In an era when many non-Baptist seminaries are creating specific space for Baptist ministers in training, a Baptist seminary is creating space for Wesleyan minsters in training.
Baylor University announced Nov. 18 the endowment of a new academic chair that will support the Wesley House of Studies at Baylor’s Truett Theological Seminary. An anonymous gift of $1.5 million — to be matched through the university’s Illuminate matching gift incentive — established the William J. Abraham Endowed Chair. An additional gift of $1 million was made by Jeff and Debbie Wooley of Woodway, Texas, to support the program’s students through scholarships.
Truett Seminary was created in 1991 amid a schism within the Southern Baptist Convention that caused non-fundamentalist clergy to seek seminary education away from the six SBC seminaries. In the subsequent 30 years, Truett has carved out an identity as a place for a wide range of students who go on to serve Texas Baptist churches, Southern Baptist churches and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship churches.
The diaspora from SBC seminaries — which affected by students and faculty — spawned several new more progressive seminaries but also Baptist houses of study at other non-Baptist schools such as Texas Christian University (Disciples of Christ), Duke Divinity School (United Methodist) and most recently Perkins Seminary at Southern Methodist University.
The new academic chair at Baylor is named in memory of William J. Abraham, a Truett Seminary faculty member and founding director of the Wesley House of Studies. Abraham died Oct. 8. Baylor’s Wesley House of Studies was created in 2020
This academic chair “not only lavishly honors the life and legacy of our recently deceased friend and colleague, but it also further establishes our school’s Wesley House of Studies as a viable and desirable place to pursue ministerial training in the Wesleyan tradition,” said Truett Seminary Dean Todd Still. “Both the endowed chair and this substantial endowed scholarship will have both an immediate and a lasting impact on the work and witness of Truett.”
Truett Seminary currently collaborates with Ryan Barnett and First Methodist Church of Waco, where he serves as lead pastor. Barnett chairs a Team of Advocates for the Wesley House of Studies.
The Baptist seminary recently hired Kevin Watson, whom Barnett described as “a rising star in Methodist academia,” as an affiliate research professor.
The confluence of all these events makes Truett “well placed to become one of the most significant training centers for future Methodist ministers,” Barnett said.
The website for Baylor’s Wesley House of Studies describes its intention “to form and equip Christ-centered, Spirit-led students to serve churches and other institutions in the Wesleyan tradition.”
Such a tradition within American religious life includes more than United Methodists, although the UMC is the best-known of the Wesleyan denominations. There are other expressions of Methodist congregations, as well as other denominations that carry on parts of the Wesleyan identity. Those include some Pentecostal and Holiness churches, Nazarene churches and the Salvation Army.