Seminary announces changes, working to strengthen relationships

Brensinger leaving administrative role, three visiting lecturers released

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Discussions between the leaders of Fresno Pacific University, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary and the U.S. Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Churches (USMB) is leading to a renewed strengthening of the relationship between the seminary and the denomination.

Denominational leaders and a growing number of pastors and congregations in USMB and the Pacific District Conference have voiced concern with the direction of the seminary and most recently some teaching positions of visiting lecturers in a seminary master’s program.

FPU president Joseph Jones has had several meetings with key leaders, as well as the U.S. Board of Faith and Life (BFL) during the denomination’s July National Convention. Positions on issues vary, but denominational support for the seminary remains strong, Jones points 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 says. “Affirming these values does not prevent disagreement but provides a foundation to build trust in working relationships.”

As the renewal process moves forward, this fall seminary dean Valerie Rempel will serve as interim vice president. Terry Brensinger, 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 and Culture.

The master’s 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.

Jones and Rempel express appreciation for Brensinger’s leadership.

“Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary programs have grown in enrollment and influence in the Valley and beyond,” Jones says. “I have also appreciated Terry’s counsel as a member of the university administration.”

Rempel says, “(Brensinger) has given strong, visionary leadership to the seminary and served faithfully.”

The realignment will be an ongoing process, campus and denominational leaders agree, to consider the many perspectives within the MB community on the seminary and the best way forward.

Other actions scheduled for the coming months, include:

  • Updating the memorandum of understanding between the seminary, university and U.S. BFL. 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 U.S. BFL 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 says.

Fresno Pacific University
Fresno Pacific University is California's Central Valley’s only accredited Christian university, connecting every student’s untapped potential with unlimited opportunity for professional, personal and ethical growth. Nonprofit and independent, FPU offers more than 100 areas of study to about 4,000 traditional undergraduate, adult degree completion, graduate and seminary students at the main campus in Southeast Fresno and throughout the Valley at regional campuses in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield and Merced as well as online.

4 COMMENTS

  1. As an alum of both and a member of the conference, I am disheartened by the attempt to silence some of the clearest Anabaptist voices of my time. Unfortunately, I do not have the $$$ that influences decisions.

  2. Did you consider the fact the program has had rapid expansion and interest is based on the addition of the three lecturers you have now let go?

    • Tuition from rapid expansion doesn’t keep the doors open…donations do. The University was threatened with donations being pulled based on perceived theological differences and rather than open dialogue with attempts to understand each other, they caved to the pressure of losing money from their donor base.

  3. I am very sorry that the comments that have been posted so far seem to come from hurt and frustration, but I think some of the responses make some very unloving assumptions. I am not someone who has been a regular supporter of the seminary, although I am a member of the denomination, but I hope to think that my concerns are considered with as much weight as any others. If money is being withheld, it would be loving to assume that the reason was a real theological issue, not just perceived. To assume that loving, Christian brothers would not look at what was being taught before making a decision that has this kind of impact is really assuming the worst in a brother in the Lord. Also, to assume that the Seminary leaders are only influenced by money is harsh and unloving! It is not anyone’s obligation to financially support the seminary. If people have money that they want to give to the Lord, they must give according to their conscience, and if they aren’t comfortable with what is happening at any institution, they not only have the right, but the obligation to their conscience to not support that institution financially. I appreciate the actions the seminary has taken. I know they must not have been easy decisions and I am grateful that they felt the need to take action and did it.
    How many hours have you spent listening to preaching you thought you disagreed with? I spent easily 20 hours listening to the above mentioned teachers, and there was a lot to be concerned about! As to your desire for “open dialogue with attempts to understand each other”, there really is not much to try and understand when what those men were teaching was very clear and available for anyone to watch. (A fact, by the way, which I totally approve of and appreciate! This school is supported by Mennonite Brethren churches and the people who belong to those churches have a right to know what is being taught. If we need to hide what is going on, I think we already know that it isn’t good. A child hides when he has disobeyed, not when he is being good.)
    I really think we need to remember that we are first and foremost a Mennonite Brethren Seminary, not an Anabaptist Seminary. It is a narrower distinction. There is a broad range of beliefs under the Anabaptist umbrella, but the Mennonite Brethren subgroup is much more specific. These men may be Anabaptists, but they certainly don’t agree with what we as Mennonite Brethren have taught since 1860. We may have changed our name from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary to Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, but we didn’t stop being MB.
    There is an enormous need for discernment within the church, and these teachers are a good example of what we need to be looking for. When we discern, we need to compare everything that is being taught to the Word of God. We can’t pick and choose which verses we want to believe. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Biblical teaching should lift God up, lift the Bible up and bring man down. We can’t have too high a view of God. Any teaching that lifts man up is going against God’s Word. We do need to desire unity, but only unity based on the truth of God’s Word. Let’s discern together, as brothers in the Lord, in love and stop assuming the worst in each other.

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