christian communities.  Participants will theologically interrogate what leading means and how leaders practice faithfully.  Participants work online July 6 – August 14 and attend the GLS at Pillar Church (or a location near you) from August 6-7, 2020.  Attendance is required at a site.  The West Michigan group will meet in person on the evenings of August 5 and 7 in addition to the conference.  Those outside West Michigan will join via Zoom.  Tuition covers the fee for the GLS.

APPLICATIONS MUST BE COMPLETE AND SUBMITTED BY JUNE 26.

*please note, new students who are Young Life staff will receive 25% off rather than 50%.

 

Questions? Contact Jill English, Director of Admissions.

Western Theological Seminary is pleased to announce that the new Center for Disability and Ministry  (CDM) will be partnering with InterVarsity Press (IVP) Academic to co-brand a series of books on disability and practical theology, with Dr. Benjamin T. Conner and Dr. John Swinton acting as co-editors. Dr. Conner directs the CDM at Western Theological Seminary while Dr. Swinton is Director of the Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

To read more about the partnership, click here.

 

On March 1, The Most Reverend Dr. Stephen Kaziimba became the the 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda. More than 3,000 people attended the colorful ceremony, including the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.

Dr. Kaziimba is a two-time graduate of Western Theological Seminary, having earned a Master of Theology degree in 2003 and a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2007.

At the invitation of Dr. Kaziimba, President Felix Theonugraha traveled to Uganda to join in the celebration, along with his wife, Esther, Dr. David Komline, and Andy Bast. There they reunited with several WTS alumni, learned about their important work, and visited Uganda Christian University to explore opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and mutual learning.

Staff welcome back DL student Chris Godfredsen to campus, October, 2017.

by M.Div. Student Chris Godfredsen

I remember back in 2015 sitting in the WTS Admissions office telling the director at that time, Mark Poppen, that the reason I was applying was because I wanted to learn, but “I don’t really need seminary to change me.”  

Well…I’ll admit it. Five years later, I am not the same person who had that conversation with Mark. I am a healthier leader, I’m more curious, and I am so thankful for the experience of attending Western.

As part of the distance learning Master of Divinity program, students are required to go to campus for a week in the spring and fall, which is called intensives. The first intensive week was a seminary-altering experience for many of us. 

Rev. Dr. Chad Pierce was our Greek professor (I contend that God knew I would not have made it through Greek without Chad). During that intensive we translated sentence after sentence together, which led to a handful of us meeting over Zoom to continue that practice online. We logged in at 9 p.m. every Thursday the rest of the year and did the same thing when we took Hebrew and needed support from each other to learn that language. We studied together, lamented the load, and through it all, life-long relationships formed. One of us lost a mother during that time, so we were able to provide love and care, even via distance, through this practice. Any initial doubt I may have had about the effectiveness of an education delivered mostly online dissolved.

Another requirement of the M.Div. program is to go on an intercultural immersion trip. I chose to engage in a trip to the Borderlands—the U.S./Mexico border between Douglas, AZ and Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. 

Our hosts at Frontera de Cristo led us on a journey to taste and see what life on the border is like for border patrol and for migrants desperate to get to the USA for safety and opportunity. We learned of the ways ministries were working to save lives of migrants who had tried to get across the border but had been deported, and of others who were thinking of ways to provide jobs and opportunities to stay in Mexico and live good lives there. 

Each morning when I enjoy a cup of coffee in my kitchen, I recall that trip and the coffee roasting cooperative that Frontera de Cristo started (justcoffee.org). When I purchase from them, I know I am supporting much more than just coffee! I may not be called to work at the border, but I can do my part to help those who are. The trip taught me how interconnected we all are and how much we need each other.

As this five-year distance learning journey winds down, there are many reasons I am grateful for the decision I made to enter seminary. Professors challenged me to own what I believe to be true. I learned from fellow students on the online discussion boards, and I even tried on some new ways of thinking in the process.  They were all pretty gracious with me as I explored my faith and the reasons I have for believing what I believe. The real gift is that I now have relationships from coast to coast that will last a lifetime. And beyond all of that, I have a deepened love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Chris Godfredsen serves on the Synod of the Heartland staff as the East/West Sioux Classis Leader. He is a pastor to pastors and a catalyst for strengthening and starting churches. He is a Faithwalking Foundations facilitator, works with pastor networks, and assists pastoral search teams to ensure that congregations and pastors find the best fit in times of pastoral transition. He says he feels called to the work that he does, resourcing RCA churches in NW Iowa, but also trusts that God knows what is in store for roles like the one he fills in the RCA in the months and years to come.

2019 WTS alumna, Katie AlleyLike many of her peers, WTS alumna Katie Alley ‘19 had non-traditional ministry in mind when she started seminary. A recent article from Christianity Today cites a survey of 5,000+ seminary students in which almost 40% intend to serve in contexts outside the local church. 

Katie had taken a job with a non-profit right out of college, but soon discovered it was not the right fit. She decided to return to the classroom to explore the deep love she had for God and the church. Western’s emphasis on formation, experiential learning, and internships set it apart from other seminaries. She felt it would be a good place to learn while trying on different hats to see what type of ministry might best fit her gifts. 

During her first year, Katie interned with a community development non-profit. Although she learned a lot, she decided to try hospital chaplaincy the next year, hoping it would suit her better. However, her second internship at Holland Hospital didn’t feel quite right either. Although she was gaining confidence in her work, she didn’t particularly enjoy it. 

Meanwhile, she had begun taking a preaching class and leading chapel—and she realized that felt most natural, even though the thought of pastoral ministry intimidated her. Not having grown up with female pastors, she hadn’t considered becoming a pastor until now. 

Faculty members like Travis West and Kyle Small recognized Katie’s gifts of pastoral leadership and encouraged her to find confidence in herself and push through questions she still had. Pam Bush of the Formation for Ministry office came alongside Katie and helped her explore what intimidated her even as she continued developing her talents. Being an in-residence student gave her access to a group of classmates who were praying and rooting for her. 

“At the beginning of seminary it felt like all my classmates knew what they wanted to do and were really confident,” Katie says. “I learned along the way that everyone was equally scared. Yet, it never felt like competition. We all wanted each other to be successful and discover what we were meant to do.”

After her second year of seminary and with the support of the community behind her, Katie felt ready to give pastoral ministry a try. She spent the summer at Second Reformed Church of Pella, IA under the direction of Pastors Steve & Sophie Mathonnet-VanderWell. There she got to preach, visit congregants, and see what it would be like to be on a team of pastors. 

Katie Alley talks to children during worship hour

Youth Director Katie Alley talks to the children during the worship hour at Second Reformed Church of Pella, IA.

While the experience confirmed that she didn’t want to be a solo pastor, she knew she wanted to continue preaching—and when she found out the church’s youth minister took a different call, the opportunity opened to come back full-time after graduation.

As Katie settles into her calling, she realizes that the process of trying different things helped her feel more confident when she finally landed. She appreciates the formation for ministry process at WTS that allowed her to find the best fit for her gifts of ministry and then develop those abilities.

Having a team around to encourage, disciple, and speak truth to Katie was important in seminary and continues to be so. In addition to her ministry team at Second Reformed, she keeps in touch with professors and classmates, many of whom are also in their first calls.

Just like her path to pastoral ministry was unexpected, she knows that the work of ministry will be full of twists and turns.

“Some days are filled with trying to write a sermon that’s not coming; some days I’m visiting people,” she says. “I don’t know what new challenge each day will bring, but as my classmates and I start out, I’m really grateful we have a support system to cheer each other on.”

You are warmly invited to a public lecture and Q&A by pastor and author Winn Collier on Tuesday, March 10 at 3:00pm in Mulder Chapel.

About Winn:

Winn Collier is the author of multiple books, including Restless Faith, Holy Curiosity and the forthcoming authorized biography of Eugene Peterson. Winn is pastor of All Souls Charlottesville and directs The Genesis Project, a collective of pastors and writers committed to shared work and friendship. He has written for the Washington PostChristian CenturyLeadership JournalChristianity Today and numerous other outlets. Winn holds a PhD in theology, ethics and culture from the University of Virginia, with an emphasis on the intersection of religion and literary fiction. Winn, his wife Miska, and their two sons live in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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Holy Ground: The Sacramental Ecclesiology of Wendell Berry’s Port William

Tuesday, March 10, 3:00pm-4:00pm, Mulder Chapel

How are we to understand Wendell Berry’s withering critique of the Church’s uncritical cooperation with economic and cultural forces conspiring to “murder creation”? And why, in Berry’s fiction, does the Church so often sit at the periphery of communal life, a religious society disengaged and irrelevant to the truest work and vibrant life happening among “the membership” of Port William?

Does Berry reject the Church in favor of a vague, individual “spirituality,” and if so, how does this mesh with Berry’s unflinching insistence on visible, communal, concrete presence?

Touring Berry’s fiction, we discover Berry leveling a prophetic rebuke, as the narratives point toward a sacramental ecclesiology where God’s visible community, wedded to the place and the land, exists as holy ground for the wholeness and healing of creature and creation.

Western Theological Seminary is pleased to announce it has been selected by the family of the late Rev. Eugene Peterson (pastor, author, and translator of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language), to establish a new “Eugene Peterson Center.”

While the mission and programs of the center will continue to be developed and solidified in the months to come, the center will exist to promote the pastoral theology of Eugene Peterson for future scholarship, the health of pastors and the Church’s renewed imagination. The center will steward the Peterson papers and archives, create generative models for pastoral formation, provide resources to encourage pastors for sustainable, joyful and courageous ministry, and promote robust Christian imagination among writers and culture makers in the wider church.

Eugene Peterson’s relationship with the seminary goes back decades, beginning in the 1980’s when he taught at a Young Life Institute on campus. The Presbyterian minister’s friendship with WTS deepened in 1998 when Rev. Dr. Timothy Brown invited him to campus as the keynote speaker for the Henry Bast Festival of Preaching. In 2008 he returned to speak at President Brown’s inauguration, and was invited again in 2014 to reprise his role at the Bast Festival.

According to his son, Rev. Eric Peterson, “WTS is the school that Eugene exclusively recommended to prospective students who were preparing to serve the church.” In 2010 Eugene said this: “It is everything I think a seminary needs to be–theologically focused, faculty accessible, personally relational and God honoring. I never fail to feel at home there with its professors and students.” After visiting campus himself, Eric agreed. “To witness the combination of first-rate scholars, coupled with a compelling vision for theological education and a student body that exhibits an earnest desire to serve the kingdom was altogether inspiring,” he shared. “The meaningful ways the seminary community is engaging with people at the margins of society resonates with our family’s values.” 

The seminary is excited to be tasked with stewarding Eugene Peterson’s pastoral legacy through the center, which will house diaries, letters, sermons, book manuscripts, Regent College teaching material and extensive documentation related to the translation of The Message within its library archive collection in the newly built Jack & Mary Dewitt Learning Center. 

WTS President Dr. Felix Theonugraha is excited to be able to provide opportunities for students, alumni, and the wider church to engage Peterson’s work. “Forming the whole person has long been an emphasis here at Western,” he explained. “There is agreement among theological schools that we must do a better job focusing on the formation of future pastors, especially as we live in a world that is filled with cultural liturgies that form us each and every day in ways that are contrary to the values of the Kingdom of God. It is tempting today to judge the effectiveness of one’s ministry or a church’s impact based on numbers–how many members, how many attendees, how many sites, how many countries– Eugene compassionately and unassumingly reminds us to turn our eyes away from the glitter of this world and to fix them upon Christ.”

Academic Dean and VP of Academic Affairs Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson, who had a personal friendship with Eugene, said, “I have spoken to countless others who, through his writings and personal friendship, were given a vision of the Christian life that by God’s grace has sustained them in that ‘long obedience in the same direction,’” quoting one of his most famous lines.

“We are honored and humbled by this opportunity to steward and extend the legacy of Eugene Peterson,” said Dr. Theonugraha.

Thursday, February 27, 7:00 p.m., Mulder Chapel

Lecture with Dr. Greg Lee, Wheaton College

The United States incarcerates far more individuals than any nation in the world at radically disparate rates for different racial groups. In this lecture, Dr. Lee will draw on the thought of Augustine to encourage new approaches toward criminal justice. Augustine’s understanding of personal sin stresses the possibility of redemption for individual wrongdoers, and his account of collective evil exposes systemic injustice as a pervasive feature of humanity’s fallen condition. These insights commend Christians’ solidarity with oppressed communities and the exercise of mercy and restorative practices in response to criminal offenses.
This lecture is sponsored by the Girod Chair of Western Theological Seminary in partnership with the Saint Benedict Institute.
WATCH HERE:

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. For updates, please visit this page.

March 16-17, 2020

Is the “Good Samaritan” Good? Listening to the Parable’s Later Witnesses

The “Good Samaritan” is one of the most popular parables in Christian history and has significant relevance for every age.

As recorded in Luke 10, Jesus imagines an “enemy” as the central hero of the story. Sometimes we can only hear the truth when a storyteller overdramatizes the point.

Of particular interest is the hermeneutical nature of Jesus’ initial response. To the lawyer’s opening query, Jesus replies, “How do you read?” We will hear how others— Augustine, Howard Thurman, Harriet Jacobs, the Solentiname Community of Nicaragua—interpreted the parable in order to hear it afresh for our age.

Indeed, the way one reads the Bible defines and determines the way one thinks about life. Hermeneutics and ethics are inseparable. Jesus reveals how he reads Torah when he places a person most unlike his listeners at the center of the story and asks his immediate audience—and generations to follow—to “go and do likewise.”

MONDAY, March 16:
9:55am in Mulder Chapel: WTS Chapel service (Public Welcome)

10:45am LECTURE in Maas Hall: “Augustine and Howard Thurman”(Public Welcome)

7:00pm LECTURE in Mulder Chapel: “Harriet Jacobs and the Solentiname Community of Nicaragua” (Public Welcome)

TUESDAY, March 17
8:30am in Maas Hall (room 159): Breakfast Conversation – Breakfast Conversation – “Preaching the Parables.” This breakfast is for people interested in reading, interpreting, teaching, and preaching the parables to come and interact with the speaker about this dynamic, delightful, and difficult task! (Public Welcome)

12:00pm LUNCH in Maas Hall (room 159): Community Conversation w/ students, staff and faculty

Dr. Emerson Powery is Professor of Biblical Studies & (former) Coordinator of Ethnic and Area Studies at Messiah College.

He is an alum of Princeton Theological Seminary (1992) and—under the guidance of Dr. D. Moody Smith—Duke University (1999).  

He is the author of Jesus Reads Scripture: The Function of Jesus’ Use of Scripture in the Synoptic Gospels (Brill, 2002), “Philemon” for The New Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary (Abingdon, 2010), and co-author of The Genesis of Liberation: Biblical Interpretation in the Antebellum Narratives of the Enslaved (2016), which wrestles with the function of the Bible in the 19th-century African American ‘slave narrative’ tradition. Peter Paris describes The Genesis of Liberation as “a long sought-after treasure.” Mark Noll claims that the book “is now the gold standard for one of the most important developments in American religion.” With interest in how Scripture functions—in ancient and present-day underrepresented communities—he was one of the editors of True to Our Native Land: An African American NT Commentary (Fortress/Augsburg, 2007).  

In the wider academy, Powery has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Biblical Literature (2005-2013) and the Common English Bible (2009-2011). He was co-chair (with Bernadette Brooten) for the “Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom” section within the Society of Biblical Literature (2014-2019). He was the 2006–2007 (regional) President of the Society of Biblical Literature (SE Region). Presently, he serves on the editorial board of Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, Connections: A Lectionary Commentary for Preaching and Worship and the steering committee for “The Bible in the United States” consultation of SBL. He serves on the Board of Trustees at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

Mon., February 10 at 1:30 PM in Mulder Chapel

In such a time of division, politically and ideologically, it becomes difficult for us to live in fellowship with one another. The church is not exempt from this type of division. The Reformed Church in America, like many denominations, faces major questions regarding unity in the face of stark disagreement. Is unity possible? Is our vision of the church as a unified body of Christ idealistic and unattainable?

Rev. Dr. Joseph Small, former director of the PCUSA Office of Theology and Worship, is no stranger to these conversations. In his book Flawed Church, Faithful God: A Reformed Ecclesiology for the Real World, he explores the following questions: What is the Church? Why does it matter for the world we live in? He says, “The church is a communion of intimacy and solidarity because of what it cannot justify about itself coupled with recognition that its justification lies in the grace of God. Only as the church knows that its life is not self-generated and maintained can it witness faithfully to the God who generates and maintains it” (xiv).

Join Rev. Dr. Small for a public lecture, with responses from Rev. Dr. Dan Griswold and Rev. Jennifer Ryden, in which Dr. Small will explore these and other questions related to the communion of the church in this divided age.

This event is sponsored by the Girod Chair of Western Theological Seminary.