An effort to strengthen the relationship between Fresno Pacific University, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and their sponsoring denomination has prompted changes in the seminary and one of its academic programs.
As the effort begins, this fall seminary dean Valerie Rempel, Ph.D., will begin serving as interim vice president. Terry Brensinger, Ph.D., seminary president since 2013, will leave his administrative role and become professor of pastoral education in January 2019 after a semester-long sabbatical. In addition, visiting lecturers Greg Boyd, Bruxy Cavey and Brian Zahnd are no longer connected with the seminary's Master of Arts in Ministry, Leadership & Culture.
The M.A. program, which began in 2016, blends online courses and short residencies to educate solo pastors, outreach pastors, family pastors, youth and child pastors—anyone serving at least 10 hours a week in a church ministry. The program will continue to be offered at the seminary, taught by the full-time faculty.
Denominational leaders, and a growing number of pastors and congregations in the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches (USMB) and Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, have voiced concern with some teaching positions of the visiting lecturers and, over a longer period, the direction of the seminary. FPU President Joseph Jones, Ph.D., has had several meetings with key leaders, and the USMB National Board and Faith & Life during the denomination’s July national conference.
Positions on issues vary, but denominational support for the seminary remains strong, Jones pointed out. “The Mennonite Brethren community is called to peacemaking and reconciliation. Even in times when we fall short, we attempt to teach, model and practice this in our communities,” he said. “Affirming these values does not prevent disagreement but provides a foundation to build trust in working relationships.”
Jones thanked Brensinger for his leadership at the seminary. “Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary programs have grown in enrollment and influence in the Valley and beyond. I have also appreciated Terry’s counsel as a member of the university administration,” he said.
Other actions will take place during the coming months:
- Updating the memorandum of understanding between the seminary, university and National Board of Faith & Life. The seminary, founded in 1955 and located on the main FPU campus in Southeast Fresno, became part of the university in 2010.
- Creating a process to address issues of concern between the denomination and the university and seminary.
- Further policy decisions by the FPU Board of Trustees following its October 2018 meeting.
- A joint letter from FPU and the National Board of Faith & Life to all constituents reaffirming their commitment and support to work together to strengthen the university and denomination.
“I highly value and appreciate the Mennonite Brethren Conference covering which the university enjoys and look forward to a strengthened partnership between the church and university and seminary,” Jones said.