Dr. Timothy Tennent: Global Alumni Center at Asbury Theological Seminary
One of the most exciting features of our Centennial was the formal opening of our new Alumni Center at Asbury Theological Seminary. The ground floor of the Crary-McPheeters building has been transformed into a museum-quality tribute to the amazing ministry of you, our alumni. There are many amazing exhibits, including a sacred wall which displays the names of all 13,345 graduates of the Seminary. It is a powerful, emotional experience to walk into that part of the Alumni Center (formerly known as Royal Auditorium) and see the great stream of graduates who have gone out into the world to “spread scriptural holiness.” I don’t know of any seminary in the country which has created such a powerful tribute to their graduates. You are the real fruit of this ministry. In the end, we do not exist to balance budgets, teach classes, keep well-manicured lawns or conduct chapel services, as vital as all of this is. The final purpose of Asbury is to form men and women for effective ministry “out there” in the world.
As I walked through the Alumni Center recently I felt an overwhelming sense of humility and joy as I reflected on what this center means for all of you. Let me share with you three things which struck me as I toured the new center.
First, the “first fruits of a great harvest.” When Henry Clay Morrison founded the seminary in September of 1923 there were only three students, but one of those was a transfer student who, because of his transfer credits, became the first and only graduate in 1924. His name was Samuel Maxwell. That was the beginning of what would become a great harvest. Today, we have had 13,345 graduates of the Seminary. H.C. Morrison had famously and prophetically stated back before he started the seminary, “if I had the power to multiply myself into a score of men, I could make every one of them an earnest preacher of the gospel.” Morrison was always first and foremost a preacher. This ministry is the result of that earnest prayer to multiply the laborers in keeping with our Lord’s prayer request, to “pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send out laborers into the harvest.” Samuel Maxwell was the first fruits of what would become a harvest almost too numerous to count.
It is Richard Waugh in New Zealand faithfully leading a renewal movement into the Wesleyan church and revitalizing the Wesleyan movement in that far off place.
It is Daryl Diddle for almost twenty years faithfully pastoring the Wilmore Free Methodist Church, preaching week after week in a way which honors Christ and remembers the gospel.
It is P. C. Matthews, the founder of Indian Urban ministries which has trained hundreds of Christian counselors for India.
It is Jerry Kulah, the Dean of the graduate school of theology in the Methodist University of Liberia who has been a powerful force for orthodoxy in the world.
It is Ajith Fernando, the Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka who has mentored thousands of young people to be leaders throughout Asia.
It is Bishop Carlos Lopes, who has initiated a major church planting movement in Brazil.
It is Tom Harrison in Tulsa who not only led one of the great churches in America but sacrificed to help us start an extension site in Tulsa, our first western expression of Asbury.
It is Wilbur Parker who served with the 82 Airborne Division as a chaplain, and eventually rose to train and deploy all chaplains for the European theater and eventually served as the chaplain to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
That is just eight examples. Just think if this went on to list the ministries of all 13,345 graduates! It is overwhelming and amazing.
Second, “Growing Fruit on Other People’s Trees.” It is the singular and somewhat unusual reality of a seminary in that it does not exist for itself. Asbury exists for the sake of others. We are not the church, we are the servant of the church. In the end, our fruitfulness can be measured by what happens in the world, in neighborhoods, in the inner cities, in churches large and small, at baptismal fonts, in pulpits, at the Eucharist table, at the altar, etc. The fruit is seen in the faithful presentation of the Apostolic gospel, in global missions, in Celebrate Recovery milestones and in confirmation classes, at hospitals and funerals and weddings. All of these and more are the places where fruit is borne for the kingdom. Growing fruit on other people’s trees. Only heaven can tell that story. That is our goal.
Third, “Asbury for Life.” One of the enduring commitments we want to make to our alumni is that your relationship with the Seminary is not transactional. You came to Asbury, you paid tuition, you took classes and you earned a degree. That could be little more than a transaction. But, we want a life-long relationship. We don’t see our mission as ending when you graduate. Whether it be Thrive U for ongoing learning, or Spiritual “grace” Retreats for renewal, Seedbed for ongoing resources, New Room for networking and renewal, Golden Grad services to honor faithful service, or the Shepherd’s Fund to support you when you retire, we want to walk with you through the whole of your ministry to serve you and to help you to effectively serve Christ in the world. Asbury for Life.
So, the next time you make a pilgrimage back to Wilmore, come and see this amazing tribute. I hope you see our heart for you and our godly pride in what God is doing through each and every one of you.