Engaging Anabaptist theology in community—at a distance

January 15, 2020 | Web First
Annette Brill Bergstresser | Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Elkhart, Ind.
Randall Koehler is an AMBS MDiv Connect student from Benson, Ill. (Photo by Peter Ringenberg)

Randall Koehler wants to explore how Anabaptist theology might shape the mission of the church in a rural context.

Koehler, who lives with his family in Benson, Ill.—a rural community whose population was 423 in the 2010 census—is able to pursue this interest from home as a student in the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) distance-friendly Master of Divinity (MDiv) Connect program, majoring in pastoral ministry. He says he chose AMBS because he wanted a seminary experience “already entrenched in Anabaptist theology.”

“The MDiv Connect program allows for a nontraditional student like me to stay rooted in my home context while engaging with people from diverse backgrounds who experience Anabaptism differently than I do,” he says. 

Students like Koehler can complete the 80-credit-hour program in six years of part-time study without having to relocate to AMBS’s campus in Elkhart, Ind. They take both fully online and hybrid courses, the latter of which combine online study with a week of face-to-face learning on campus to fulfill residency requirements.

These course delivery formats allow for students from across the world to delve into theological study together—whether they’re in Abbotsford, B.C.; Benson; Elkhart or Ethiopia. This is part of what Koehler has found energizing since he began his studies last fall. 

“My experience thus far has challenged me to continue to engage deeply not only with the Bible, but also with people who are different from me—and to learn to appreciate their points of view when approaching the Scriptures,” he says. 

Koehler also values the emphasis on faith formation at AMBS, and says that he senses his professors care about his growth as a person as well as his success in his degree program.

“My current classes are giving me study tools and interpretive methods to approach the Scriptures with integrity and honesty, and they have renewed my fervency for knowing God more intimately through the Scriptures,” he says.

Other options for pursuing theological studies at a distance through AMBS include the fully online master of arts in theology and global Anabaptism program (46 credit hours), the fully online graduate certificate in theological studies (27 credit hours), the Journey Missional Leadership Development Program (two-and-a-half years, nondegree), and the six-week online Anabaptist short courses (noncredit). 

Canadian students may be eligible for special scholarships and discounts. Also, students can earn sequential master of theological studies/MDiv degrees through a collaborative arrangement between Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ont., and AMBS.

Visit ambs.edu.

Related stories:
Seminary short course offers congregational tools for engaging conflict
AMBS celebrates Class of 2019
AMBS trains Sudanese-Canadian to make a difference

Randall Koehler is an AMBS MDiv Connect student from Benson, Ill. (Photo by Peter Ringenberg)

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