Published: January 12, 2021
By Annette Brill Bergstresser
ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — An endowed scholarship at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) that has helped students pursue pastoral leadership education for 30 years has sparked a campaign to celebrate the aid given and raise funds for continued student support.
Since its inception in 1990, the Paul M. and Bertha M. Miller Pastoral Leadership Scholarship has benefited 38 graduate students at the Elkhart, Indiana, seminary with $120,419 in tuition aid. The scholarship, which now covers 80 percent of tuition, is designated for students who previously did work in conference-based theological education; have been commissioned by their congregations and plan to serve as a pastor; or are pastors on sabbatical leave from their congregations.
As part of a 30-year anniversary campaign, AMBS’s Advancement Team and the donors’ four children are seeking to add $30,000 to the fund — $1,000 for every year in which it has aided students.
“Supporting the seminary was a very high priority for [our parents],” said Jim Miller of Sarasota, Florida, one of the couple’s children. “Dad and Mom were committed to the goal of training, supporting and encouraging pastors within the church.”
According to the Miller family, Paul and Bertha Miller were both active in the church. After marrying in 1938, they farmed for seven years in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. After sensing that God was calling them to a different ministry, they sold their farm in 1945 with plans to go to the mission field in China after Paul obtained Bible training at Goshen (Indiana) College.
While the couple was studying in Goshen in the late 1940s, mission opportunities in Asia started closing down, said Jim Miller. The Millers became involved with a small mission program on the east side of Goshen that grew to become East Goshen Mennonite Church. Paul Miller later gave leadership there for 16 years — first as a pastor and then as a bishop — while completing his Bible training and earning a Th.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Paul Miller served as a professor at Goshen Biblical Seminary (now AMBS) for 32 years — retiring in 1984 — focusing on practical theology and Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). He also was part of starting the Elkhart Samaritan Center, a nonprofit holistic counseling center, Jim Miller said. Bertha Miller also graduated from Goshen College and taught for 12 years in Goshen and Nairobi, Kenya. The Millers took two separate sabbatical leaves in Africa and retired to Lancaster, where Paul initiated and supervised a CPE program at Philhaven Hospital in Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania, and supported pastors through a program of Lancaster Mennonite Conference. Paul Miller died in 1998, and Bertha Miller in 2006.
All of the couple’s four children — Rebecca, John, Jim and Rosemary — have already contributed to the campaign.
“It’s very satisfying to be able to support a vision of your parents; it’s a way of carrying continuity,” Jim Miller noted, adding that Paul Miller had been influenced as a child by his own father’s involvement as a lay missionary in the Steelton (Pennsylvania) community, a working-class coal and steel town. “I think our parents would have been very humbled to know about [the new campaign]. They would have been honored and affirmed to know that others in the church would share their vision of encouraging pastors and want to contribute to it.”
Recipients of the scholarship have expressed gratitude for the difference it has made in their lives.
“I came to AMBS as a congregant who had been tapped on the shoulder and who had felt the calling toward pastoral ministry,” said Sue Short, who is pursuing a Master of Divinity while serving on the pastoral ministry team of her congregation, Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio. “The support of this scholarship has been vital to me as I continue to explore and lean into God’s direction for my life.”
Ron Moyo, outreach pastor at Whitestone Mennonite Church in Hesston, Kansas, and a 2018 Master of Divinity graduate, reflected, “The education that the scholarship enabled me to get is now bearing fruit not only here in the Hesston community but also in Zimbabwe where I come from because I was and remain part of the leadership there, now on an advisory basis. The seed that Paul and Bertha planted continues to produce in different shape and form near and far.”
Bob Yoder, director of development for AMBS, noted that anyone can participate in strengthening the Millers’ legacy of leadership development and in making theological education more accessible for future students. Contributions to the Millers’ scholarship can be made by check (payable to AMBS; reference “Paul and Bertha Miller Scholarship” on the memo line) or online at ambs.edu/give (note “Paul and Bertha Miller Scholarship” in the “Add a note” field when entering payment information). Checks can be sent to AMBS Advancement, 3003 Benham Avenue, Elkhart, IN 46517.