What is “Portland Seminary”?

What is “Portland Seminary”? January 12, 2017


As of January 9, 2017, my institution – George Fox Evangelical Seminary – has become “Portland Seminary.” This is a very exciting development that goes along with some changes to our programs and great ideas that have come out of a major self-study for accreditation. Before explaining my perspective on why the name change is a good idea, I want to make two clarifications.

#1: We are still embedded within George Fox University, so the official title of the seminary is Portland Seminary of George Fox University. We at the seminary have a deep appreciation for the oversight and partnership with GFU.

#2: We will continue to identify as “evangelical,” even though we are not keeping the word in our name. When the seminary was originally founded, it was supported in part by the Evangelical Church of North America (ECNA), and the seminary was called “Western Evangelical Seminary” (WES). The “Evangelical” term in our original name, I believe, linked to that ECNA connection. When WES merged with GFU, the seminary had a name change, but kept the “Evangelical” term. Over time, though, the seminary has developed up a number of partners and influences – Wesleyan, Quaker/Friends, Pentecostal, Baptist, Lutheran. We consider ourselves a big-tent place for students of diverse traditions – we are grounded in the core distinctives of the best of evangelicalism, but we believe was can affirm this without the titular terminology in our name.

Ok, on to why Portland Seminary.

Here is the official statement from the seminary, it is well-written and worth reading.

Here are some reasons why I personally am excited to have the seminary identified with Portland.

A “Tree-Hugger” City  – Portlanders love parks, forests, and enjoying the great outdoors. Portland Seminary has a leading eco-theology program that affirms the glory of creation and how we can be caretakers of it.

A “New Ideas” City – Portland is almost synonymous with “local and weird.” Portlanders hate big corporations, we love niche and boutique, strange and creative (have you ever watched Portlandia?). We buck trends. Heck, one of our famous sites is a big used bookstore! Portland Seminary also wants to be innovative, and weird (well, at least I like being weird). We don’t want to do it the way everyone else is doing it. We want to do seminary our own way, and the shape and nature of our new curriculum will demonstrate that – for example, we have a new required course for some programs called “the postcolonial church” and another one called “The Use and Abuse of the Bible.”

A “Fusion” City – Portland loves food, and it loves combining foods and flavors – Asian fusion, Latin fusion, we love putting two great things together! So too Portland Seminary has two communities, local students and distance students, and we want to do a good job of “fusing” these groups. For our distance students, we are committed, esp in our new curriculum, to providing the best of hybrid learning with both local (in Portland) and distance elements.

Bridge-City – Portland has lots of bridges. We think that is such a key metaphor for our seminary – bridging faith traditions, bridging local and global, bridging church and world.

Rose City – Portland is known as the “Rose City” (partly due to the gorgeous urban rose garden). Our new logo is a rose (or flame? Both?). This communicates to me too Portland Seminary’s vision for Christian formation and growth, life, and beauty.

If you are interested in seminary (at the master’s or doctor of ministry level), please get in touch. You can find my email on my faculty webpage.

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