The new leader of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary says he wants the seminary to look forward — not back.
Terry Brensinger, a professor of pastoral ministry at the seminary since 2011, took over as dean and vice president of the seminary on Thursday, Aug. 1.
The position is unique in that the seminary is both a school within Fresno Pacific University and the national seminary for the U.S. Mennonite Brethren Conference. Fresno Pacific is affiliated with the Pacific District Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
In 2010, the seminary's Fresno operations merged with FPU after the tough economy led to declining enrollment, budget cuts and staff reductions at the seminary. Fresno's seminary was among other seminaries across the nation experiencing similar problems.
Over the past three years, the seminary's enrollment has grown. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, it enrolled 143 students in 2012.
"The seminary has been through considerable transition," Brensinger says. "There were times when its survival was in question, so you develop a survival mentality. The seminary has, in part, passed that.
"The seminary has grown over the past three years. It's come under the umbrella of Fresno Pacific University. It feels to me that the seminary is ripe for something new. I like to say that God is sneaky. When my wife and I came here, we sensed something good was taking place. I sense my colleagues want something new. They want to be creative."
For starters, the seminary has developed a new theme that emphasizes a "new thing" for its Community Chapel, which provides worship and Scripture readings at 11:45 a.m. Wednesdays for students, faculty, staff and friends to take a break from their busy schedules and get refreshed for the rest of the week.
The theme is based on Isaiah 43:18-19: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland."
The seminary again is offering academic degrees in marriage and family therapy, Old Testament, New Testament, theology, Christian ministry, divinity and urban mission. Brensinger has specialized in Old Testament.
The programs again emphasize biblical and theological reflection, personal and community formation, skill development and experiential learning.
Brensinger also wants to infuse what he has learned through his wide experiences.
Before coming to the seminary, he pastored a rural congregation in Colombia, Ky., where congregants are in Appalachian rural poverty, and an urban congregation in Bronx, N.Y., where congregants live in one of the area's toughest ghettos.
He most recently served as the international pastor/teacher for the International Brethren in Christ Association, a position that took him all over the world to train pastors. He has trained pastors in about 40 "Third World" countries, including India and Nepal.
Brensinger wants to see the seminary train pastors in strategic operations at more sites around the country.
Brensinger will serve on FPU President Pete C. Menjares' cabinet.
In a news release, Menjares says he is pleased with Brensinger's appointment: "Terry brings many gifts to this position, such as vision for the future of the seminary, and a history of leadership on campus and in the church. He has demonstrated a dedication to the mission of the seminary and servant's heart."
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