Kingswood Chronicle Winter 2017
Kingswood Chronicle Winter 2017

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Young Adult Initiative Funded

Since its founding 125 years ago, Seattle Pacific has been committed to serving the church and reaching out to our ever-changing world in innovative ways for the sake of the gospel. This fall, the School of Theology received a $1.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help congregations in the Pacific Northwest engage young adults, working with them to design innovative ministries that support and enrich their faith lives.

Young adults at worship

The Endowment’s $19.4 million Young Adult Initiative will establish innovation hubs at 12 colleges, universities, and seminaries across the nation to help congregations as they design and launch new ministries with young adults, ages 23 to 29. The institutions are located in 10 states and the District of Columbia and reflect diverse Christian traditions. SPU is the only institution in the Pacific Northwest to be a part of this new initiative.

Dr. Jeff Keuss, professor of Christian ministry, theology, and culture and director of the University Scholars program, will lead the five-year initiative at Seattle Pacific. Under his leadership, the SPU innovation hub will identify 12 area congregations to work with, helping them better understand the experiences of young adults and working with them to design, launch, and evaluate new ministries. The hub will also gather leaders for mutual learning and support.

“Christian affiliation among young people in the U.S. is dropping, and church participation amongst many denominations is declining,” Keuss says. “Yet we know the desire to gather, spiritually grow, be intellectually challenged, and find deep purpose in life is highly valued by young adults, as are communities that offer authentic commitments to such emphases. The SPU Young Adult Initiative is designed to address this disconnect.”

Keuss says he is thrilled for the opportunity to create deep conversation and innovation for ministry in the region through this generous gift.

Immerse Youth Discipleship Program Launches

Immerse youth

Beginning this summer, SPU’s Youth Discipleship Academy, “Immerse,” is a new intensive formational experience for high school students. Funded by a $600,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., this School of Theology community program hosts students July 9–15, 2017, on the SPU campus and at Camp Casey, and reunites students October 6–8 for a follow-up retreat at Camp Casey.

Studies suggest an increasing number of Christians neglect their faith after high school. Through Immerse, we hope to respond by helping students grow in their identity as Christians and in their call to live out that identity within the local church and community. Students will benefit from classroom instruction from theology faculty, practice of worship and other spiritual disciplines, on-site contextual application of faith to contemporary real-world issues, small- and large-group community-building led by undergraduate and Seminary discipleship leaders, and recreational opportunities showcasing the Pacific Northwest.

The School of Theology will oversee the program with help from the Center for Biblical and Theological Education. Leadership includes Program Manager Dan Vandewarker and Executive Director Dr. Mike Langford, associate professor of theology, discipleship, and ministry.

Registration is currently open and generous scholarships are available. Immerse is eagerly looking for partners interested in investing in the next generation of disciples. Visit Immerse’s website for more details. If you know of students who would benefit from this intensive discipleship opportunity, please email Vandewarker.

New SPS Director Derick Harris

Derick Harris

Last fall, Seattle Pacific Seminary welcomed Derick Harris as the new director of seminary administration. Harris, a Seattle native, most recently served as the director of student services and as chaplain at a local alternative recovery high school.

Harris attended Northwest University in his undergraduate years and received his master of divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.

“I see SPU as a place where I can unite my call to ministry with my love of higher education,” he says. “I enjoy working closely with our seminarians and prospective students as they discern, discover, and activate their call to ministry.” In addition to recruitment, Harris intends to focus on the Seminary’s visibility, viability, and student services.

“My hope is that Seattle Pacific Seminary continues to educate and prepare innovative, courageous, spiritually mature, and socially engaged worshipers committed to acts of justice, mercy, and reconciliation in an ever-changing world,” he says.

Harris is a member of Tabernacle Church. In his off-hours, he enjoys visiting coffee shops and art museums, listening to live jazz, and reading, especially works by Howard Thurman and James Baldwin.

Seminary Granted Highest Accreditation

Alexander Hall

Last June, Seattle Pacific Seminary received accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools, joining more than 270 institutions in the U.S. and Canada in the pursuit of the highest standards of excellence in academic research, classroom instruction, and pre-professional training.

The Seminary, which began in 2009, attained accreditation in the shortest possible time after graduating its first class of students in 2011 and was granted accreditation for seven years, the longest time allowed for a newly accredited school.

“Accreditation greatly strengthens our potential for recruiting students, as the churches from which they come can be assured that we are committed both to educational excellence and to responsiveness to what they have told us they need our graduates to know and to be equipped to do,” says Dr. Rick Steele, associate dean of graduate theological studies.

The ATS stamp of approval also expands the Seminary’s possibilities for grant funding.

The evaluators noted the benefits of the Seminary’s role within the University: “The richness of resources and relationships that are evident in a seminary embedded in a larger university … serves the seminary by providing benefits it would not otherwise have as a stand-alone school, and it serves the university by providing a leading voice and vision from the theology faculty for the institution’s Christian character and culture.”

Undergraduate Spotlight: Scott Swenson ’17

Scott Swenson combines music with ministry in his daily life. The SPU senior has been leading worship since he was a freshman in high school in Pendleton, Oregon. Swenson used his gifts in many settings, from traditional church services to Rodeo Bible Camp. (After all, Pendleton is a rodeo town.)

With interest in becoming a music teacher, Swenson says Dr. Bob Drovdahl, professor of educational ministry, first led him to look into the educational ministry major. Since his first class with Assistant Professor of Music Dr. Stephen Newby, Swenson says he was sold.

Scott Swenson

“I have spent my years here at SPU learning from Dr. Newby and following him around as he leads all over the Seattle area,” Swenson says.

Swenson says the relationship he has developed with Newby has led him to various connections and opportunities for ministry-related involvement both on and off campus, from being a member of SPU’s Worship Arts Ensemble to serving a new community.

With the help of his professor, Swenson has been a worship intern at Newport Covenant Church in Bellevue since February 2016. “I am helping this congregation start a new service for the unchurched of Bellevue. I am leading worship there about every other week — sometimes more often than that,” Swenson says.

In addition, this year he serves as the coordinator for Gather, the team that leads worship at SPU’s weekly, campuswide chapel service.

Coming from a comfortable, rural church ministry that he had grown up with, Swenson says one of his goals in his first weeks at SPU was to attend as many churches as possible in order to expand his understanding of church and worship. He notes this experience as invaluable to his growth as a musician and as a Christian.

As a pastor’s kid with an older brother and a younger sister, Swenson says he started playing guitar in third grade. Since playing the violin had come so easily to his brother, he wanted to give guitar a shot.

Although he has been involved in countless musical collaborations with friends, Swenson believes worship is something unique.

“All that stuff is fun but it is not as life-giving to me as worship is because worship has purpose,” Swenson says. “Especially in the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize that I don’t necessarily classify myself as an artist but rather a ‘song mechanic’ because I tie whatever I do musically with theology.”

In doing so, Swenson says he has come to discover a bigger picture of what church is and even who God is.

As he continues to lead worship and serve, Swenson says he strives to be excellent on multiple levels of understanding.

“It goes back to working with Dr. Newby,” Swenson says. “He intertwines music and theology so closely and so tightly that there almost isn’t even a difference, which is something I totally aspire to do.”

Swenson is a fourth-generation Free Methodist and third-generation Seattle Pacific University student who plans to graduate in March with a bachelor’s degree in Christian theology with a concentration in educational ministry and a worship arts minor.

“As I prepare to graduate, I definitely feel a call toward music ministry, but I have also been praying about church planting,” Swenson says. “I do not know what either of those will look like exactly, but I do have a couple job offers pending. In the meantime, I am continuing to pray and wait upon the Lord to know when and where I am called.”

Seminary Alumnus Spotlight: Anh Nguyen ’15

For Anh Nguyen ’15, living vocationally as a hospital chaplain is about supporting others and loving outside the margins.

Even before seminary, God was softening Nguyen’s heart. He felt a call to seminary and some sort of ministry after he experienced personal loss of loved ones at a young age.

“God was breaking my heart, but at the same time, transforming it — I didn’t anticipate that [in the midst of tragedy],” he says.

Such loss inspired Nguyen to support people who experienced similar challenges in life, whether their own or others close to them. He contemplated medical school and becoming a psychiatrist, but despite naysayers who expressed doubt, Nguyen felt God calling him to seminary.

It was at Seattle Pacific Seminary where Nguyen’s theology and vocation were formed.

“Part of my core theology came from seminary and Professor Kerry Dearborn: lessons on seeing people through the image of God (‘Imago Dei’). I learned the importance of loving people by the mere fact that they are God’s children and beloved,” he says. “That has helped me be open and willing to care for and work with individuals who are of different backgrounds and who faced tremendous adversity. At the end of the day, they are my brothers and sisters, rooted as God’s beloved.”

After such formative classes, while working toward his master of divinity degree, Nguyen started his first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education, an internship at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

“I fell in love with Harborview and what it stood for. It is the only trauma-one center in King County and it provides care for anyone and everyone, including the homeless and the uninsured.”

Anh Nguyen

After his internship, Nguyen worked as a part-time per diem chaplain during seminary. Post-graduation, he went on to a one-year residency program at Harborview, and after that, continued on as a chaplain fellow.

“Most of my time is dedicated to patient care, with a primary concentration on providing pastoral care to patients and their families in the Emergency Department and Psychiatry — reading Scripture, praying, and listening with, and to, them. On more critical cases, there is often a need to pray with a patient who is dying or tend to family members who have lost loved ones. I’ve experienced grief and sadness with people, climbed into the hole with them, and allowed God’s presence and love to flow through me.”

Currently, Nguyen is working on his chaplain board certification, which is a requirement for full-time chaplains at medical facilities, a position he hopes to continue in the long run. He is also in the process of becoming a volunteer chaplain for the Seattle Fire Department. When Nguyen isn’t working, he enjoys traveling the world and cheering on the Seattle Seahawks.

Rooted in Mission: Celebrating Seattle Pacific’s 125th Anniversary

Rooted in Mission, by Dr. Howard Snyder

“To know a family is to know its roots,” says Free Methodist scholar Dr. Howard Snyder. “The memory of an institution’s history can go through cycles. First and second generations celebrate the impulse of its founding. Another generation says, ‘That was then, this is now’ — and there’s a tendency to forget. Over time, history is rediscovered by younger people who say, ‘Why haven’t we heard this?’”

Snyder’s new book Rooted in Mission: The Founding of Seattle Pacific University 1891–1916 was commissioned by School of Theology Dean Dr. Doug Strong to serve as a definitive history of Seattle Pacific’s earliest years. Snyder — the visiting director of the Manchester Wesley Research Center in Manchester, England — helps readers rediscover the people, prayers, and proposals of SPU’s origins, before it was a university or even a college.

Snyder pays particular attention to SPU’s Free Methodist founders — Nils Peterson, Hiram Pease, John Norton, Alexander and Adelaide Beers, and B.T. and Ellen Roberts (the founding couple of the Free Methodist denomination, whose lives Snyder celebrated in an earlier biography).

It’s to SPU’s advantage, Snyder says, that it’s grounded in what God has done and in what God promises to do. Snyder hopes Rooted in Mission will reveal, especially for those who only experience their own four years of SPU’s history, the richness of its heritage.

Rooted in Mission is available at the SPU Bookstore; call 206-281-2137 to purchase a copy.

School of Theology Faculty Books

The Death of Race, by Dr. Brian Bantum

The Death of Race: Building a New Christianity in a Racial World by Associate Professor of Theology Dr. Brian Bantum (Fortress Press, 2016)

In his new book, Dr. Brian Bantum says that race is not merely an intellectual category or a biological fact. Much like the incarnation, it is a “word made flesh,” the confluence of various powers that allow some to organize and dominate the lives of others. In this way racism is a deeply theological problem, one that is central to the Christian story and one that plays out daily in the United States and throughout the world.

Bantum argues that our attempts to heal racism will not succeed until we address what gives rise to racism in the first place: a fallen understanding of our bodies that sees difference as something to resist, defeat, or subdue. Therefore, he examines the question of race, but through the lens of our bodies and what our bodies mean in the midst of a complicated, racialized world, one that perpetually dehumanizes dark bodies, thereby rendering all of us less than God’s intention.

Visit to see all School of Theology faculty publications.

SOT Graduates Named “Ones to Watch”

SPU 125

Four SPU School of Theology graduates were recently named SPU’s “125 Ones to Watch,” a list of notable GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) alumni. Individuals were selected based on demonstrated leadership and success in their professions.

SOT alums included Elizabeth Rueda-Herrera ’15, legal assistant and interpreter at Open Door Legal Services; Jacob Redding ’13, operations, Tesla Motors; Karina Woodruff ’13, senior program manager of shelter, outreach, and support services at Friends of Youth; and Britt Carlson ’09, associate pastor at Portland Mennonite Church. Carlson wrote a column about the year between her studies at SPU and at Duke Divinity in the latest issue of Response.

Upcoming Events

Discernment Weekend
Friday and Saturday, February 17–18
SPU campus

Seattle Pacific Seminary invites you to envision your future and discern your call in the company of seminary faculty and students, and others contemplating seminary. Spend a day and a half in learning, prayer, discussion, thoughtful challenge, worship, and fellowship. Register at

Palmer Lecture
“Faith in the Visual Age: Can You See God?”
Tuesday, February 28, 7 p.m.
Upper Gwinn Commons, SPU campus

Dr. Ralph Watkins, Peachtree Associate Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth at Columbia Theological Seminary, asks what it means as our phones, watches, tablets, and laptops have become the means of communication, identity, connection, and community. Is the pulpit a thing of the past? How do we, as people of faith, share our stories? How can we engage the image generation?

Friends of the Library Panel: Rooted in Mission
Tuesday, March 7, 7 p.m.
Upper Gwinn Commons, SPU campus

Panelists, including SPU School of Theology Dean Dr. Doug Strong and University Archivist Adrienne Meier, discuss Dr. Howard Snyder’s new book, Rooted in Mission: The Founding of Seattle Pacific University 1891–1916.

Seattle Pacific Seminary Immersion
Thursday, April 20, 1 p.m.
SPU campus

An afternoon of teaching, discussion, fellowship, and food with Seattle Pacific Seminary faculty, staff, and students, along with others who are considering seminary.

Walls lecture

Walls Lecture
“Founding SPU: The Bible Standard of Christianity”
Tuesday, May 2, 7 p.m.
Upper Gwinn Commons, SPU campus

Dr. Rob Wall, Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies

School of Theology Book Celebration
Thursday, May 18, 3 p.m.
SPU campus

Kingswood Chronicle, published twice annually, is named after the first school established by John Wesley in Bristol, England, in 1742. For its dedication, John’s brother, Charles, wrote a hymn that included this line: “Unite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety.” Our hope is that the Center for Biblical and Theological Education, the undergraduate and Seminary programs, the entire School of Theology, and this publication will unite our academic study of theology with a profound, meaningful faith in Jesus Christ — one that grows deeper every day.