MB Biblical Seminary-Fresno will see some significant changes after the transfer of its property and programs to Fresno Pacific University (FPU) in June 2010.
With FPU as its new owner, governance of the U.S. seminary will fall to the Pacific District Conference of MB Churches, leaving MBBS-ACTS (Langley, B.C.) and MBBS-Winnipeg in the hands of the Canadian conference. The Fresno seminary expects to change its name to better reflect its intention of serving the MB church, as well as the evangelical community of California’s Central Valley.
Staff layoffs were also announced. MBBS-Fresno will lose seven positions in accounting, student aid, recruiting, and maintenance. Many of these staff members have been with the seminary for 15 years or more. “This is a pastoral concern for the board,” says MBBS president Lynn Jost. “All these people have served us well, with character and dedication. When they heard the news, they were extremely gracious.”
As announced last May, the seminary will bid farewell to professors Delores Friesen and Jon Isaak. “No loss is more painful than that of faculty positions,” says Jost. “The contributions and skills of Jon and Delores have been highly valued by students and colleagues.” In total, eight faculty and staff will move with the seminary to FPU.
Financial assets of the Fresno campus will be divided between the U.S. and Canada, with ownership of the student loan fund going to Canada, along with Canada-based endowment funds and money for a distance education plan.
Many people were surprised by the speed at which the seminary board moved forward with the transfer. But Lynn Jost says their decision was due, in part, to recent developments at the university. Although FPU previously had been hesitant to accept the seminary program, “they knew the denomination needed this and they’re keen to serve the MB church,” explained Jost.
The university’s enrollment is up, putting them in a better position to partner with the seminary, says Jost. “And the seminary is more of an asset than they thought. FPU is committed to serve the MB church with the seminary’s endowments and the Fresno campus.”
Jost says the seminary is still exploring ways to work together with Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kan., but in the meantime, “FPU was the logical and practical choice for more efficient administration and shared distance education technology.”
With all these changes, Jost says MBBS leadership will work hard to “not let the seminary get swallowed up by the rest of the university.” For example, FPU plans to form an advisory council to promote the mission of the seminary.
Other internal organization details are still unclear, but talks with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) are underway to ensure that the seminary’s programs will remain accredited, and students will be able to complete their degrees.
Jost also emphasizes that, although governance of MBBS-Fresno will no longer rest with the national U.S. and Canadian conferences, the seminary is committed to working with MBBS-ACTS and MBBS-Winnipeg in order to develop a close, mutually beneficial distance education program.