Dr. Pamela R. Durso
Since 1901, Central Seminary has prepared students for ministry and service. That primary mission of the school has remained the same for 120 years, but just about everything else has changed: the seminary’s name, location, educational content and delivery, and student demographics. What began as Kansas City Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas, is now Central Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas. While disciplined, classical theological study has always been at the heart of Central’s curriculum, the school now focuses close attention on graduating ministers and leaders who have practical ministry skills, entrepreneurial spirit, and the capacity to shape new horizons for the church and the world. The mode of educational delivery has shifted—moving from all in-classroom teaching to mostly virtual learning communities.
In the summer of 2020, during my first months as the eleventh president of Central Seminary, I spent much time learning the school’s history and listening to its leaders, faculty, alumni, and friends. I discovered a seminary that has over and over again met hard financial challenges and embraced new academic opportunities. In 1989, the seminary created long distance learning programs. In 2011, the school established a Korean language program, and in 2016, Central received accreditation approval for a fully online Master of Divinity degree. I’m grateful for Central’s history of past innovation and faithfulness in following the Spirit’s leadership. That track record, I believe, will serve us well as we move ahead together.
In recent days, my guiding word for the seminary’s future has been stewardship. I have come to believe that the future health and vibrancy of our seminary rests on our shared commitment as the Central community to steward this God-given gift.
Our stewardship commitment begins with our students. As a seminary, we are called to be good stewards of their academic and ministerial aspirations, to create for them spaces of deep learning and intellectual challenge, to form, sharpen, and inspire them as they grow as leaders who are courageous, competent, thoughtful, and practice ready for ministry.
Our commitment to steward the gift of Central also calls us to give good care to the resources we have. Our 2021 reality is that our seminary is no longer a singular place. Central is no longer tied to one building or even several buildings, and thus our commitment as stewards is not so much about place or property. Our commitment as stewards is instead about possibilities and opportunities. We are to be faithful stewards of the Spirit-inspired possibilities that come our way and to respond faithfully to opportunities that we as a community envision together, and to be ready for what unfolds for Central in this next season of the seminary’s history.
For those of you who are part of Central’s community, I invite you to be stewards of the seminary’s possibilities and opportunities. Include our students and faculty frequently in your prayers as they study and learn together. Advocate for the seminary. Tell Central’s story to your friends and your church family. Share about our programs and degrees with those who might have interest in theological study and with those who are ready to join in supporting God’s good work through Central. Join us as we ready ourselves for what unfolds for Central in this next season of the seminary’s history.