Dear brothers and sisters:
I have received your open letter. I am thankful that you experienced Asbury as a place where you discovered a “passion for the truth and the mission of the church,” for this summarizes our 1923 founding motto: “the whole Bible for the whole world.” For nearly 100 years Asbury Theological Seminary has been dedicated to “Scriptural Christianity” which joyfully embraces the historic Christian faith, as well as the particular rich heritage of our grand wesleyan tradition. Today, we serve over 90 different denominations around the world.
First, let me clarify that Asbury Seminary has no official relationship within the United Methodist Church and had no role in crafting any legislation for the UMC. We are not one of the 13 official United Methodist Seminaries, though we are approved to train pastors for ordination in the UMC. We train pastors and leaders for a broad spectrum of churches, including United Methodist, Wesleyan, Free Methodist, Anglican, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Salvation Army, Nazarene, as well as a wonderful array of Pentecostal denominations and newly emerging Christian networks. Our nearly 12,000 graduates around the world are, as your own letter powerfully illustrates, free agents who share a wide range of views regarding the issues you raised in your letter. Many have served as elected delegates or representatives of their denominations and have acted in their official capacities within their own denominations as these, and other issues, arise and call for their input and wisdom. Let me say, as a word of encouragement, that we are sympathetic to your concern that the church be known and marked by radical, inclusive love for everyone. We encourage all of our graduates to work to make sure that whatever legislation is crafted by their particular denomination, it should affirm the twin truths that all persons are sacred and created in the image of God and yet lovingly remind Christians of the joyful boundaries God has established for human flourishing.
Second, it is true that Asbury has always embraced the view, as reflected in our ethos statement, that Christian marriage “joins one man and one woman in a single, exclusive union.” Our ethos statement is annually re-affirmed by all of our Trustees, administrators, faculty and senior staff members of the Seminary. We believe that those who are demanding that the church change its position regarding the Christian view of the body and human sexuality have not offered a compelling biblical, historical and theological case for such a dramatic change in the historic ethic of the church. My blog, where I write as an ordained clergyperson of the UMC, explores in more detail the biblical, theological and historical implications of some of the proposed changes.
It has become increasingly clear to many around the world that, despite the importance of the issues you raised, the deeper issue facing many in the contemporary western church is the authority of Scripture. Whenever any denomination experiences a crisis of biblical authority they lose the very objective basis of divine revelation which has so faithfully guided and directed the church over the centuries. As Asburians, I remain confident that you will continue to pray for Asbury Theological Seminary, and, indeed, for all Christians everywhere, that we might be faithful in our sacred calling to know Christ and to make him known.
Timothy C. Tennent, PhD
Asbury Theological Seminary