The Development of Grace Theological Seminary and the Division of the Brethren Church -- By: Ronald T. Clutter

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 10:1 (Spring 1989)
Article: The Development of Grace Theological Seminary and the Division of the Brethren Church
Author: Ronald T. Clutter

The Development of Grace Theological Seminary
and the Division of the Brethren Church

Ronald T. Clutter

Grace Theological Seminary came into existence after years of turmoil at Ashland College and Theological Seminary which resulted in the dismissal from that institution of its dean, Alva J. McClain, and of Professor Herman A. Hoyt. As some Brethren Church congregations and leaders rallied in support of these men, a new seminary was established. Opening its doors in 1937 in temporary headquarters at Akron, Ohio, Grace encountered a variety of hurdles but prospered in its first two years.

As Grace Seminary drew students and financial support away ftom Ashland and as it emphasized some doctrines not a part of the Brethren heritage, conflict developed within the Brethren Church. In 1939, after two years of internal strife, the Brethren Church divided into two conferences—one identified with Grace and the other with Ashland. That year also witnessed the relocation of Grace Seminary to Winona Lake, Indiana, where it has served its constituency for fifty years.

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From 1931 until 1937 Ashland Theological Seminary served the Brethren Church as a graduate institution with the purpose of training men and women for Christian service. From the beginning of its existence on the Ashland College campus, the seminary was involved in conflict.1 The trouble rose to a fever pitch in 1937. On June 1 Alva J. McClain and Herman A. Hoyt were dismissed from their positions in the seminary which McClain had founded and led.

The Brethren Biblical Seminary Association

Grace Theological Seminary was conceived at a prayer meeting in Ashland, Ohio, on June 2, 1937. Gathered at the home of J. C. Beal were men concerned about the dismissal of professors McClain and Hoyt. In the company of the fired teachers at the prayer meeting were Ashland Seminary professor Melvin A. Stuckey, some seminary students and Brethren pastors. Kenneth B. Ashman, one of the students in attendance, shared the background for the gathering.

On the morning after a memorable board meeting in the Spring of 1937, we questioned as many students of Ashland Seminary as possible. With but two exceptions they stated their intentions of attending some theological school, aside from Ashland, the following Fall. “I’ll go to Moody.” “I’ll go back to B.I.” “Let’s go to Dallas.” These expressed intentions were personal, uninfluenced, but determined. They agreed in thought that if, as Brethren students, we were to be deprived of the best theological training in our denomination, we would seek the sec...

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