Bethany Seminary Peace Essay Scholarship

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How and why are some individuals inspired and inspiring? The 2016 Bethany Peace Essay Contest—Inspired and Inspiring Peacemakers—asks student writers to share in a public voice about someone they consider to be an inspiring peacemaker. Sponsored by the peace studies program at the Seminary, the contest is open to seminary, graduate school, college, and high school students who are fully enrolled in a program en route to a degree. Prizes of $2000, $1000, and $500 will be awarded for the top three essays.

This theme is intended to be inclusive and expansive in terms of possible topics. The World Council of Churches’ paper An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace has defined peace building and seeking cultures of peace under four broad categories: peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. Essays are encouraged on individuals whose vision, voice, and work inspire peacemaking in any or all of these categories. Contestants may write on a familiar peacemaker like Martin Luther King or Wangari Maathai or cover lesser known figures such as Ted Studebaker, Leymah Gbowee, or Ella Baker. Submissions on peacemakers whose stories have not yet been told are also welcome.

“Words like inspired and inspiring have fallen out of fashion for many in an era of cynicism and the politics of realism. Yet we remain fascinated by the spiritual and social sources of inspiration,” says Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and the director of Bethany’s peace studies program. “The inspiration for this theme came in part from conversations I had with Gary Studebaker, a brother of slain Brethren peacemaker Ted Studebaker. Gary and his brother Doug are currently writing a book about Ted’s work and witness. It seemed appropriate this year to invite students to write on a peacemaker they find inspiring.”

The contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment, funded by John C. Baker in honor of his mother. Described as a “Church of the Brethren woman ahead of her time,” Jennie was known for actively pursuing peacemaking by meeting the needs of others, providing community leadership, and upholding the value of creative and independent thinking in education. John Baker, a philanthropist for peace with a distinguished career in higher education, and his wife had also helped establish the peace studies program at Bethany with an earlier endowment gift.

Ecumenical partnership helps make the contest possible, with peace church representatives serving as judges along with Holland: Joanna Shenk, associate pastor at First Mennonite Church, San Francisco, California; Matt Guynn, director of organizing for On Earth Peace; and Judi Hetrick, assistant professor of journalism at Earlham College. Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany, assists Holland in administering the contest.

Essays can be submitted between January 1 and January 25, 2016, and results will be announced by the end of February 2016. Winning essays will appear in selected publications of the Church of the Brethren, Friends, and Mennonite faith communities. For guidelines, terms, and submission procedures, go to Contact Bekah Houff at or 765-983-1809 for additional information.

Degree Programs

Bethany Theological Seminary offers two degrees (MDiv and MA) and 4 certificates. All degree students are required to take a peace studies course, which typically involves the theme of social justice. Within the MDiv, students may choose a Ministry Focus in Conflict Transformation, which includes coursework that integrates faith and social justice. MA students may choose an Area of Concentration in Peace Studies, which includes coursework that involves social justice. One of the certificate programs (Certificate in Conflict Transformation) mirrors the course requirements of the Ministry Focus, requiring courses that involve social justice. In addition, in all degree programs and certificates, students may choose to include courses and projects that bring together faith and service. Examples would include a ministry formation placement in nonprofit work or an MA thesis or portfolio that focuses on the integration of faith and service. A number of courses, especially in the areas of peace studies and ministry studies, include a component or an option to incorporate readings and practical experience that connect faith with service. ​

Distance Learning - A note from the editor: Bethany Seminary has one of the best online/distance learning options available. Students are able to complete the majority of their programs from wherever they already work/live, and travel occasionally for intensive, in-person course experiences.

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Graduate Certificate Programs

Master of Divinity
Ministerial degree program designed to prepare persons for church-related ministries, including ministries requiring ordination. A key component of the MDiv degree is Bethany’s Ministry Formation (practical ministry preparation and experience).
  • MDiv Connections Track: Bethany’s acclaimed distance education/online MDiv track—the same MDiv degree earned from a distance.
Master of Arts
Two-year degree program of focused study culminating in a thesis paper. This program is designed to carry students into future doctoral work, and/or a professional appointment.
  • MA Connections Track: The same MA degree earned through participating in many classes via distance education.
  • Theopoetics and Theological Imagination
The Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies (CATS) is a graduate-level certificate program.
CATS is designed to help introduce individuals to theological education, and can be a great way to test the waters out a bit. All CATS coursework can be rolled directly into a degree program, and courses are fully accredited and transferable.  Online/distance education option is available.
This specialized certificate provides a focus on the sacred texts of the Christian faith and methods of interpretation, particularly in conversation with intercultural hermeneutics and global perspectives. The importance of rigorous and reflective engagement with scripture is stressed. A student will learn with scholars of both Testaments, who bring an expertise to the life, times, culture, and context in which the Bible was written with conversation for today’s application. This is suitable for anyone seeking to enhance their knowledge to be used for writing, teaching, preaching, and personal devotion.
The Certificate in Conflict Transformation provides a means of focusing on the work of reconciliation and conflict transformation. Along with theoretical approaches, the skills needed for constructive work in this area are practiced both individually and in groups. Graduates with a Certificate in Conflict Transformation will
  • ​develop an understanding of the nature of conflict and multiple models of engagement, especially from the Anabaptist-Pietest heritage;
  • demonstrate knowledge of and sensitivity to the social, spiritual, emotional, and contextual factors that influence the ability to engage in a creative process of conflict transformation;
  • practice skills that promote a healthy conflict transformation process responding to diverse settings and participants, whether among individuals or groups. 
The Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination provides a means to deepen one’s understanding of theology, especially as it is articulated in public venues and in wider cultural contexts that bring theology into conversation with the whole of life. Supplementing the required courses, additional coursework may come from a variety of theological areas, including classical and contemporary approaches, ecological theology, public theology, theology and culture, and ministry of writing. Graduates with a Certificate in Theopoetics and Theological Imagination will

Courses Integrating Faith and Service

Conflict Transformation provides the student with an introduction to the study of conflict and its resolution. They explore the basic theoretical concepts of the field and apply this knowledge as we learn and practice skills for analyzing and resolving conflicts. The course seeks to answer the following questions at both the theoretical level and the level of personal action: What are the causes and consequences of social conflict? How do we come to know and understand conflict? How do our assumptions about conflict affect our strategies for management or resolution? What methods are available for waging and resolving conflicts productively rather than destructively?
Religion as a Source of Terror and Transformation examines pressing issues of religion in the public sphere. Since September 11, 2001, there has been a renewed awareness of how religion and religious discourse can become a source of both terror and transformation. This relationship between terror and transformation is especially challenging and complicated when religion “goes public.” How do particular and prophetic religions enter pluralistic, public squares and contribute to social and political understanding and policy? Can there be credible expressions of public theology in our late modern, postmodern age? This course will explore the problems and possibilities of religious language and practice with the hope of what the prophet Jeremiah called “the peace of the city” in view.
Environmental Ethics in Theological Perspective probes challenging issues related to a series of concerns: environmental questions surrounding population growth; conflict and war; economic patterns of consumption and production; food and water scarcity; environmental racism; and the treatment of animals, plants, and land all pose challenges to traditional Christian ethics. These topics also challenge Christians to consider what resources in their own tradition might inspire creative ethical responses to these concerns. This course examines these issues by reflecting on the theoretical, theological, and practical dimensions of environmental ethics through a case study approach. Students will have the opportunity to develop an environmental ethic consistent with their own theology or values and to reflect on the relationship between environmental ethics and church ministry or social leadership.
Gospel of Peace offers a survey of biblical texts related to peace and violence. Students will interpret these texts collaboratively, paying attention to their historical and literary contexts and to their meanings for readers today. The implications of this biblical background for our understandings and practices of peacemaking are also explored.
Restorative Justice, a comparative response to retributive justice, is a means of conflict facilitation and engagement used when harm has been done. It focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders as well as the involved community
of both parties. This course will provide the framework and theory of restorative justice
and praxis of its components and process in
order to explore a conflict engagement
for encountering damage; repairing harm; 
and working at the transformation of people, relationships, and communities. The course will also explore the role of forgiveness in this model as well as comparisons of other methods of conflict engagement, including negotiation, mediation, and circle processes.
In Youth and Mission, students discuss theological and cultural trends that raise issues of ministry with young people and issues of doctrine for the church. Discussion of these themes takes place with regard to the world young people inhabit, a world in which cultures are being reshaped by global patterns of consumption and communication and a world that confronts young people with an array of areas in which they may be searching for reliable guides or guideposts.
In Prophetic Voices in Preaching, students study formative voices of the prophetic witness in scripture, among recent preachers of various traditions, and as prophetic preaching relates to peace, simplicity, and life in community practiced among Brethren and Friends (Quakers).
​Just Peace: An Ecumenical Call uses the World Council of Churches' paper “An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” as the centerpiece of study. With an interdisciplinary approach, the document is considered and studied in light of the best current and classical theoretical and theological treatments of the concepts of justice and peace. The instructor was a member of the committee that authored the document.
Preaching and Public Discourse provides an introduction to the art and craft of preaching as it attends to the religious and public witness of Christian faith in the context of worship. Students explore the exegesis of Scripture, community contexts of church and society, and public theology as well as ethical
and aesthetic dimensions of preaching. Through reading, lectures, and classroom discussions, and the preparation, presentation and evaluation of sermons, students will learn to engage the gospel in a ministry of preaching for the church and world.
Ecological Theology and Christian Responsibility considers a spectrum of recent ecological theologies, putting perspectives from the Bible and Christian tradition in conversation with recent scientific and ecological thought. With a special emphasis on Brethren and other Anabaptist and Pietist sources, it focuses on interconnections between environmental responsibility and other forms of social justice.

Field Education Connecting Faith and Justice:

A sampling of organizations with which Bethany students have been placed includes the following:

Open Arms Ministries is a network of churches and caring individuals in Richmond, Indiana, that serves as a clearing house for financial assistance to needy persons.

Peace Place, started by and housed in a regional Church of the Brethren (Dayton, Ohio), teaches peace and reconciliation skills to high school students in an inner-city environment with a high rate of violence.

Iowa Peace Fellowship is a network of peace churches in Iowa that informs and teaches peace witness and reconciliation skills.

On Earth Peace (OEP) is a Church of the Brethren agency that works with congregations and other groups to promote peace witness.

​Within OEP, the Ministry of Reconciliation works specifically in conflict situations to reconcile persons or groups to one another and to deescalate violence.

A Christian ministry in the US National Park Service has placements that connect faith and ecology.

Service-Based Scholarships

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  • Pillars & Pathways Residency Scholarship
Bethany gives all incoming and returning students the opportunity to apply for the Church Service Covenant. This scholarship covers 50% of tuition. Currently, there is no limit to the number of students who can earn this scholarship. The requirement to apply for the Church Service Covenant is an essay articulating their vocational calling, focusing on the impact of their Bethany education on their goals. For the 17-18 academic year, 85% of our returning students applied for it and 100% of applicants received it.
Bethany established the Pillars & Pathways Residency Scholarship which will have its inaugural year during the 17-18 academic year. This scholarship is selective, requires an application process, and is awarded to only 7 students. If student are selected it covers the cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses. Resident Scholars are given a monthly stipend that will help cover the cost of food, travel, and other lifestyle expenses. The goal of this scholarship is to help students graduate from seminary without incurring additional educational or consumer debt. Students must re-apply for this program every year. Resident Scholars are required to volunteer at a community organization weekly, actively engage in the Bethany neighborhood, participate in campus activities, and commit to simple living.

Q: What makes Bethany Seminary unique?

Superior Online/Distance Learning 
Bethany Seminary is committed to ensuring that place doesn't get in the way of pursuing a call to ministry. As a result, all of its degree programs can be completed as distance/online learning programs. For more detailed information about this option, contact Bethany's admissions department (contact below).
Green Circle is Bethany’s chapter of the Seminary Stewardship Alliance. This committee is headed by Nate Inglis, Assistant Professor of Theological Studies. Green Circle hosts annual Earth Day and Day of Prayer for Creation worship services, organizes student field trips to ecovillages and intentional communities, holds film screenings and discussions on ecology and faith, researches and promotes renewable energy and efficiency investments on campus, and promotes simple living as an ecological value.​ Students interested in this topic are encouraged to take Professor Inglis’s course in Ecological Theology and Christian Responsibility and Environmental Ethics in Theological Perspective.
Bethany also oversees the Baker Peace Essay Contest. This is an opportunity for aspiring writers to tell the story of a community, a person, or a movement that is addressing injustice and building peace in our world today. This contest is overseen by Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture, and a work-study student. The contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment, funded by John C. Baker in honor of his mother. John Baker and his wife also helped establish the peace studies program at Bethany.

Environmental Q&A: How does Bethany practice and promote environmental stewardship and sustainability?

One of the values in Bethany’s vision statement is care of creation. We have made a commitment to this as an institution through a variety of practices. Consistent with our denominational heritage, Bethany’s investment portfolio has been and remains socially responsible. In February 2014, Bethany joined Seminary Stewardship Alliance, an ecumenical organization promoting environmental stewardship at seminaries. The committee that relates to SSA is called Green Circle, which includes faculty, students, and our CFO, with Dr. Inglis as the official liaison. We have made decisions to be energy efficient and “green” in our building with such things as light bulbs, energy-saving light switches, and a new water bottle refill station. In spring 2017, Bethany’s main public event, the Presidential Forum, focused on “God’s Green Earth: A Call to Care and Witness,” featuring speakers, preachers, and activists. Bethany faculty and students were among the presenters.

Q: How does Bethany Theological Seminary Change the World?

Jeff Carter

President, Bethany Theological Seminary
Bethany is committee to removing every barrier between a student’s call and passion and an education that will inspire, empower, and equip them for service. By offering a no-debt pathway which eliminates consumer and educational debt, embraces a spiritual of community and sends the student into the world with a graduate certificate or degree, Bethany is increasing the opportunities for service for our students. The hopeful beneficiaries are places where it is difficult to financially support service workers since our students graduate with less debt. Coupled with our online program, Bethany offers the opportunity to make an educational difference in the lives of those who are already serving in the church and world. Every place of need should know the promise and hope that comes with those committed to make a ​difference and Bethany is removing every barrier that stands between our student’s hopes and the world’s needs.

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