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Seminary Attracts Diverse Student Body

By Laura Lehman Amstutz

HARRISONBURG, Va. - For the second year in a row, Eastern Mennonite Seminary has admitted more students from other denominations than those who are Mennonite.

Dean Ervin Stutzman and Joel Ballew
Dean Ervin Stutzman advises Joel Ballew, a Church of the Brethren student during registration.

This year, EMS has admitted 22 new degree-seeking students and eight non-degree seeking students at the Harrisonburg campus. Three more degree-seeking students and one more non-degree seeking student will enter at the EMS extension in Lancaster, Pa.

"Because we are approved to train United Methodist pastors, we are seeing an increasing number take advantage of our location for their training," said Don A. Yoder, director of admissions at EMS.

Along with United Methodist students and Mennonite students, this year's incoming class will include several Baptist, Episcopal and Church of the Brethren students. Two students are also international Mennonites coming from Brazil.

The sluggish economy is apparently a factor in the diverse mix of students coming to EMS this year. "As the economy slows, people are not as ready to move to attend seminary," Yoder said. "Many of our students already live in the Shenandoah Valley."

"Some students are seeking us out because of our Anabaptist perspective on the world," said Sara Wenger Shenk, associate dean and associate professor of Christian Practices. "We offer the perspective of a counter-cultural community deeply rooted in the narrative and life of Jesus."

Professors and students appreciate the diversity represented in the classrooms.

Barbara Seward, a non-denominational student from Harrisonburg, Va. who began seminary last year, said, "Learning about the different traditions has been rich. I have appreciated learning what a Mennonite is and their history and heritage."

"There is no doubt that people from other faith traditions ask wonderful questions," said Dr. Shenk. "With such diverse perspectives in the classroom, we each see our own tradition in new ways and learn the strengths of our various denominations and the ways they complement and correct each other."

For more information on the incoming class or on taking classes at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, contact Don Yoder, director of admissions, at 540-432-4257 or email .

posted 7/24/08