Author Archives: presidentblog

Probing the Evangelical Mind

The religious historian George Mardsen once defined an evangelical Christian as “anyone who likes Billy Graham.”

A few years later, when the famous evangelist was asked what the term meant, he was at a loss for words. “Actually, that’s a question I’d like to ask somebody too,” Graham said.

Fast forward to 2017, and the definition of the term “evangelical” has become even more clouded. For that reason, I am honored to join with Jay Hein, President of the Sagamore Institute, in hosting a gathering of Christian scholars to discuss what it means to be an evangelical.

Level Mansion

The symposium, “The State of the Evangelical Mind: Reflections Upon the Past, Prospects for the Future,” will convene September 21-22 at the historic Levey mansion, which houses the Sagamore Institute, in downtown Indianapolis.

The Sagamore Institute, which came to life in 2004, was intentionally located in America’s heartland to avoid the noise and rancor coming from Washington, D.C. The Institute’s mission is to tackle difficult issues with civility and focus on solutions not theology. Before becoming president of the Institute, Hein was the director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives under former President George W. Bush.

Other partnering sponsors of the symposium, in addition to the Sagamore Institute and Indiana Wesleyan University, are Christianity Today, and Excelsia College in Australia. The Lumen Research Institute, a joint initiative sponsored by IWU and Excelsia, is planning the event.

You can find more information about the conference at lumenresearchinstitute.org.

Evangelicalism, however one defines it, finds itself at the intersection of a host of crossroads. After decades of relative prosperity in North America, the churches, universities and seminaries that evangelicals cultivate, populate and depend upon for leadership are wrestling with legal, social and ultimately theological questions on a wide variety of fronts.

For many, the financial challenges that compelled Christianity Today to close Books and Culture after 21 years were tangible expressions of those challenges.

This symposium offers a context in which participants can reflect upon that past but also think critically about the prospects for the future of the evangelical mind.

Confirmed keynote speakers for the event include:

  • Mark A. Noll, Francis A. McAnaney Professor Emeritus of History, University of Notre Dame.
  • Jo Anne Lyon, former General Superintendent and current Ambassador for The Wesleyan Church.
  • Timothy Larsen, Carolyn and Fred McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College.
  • Lauren F. Winner, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality, Duke University Divinity School.
  • James K.A. Smith, Professor of Philosophy and the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, Calvin College.
  • David Mahan – Executive Director of the Rivendell Institute at Yale
  • Don Smedley – Senior Fellow of the Rivendell Institute at Yale

John Wilson will be honored during the symposium for his long and remarkable service as founder and editor of Books and Culture.

A Day for Renewed Hope

As we begin a new week, our hearts are torn between the pain and sorrow of the horrific events that happened Saturday in Charlottesville, and the hope our community has in Jesus and in the basic good will of our fellow American citizens.

The IWU community unequivocally rejects the white supremacist ideology on display over the weekend. It is not the way of Jesus. And neither is it aligned with the great values of the American dream we have pursued together for more than two centuries.

On this day, we need renewed hope. We need hope that good will triumph over evil. We need hope that humility ultimately wins over hubris. We need hope that we have a bright future together, one in which our differences become our strength and not our defeat.

I remind our university community of the heart of our mission. We are a Christ-centered academic community committed to changing the world by developing students in character, scholarship, and leadership. We take this calling seriously, to be a community committed to the hard conversations, to the challenging work of understanding the times in which we live. We will redouble our efforts to bring hope to our national community through the disciplined use of our minds and hearts under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Today we turn for hope and courage to our faith in Jesus, who took on himself the evil and suffering of this world and made a way for us to see and pursue beauty, righteousness, and goodness.

As for our house, we will follow the way of Jesus.

Dr. Colleen Derr to become President of Wesley Seminary

Wesley Seminary - Indiana Wesleyan

It is with great delight I announce that Dr. Colleen Derr has been named the new President of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University. She will succeed Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, who has served as interim leader since the departure of Dr. Wayne Schmidt, the founding leader of the Seminary. Dr. Derr’s new role will begin July 1, 2017.

Dr. Derr has been a part of Wesley Seminary since 2011, serving as a faculty member and Assistant Dean. She has served as the chair of the Seminary faculty, as a member of the University Faculty Senate and been active on numerous university committees. She played an integral role in the development of the Master of Arts in Children, Youth and Family Ministry and is currently part of the team developing a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation that is scheduled to launch in the fall 2018. Dr. Derr is a respected teacher, researcher, leader and colleague.

Before joining the seminary faculty, Dr. Derr served as a denominational leader through multiple leadership positions in The Wesleyan Church. She is an ordained elder and has served in pastoral ministry.

Dr. Derr has earned a reputation as an advocate and resource for an array of church ministries, an effective administrator and a wise and dynamic leader.

Her educational achievements include an M.A. in Ministry Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University, and an Ed.D. in Christian Education Leadership from Regent University.

Dr. Derr is married to Wayne Derr, and they have four adult children, Jerica, Zachary, Tyler and Anna.

We are grateful that God has prepared Dr. Derr for this work and look forward to her leadership.

Wesley Seminary is a special place that has developed quality programs and faculty since it opened in 2009 on Indiana Wesleyan’s Marion campus.  The seminary now serves more 500 students in 34 states and 11 countries. It is being used by God to engage and equip pastors to lead their churches and reach individuals for Christ.

We have a great sense of anticipation for the new vistas of service that God will open to the faculty, staff and students of Wesley Seminary in the years to come.

Please join me in welcoming Dr. Colleen Derr as the President of Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Indiana Wesleyan University launches search for new chancellor

IWU - Louisville Campus

Indiana Wesleyan University is launching a nationwide search for a chancellor to oversee IWU’s National and Global campus, the campus that oversees all non-residential services.

The National and Global campuses serve about 11,000 students at 15 education centers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, as well as all online students, who come from the United States and 30 other countries. IWU’s DeVoe School of Business, the School of Nursing, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Educational Leadership, the School of Service and Leadership, and the Division of Liberal Arts are all housed within the National and Global campuses.

The successful candidate will replace Audrey Hahn, the current chancellor, who has announced her retirement. Hahn’s last day will be Dec. 31, 2017.

The university has established a search committee and is working with EFL Associates to help identify candidates for this key position at the university.

“EFL Associates is a firm that specializes in leadership searches in a variety of industries, including higher education,” said Jerry Shepherd, associate vice president of adult enrollment services and chair of the search committee, in a letter to university faculty and staff. “As applications are received in March and April, the committee will review and schedule interviews with the most highly qualified candidates.”

The committee will recommend finalists to David Wright, president of Indiana Wesleyan University.

“Ultimately, Dr. Wright will review the finalists and will select the individual he feels best prepared to lead the National and Global campuses,” Shepherd said.

IWU has begun advertising the position, and the description can be viewed here.

Merry Christmas from IWU

 

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”Luke 2:10-11 NIV

 

Hoosiers Learn of IWU’s Economic Impact on Local Community

Thousands of Hoosiers who begin their day with Inside INdiana Business and INside Indiana Business Radio awoke Wednesday to news of the significant economic impact that Indiana Wesleyan University has on the Grant County economy.

The story, based on a recent study by the Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, was the day’s lead story on the Inside INdiana Business network.

Much has changed for IWU and Marion since 1985.  The Business Research Center found that IWU now makes a direct annual economic impact of $72 million on the Marion economy, and helps to create 400 more jobs in Marion beyond our own 1100 employees.

Even more heartening for me, the study found that between our students and staff IWU people contribute well over 200,000 hours of service to local charitable organizations each year.

We are grateful to Gerry Dick and Inside INdiana Business for helping to tell this remarkable story.

The Inside INdiana Business brand of multi-media business products was created in 2000 by broadcast news veteran Gerry Dick and technology entrepreneur and visionary Scott Jones.

Today, more people access the brand than any other source of Indiana business news. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Inside INdiana Business delivers daily content that can be watched, heard and read in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois (including Chicagoland), Ohio, Kentucky and markets around the globe.

Speaking of a global market, I read today’s Inside INdiana Business report in my hotel room in Sydney, Australia, where I am visiting Excelsia College, a sister institution of Indiana Wesleyan University.

Read the full report below:

IWU - Economic Impact

Study Paints Picture of Indiana Wesleyan Impact

Posted: Nov 29, 2016 5:44 PM ESTUpdated: Nov 30, 2016 8:57 AM EST

By Dan McGowan, Writer/Reporter
 

MARION – A report released by Indiana Wesleyan University shows the Marion-based school has a more than $72 million impact on the local economy. The research also suggests nearly 400 jobs in the community are spurred by university, student and visitor spending. The Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business conducted the study and says IWU has approximately 1,180 workers at its main campus, making it the Grant County’s second-biggest employer.

Vice President for Residential Education Operations John Jones says the study will help the university tell its story in and out of the county. He says the study illustrates IWU’s deep commitment to the community and that the university continues to be a significant partner. Jones says investments into the campus and expanding enrollment sends a message that “we’re continuing to make Marion and Grant County a place that can be a destination and not just a county to just pass through, but a county to come to, whether you intend to study or come and work, the university plays a significant role in that.”

The data suggest 80 different community organizations or programs in the county benefited last year from nearly 2,200 student volunteering over 146,000 hours. IWU President David Wright says “Marion and Grant County have been home to Indiana Wesleyan University for more than 90 years, and the university has seen the city through boom times and lean times. Through it all, IWU has sought to be a good neighbor and a positive presence for the city.”

The study focused specifically on the impact to the city of Marion and Grant County, but Jones says the university would like to look at the full statewide impact in the future.

Full Report:

Vice President for Residential Education Operations John Jones says the study will help the university tell its story in and out of the county:

Response to Election 2016

IWU - Dr. Wright

This morning we awoke to one of the most unusual political events of our lifetimes.  The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of our nation is an event that will be remembered, studied, and retold for many years to come.

This has been a tumultuous and bruising season in the life of our country.  Closer to home, it has been a time of intense debate, strongly held positions, and divisive language for our own IWU community.

From where I sit, I get to see first-hand what a large and diverse community IWU has become.  With 80,000 alumni spread across the world, over 14,000 current students in the United States and 30 different countries, and close to 3500 full and part-time employees, our IWU community encompasses racial, gender, economic, national, religious, and political diversity.

Today many in our community celebrate this election.  But many others in our community feel sadness and a new sense of vulnerability and fear.

This is the shared reality of our IWU community today.

What will we do about this?

On this day I want to remind our community of who we are, what we value, and what we are called to do.

Who Are We?

We are a Christ-centered academic community.  We take our identity from Jesus Christ – the One who is God with us, the Savior of the world, the Suffering Servant of all, the Redeemer of all the bruised and broken, the one who reconciles us to God and to each other.  Above all else, and despite our differences, the Indiana Wesleyan University community is defined by our faith in, allegiance to, and pursuit of Jesus.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus today, and take our cues for the future from who He is and who He calls us to be.

What Do We Value?

We value each other.  We are an inclusive community that loves and embraces one another despite differences of political persuasion, race, gender, nationality, immigration status, or any other characteristic that people have used to foster division, suspicion, and strife.  While some in our community feel better about the future, others in our community feel less safe, more vulnerable, less included today than they did yesterday.  Let us affirm together that IWU loves and embraces our minority students and staff, those who come from immigrant families, those who are international students, or those who identify with some other group of people who feel vulnerable and pushed to the margins.  I would ask all members of our community to remember and practice those values and virtues of Godly hospitality that represent the very best of what our Lord Jesus Christ taught us.

What Are We Called to Do?

We are called to serve.  A former colleague of mine used to remind me, “David, always remember, we are following the one who hung on the middle cross.”  We are not here to serve ourselves or to seek our own.  We are here to serve our students, our nation, and our world.  Please look around you today and be aware of those who need to be served.  Let us serve by guarding our lips and our actions.  Let me be even more specific about this.  Please join me in affirming that the IWU community does not condone or endorse exclusion of immigrants, violence against women, hatred against minorities, or any other type of language or behavior that dehumanizes our fellow brothers and sisters.  We do this not for any political motivation.  No politician or political doctrine teaches us to serve in this way.  We do this because it is what Jesus modeled, and what he calls us to do.

Friends, today our focus is inevitably on the kingdoms of this world and the power vested in earthly leaders.

But today let us also be reminded of the glory of heaven, a glory that teaches us to pursue more beautiful and lasting ways of living together.  Hear God’s Word.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If you speak, you should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If you serve, you should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (I Peter 4:8-11) 

[In the coming days the university will provide opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to gather to discuss and process the significance of this election and the ways in which it impacts our IWU community.]

Jakarta, Indonesia: IWU’s Newest Alumni Chapter

IWU - Indonesia GraduationTwelve teachers at IPEKA Integrated Christian School in Indonesia have something new to hang on their office walls: Indiana Wesleyan University diplomas. And more IWU diplomas are destined for the world’s largest island nation.

Several years ago when I began to cast the vision of IWU as a global Christian learning community little did I know that our learning community would include Indonesia.  One of the highlights of the past year was the lunch I shared with these IWU students as they talked about what this opportunity meant to them.

Dr. Brock Reiman flew to the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta in early October to present Master of Education diplomas in person to the first group of teachers to complete the two-year graduate course.  Another 24 teachers at the school are enrolled in the program and will graduate in 2018.

Reiman is IWU’s Vice President for Academic Affairs in the College of Adult and Professional Studies.

The initial relationship between IWU and IPEKA grew out of a friendship between administrators at the two schools, Dr. Bridget Aitchison at IWU and Dr. Janet Nason at IPEKA. The schools signed an agreement in 2014 to offer the master’s class in Jakarta.

Classes were taught both online and onsite, with IWU faculty members traveling to Jakarta to teach some courses. As part of their studies, teachers enrolled in the program were required to complete – and implement – an action research project that addressed an education-related issue in their school.

The graduate class is a first step in what IWU and IPEKA administrators hope will be a growing relationship between the two schools.

On October 31, a team from the IWU admissions office traveled to Jakarta to participate in a college fair for students at IPEKA School. Reiman said several students from the Indonesian school already attend American colleges, but none of them yet at IWU’s undergraduate programs.

The IPEKA Integrated Christian School, which has 1,200 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, is part of a family of Indonesian schools based in the Jakarta area but with schools on other islands.

Dr. William Ho, a Chinese pastor who said he could not find any Christian schools for his children to attend, established the foundation that owns and operates the schools. The first school opened in 1979 with five teachers and 100 students. The foundation now has 12 schools with over 11,000 students and 1,100 teachers and staff.

IPEKA Integrated Christian School opened in 1999 in a modern, high-rise building in Jakarta. “All of their campuses are top-notch,” Reiman said.

The Republic of Indonesia, which consists of 13,000 islands, is the fourth most populated country in the world with 260 million people. Jakarta, with a population of 9.5 million, is the largest city in Indonesia.

(David Wright and Alan Miller)

Jo Anne Lyon: Bringing Hope and Peace to a Troubled World

Dr. Jo Anne Lyon

People are life’s greatest treasures.  Spend any time at all around Dr. Jo Anne Lyon and you will be entertained and inspired.  Recently she won a very special recognition.  We couldn’t be prouder of or more thankful for our friend and colleague.

Dr. Lyon, who has served as Interim Vice President of Wesley Seminary since June, recently joined a prestigious list of international leaders when she was honored as the recipient of the 2016 World Methodist Council Peace Award, which has been presented since 1977 by the World Methodist Council.

Dr. Lyon is in outstanding company. Previous recipients of the award include former President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev.

While Dr. Lyon’s immediate response was that she did not deserve the honor, others would argue she is more than deserving for her unselfish and tireless work that has taken her to some of the most dangerous and remote areas of the world in an effort to bring hope, peace and justice to a hurting world.

That journey began in 1985 when Lyon traveled to Ethiopia with an ABC news team that was filming a documentary on the great famine. She described the experience earlier this year in an interview with Wesleyan Life magazine:

“One woman got to the gate of the refugee camp with her last surviving child and dropped dead right in front of me. She had four children just like I do. I stepped in a field of 2,000 people that were totally silent, because not one had the energy to speak. They were starving to death. God said to me, ‘It does not have to be this way. There is abundance. Be my hands.’ And I began to see the world totally differently.”

For 30 years, Dr. Lyon’s travels have taken her from the brothels of Cambodia, where she saw children for sale as far as the eye could see, to the White House where she represented The Wesleyan Church on the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based Partnerships.

Most of Dr. Lyon’s humanitarian work was done in her role as founder and former CEO of World Hope International, which is based in Alexandria, Virginia. She started the ministry in her home and, in 12 years, grew World Hope to a $17 million global Christian relief and development agency serving in 30 countries and dedicated to alleviate suffering and injustice.

After leading World Hope for 12 years, Dr. Lyon was elected and served eight years as the General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church – the only woman in the 175-history of the denomination to hold that position.

On June 6, Dr. Lyon retired as General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church and was immediately named to the newly created position as Ambassador, so that the denomination could continue to benefit from her international network of colleagues and partnerships.

A day later, she received her first ambassadorial assignment at Wesley Seminary, an institution which she played a key role in establishing. And so, for the next year at least, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, Acclaimed International Peacemaker, will use her life’s story to help seminary students “begin to see the world differently,” just as she did three decades ago in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

(Alan Miller and David Wright)

The Brain Kitchen: A Recipe to Address Childhood Trauma

The creativity and commitment of our IWU faculty never cease to amaze me.  Here’s a story Alan Miller wrote for me about the brainchild of Dr. Amanda Drury.

When Amanda Drury walked into Frances Slocum, the IWU professor immediately noticed the hand-written notes from children posted on the entryway wall. The notes, expressing the children’s dreams, were products of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day project.

Here is a sampling:

  • I wish I could learn the whole Spanish dictionary. I’ve already started!
  •  My dream is to be a smart girl, and my job is to be a scientist.
  •  I want the whole world to be made of ice cream.
  • I dream that people who cuss won’t have to.
  • I want to grow up to be a good kid.
  • I would like to get a tarantula for my 10th birthday.
  • I wish poor people were not poor.
  • I wish my Mom and Dad would stop fighting.
  • I have a dream that I could move to third grade, so I could be smart.

“I can’t do anything about many of these dreams—I can’t buy a child a tarantula for his birthday, but some of these dreams we could actually work toward,” said Drury, who teaches in IWU’s theology and ministry division. It was with those dreams in mind that The Brain Kitchen was born.

“The Brain Kitchen is an afterschool program with two primary components: there is the homework piece, and there is the cooking piece. A child coming to The Brain Kitchen would meet up with a mentor to help complete school work, and then he would be brought into the kitchen where he would learn how to make soup and bread. And by making soup, I’m talking about buying a chicken and using every single part of it, including boiling the bones to make broth.

“The children would work on the soup incrementally during the week, so that on Fridays they would go home with a vat of soup and three loaves of bread. One loaf they save, one they eat and one they give away. This meets a particular need within the community in that many children are provided with government breakfasts and lunches, but weekend food can be a bit more tricky,” Drury said.

The IWU community became more intricately involved this past spring when the Muncie-based Ball Brothers Foundation awarded the school $17,400 to transform The Brain Kitchen into a “trauma-informed space”.

This trauma-informed approach to education addresses the effect of trauma on children and learning.  It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of children experience trauma, which is defined as negative events, which surpass the child’s ordinary coping skills.

In layman’s terms, the grant will be used to establish a community teaching kitchen with homework space to serve low-income children in the Marion community. “We are starting with a small group of students, between 10-15, and we hope to expand significantly as we get a sense of the kind of permanent space that we need,” Drury said. The Brain Kitchen is currently meeting in a small house owned by College Wesleyan Church while the program looks for a larger, more permanent space.

Drury has recruited IWU colleagues to help develop the project and oversee the Ball grant. Wendy Puffer, who teaches in the art department and is overseeing the new Design for Social Impact major, is looking at ways to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Katti Sneed, who heads the IWU social work program, is writing trauma-related curriculum that will be used to train volunteers. Missy Khosla, who has a doctorate in occupational therapy, is looking for ways to imbed brain-development exercises into the program.

“We have a lot of pieces working together now to create The Brain Kitchen,” Drury said. “Our hope is that these children will get something more than just homework help. We want their brains to actually look different after participating in this program. We want them to return home on the weekend with the confidence that they have a meal to share. And we want this to be done in a way that every single child knows he or she is loved by Jesus, because no one should hear about the love of God on an empty stomach.”