Asbury Theological Seminary was founded in 1923. Our motto then and now is “The whole Bible for the whole world.” Our mission statement declares: “We are a community called to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world through the love of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and to the glory of God the Father.”
Although Asbury Seminary is rooted in the theological tradition of John Wesley, we are not officially a United Methodist seminary, nor are we affiliated with any college or university. As a non-denominational, freestanding theological school, we do not receive official funding from any denomination; as a result we must raise our own funding through tuition (which normally accounts for 67% of the cost of a student’s education at Asbury Seminary) and through gifts and grants from individuals and foundations.
From a small beginning of 3 students and 6 faculty members, Asbury Seminary currently has an enrollment of over 1,600 students and 60 full-time faculty members and has grown to be the 4th-largest of the 265 schools of theology accredited by The Association of Theological Schools in North America. Students attend on two geophysical campuses – a residential one in Wilmore, Kentucky, and an urban one in Orlando, Florida – as well as over our online platform, through which they can study from literally around the world. Our offerings also now include an extension campus in Memphis, Tennessee.
Degree programs include the Master of Divinity (which several denominations require for ordination), the Master of Arts (with degree tracks ranging from church planting to counseling, Biblical studies to aging and spirituality, and several others), the Master of Theology, the professional Doctor of Ministry degree, and the research Doctor of Philosophy degree in Biblical Studies and in Intercultural Studies.
Asbury Seminary has graduated 10,400 students. Our alumni are in ministry around the globe, serving in 66 countries and in every state in the union. They serve as pastors, educators, counselors, church planters, missionaries, chaplains, denominational leaders and executives, leaders of non-profit organizations, and in many other forms of ministry.
Our graduates must go forth and inhabit a robust, muscular, deeply rooted apostolic gospel, with renewed confidence in the Word of God, the supremacy of Christ, the glorious witness of the Church through the ages, and the ongoing power of the gospel! It will not be quick or easy—discipleship never is. It will take sacrifice and some long nights of holy lamenting. Our students must be prepared to occupy not the long enjoyed cultural center, but the more perilous prophetic margins, waking up to the new reality that to be a Christian is to be despised and hated, not lauded and revered. But, through it all, our graduates must never forget that the true Church of Jesus Christ is indestructible! Christ has promised to build His Church and it is being embraced by men and women from every tribe, tongue, and language. The various organizational manifestations of the church may crumble, but the true Church of Jesus Christ always reasserts itself. Asbury Seminary will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2023, and our Strategic Plan is laying out goals and visions to keep Asbury Seminary missionally vibrant and economically viable for the next 100 years. (Timothy C. Tennent, President, Asbury Theological Seminary)
This is a phenomenal time in the life of Asbury Theological Seminary! For eight straight years we have worked with a balanced budget. Sixty-five million dollars of student housing has been built and paid for! Student enrollment is at an all-time high of 1600. We have a 2023 Strategic Plan that guides us and keeps us focused. And, we have just planted our third campus in Memphis, TN. Serving as a trustee of Asbury Seminary is both a challenge and a pleasure! Sometimes I think we should take out an ad in the New York Times praising God for His marvelous goodness to Asbury Theological Seminary!
One of our greatest challenges is student debt. So we have a Student Enrollment Management Plan (SEMP) functioning where cabinet, faculty, students, staff, and trustees representatives are involved in an attempt to address this problem. The intent is not only to reduce student indebtedness but to entirely eliminate student debt in time. The SEMP team is making significant progress in its beginning stage. Someday we believe our dream of students graduating from Asbury Seminary without any student debt will be a reality!
Al Gwinn, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Asbury Seminary's 2023 strategic plan (2023 because that is the Seminary’s 100th birthday) lays out goals for the Seminary's involvement in global Christianity, church renewal and revitalization and church planting, community life, academic delivery systems, students, globalized faculty, finance and advancement, curriculum, and others. Our ultimate goal, as our mission statement declares, is “to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world.” Through the lives and ministries of our currently 10,400 graduates, with more coming out each year, Asbury Seminary aims to impact Christianity worldwide by preparing leaders to take the good news of Jesus Christ and His love and forgiveness to a world in need. Our students serve as pastors, church planters, missionaries, counselors, chaplains, educators, leaders of non-profit organizations, and in a host of other ways of ministering to a hurting world. We prepare and educate “leaders of leaders” who then serve to multiply themselves through the ministries for which God has chosen them. Our ultimate goal is nothing less than the renewal and revival of the Church around the world.
a small beginning of 3 students and 6 faculty members, Asbury Seminary
currently has an enrollment of over 1,600 students and 60 full-time faculty
members and has grown to be the 4th-largest of the 265 schools of theology accredited by The Association of Theological Schools in North America. Students attend on two geophysical campuses – a residential one in Wilmore, Kentucky, and an urban one in Orlando, Florida – as well as over our online platform, through which they can study from literally around the world. Our offerings also now include an extension campus in Memphis, Tennessee.
Degree programs include the Master of Divinity (which several denominations require for ordination), the Master of Arts (with degree tracks ranging from church planting to counseling, Biblical studies to aging and spirituality, and several others), the Master of Theology, the professional Doctor of Ministry degree, and the research Doctor of Philosophy degree in Biblical Studies and in Intercultural Studies. All of these academic programs serve to prepare our graduates for ministry in response to God’s call upon their lives.
An exciting development is the recent emergence of Seedbed, Asbury Seminary’s creative developer of discipleship resources for the 21st-century Church. As heirs of the Wesleyan/Arminian theological vision for mission, Asbury Seminary longs to see this way of being and doing church thrive again in our day. Seedbed is gathering people, convening conversations, curating content, and publishing articles, books, Bible studies, discipleship curricula, video resources, and podcasts. Innovative video series such as the “Seven-Minute Seminary” feature Asbury Seminary professors and others teaching on various topics concerning the Christian faith and how it is lived out. Bloggers are gathering around topics which unite them, such as the pastoral ministry, church planting, youth ministry, and others.
The great majority of Asbury
Seminary’s faculty members are themselves ordained ministers of the Gospel (and
many of them have been missionaries as well) and are now passing on the
theological concepts and skills and they have developed over a lifetime to the next
generation of leaders. From teaching counselors in the Hispanic churches in
Central Florida and the Spanish-speaking world, to helping students discover
the best ways to plant churches around the world, to preparing our doctoral
students to themselves teach “leaders of leaders,” Asbury Seminary’s outreach
is to the worldwide Church.
Asbury Seminary’s over 10,400 alumni are already acting as agents of change around the world. Those in the pastoral ministry are leading their congregations and are developing leaders who then take Christ’s love into the marketplace, where they work, as well as within their communities through outreach programs based in their churches. As well, those who are serving as educators, counselors, chaplains, and leaders of non-profit agencies, both in the United States and abroad, are again working as agents of change. Our alumni are doing this through serving the victims of sex trafficking and HIV/AIDS in many nations, for instance, through heading up orphanages, teaching in theological schools worldwide, and through many other aspects of ministry.
Asbury Seminary has been intentional in developing partnerships with theological schools worldwide, now numbering nearly 20 such institutions, with new partnerships under exploration all the time. Faculty and student exchanges and the sharing of library resources are just a few of the aspects of such partnerships.
Our Florida Dunnam campus, located in Orlando, Florida, is providing Asbury Seminary a gateway to the Hispanic Church. Degree programs in Spanish are already underway and are being expanded on that campus, thus providing the Hispanic Church with leaders who are receiving both theological and practical preparation for ministry.
Our Beeson International Doctor of Ministry program is for men and women who are already pastoring around the world and is structured to keep those students serving in-country at their ministries, while taking classes and doing the research to learn the skills to improve their ministry. A new cohort of 12-13 such pastors enters the program each year.
A great variety of Master’s degree programs, available in such areas as youth ministry, missions and evangelism, aging and spirituality – just to name a few – are also preparing our students for a variety of ministries. Some of our students take dual degrees, combining their Master of Divinity degree with a Master’s degree with a different focus, so they can use all they have learned in their ministries.
Our Hundredfold – A Campaign for Renewal and Revival is our comprehensive fundraising campaign, which began January 1, 2015 and will conclude in 2023, through which we will raise $80 million - $100 million to propel Asbury Seminary into its second 100 years of ministry.
Asbury Seminary is accredited by The Association of Theological Schools, the agency which accredits theological schools in North America, and by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges, the regional accrediting body. We have just gone through the decadal exercise for the renewal of our accreditation, with site visits from both those agencies. Our accreditation has been renewed for the next 10 years. These accreditors look at every aspect of our institution, from students to finances, from academics to faculty, and from facilities to policies. All must be measured against their exacting standards.
One of an educational institution’s chief assessment tools is its enrollment. Theological schools in general are seeing declining enrollment but Asbury Seminary is bucking that trend. Our new student enrollment for the fall of 2016 is 465 -- a record for us. That means we must provide scholarship funds to enable our students to afford their theological studies. Our Hundredfold comprehensive fundraising campaign, running through 2023, has set the goal of raising $50 million in student scholarships. Our ultimate goal is to have sufficient scholarship funds that none of our students will have to incur seminary student debt through federal loans. Asbury Seminary launched the campaign in January of 2015 and is already making great strides toward this goal.
One of the goals of our 2023 Strategic Plan is to have 400 new graduates who have been trained through our church planting emphasis engaged in planting churches around the world as well as developing church planting networks worldwide. We launched the Master’s degree in church planting in 2012, though many of our graduates are already involved in planting churches around the world.
While we are not one of the 13 official theological schools supported by the United Methodist Church, the most recent statistics for which such a study has been done (2013) have shown that Asbury Seminary prepares nearly 1 in 6 of all ministerial students ordained by the United Methodist Church. We feel confident that year-to-year research will continue to uphold these numbers. United Methodist students make up the largest denominational segment of our student body and 47% of our graduates.
Seedbed is already making a difference in the life and vitality of the global Church. Between March 2012 and March 2015 unique users have increased more than fourfold (from 15,230 users to 72,201 users), Seedbed has launched 4 online collectives, with 3 more in the works, email subscribers have exploded from 3,168 to 38,201 and revenue has doubled since 2014. The Bible study series has published its first volumes and more are in various stages of development.
Our 2023 Strategic Plan lays 10 broad vision statements supported by 55 strategic goals, many of which have already been met. For instance, the goal of launching the Master of Arts in Church Planting has been met. We have hired our first Director of the Church Planting Initiative; this professor and others who teach in the degree program are themselves church planters and trained in evangelism.
Another goal was to have a ministerial degree taught completely in Spanish, which we have now begun on the Orlando Dunnam campus, with the Master of Arts in Christian Ministries.
One of the goals which has not yet been reached is the establishment of a PhD degree in theological studies, to complement the two we already have – in Biblical studies and in intercultural studies. Doctoral degrees are very expensive to implement and we must find sufficient donor support to do so. Also curriculum must be developed.
We are making headway in raising sufficient endowment funds to fully scholarship all of our students, but that is a huge goal and will take years to accomplish. Our supporters are responding well to our goal of eliminating our students’ dependence upon federal loans to finance their theological studies.
Another major goal is to have a comprehensive and sustainable economic model that generates sufficient income from tuition, endowment, auxiliaries, and annual unrestricted giving to fully fund the mission of Asbury Theological Seminary. As noted above, we are making headway with our scholarship support. We are also developing programs for students to help raise their own support through the Ministry Partners Program and are implementing the Advanced Standing program, by which new students from accredited colleges and universities who have a major or minor in Bible or theology can petition for some of those credits to count towards their Master’s program, thereby lessening the amount of seminary credits they must take. The Ministry Partners Program was launched in 2014-2015 and for the 2015-2016 school year has 9 students involved in it. This is a good response, though we are working to encourage many more students to take advantage of this plan. We will be training our students in fundraising and financial stewardship, skills which they can take with them as pastors to share with their congregations. We have, however, a long ways to go to wean ourselves from being a tuition-driven institution.
Through working to achieve these and other goals, Asbury Seminary is committed to its vision of “the whole Bible for the whole world” and to its mission of preparing “theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world.” This original vision for Asbury Seminary has been steadfastly adhered to throughout our 93-year history and will not change going into the future.
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