In order to better carry out the mission of preparing leaders of churches for the U.S. Mennonite Brethren Conference, among California’s Central Valley, and for the MB church worldwide, the structure of MB Biblical Seminary-Fresno is being transferred to Fresno Pacific University.
“We really believe we are better together,” said FPU president D. Merrill Ewert. “This integration will empower the ministry of both institutions.”
The transfer of MBBS-Fresno to FPU was announced Feb. 5. The process – approved by the seminary and university boards – is to be completed June 1, 2010.
Lynn Jost, MBBS president, will continue to oversee the seminary’s work as part of the FPU administration. “This program transfer will continue MB Biblical Seminary’s tradition of biblical theology with an evangelical Anabaptist perspective,” he said. “We are creating a very strong program that will serve both new and historical constituencies across the U.S.”
“The seminary and university have always shared a mission of academic excellence and service to the church,” said Ewert. “We operated under one corporate structure from 1955 to 1966, and just as there were advantages to separation then, there are advantages to unification now.”
Students can continue to attend the residential seminary campus adjacent to FPU’s main campus in Fresno, Cal. Classes will also be offered at FPU centres in North Fresno, Visalia, and Bakersfield, Cal. The planned expanded distance education – including online classes and teleconferences –will reach students across the U.S., into Canada, and beyond.
MBBS faculty will become FPU faculty. The 4-acre seminary campus will become part of the 42-acre FPU main campus. Seminary endowment assets of $2.4 million will be transferred to support faculty chairs and student scholarships.
The change will carry the denomination’s foundational values into the future, according to Ed Boschman, executive director of the U.S. Conference of MB Churches. “The ministry, the core reason for being, is alive and well in the lives of our national leadership team and staff.”
Implication for Canadians
“I am optimistic that this solution will continue to be attractive to a number of Canadian and worldwide Mennonite Brethren students,” said David Wiebe, Canadian conference executive director. “Moreover, as distance education options are created and our Canadian seminary presence is developed further, I can see how this might take our pastoral education and training to an exciting new level.”
In a letter to Canadian constituents, MBBS board chair Jack Falk and Jost assured members that “we continue to plan for the development of pastoral and other key church leaders in Canada.” They highlight the partnership with and growing MB enrollment at ACTS Seminaries in Langley, B.C., indicating the transfer “will not significantly impact MBBS-ACTS,” and course offerings at the Winnipeg Centre for Ministry Studies, in affiliation with Canadian Mennonite University, “will continue as usual.”
A task force struck in spring 2009 to examine the future of MB seminary education in Canada will intensify their efforts to explore effective preparation of pastoral leadership, innovations in delivery and programs, and partnerships with colleges, churches, and conferences.
“I think [this] will go a long way in protecting our mission and will also add a significant dimension to FPU,” said Falk. “I look forward to future collaboration between FPU, Canada, and Midwest U.S. in the delivery of distance education.”
Many higher education institutions are forming new arrangements to strengthen their programs in response to difficult economic times. Small, denominational schools are the most vulnerable and will need to join with universities and regional giants to survive, according to the Association of Theological Schools, which accredits the seminary.