MBBS Transfers U.S. seminary Program to FPU

MBBS-Fresno transfers U.S. seminary program to Fresno Pacific University

In order to better carry out the mission of preparing leaders of churches for the United States 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 February 5. The process—approved by the boards of the seminary and the university—is to be completed June 1, 2010.

“I’m excited that the mission of the seminary continues in a way that serves the MB family of churches and the Central Valley,” said Gary Wall, minister of the Pacific District Conference of MB Churches.

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. “I am pleased we are creating a very strong program that will serve both new and historical constituencies across the U.S.”

“In some ways we’re going back to the future,” Ewert added. “The seminary and university have always shared a mission of academic excellence and service to the church. 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, located at the corner of Butler and Chestnut in Fresno and adjacent to FPU’s main campus. Classes will also be offered at FPU centers in North Fresno, Visalia and Bakersfield. It is anticipated an expanded online seminary program 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 Mennonite Brethren Churches. “The ministry, the core reason for being, is alive and well in the lives of our national leadership team and staff. We’re enthusiastic about the next chapter and working together with key stakeholders.”

Plans are to expand distance education—including online classes and teleconferences—into a major outreach. This focus will benefit churches in Canada as well as the United States.

“Based on 35 productive years of doing seminary together, I am optimistic that this solution will continue to be attractive to a number of Canadian and worldwide Mennonite Brethren students,” said David Wiebe, executive director, Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. “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.”

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 Association of Theological Schools, which accredits the seminary.

“I am deeply grateful for the extraordinary efforts by representatives of MBBS and FPU in bringing these discussions to a successful conclusion. MBBS has a rich history of providing theological education to the Mennonite Brethren community and beyond, and I am delighted that this work will now be carried on in partnership with FPU,” said Ken Fransen, chair of the FPU Board of Trustees.

“I am pleased that we have arrived at this arrangement with FPU. I think that moving the Fresno Campus of our seminary to this established university will go a long way in protecting our mission and will also add a significant dimension to FPU and the region it serves,” said MBBS Board Chair Jack Falk. “I look forward to future collaboration between FPU, Canada and Midwest U.S. in the delivery of distance education. MB students and churches in both countries would benefit greatly from getting such access to our seminary programs.”

This optimism is echoed by Steve Schroeder, pastor of Parkview MB Church, Hillsboro, Kansas, and chairman of the USMB Conference leadership board: “I am delighted the seminary is joining forces with FPU and open to working closely with Tabor College to develop a national pastoral training program. I fully anticipate that this kind of partnership will better serve the entire US MB family of churches.”

“Challenging days and weeks have gone into this partnership. Now we can look forward with enthusiasm and vision to what God will lead us to accomplish,” Ewert said.

Posted: February 05, 2010