WTS Commencement 2014

Winebrenner Theological Seminary to Graduate 9

On Saturday, August 2, Winebrenner Theological Seminary will graduate nine individuals who have prepared for Christian ministry. Following WTS’ strong history of evangelical theological training for an ecumenical church, graduates represent several of the nearly 30 different denominational bodies at WTS each trimester. Graduates this year are from Churches of God, General Conference; Eternal Life Church International; United Church of Christ; Evangelical Free Church; United Brethren Church; and Church of Christ.

The 2014 graduates from Winebrenner Seminary, a Churches of God, General Conference (CGGC) school, include individuals called to serve God as senior pastors, a missionary minister to the American church, an assistant pastor, a youth pastor, one seeking God’s leading for direction in ministry and another planning to pursue doctoral education.

Dr. William Reist, senior pastor of College First Church of God, Findlay, will address the commencement congregation. He will speak on “It’s All about Jesus.” The 10:30 service will be held in Winebrenner’s TLB Foundation Convocation Center, 950 N. Main St., Findlay. The public is invited to the service and picnic that follows.

Graduates will receive recognition for their studies in one of five degree programs or one non-graduate program: Doctor of Ministry, Master of Divinity, Master of Arts (Theological Studies), Master of Arts in Family Ministry, Master of Arts in Church Development, and Diploma in Pastoral Training Institute.

Doctor of Ministry graduates are Justus Kyalo Musyoka, Samuel Sumo Walawulu Payne and Steven Simpson.

Bishop Justus Musyoka is a member of Eternal Life Church International, Kenya, Africa. He and his wife, Rev. Jemimah Musyoka, have two sons, two daughters, two granddaughters and three grandsons, all living in Kenya. The Musyokas are missionary ministers to the American church under the organization God Speaks to America.

Justus’ doctoral project was a study of “Kenyan Couples in the American Diaspora:  Marital Problems Experienced by Kenyan Immigrant Couples in the United States.”

He shares these words about his experience at WTS. “Winebrenner is an excellent institution for which I thank the Lord. The seminary combines theological soundness, academic excellence, depth in spiritual formation, and contemporary relevance. The institution also beats economic odds and remains affordable. I highly recommend WTS.

Samuel Payne is a member of New Creation Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lima, OH. He plans to continue helping New Creation Church with their redevelopment program for the next two years. After that, he will continue his education in the Ph.D. program in international peace and conflict transformation at Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN.

Samuel is the father of three beautiful children: two sons, Galawulu and Jonathan, and a daughter, Judy.

Samuel’s doctoral project was a study of “Congregational Mission and Visionary Leadership in the Twenty First Century: A New Way to Attract the Unchurched and People of Color to ELCA Congregations.”

Samuel notes that “I’m proud to say that I truly appreciate the compassion and care WTS faculty and staff provided me and my fellow students. I truly appreciate the one-on-one assistance and their willingness to appropriate time to help me work through questions. Their ability to connect theology with practical skills helped me be effective in my vocation. The emphasis on prayer and spiritual formation engaging the challenges the Church faces in the twenty-first century was very helpful for me.

“Another asset of WTS was the beautiful diversity, ecumenical, multicultural and relational aspects of the mission of the school. They helped me learn how to link both theology and spiritual formation to a practical life experience in my walk with Jesus Christ.

“I personally feel spiritually and theologically refreshed and renewed to engage the community and world around me with the love and the good news of Christ. I will always remain grateful to my WTS family for all they’ve done for me. I pray that God will continue to supply the needs and resources for future leaders to be prepared for ministry in Christ’s kingdom. I will do my best to help recruit future students to choose Winebrenner for their seminary training.”

Steven Simpson has been pastor of St. Paul's UCC, Amityville, PA, since August 2009. He plans to continue at St. Paul's while exploring opportunities to minister to and with the greater church through writing, particularly about worship and liturgy. He is married to Shannon and is the stepfather of Jenna Walton.

Steven’s doctoral project was a study of “Pastoral Care through Liturgical Leadership.”

Steven emphasizes that he appreciates “the opportunity for deeper studies at Winebrenner, exploring how pastoral care can be offered through worship and liturgical leadership. I especially thank the faculty and staff at Winebrenner, particularly Dr. Nissley, who served briefly as my doctoral project mentor before becoming director of the Doctor of Ministry program.”

Master of Divinity graduates are Craig R. Flack and Ricky Hull.

Craig Flack is assistant pastor of Brookside Evangelical Free Church, Bowling Green, OH, a role he plans to continue after graduation. He and his wife Becca have one daughter, Elsie.

Craig points out that “WTS provides a very unique seminary experience. It’s small enough that you get to know students, faculty, and staff very well. The excellent quality of faculty and staff never leaves you feeling you missed out by choosing to attend a smaller school. In the past three years I’ve studied under some of the most brilliant and kindest professors I’ve ever met. My M.Div. has been one of the most challenging and rewarding times in my faith journey. I’ll look back on my time at WTS with supreme fondness and joy, knowing I’ve received an excellent education and formed many deep friendships.”

Ricky Hull is lead pastor of Mount Hermon United Brethren Church, Pomeroy, OH.

He and his wife Jami have four children: sons Caleb and Benjamin and daughters Raychel and Mariah.

Ricky thanks “the staff and fellow students at Winebrenner for their role in helping me become better equipped to serve Christ. I have had many opportunities to be challenged in my faith and in ministry over the past four years. My time at Winebrenner has helped identify various areas of growth in my personal life and ministry and I believe I am a more mature pastor and follower of Christ as a result. As I continue to stay connected to Christ and seek to play my part in the Great Commission Christ has given us, I will always be grateful for this particular time spent in preparation and for those who have chosen to invest in my life. To God be the glory through Jesus Christ!”

Master of Arts in Church Development graduate is Brian David Warner. Brian is senior pastor of Churchtown Church of God, Boiling Springs, PA. He and his wife Kelly have two children, Justis and Olivia.

James Allan Smarkel is a Master of Arts Family Ministry graduate. He is a member of Central Church of Christ, Findlay, OH. He and his wife Lee Ann have two daughters, Abigail and Sarah. Jim has no formal plans at this point other than “simply seeking the Lord's direction for ministry opportunities.” 

Jim notes that “I am very thankful for the privilege of attending WTS. Becoming part of this community has been a truly transforming experience. I highly encourage others who desire to grow deeper in their faith in Christ to become part of this community. You’ll be forever blessed and become a blessing to others in his name.”

Pastoral Training Institute graduates are Lon Hogue and Daniel Murray.

Lon Hogue is a retired high school teacher and has been appointed senior pastor of New Brighton First Church of God, PA.  He and his wife Doris have two adult sons, Mark and Matthew, and three grandchildren.

Lon says that “Dr. Robert Guy was of great help during my enrollment in the PTI program. He taught five of my classes and served as one of my advisors. Rob also assisted me in securing a location for my three supervised ministry courses. I’ve appreciated each professor/instructor for these classes. Each brought not only their knowledge, but also their experiences as pastors.

“I’m also thinking of Pastor Larry White and the influence he had on me years ago. He was pastor at New Brighton when I was discharged from the Navy in 1966. Larry served the church for 13 years. It was during his ministry that I rededicated my life to the Lord and began serving as financial secretary, deacon, elder and associate pastor. I’m now blessed to be senior pastor.”

Daniel Murray is youth minister of Mt. Holly Springs Church of God, PA, where he will continue bi-vocational work in landscaping and youth ministry. He and his wife Adrienne have been married three years.

Daniel reflects on something Reggie McNeal said about seminary education in his book Missional Renaissance. “Eventually, the strangulating hold of accreditation will further relax to allow training regimens to be offered alongside deployment, employing delivery systems that permit people to stay put in their communities of relationship and leadership influence. Those wanting theological education to prepare for church leadership roles will no longer have to disrupt their families, move and live as transients for 3 to 5 years to secure their academic prize, and then have to try to reestablish life and relationships in some new place (144-145).”

Daniel says, “When I read this I thought, ‘this is exactly what WTS is doing through the PTI, MAPT, and purchase of the Scotland campus!’ I’m incredibly honored to have been part of the beginning of the PTI at Scotland. I’m excited about where WTS is going and look forward to continuing to be part and to recruit others to become part of this opportunity.”

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