Bethany Theological Seminary Welcomes New President and Chair

Church of the Brethren Newsline
November 9, 2007

The Bethany Theological Seminary Board of Trustees met on Oct. 26-28 in Richmond, Ind., led by a new chair and a new president. The meeting began with a time of worship and an anointing service for incoming Bethany Seminary president Ruthann Knechel Johansen. Board chair Ted Flory of Bridgewater, Va., directed the board through the agenda.

The board also welcomed new member Martha Farahat of Oceana, Calif., and accepted with regret the resignation of Jim Hardenbrook of Caldwell, Idaho, as he and his wife, Pam, prepare for mission work in Sudan on behalf of the Church of the Brethren.

The Academic Affairs Committee reported that Bethany faculty are considering ways that the seminary can respond to recent Annual Conference statements such as “Becoming a Multi-Ethnic Church” and “Reverse Membership Trend.” They also shared a progress report on the search process for two fulltime faculty who will be responsible for the program areas of theology, church history, Brethren studies, and the master of arts program director. Because of the potential for faculty overload with this configuration, the board approved an additional search for a half-time position in Brethren studies.

The Institutional Advancement Committee reported that Bethany’s website has been redesigned and includes many new features including online donations and applications, student testimonies, and a video and photo presentation. The committee announced the launch of two new development initiatives: a Congregational Ambassador program for church relations, and a President’s Associates group for donors.

The board approved a recommendation from the Student and Business Affairs Committee to increase tuition for the 2008-09 fiscal year from $296 to $325 per credit hour. The committee shared a synopsis of the annual questionnaire completed by graduating students for the Association of Theological Schools. The students expressed satisfaction in class size, quality of teaching, and accessibility of faculty. The top five skill areas cited as most improved were ability to conduct worship, knowledge of their own religious tradition, ability to relate social issues to faith, ability to preach well, and ability to use and interpret scripture.

The board also approved a recommendation from the Audit Committee to accept the audit report for the 2006/2007 fiscal year. The Seminary received a clean opinion on the audit prepared by Batelle and Batelle of Dayton, Ohio.

A joint committee of board members, faculty, and staff announced dates for an Inaugural Forum on March 30-31, 2008. More information will be available as further details are finalized.

On Saturday evening, the board invited faculty and staff to a dinner and an envisioning discussion designed to identify the core values that guide the seminary’s mission, informed by storytelling and conversation. Sunday’s closing session included a report by president Johansen on her first 100 days. She has experienced Bethany as a welcoming community of creative and competent students, faculty, and staff, and has identified three items for development: strengthening internal procedures, clarifying and renewing the seminary’s mission focus, and marketing that mission.

–Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to Submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

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