News - Greenville University partners with the Free Methodist Church USA and donor family for a high-impact initiative

Greenville University partners with the Free Methodist Church USA and donor family for a high-impact initiative

Sarah Thomack

 Chief Diversity Officer and Special Advisor to the President Terrell Carter, Bishop Linda Adams, Bishop Matt Whitehead, Bishop Keith Cowart, and Greenville President Suzanne Davis met this week to finalize arrangements for The Center for Pastoral Formation - A partnership between Greenville University, Free Methodist Church USA, and the Bastian family.

Chief Diversity Officer and Special Advisor to the President Terrell Carter, Bishop Linda Adams, Bishop Matt Whitehead, Bishop Keith Cowart, and Greenville President Suzanne Davis met this week to finalize arrangements for The Center for Pastoral Formation - A partnership between Greenville University, the Free Methodist Church USA, and the Bastian family.

Greenville University is strengthening its roots by partnering with the Free Methodist Church USA (FMC-USA) through a donor-funded initiative aimed at equipping current and future generations of pastors.

GU received funding from the family of Free Methodist Bishop Emeritus Don Bastian ’53 to partner with the FMC-USA and support the church’s ongoing ministry and mission in and for the world. The partnership offers pastoral formation and will streamline credentialing for the next generation of Free Methodist leaders through The Center for Pastoral Formation located in Greenville.  

“The Center for Pastoral Formation represents GU’s commitment to seek partnerships that mutually benefit each organization involved,” says Suzanne Davis, Greenville University president. “This partnership will enhance the Christ-Centered Wesleyan education that is the foundation of Greenville University. It will support the FM Church’s development of pastors through the ordination and credentialing process and allow educational and experiential opportunities for students who are interested in ministry, missions, or other non-profit service.”

A kairos moment

The partnership through the Center will serve as a way to streamline credentialing, a priority for the denomination, according to FMC-USA Bishop Linda Adams.

“It feels to us like a truly kairos moment, meaning, this is God’s time,” Bishop Adams says. “Credentialing was identified as the number one broken system that needed to be fixed… While we were in the middle of sorting that out, this opportunity came along and started to take shape. What the Free Methodist Church stands to gain is a fresh start in a collaborative environment and what Greenville stands to gain is a closer tie with the Free Methodist Church and that’s a huge deal. We love our schools, and just the way history plays out, we’re all drifting apart and we want to come back together into tighter fellowship… we think this is one step in that direction.” 

 

An in-person and virtual hub in Greenville 

Plans call for the Center to be housed in GU’s SMART Center on Greenville’s town square, in close proximity to the University’s campus community. It will serve the denomination in perpetuity as a hub for its global reach, offering in-person, as well as virtual learning. The Center’s community of learners will include those who pursue ordination, seasoned pastors who desire continuing education, and others who intend to serve the Lord as laypersons and want to grow in knowledge and effectiveness.

Virtual learning and a new software will allow pastors in every Free Methodist conference nationwide to connect and access denominational resources. Adams gives the example of having seven or eight courses on Wesleyan theology available at institutions throughout North America, and the plan is to have all those accessible online.

“It will take greater collaboration with our AFMEI schools and with our conferences,” Adams says. “It’s really a collaborative effort all the way through with multiple partners.”

 

What's in a name

Adams says the name, “The Center for Pastoral Formation,” uses the word “formation” as a way to encompass the whole of “Head, Heart, and Hands” — an organizing concept used in the process for developing leaders via Outcomes-Based Ordination.

“There’s academic, mental formation, spiritual formation and then skills development—the formation of how to lead and church governance and all that. So ‘Head, Heart and Hands’ are all in the formation process,” Adams says. “We are trying for a holistic formation approach.” 

What's next

This exciting collaboration between GU and the FMC-USA will entail an endowed directorship of The Center for Pastoral Formation. The Bastian Family intends to work with the Board of Bishops and others to expand the circle of those who see the value of investing in this enterprise through the endowment.  

The Center is tentatively scheduled to open in January 2021. A nationwide search is underway for a director.

This story was published on November 19, 2020




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