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Whitworth University adds two new master’s programs in theology

Jeremy Wynne directs new theology programs at Whitworth.

With growing interest from students, Whitworth University has gradually added classes in different aspects of theology.

In 2008, the university started a master of arts in theology program, designed for traditional students interested in the classical disciplines of biblical studies, church history, Christian theology and spirituality, and leadership in the Christian community. 

New aspects of the program will address contemporary challenges for people in ministry in churches and nonprofits, and the mission-shaped church locally and globally, intersecting with today’s cultures.

Students can study at their own pace, completing the program in two or three years by attending part time, or more quickly by attending full time.

Some of the work and communication with faculty and other students is by email and online.

Once a month classes meet on a Friday afternoon and evening and all day Saturday in the fall and spring.  There is an elective course in January, and classes in the summer.

Jeremy Wynne, assistant professor of theology and director of the master of arts in theology programs, said Whitworth is offering flexible degrees to serve a variety of students, people in ministry and nonprofit leaders.

Half in the program are lay leaders with no intention of a career in ministry, just motivated to deepen their faith.  Whitworth has been gradually adding courses to meet needs of students.

One track will focus on those interested in Christian ministry in churches and chaplaincy in hospitals, nursing homes and fire departments.  It includes preaching, pastoral care and congregational leadership.

Another track is for non-traditional students who teach or work at nonprofits.  Those studies will focus on the church and world, Jeremy said.

A student in the program who is a teacher believes a master’s in theology will help in work with children who are created in God’s image but broken by their families and other systems.

One nonprofit leader said he is learning that institutions serving people can be run well or run poorly, and how institutions can be life-giving as they serve the community, Jeremy said.

“One is on the staff of A Cup of Cool Water, where youth come from broken homes.  Seeing the pain of their lives and struggles, he supports and cares for them,” Jeremy said.

Another degree is a master’s in mission and culture, focusing on the mission-shaped church, churches and culture, and global mission. 

“It prepares students to think more deeply about contextual engagement, cultures we live in and how they determine how we act, speak, think and participate in the global community of Christians,” he said.

“Our catalogue of course offerings has expanded, and we are hiring new adjuncts and practitioners, bringing in people who do ministry,” Jeremy said.

Most of the courses are taught by 12 full-time Whitworth theology department faculty and eight adjuncts.

The core curriculum for all three degree emphases looks at doctrine, history and biblical studies.

Jeremy describes himself as a “Spokane boy,” who went to Whitworth to study theology and psychology, graduating in 1999.

He was away 12 years. One year he taught English in Japan, where he met his wife, Betsy.

He and Betsy studied at Princeton Seminary together, both earning master of divinity degrees.  He also earned a master of theology degree in 2005.

Then they spent four years in Scotland, where Jeremy completed doctoral work at the University of Aberdeen in 2009, and she worked with the university as associate chaplain.  Their two children were born there.

They returned to Spokane and feel “it’s a gift of God” that both have work here. 

A few months after returning, Jeremy started at Whitworth as a lecturer in 2010, and by 2013, he had a faculty position.

After a few years at home with their children, Betsy became associate pastor of congregational care at First Presbyterian Church. 

As a systematic theologian and teacher, Jeremy seeks to explore how Christians come to speak responsibly and joyfully about God’s character, and seeks to explore how people move from hearing Scripture to speaking about God.

Jeremy pointed out that because Whitworth University is trusted and has good relations with many churches in Spokane, the program draws its 48 students from mainline, evangelical, Bible and Catholic churches.

“We offer a balanced program for students in their 20s looking for a first career and for students looking for a second career.  The program is 50-50 men and women,” he said.

The program is designed to foster community among students.  They gather for Friday meals and worship, in addition to classes that give time for discussion.

With the variety of students, Jeremy sees good dialogue happening as students explore the history of the church, biblical exegesis and what it means to be a leader.

“There is debate and discussion of different understandings generated by tradition and scriptures,” Jeremy said.

Students also engage in discussions outside classes.

“Dialogue is crucial. Today the church is not just one thing, but many different things and different traditions of understanding faith in a post Christendom context,” Jeremy said.

“We can easily be divided over small, non-essential issues,” he said.  “Once we could preach Christ in relative comfort and unchallenged in the broader culture.  Perhaps then churches focused on nonessential issues that divide Christians.

“In a post-Christendom era—when the Christian world view is no longer primary in the Global North as it once was—communities come around the table of Christ and are less inclined to set boundaries to keep people out and divided,” he said. 

“People are more likely to come together and focus on what unites us rather than what divides us,” Jeremy added

“The idea of ‘unity in the essentials’ describes our program well,” he said.

Currently the theology program does not have a course on world religions, said Jeremy, but he teaches world religions on the undergraduate level.

Jeremy said there are two graduate assistant ministry interns serving in music ministry and small group fellowships at Whitworth.

The master’s students can elect to do a thesis, which they present to the Whitworth University community.

Those who do not write a thesis take more elective classes.

“I look over the shoulders of students and see the impact the program is having in Spokane,” said Jeremy.  “Students are serving in more creative and effective ways.”

Later in the spring Whitworth will break ground to expand the chapel into a new building that will include chapel staff, the ministry and theology department, and the Office for Church Engagement.  It will be completed next spring.

For information, call 777-4277, email jwynne@whitworth.edu.






Copyright © May 2017 - The Fig Tree