letter from the academic dean

"The vision that propels us is one of profound preparation for a lifetime of ministry.”

Dear Westminster Students,

Almost 90 years ago, the founders of Westminster accepted personal uncertainty and institutional upheaval for a time—because they were propelled by a vision of what the future of Christ’s church required. The Great Crash of 1929 happened a month after classes began, but still they persevered, determined to build a new seminary to faithfully serve the leaders who would come after them.

Today, in the face of COVID-19, Westminster again faces a time of uncertainty and responsibility. But like our founders, we are determined to look beyond short-term interruptions to prioritize long-term excellence in the mission we serve. The high calling of faithfulness and fruitfulness commissions us to advance our mission: to train specialists in the Bible to proclaim the whole counsel of God for Christ and his global church.

It is in this spirit that we have decided not to hold classes on campus for the 2020-2021 school year and instead offer classes through a dynamic online experience. The intrusive safety and distancing measures we’d need to implement would compromise too much of Westminster’s DNA of excellence. We value your time and education too much to allow this—especially since we are confident that during this bizarre Coronavirus interruption, we can serve you best online. By fall, the new content and technologies in place will surpass what we see as possible for in-person course delivery in this COVID-19 context. In this, we are mindful that a high percentage of your faculty fall in COVID-19’s high-risk category.

At the same time, a temporary, one-year move to online education offers Westminster a tremendous opportunity to fortify the next 90 years of how we train and serve the global church.

We can complete important phase 1 campus improvements and reconfiguration in prayerful anticipation of phase 2 for future campus facilities that will transform how we learn, eat, gather, and worship in person for decades to come.

We can expedite the redesign of our residential MDiv program, making it both more selective and steeped in relational engagement, as we better prepare pastors to shepherd the heart.

We can move up the timeline for introducing new online degree programs, plus new technological additions to the online platform, to better reach and serve the global church.

All of this is possible because God, in his providence, has allowed the circumstances of a pandemic to be an opportunity to position Westminster for a flourishing future. In one year, we can accelerate strategic plans we have been developing for the past three years but did not expect to implement until much later. Now God is allowing us to not tarry in what we believe is necessary for our next century of ministry.

In all we do, the vision that propels us is one of profound preparation for a lifetime of ministry. Because Scripture is profound, the demands of ministry are profound, and the needs of the global church are profound—so must remain our preparation. At Westminster’s first convocation, Machen called it a great sadness for the church when ministry training is “of the customary superficial kind.” He vowed Westminster would be neither. We still vow the same today.

Together, let’s see what far greater thing God will do in your studies with us, as we pair Westminster’s trademark excellence with renewed imagination for the cause of Christ and his global church.

Sincerely,

David B. Garner
Academic Dean and Vice President of Global Ministries

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