Asbury Seminary Celebrates 100 Years of Resilience
Asbury Seminary marks the completion of its first 100 years by thanking God for the past and looking forward to the future. As the Seminary reflects on its history, we remember God’s faithfulness and have highlighted a few historic milestones. We also celebrate God’s provision for the future with the Hundredfold Campaign that will continue to support worldwide revival and renewal. For a complete timeline of the history of Asbury Seminary, visit our Centennial website.
WWII Resilience & Transformation with Alum Jake DeShazer
One of the Seminary’s most famous graduates was Jake DeShazer. He was one of “Doolittle’s Raiders” who bombed the Japanese homeland in 1942. DeShazer was a bombardier on one of the B-25 aircraft taking part in that raid. All the crews knew that they had insufficient fuel to return to the aircraft carriers they had launched from, and following the successful raid, DeShazer and his crew members were forced to parachute out of their plane before it went down over China. He was captured by the Japanese and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. He managed to convince one of the prison guards to loan him a Bible, and DeShazer gave his heart to Christ. He was able to forgive his Japanese captors and became a missionary to the Japanese people, attending Asbury Seminary and graduating in 1958. In 1950, Captain Mitsuo Fuchida, who had led the Japanese bombing raid on Pearl Harbor, read a pamphlet telling DeShazer’s story, was himself converted, and became a missionary in Asia and the United States. The two men later met and from time to time held evangelistic meetings together in Japan. They became living examples of how Christ can turn hate into love. DeShazer died in 2008.
Civil Rights Movement & Racial Reconciliation
Asbury Seminary celebrates its history of institutional equality beginning in 1949 when the faculty voted unanimously to bring to the Board of Trustees a statement which appears in the minutes of May 24 of that year. The statement declared that “compulsory segregation, on the basis of color alone, is un-American and un-Christian.” The statement went on, “The doors of this institution should not be closed to any qualified student simply because of racial ancestry.” The faculty urged the Board to “. . . make clear . . . that this institution is committed in principle to equality of opportunity for all races.” In the November 8 minutes of that same year, the faculty presented to the Board a Statement on Racial Discrimination, a series of propositions urging state and federal legislators to promote legislation to guarantee equality of opportunity to all.
The Seminary’s first Black student, an African, was admitted in 1951. National legislation outlawing discrimination in educational institutions was not passed by Congress until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Not everyone was pleased by the Seminary’s early actions, however. A rock was thrown through President McPheeters’ office window in protest. Although the Seminary did not fully adopt racial inclusion at that time, these initial steps paved the way for the future.
Today, the Formation Office works to promote racial reconciliation on campus and among the Seminary community by creating safe spaces for conversations on this topic. The Office leads the Seminary in observing Black History month and helps the Seminary community be mindful of the work that is needed to be a welcoming space to all.
Loss and Restoration of Accreditation
During the J.C. McPheeter’s presidency from 1942-1962, the Seminary faced one of its greatest threats. The Seminary received full accreditation by the American Association of Theological Schools in 1946 and was also recognized by the University Senate of the Methodist Church as a school approved for the training of ministerial candidates. The importance of such accreditation was emphasized a few years later when a controversy developed among the faculty concerning the teaching methods and orthodoxy of a new faculty member. The conflict spread until the Board of Trustees investigated and pronounced the faculty member’s theological views completely acceptable. Although the Board of Trustees affirmed the faculty member’s orthodoxy, almost the entire faculty, being more attuned to theological fine points and their implications, declared against the professor’s position.
The accrediting agency suspended Asbury Seminary’s accreditation in 1951. They cited the forced resignation and the Board of Trustees allowing itself to be intimidated by a group of faculty members as surrendering their authority to govern. The results of the loss of accreditation were severe. Enrollment fell off sharply, donor support diminished, and the Seminary’s reputation was tarnished.
In 1959, J.C. McPheeters invited Frank Bateman Stanger to come to the Seminary as Executive Vice President with the express task of helping achieve reaccreditation. Stanger worked tirelessly on this task for the next year, and accreditation was restored in June of 1960. This was vital for the Seminary’s growth and reputation. In later years, the Seminary also applied for regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which was granted in 1984.
Today the Seminary is accredited by both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the U.S. and Canada.
Hundredfold Campaign Update
As the Seminary looks forward to the next 100 years, it celebrates the successful completion of its Hundredfold Campaign. This campaign launched Sept. 5, 2017, as one of the most ambitious campaigns by a private seminary and the largest fundraising effort in school history. Thanks to our generous friends and donors, the Seminary has exceeded its original goal of $100 million by raising $154 million to equip Asbury Seminary for the next 100 years. These funds are already supporting a broad array of priorities, including student scholarships, renovating Estes Chapel, training church planters, and supporting Hispanic and global programming.
“For 100 years, the Seminary has stood firmly rooted in the historic Christian faith found in the biblical text and our Wesleyan tradition,” Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, President of Asbury Seminary, said. “The Hundredfold Campaign supports our 2023 Strategic Plan and will propel the Seminary into its 100th year in 2023 and beyond.”
The Seminary is grateful for God’s provision and looks forward to continuing to share the good news of Jesus Christ around the world in the next 100 years.