By ELIJAH FRIEDMAN
Wesley Biblical Seminary
experiences tragedy, miracles
Wesley Biblical Seminary has been training pastors and Christian leaders in the Jackson metro area and beyond since 1974. As WBS entered 2019, the seminary’s 46th year seemed like it would be one of exciting transition and growth.
Then on March 8, WBS president Dr. John E. Neihof experienced a massive heart attack and passed away without warning. This happened just weeks before the seminary moved to its new location on County Line Road in April.
Dr. Neihof, who became president of WBS in 2013, guided the seminary through significant and financial challenges. He used those challenges as opportunities to reinvent how the seminary trained students.
During his tenure, the seminary created a doctor of ministry program, began offering real-time video courses to students across Mississippi and around the world, and created a Spanish-speaking cohort for students in Mexico City.
Also under Dr. Neihof ’s leadership, WBS created the Shepherd Project, which provides tuition-free education to pastors and Christian leaders in the developing world. By using real-time video courses, international students are able to stay in ministry while earning a master’s degree.
Then in the several months before his passing, Dr. Neihof was able to celebrate some of the biggest accomplishments of his presidency:
The new campus in Ridgeland was about to be fully paid off — before the seminary had even moved from its Northside Drive location in Jackson. The move had been in the works for several years and was the culmination of the largest capital campaign in WBS history.
A donor had recently established the seminary’s first-ever endowed professorship, in honor of Dr. John Case.
And enrollment for the upcoming semester was on track to be the largest in WBS history.
So when Dr. Neihof suddenly died, the WBS community was heartbroken and confused. The timing was hard to understand. After Dr. Neihof’s passing, the seminary’s celebration of the new campus in May also served to celebrate his legacy.
While settling into its new location, WBS moved quickly to identify an interim leader.
Dr. John Oswalt, a renowned Old Testament scholar and former WBS professor, felt God call him to serve as interim president. The board of trustees affirmed that call by appointing him to the role. Now Dr. Oswalt is working to build on the foundation that Dr. Neihof set in place.
“Dr. John Neihof was God’s man to bring Wesley Biblical Seminary through difficult times into a new season of ministry,” Dr. Oswalt said. “Under Dr. Neihof’s leadership and through the power of technology, Wesley Biblical Seminary has attained a worldwide influence.”
The seminary’s new building — the former state headquarters for an insurance company — has created new opportunities to serve students in the metro area, around Mississippi and internationally.
This fall, WBS is launching the Wesley Institute in its new location. This nine-month program is specifically designed for lay people who want to understand the Bible on a deeper level.
“Our new location means we can focus all our attention on offering theological education around the world,” Oswalt said. “Combining commitments to Biblical authority and the reality of Christ-like living, (we have) a great opportunity to make an impact on our culture.”
Now, five months after Dr. Neihof went to be with the Lord, the seminary is preparing to enroll its largest student body ever, with students from 23 states and nine countries. The new campus is completely debt-free. And WBS is still finding new ways to provide biblical and theological training for students.
This year has indeed been one of transition and growth for the seminary — just in unexpected ways. Through every celebration and tragedy, God has been guiding WBS to fulfill its mission in Mississippi and around the world.
If you would like to learn more about Wesley Biblical Seminary, visit WBS.edu