CHICAGO, IL (February 1, 2010) – The legacy of Covenant Bible College (CBC) as an institution that prepared its students for intercultural ministry will continue with the formation of the Center for World Christian Studies at North Park Theological Seminary.
During a recent ceremony, the seminary accepted a gift of nearly $270,000 from the Evangelical Covenant Church Department of World Mission to help launch the center.
Jeff Anderson, superintendent of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada, said it was befitting that the center would receive the funds. “The legacy of CBC is the formation of men and women who were shaped by the word of God and partnered with the work of God. The essence was communicating God’s global heart.”
The funds came from the sale of the Covenant Bible College campus in Le Merced, Ecuador. The campus was sold in June 2009 to Ecuador’s National Police for $1.5 million. The Ecuador campus was the last of three campuses to be sold.
CBC closed the campus in 2007, along with its campus in Strathmore, Alberta. The site in Windsor, Colorado, was closed in 2006. Declining enrollment and increased costs forced the school closure.
Most of the money from the sale will pay off CBC debt and other expenses related to the school. The balance is being used for the donation to the seminary and to support an orphanage in Ecuador where CBC–Ecuador students volunteered. Ecuador mandates that funds from any sale that are being transferred out of the country be contributed to a similar organization.
The gift to the seminary will serve as a trust fund for the program. The initial outlay from the fund will be a $25,000 grant this year and $30,000 a year in the future, says Byron Amundsen, World Mission director of administration and finance.
Paul DeNeui, associate professor of intercultural studies and missiology, will direct the center. The cooperative venture with World Mission aims to enhance students’ ability to minister cross-culturally abroad and in the United States.
“Kids who went to CBC don’t see the world the same,” Anderson said. “They have a different mind-set of the kingdom. The influence of that on the kingdom of God has been incalculable.”
John Phelan Jr., seminary president and dean, noted that many of the students from CBC eventually trained at the seminary. “If you ask how many people who are in ministry now, a big number of them went through CBC.”
Phelan noted that former educators at CBC now teach at the seminary. Debra Auger is the dean of students and community life, and her husband, Robert, is the director of Youth Nexus. Robert Auger had served as executive director of CBC–Ecuador.
Baxter and Margie Swenson, former CBC faculty, are now co-directors of missionary personnel for the Department of World Mission. They also work closely with seminary students.
DeNeui, who was in Thailand when the ceremony was held January 14, said “It is amazing to see the gift of CBC continue to give and promote a new generation of missional leaders.”
Initial activities sponsored by the Center for World Christian Studies will include a course in March in which students will travel to Ecuador to learn of the ministry challenges in that nation. The center also will sponsor a seminary faculty member to teach at the Confraternity of Hispanic Covenant Churches Triennial to be held in Argentina later this year.
“We feel it is especially important to have a multidirectional relationship between the seminary and many national churches that are now mature and asking us for partners to join them,” DeNeui said.
The center will coordinate regional seminars, provide non-formal theological training opportunities around the world, develop a means of testing and measuring improvement of intercultural ministry skills, and develop interdisciplinary courses and ministry experiences.
Students at the university also will benefit from the gift. The center will coordinate with the University Ministries Global Partnership Program and open one mission course per year to undergraduate students.
The transfer of the funds was bittersweet. Some of the participants, including seminary faculty, had taught at the Ecuador campus.
“While the school is no longer there—and it is painful—we are part of a move of God’s Spirit,” said Deb Auger.
Several students who were part of the last class at CBC–Ecuador are now preparing to graduate from North Park University, and Auger appreciates being able to see how they have progressed. “To be able to see this end of it is a very special privilege.”