Mennonite and Ecumenical: EMS’s Faith Heritage

Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) is the graduate theological school of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). Beginning in 1964, EMS emerged when professors in Bible and theology recognized a need to train Anabaptist Mennonite pastors and leaders beyond undergraduate studies. For many decades, EMS specialized in this theological training for pastoral ministry. But unlike the traditional model of freestanding seminaries, EMS’s unique position as a seminary embedded within a broader university has shaped EMS as a theological school enriched by the dynamic intellectual life of other disciplines and a broader learning community.

Since 1964, EMS has developed a seminary program that recognizes the value of holistic theological education. 25 years ago, EMS was ahead of its time in placing spiritual formation at the core of the seminary curriculum. EMS continues to educate students in a way that integrates personal, spiritual, intellectual and academic formation. As a result, EMS graduates are known as leaders with the internal resources to remain compassionately connected to God, self and others, and the skills to navigate complex leadership challenges with integrity and intention.

Biblical, historical, spiritual and theological reflection undergird EMS’s enduring commitment to seeking peace and justice in all spheres of life. EMS students are formed with the awareness and skills to pursue peace and justice on personal, social and systemic levels. Students at EMS engage scripture for critical academic study and personal spiritual formation, history with the interpretive commitment to peace and justice, theology as a communal endeavor that is living and dynamic, and religious practices as embedded in and accountable to particular communal contexts.

EMS has expanded as a robust ecumenical community that offers pastoral training and much more. EMS graduates are also chaplains, spiritual directors, professors and teachers, nonprofit CEOs, ecclesial administrators, peacebuilders, and community organizers. Slightly less than half of the EMS student body identifies as Mennonite, and approximately half of the full-time faculty are Mennonite. As an official seminary of Mennonite Church USA, EMS is accountable to Mennonite Education Agency and guided by the denomination’s Renewed Commitments, the denominational Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, and the Shared Convictions of Mennonite World Conference. Ultimately, EMS seeks to be faithful to the life, teachings and spiritual presence of Jesus and his call to justice, righteousness and liberation for all to live an abundant life.

Faith traditions represented among EMS students, faculty and staff include Baptist, Brethren, Episcopal, international ecclesial bodies, Jewish, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, nondenominational, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and United Church of Christ. EMS has a significant UMC population, and is approved by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to train candidates for ordination in the United Methodist Church.

EMS is distinctive in its location within a historic peace church and a world-renowned peace and justice university. Seminarians are alumni of the same university as such notable graduates as Leymah Gbowee, recipient of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2022, EMS graduates had the honor of hearing Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy, give the commencement address at their graduation. We welcome you to discover your place as part of this dynamic community of learning at EMS!

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