Witmarsum Theological Seminary (Bluffton, Ohio, USA)

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Witmarsum Theological Seminary was located at Bluffton, Ohio, 1921-1931. It had its beginning in the fall of 1914 as a department of Bluffton College and was known as Mennonite Seminary, but to bet­ter serve its constituency it was made an independ­ent institution, and on 6 July 1921, it was reor­ganized under its own charter, board of trustees, faculty and administrative management, taking the name Witmarsum Theological Seminary.

The board of trustees of the Seminary was made up of two representatives each from six different Mennonite branches in the United States and two representatives of the alumni of the Seminary. This was designed to make the Seminary a unifying agency among the Mennonites in America. The fac­ulty was also made up of men from different branches. The Seminary had students from all these six branches. The groups intended to be represented were the following: General Conference Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren, Mennonite Church, Evangelical Mennonite, Mennonite Brethren in Christ, and Central Conference. Actually the sup­port was limited largely to the General Conference Mennonite and Central Conference groups. The faculty consisted of four full-time professors: J. E. Hartzler, President; Paul Whitmer, Dean; Jacob Quiring, Old Testament; J. A. Huffman, New Testament. The part-time men were N. E. Byers, S. M. Musselman, and others. The part-time pro­fessors were either pastors of churches or teachers in Bluffton College. The work of the Seminary was divided into two schools. The Graduate Seminary, open to men and women who had completed the regular college course with the A.B. or equivalent degree, offered a 3-year B.D. course. The second school was the Theological College that required high-school graduation for admission and offered a 4-year Th.B. course. Students came mostly from Bethel and Bluffton colleges, with a few from Go­shen and Tabor.

In the Graduate Seminary the work was arranged under nine departments: Old Testament, New Tes­tament, Church History, Systematic Theology, Phi­losophy of Religion and Religious Education, Homiletics and Practical Theology, History of Religions and Missions, Public Speaking, and Church Music. The Biblical departments had each the services of a full-time professor. In the Theological College the work was a combination of collegiate and theologi­cal courses. The Seminary graduated a total of 26 men and 3 women in its 11-year history. The total number of degrees granted from the beginning of the Mennonite Seminary in 1914 was 56, mostly B.D. Some M.A. degrees were granted by Bluffton College for work done in the Seminary. A two-year lower level English Bible course was offered for a time, but enjoyed only a small attendance.

The Seminary had a small endowment of $25,000, but the main support came from five conferences, each of which assumed the support of one chair. With the coming of the movement for standard theological seminaries and the resulting mergers and affiliations of seminaries to qualify for that rating, Witmarsum Seminary became conscious of the need for changes in its setup. Letters were ad­dressed to a number of well-established seminaries inquiring what opportunity there might be for an affiliation with them. The responses from all the seminaries contacted were generous and eager to enter such a relationship. This was a difficult deci­sion to make. Location, type of teaching, cultural and social differences in these seminaries varied widely. On these points the seminary family dif­fered. No agreement seemed possible; consequently the Witmarsum organization disintegrated and the Seminary closed in May 1931. After 14 years the Seminary reopened in Chicago under the new name Mennonite Biblical Seminary and organization but with the help of $11,000 in liquid assets and the library and equipment of Witmarsum Seminary.


Hartzler, J. E. Education Among the Mennonites of America. Danvers, Ill.: Central Mennonite Publishing Board, 1935: 174-79.

Author(s) Paul E Whitmer
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Whitmer, Paul E. "Witmarsum Theological Seminary (Bluffton, Ohio, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 19 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Witmarsum_Theological_Seminary_(Bluffton,_Ohio,_USA)&oldid=168024.

APA style

Whitmer, Paul E. (1959). Witmarsum Theological Seminary (Bluffton, Ohio, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Witmarsum_Theological_Seminary_(Bluffton,_Ohio,_USA)&oldid=168024.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 968. All rights reserved.

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