AMBS reports growth in degree-seeking students, distance education programs

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, is reporting upward trends in several notable enrollment statistics this fall (September 2021):

  • The number of degree- or certificate-seeking graduate students rose from 92 to 116 — an increase of 26 percent from 2020 and the highest number since 2010.
  • Participation in AMBS’s distance education programs continues to grow, with 62 percent of admitted students enrolled in distance-friendly degree or certificate programs.
  • AMBS’s number of international graduate students (from outside of the U.S. or Canada) has continued its upward trajectory — from 37 in 2020 to a record high of 54 in 2021 — largely due to the success of the fully online Master of Arts: Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA) degree launched in 2019. Twenty-seven of the seminary’s 42 Ethiopian students are enrolled in MATGA cohorts through AMBS’s partnership with Meserete Kristos Seminary in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia.
  • For the first time, the majority of the student body identifies as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
  • AMBS’s incoming graduate student class of 45 in 2021 is 60.7 percent larger than in 2020 (28).
  • Graduate-level course enrollments rose to their highest level in seven years: 53.6 FTE (full-time equivalency).

“We’re especially excited about the 26-percent increase in the number of degree- or certificate-seeking students from last year to this year,” said Daniel Grimes, MPA, Vice President for Advancement and Enrollment. “This is a clear indication that interest in theological education from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective hasn’t waned even during a pandemic. We’re grateful to be able to help students grow in their faith, understanding of Scripture, and leadership abilities — wherever they may be located.”

“We’re also very pleased with the continued growth of ethnic diversity in our graduate student body,” he added. “Bringing together students from varied cultural backgrounds enriches the educational experience for our entire learning community on many levels.”

The seminary’s total enrollment for 2021–22 is 145 students (152 in 2020). Of these, 127 are graduate students (128 in 2020) and 18 are participants in the nondegree Journey Missional Leadership Development Program (24 in 2020). These figures are from the close of registration on Sept. 13, 2021.

Graduate programs

Of the 127 students taking graduate-level courses, 116 are enrolled in degree or certificate programs, and 11 are guest students. Sixty-nine are men, and 58 are women.

The 2021–22 graduate student body represents 13 countries from four continents (Africa, Asia, North America and South America), with 64 students coming from the U.S., nine from Canada, and 54 from outside of the U.S. and Canada. Assistant Dean and Registrar Scott Janzen, MDiv, noted that this is the highest number of international students at AMBS on record in the past 31 years of readily available data.

Due to ongoing pandemic-related travel and student visa restrictions, 13 new international students are taking courses online, with the hope of coming to AMBS in person as soon as possible.

“Many of our incoming international students were not granted student visa appointments in time for the start of the academic year, so it is a huge benefit to have the technology to connect with these students online in the meantime,” reflected Janzen.

Janzen noted that AMBS’s accessibility from a distance continues to attract students. The number of graduate students enrolled in a distance course rose from 62 in 2020 to 92 in 2021. (Distance courses include online courses as well as blended courses — campus-based courses that students at a distance can join remotely.) He added that AMBS is also maintaining its commitment to in-person learning and offers a variety of campus courses for those who live on campus or are able to commute.

The seminary’s student body continues to represent a range of Christian traditions, with nearly 86 percent affiliated with Mennonite World Conference or related Anabaptist groups (including AMBS’s two sponsoring denominations, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA) and around 14 percent affiliated with other Christian traditions.

Journey Missional Leadership Development Program

Of the 18 participants in Journey, an undergraduate-level certificate program of AMBS’s Church Leadership Center that develops leaders centered in Jesus Christ for ministries in local churches and communities, nine are from the U.S., one is from Canada, and eight are from Uganda or Southeast Asia (locations not shared for security reasons).

Six of the participants in the distance-friendly program are women, and 12 are men. The U.S. and Canadian participants reside in the states/provinces of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Ontario. Faith traditions represented include Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, the Church of Jesus Christ, Mennonite Church Uganda, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the Reformed Church.

“It’s very exciting to have 10 different conference and denominational bodies from across the globe represented in the Journey program this year, with all the diversity these participants bring,” said Jewel Gingerich Longenecker, PhD, Dean of Lifelong Learning. “We’re energized to see the desire for Anabaptist leadership education from many different contexts and to join in God’s work in preparing our Journey participants for ministry.”

New book connects survivors of sexualized violence in the Bible with survivors today

By Annette Brill Bergstresser and Karl Stutzman

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary— How is the Bible’s story our story after we experience trauma? Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, has written a new book to help individuals and congregations explore and understand stories of sexualized violence in the Bible from a survivor-centered approach.

Rev. Femi Fatunmbi, an incoming Master of Divinity Connect student from Los Angeles, asks Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, to sign a copy of her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors, during a book celebration on Aug. 19. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)
Rev. Femi Fatunmbi, an incoming Master of Divinity Connect student from Los Angeles, asks Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies, to sign a copy of her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors, during a book celebration on Aug. 19. (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)

The AMBS campus community celebrated the release of Larry’s book — Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021) — on Aug. 19, 2021, at an event co-hosted by the Academic Dean’s Office and the AMBS Library and Bookstore.

During the event, Larry shared that when she began her seminary studies, she was shocked to find numerous stories of sexualized violence in the Bible. Her encounter with these stories that are not often discussed in church led her “into a deep curiosity about what it would mean to link the stories of survivors today with the stories of survivors in the Bible” — and ultimately led to her writing the book.

“The Bible is a profound source of hope for me because it deals with the hard stuff,” she said. “For many of us, we never got a choice about whether we were going to walk through the tumultuous waters of sexualized violence. We don’t get to look away from this question of what we do with sexualized violence, and the Bible does not look away from it, either. We are heard, we are seen and we are known.”

Larry sees Leaving Silence as “an accounting of the hope that is in her” and hopes the book will be a resource for church leaders and members seeking to understand the Bible and stand with survivors of sexualized violence.

“I have been formed and shaped and affirmed by the church in so many ways; I wanted to give this gift back to the church,” she said. “But primarily, I wrote this book for the people who have honored me by sharing their stories of sexualized violence with me.”

Larry tapped Laura Rhoades, an AMBS Master of Divinity Connect student from Wichita, Kansas, to write an accompanying study guide for use by congregations and small groups (free on the Herald Press website). Rhoades also spoke at the celebration, sharing her strong interest in asking deep questions about faith and the church, and gratitude for the wonderful challenge to craft “questions that survivors may have wanted or tried to ask in Christian communities but may have not felt permitted or safe to do so.”

Following the event, Larry signed books for many of the attendees, including a number of incoming students enrolled in AMBS’s Leadership Education in Anabaptist Perspective (LEAP) orientation course.

In the U.S., Leaving Silence is available from the AMBS Bookstore for $17, including tax. It can either be picked up in person or shipped at an extra cost. Bulk purchase discounts may be arranged by contacting [email protected]. In Canada, the book is available from CommonWord Bookstore and Resource Centre. The book is also available from Herald Press and many other online booksellers.

Image: Susannah Larry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at AMBS, with her new book, Leaving Silence: Sexualized Violence, the Bible, and Standing with Survivors (Herald, 2021). (Credit: Annette Brill Bergstresser)

Remembering Wilbert Shenk

Wilbert Shenk, PhD, missiologist, author and educator, served as Director of the Mission Training Center and Associate Professor of Missions at AMBS from 1990 to 1995.

Seminary bids farewell to Marzouk

In July, Safwat Marzouk, PhD, concluded his roles as Associate Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible and Bible Department Chair at AMBS after 10 years of service

Virtual author events at AMBS

Join the AMBS Library and Bookstore team on Zoom on June 21–22 as we interview authors of recently published books: Juan Francisco Martínez, Jamie Pitts and Sara Wenger Shenk.