Gordon Conwell

Post any experiences you've had either in visiting or attending Gordon Conwell Seminary.


David Drury said...

I'm a Wesleyan GCTS grad.

For now I’ll say:

1) Gordon-Conwell's greatest strength is its integration of the Bible and, well, everything else. In my situation, I found that I had a poor integration of the Bible and Theology (ironically) before I went there. They helped me permanently in that way.

2) GC's second greatest strength is its connection to the Boston-Theological Institute and the opportunity it affords to cross-register through it to all the best schools in Boston, being in many ways the academic crossroads of the world. To be able to be grounded in such a "biblical" school while still learning from other traditions and debating with other "real" liberal scholars (I use the quotes here very intentionally) was for me the #1 reason to go there, and the continued reason I'm glad I did, now 10 years after the month I first stepped on that campus. Other schools may have a more “complete package” by themselves. But they don’t have the BTI up their sleeves.

I’ll submit some of the weaknesses later perhaps. :-)

BTW - here's the link to my take on the seminary experience written back while at GCTS:


Matt said...

I also am a former-Wesleyan GCTS grad (I didn't step out of the denomination because of the school).

I thought it was a great education. I loved being exposed to excellent scholarship from a variety of theological bents. I tend to be the kind of person who grows best when pushing against. For that reason, Gordon-Conwell was a great fit for me. I got to be Wesleyan and push against the Calvinism that was pretty pervasive there.

You won't find better biblical scholarship and commitment to the missional nature of the Church.

I would do it all over again and would recommend it for just about anyone. The only people I'd recommend not going there are people who will be so distracted by the Reformed theology that they can't appreciate it...to them it would be just a frustrating experience.

Larry said...

I three am a Wesleyan GCTS grad.

My decision to attend Gordon-Conwell was influenced by (1) the strong recommendation of a college prof and (2) my desire to get out of the predictable UWC to Asbury chute.

Strengths of GCTS:

1. Solid scholarship, esp. in theology and biblical studies.

2. Boston Theological Institue, which, as David points out, allowed interaction with people from a variety of points of view (Orthodox, Catholic, and gen-u-wine liberal).

3. Boston. Living on the North Shore was a blast.


(1) The strongly Reformed attitude of the senior faculty. While there was some diversity in other disciplines (church history and practical theology), the theologians were all hyper-Calvinists.

The positive, of course, was that it allwed an up-close look at Calvinism--and therefore caused me to examine my Wes/Arm view more thoroughly. It was sort of like learning English grammar by studying Greek. (I did that too.)

(2) The culture (then) was strongly slanted against women in ministry--(see negative #1 above).

If you go, take every course you can with Doug Stuart and Gary Pratico (OT scholars--minor prophets and Pentatuch, respectively).

Elizabeth Glass said...

In my visit to Gordon Conwell, I was not struck with a strong support for women, and as a woman in the Wesleyan church, frankly there is enough to battle with without going to a seminary that will compound it.

J Underwood said...

Every institution has it highs and lows, but I believe I hit GCTS at it's all time low (2000-2002). The professors were dispassionate and not challenging. I flew through with a 3.8 and except of a few professors (Parrott, Hugenberger, Harrill, and the female prof for church history depart.) I carried little or nothing away.

Elizabeth is correct that GCTS in general and many specific professors are not supportive of women in ministry. For example: My ethics professor regularly ignored me when I raised my hand to ask a question. I would then turn around and ask my male classmate to ask my question. Caleb would raise his hand, the professor would immediately call on him and respond, "Good question, caleb,...," hhmmm. this went on for the entire semester.

Registration was a nightmare since the office was only opened from 10-3:30 and closed for 1 1/2 hours for lunch. Most of the admin positions were filled by students who were underpaid and undertrained. Chapel was another opportunity to lecture; primarily academic and seldom spiritually challenging or enriching. The library was out-dated and as of my graduation date, not computerized!!!!

I have never recommended GCTS to anyone!

David Drury said...

Larry -- you bet, there is something about living there that is special.

Matt -- glad you joined in... miss you my friend.

Elizabeth -- did you choose another school? If so, tipping points?

J Underwood -- I too liked Gwenfair Walters (the "female prof" whose name you missed among the men).


I mentioned I'd perhaps come back and post the weaknesses in GCTS, but I see several of those have been covered with significant force behind them :-). Maybe I don't need to add my "bad" list yet.

I'll make a caveat on two negatives, however: GCTS is very much in the "real world" in respect to reformed theology and women in ministry. Growing up Wesleyan and going to IWU I don't think I would have understood those coming from a reformed background theologically or ecumenically (which now ministering in West Michigan I face constantly). GC prepared me for that I suppose. Likewise for women in ministry -- most of our country is a lot like GC: supportive of women in ministry in print but with a backdrop of ambivelence about it in general. I don't support that but it is the real world. Of course I'd have to defer to my female classmates from GCTS for that (but alas, I don't know if any wesleyan women in ministry went there - a telling sign?).

I have tended to recommend GCTS to a those looking to prioritize selection based on the two strengths I listed in my original comment--and to others I've suggested they look around broadly at all the great schools out there including GC.

But what do I know?

David Drury said...

Elizabeth -- I see elsewhere now that you are graduating from Asbury (my question is answered). Congrats.

Mark Schnell said...

I have been accepted at GCTS and have started taking some of their Semlink courses. I won't be attending until the fall of '07 because our house didn't sell soon enough and I was advised there that starting in the spring would throw off my MDiv schedule. So I'll be taking as much of the stand alone classes as I can (up to 10 of them) and then hitting the ground running in the fall of '07. My plan is to finish the MDiv in two years on campus and then get the Thm degree as preparation for my Phd.

My wife and I just returned from a three and half day visit to GCTS. I couldn't have been more impressed with the school. I originally was drawn to GC because of my respect for Dave Drury and Larry Wilson but then the more I researched the more I liked what I saw about the school. After being there I was not dissapointed. Like Dave Drury said, the integration of the Bible is HUGE there. Many seminaries are dropping or don't require biblical languages, even top notch schools like Duke, but not GC. You have to be proficient in Greek and Hebrew and then use them in your other classes. I like that. They are also very big on teaching their students to apply what they learn in the church. Their mentored ministry program is a major part of going there. If you are considering GCTS then just know that you will be required to put in something like 600 hours of work in a local church or para-church organization. That is so important and I'm glad they require that. A good thing for me is that I won't have to do the mentored ministry because of my years of pastoral ministry. I appreciate the fact that they respect my years of service. I think it works out to each year of ministerial service takes the place of one unit of mentored ministry or something like that.

The student body is pretty diverse, gender wise and racially. The professors are topnotch and then the BTI is a huge draw as others have said.

I am a Wesleyan and plan on remaining one. My ultimate goal is to teach in one of our Wesleyan schools to prepare others for ministry. I believe GCTS is going to be an important part of realizing that goal. But even if I don't end up teaching and God calls me back into the local church I know that obtaining an Mdiv from GCTS will serve me very well.

I was accepted into Duke and GCTS and I believe Duke to be an EXCELLENT school. Some are calling it the best seminary or divinity school in the country right now. And as far as being a Wesleyan goes you will be steeped in John Wesley and Wesleyan thought. If you think you see statues and paintings of John Wesley at IWU just visit Duke, you ain't seen nothing yet. He's everywhere.

That being said, it has been a hard decision for me but when I visited GCTS and talked with students, staff, and professors my wife and I both said, "This is the place."

If you are looking at seminary follow the advice of others and visit. Visit as many as you can and visit them early. Apply early. Let me say that again, APPLY EARLY!!! Especially if you are applying at a more prestigious school like Duke or Princeton. I was wait listed at Duke originally and it really put my final decision on hold. I was told by their admissions dept. that few people that are waitlisted get in so don't wait.

phillip a. shaw said...

Until I have more time to place a very positive post regarding Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, feel free to email me with any questions you have at pas395@nyu.edu.
I just completed a M.A. in Biblical Languages and a M.A. in New Testatment. Gordon-Conwell provides the best exegetical study of Scripture, hands down. You'll be learning the languages, doing Semantic Structure, Discourse Analysis, Form Criticism, all to bring unity to the text and understand and get closer to the original meaning of the text, before making the homiletic jump.

I am now at New York University doing ancient Near Eastern Studies in the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies.

I would love to respond to emails, and connect you with Gordon-Conwell. The Boston Theological Institute is something all the other seminaries don't provide.

phillip a. shaw said...

Quickly, I have noticed some very harsh reviews above about GCTS.

1) You can engage and nurture a very vibrant spiritual life at GCTS. I was involved in an intentional community in a neighborhood of immigrants from the Dominican Republic in Salem, Massachusetts for 2 years while I studied there. Ask me more about this experience via email. I would love to share a glimpse of God's heart for the poor, needy, and oppressed.

2) Regardless of which seminary, you will find quickly, you are going to be the one to initiate your own spiritual growth. Is God sovereign? Will he provide you with opportunities to connect with brothers and sisters who are seeking Christ? Most certainly.

3) Let's not create a dichotomy that says one can't be spiritual and academic.

4) Elizabeth Glass visited GCTS with me (she was there for two days). She went to Asbury. Elizabeth is friend from my days at IWU, a wonderful girl; there are (or at least were) plenty of women studying for ministry at GCTS when I was there (2003-2006). Of course, it is true most Reformed traditions don't ordain women for ministry. Many of the women at GCTS hoped to teach, preach, and serve in missional contexts. I myself was raised in the Methodist-Wesleyan Tradition. You are not brainwashed to become Reformed at GCTS. They are more interested in giving you tools for ministry, then a copy and paste lecture system.

5) Again, email me with questions. I hate to see GCTS get negative remarks. My focus at GCTS was to see my heart, my head, and my hands all connected, working together, to serve Christ.

phillip a. shaw said...

I thought of a few more things.

6) If you are considering any of the seminaries on this website, the best option is to visit them. And even before you do that, contact someone directly from the school you are interested in that has posted on this webstie. In fact, it would be helpful to contact two or three people from each school so you can get different perspectives. Yet, keep in mind: they went to that school, and regardless of what they communicate, their experience will not be your expereience, whether negative or postive.

all the best.

phillip a. shaw said...

are you praying about seminary? This seems like something that hasn't been said anywhere?

This would be step one.

Also, I must respond to a comment made by J Underwood: it troubles me that of an entire experience at GCTS he decided to comment on the hours of the registration office, and that the library was not on a computer catalog.

Well, guess what?

You now register for classes electronically.

The library was on a computer catalog by 2003. You have access to the libraries at Boston College, Boston University, Harvard Divinty School, Andover-Newton, and a few others. If you want resources, you won't be lacking. The reference section at GCTS is fantastic.

In just four posts, I don't even think I have scratched the surface in terms of communicating my time at Gor-Con. I would love to be in touch, and also can give you contact with students who are studying there now.

phillip a. shaw said...

Prof. Edward Keazirian (Greek language/NT), Prof. Gary Pratico (Hebrew language/OT), Prof. Doug Stuart (Hebrew/Aramaic/OT), Prof. Scott Hafemann (NT) have impacted my life in ways that can't be adaquately summarized. Prof. Keazirian made himself readily accessible, even to play some baseball. Prof. Practico met with me several times a semester, as did Prof. Stuart. Each provided an example in and out of the classroom of a godly life; these men have played an essential role in my own spiritual life, studies, and ministry.

Anonymous said...

How is the culture at GCTS? I live in a progressive town (minneapolis), and am basically Kuperian in my view of culture, so while the academics may be strong, I don't have time to spend in a seminary that is hung up on whether or not I have a pint of beer on the weekend, for example. Sounds like the faculty is basically Reformed, so I'd be right at home at that point. More Dutch Reformed, or Anglo-Saxon? Thanks much!-clo

Nick Hill said...

I have visited the campus. I have taken a 3 week January term class and lived on campus during that time, and I am a current distance student at Gordon-Conwell. It is an excellent school. It is very academic. The MDiv program is rooted in the Biblical languages. There is a big emphasis on missions and evangelism. The seminary is also very committed to raising a generation of faithful expository preachers. The interdenominational mix is a bonus as well. It is a warm and loving enviornment. The students are a great group of people, and all the professors are humble, godly, and approachable.

mlink said...

Hi there,
I am praying about where God would have me go to bible college. I have heard great things about GC from students who have come over to study in Edinburgh (where I live). I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me - I have a wife and two young girls (4 years and 18 months) and was wondering how we would fit into GC as an international family? Thanks,

Mark Schnell said...


I am a first student at GCTS. I have been here for about a month with my wife and daughter. There are a few students that I know of already that are from your neck of the woods. One in particular I know is from Northern Ireland and he moved here with this wife and young son. Another new friend moved here from Zimbabwe with his wife and two young children. The school has worked with them very well and even gives extra scholarships to some international student. These two guys I'm speaking of also moved into furnished apartments on campus as well. GC seems to be very open to having international students come here.

I think you would be able to fit right in and I have found the on campus community to be amazing.

Hope that helps,

P.S. To clo, the reformed theology here comes from the fact that many of the faculty are associated with the Presb. Church. No one will worry about you having a pint. Just don't bring it on campus. ;-)

Anonymous said...

If you are considering GCTS and have a family, be careful, there is a growing disconnect between the town of Hamilton and the Seminary. The major issue is GCTS's lack of support for the public school sysem to which they send more than 40 students. Currently the local taxpayers are paying for GCTS students children to be educated, the citizens of the town are outraged, your family runs the risk of being ostracized.

bpun said...

I'm a first year M.Div. student at GCTS, I started in the fall of '07.

I'm not sure I see the non-supportive attitude of women in ministry here so far. But then again, I'm not a woman. Actually, the only time I've heard any of my professors speak on the issue, they have come out on the side of the "egalitarian" view. I haven't heard any professors come out on the "complementarian" side. I have heard it is about 65% egalitaran to 35% complementarian in the faculty.

I agree that the theology department has reformed sensibilities. however, the faculty and the student body as a whole has been very diverse. I've met many students who are not in the reformed tradition and I've had a few profs who are in the charasmatic tradition. Overall a good mix.

A negative would be that the school, like probably all strong academic seminaries, can produce students who are all head knowledge. But that's really not the fault of the seminary; I hear warnings against this quite often here. But there you will still meet a lot of students who know a lot of theology but who are jerks.

Mark Schnell said...

I left this on the Indiana Wesleyan IWU/Religion and Philosophy group facebook page as well. I made a long post in this section before I actually came to Gordon Conwell. I thought I'd leave another one now that I'm almost halfway through. Just a few caveats: I'm writing this as a member of the Wesleyan Church and specifically for other Wesleyans, and secondly, I still like GCTS but I've tried to be fair in listing the good and the bad as I see it.

Okay, I'm in my second year at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA.

Reasons to come to Gordon Conwell:
1. If you want to be able to take a biblical text from the original language, exegete it deeply, and then learn how to preach it like a pro, this is the place for you.
2. If you hold knowledge of Greek and Hebrew in high regard this is the place for you. You ain't getting out of here with an MDiv without being able to pass Greek and Hebrew and then taking four exegesis classes in the original languages.
3. If you hold a high view of the Bible this place is for you. They are biblically conservative here and the Bible is in the middle of everything they do.
4. If you love deep Christian community this place is awesome. Did you know that Anglicans, Episcopalians, and Presbytyrians can be really cool people?
5. If you love being one of the few Wesleyan/Arminians on campus you'll love this place. I will say though, I'm more of a Wesleyan than when I got here. Johnny C, and Marty L. have a monstrous role to play in history and theology, but give me Johnny and Charlie W. any day!!
6. If you want to take classes in the Boston Theological Institute this is the place. Google it: it means you can take classes at nine seminaries and register through GCTS. It's a big deal!
7. If you love American history, New England is it.
8. If you take academics very seriously you'll fit right in. They don't mess around here. They call themselves the "Harvard of the seminaries".
9. If you are looking for top rated professors in almost all disciplines they got em here.
10. If you like the Sox, Pats, Celts, Bruins, clam chowda, and funny accents, they're all here.

Reasons to avoid Gordon Conwell
1. See #5. You will feel lonely at times, though I have never felt attacked for being a Wesleyan.
2. See #8. They are somewhat snooty about academics here. I get the feeling sometimes that this school is more about turning out academics than fully prepared Christian ministers.
3. See #9. They have great profs but their disciplines are like individual islands. Except for the languages, Bible, preaching connection I mentioned above they just don't bring it all together.
4. This school is not one I would commend for preparing well-rounded ministers. They seem to put all their eggs in the mentored ministry basket. That is the their practicum program. Their practical ministry stuff, except for preaching, is just not that strong. CAVEAT: People that are going to be strong pastors will invest in the knowledge and learning they need to be equipped, no matter where they go to seminary. In other words, motivated people seek out the tools they need.
5. This school is in deep, deep, financial trouble, this was already happening before the economy was collapsing. They really need to decide what they want to do and be.

Final words on those studying at IWU and thinking about seminary
2. See #1
3. See #2
4. If it is going to be what Ken Schenck has teased us with, do the MDiv through IWU. The integration of one discipline to another is a huge deal. If you don't have that you'll sit in class and think to yourself, "Who cares about (your subject here), how does this relate to the church?"

I've tried to be fair as I could. I like it here, I'm glad that I'm older. I couldn't have handled it when I was 22. I came for #1 in the first list and that is what I'm getting. Drop me a message if you want any more specifics.

Kalibambang said...

I'm trying to decide to what seminary I should go next year, and have reduced my short list to Gordon-Conwell, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Regent, Vancouver. My questions are these:

1. Many contributors to this blog seem to be concerned with how Wesleyan or Calvinistic Gordon-Conwell is, but I am more concerned with another issue: I am a moderate charismatic and don't want to enter a school that is strongly anti-charismatic. The school doesn't need to be charismatic for me at all, as long as it's neutral and not anti-charismatic.

2.How good are the exegesis classes? Many seminaries seem to aim at training pastors, but I'm qualifying myself to become a bible translator. Bible translators need thorough exegesis classes that focus on exegesis itself rather than on preaching.

I hope anyone can tell me if there is any difference between the three schools I mentioned above with respect to my questions. Thank you.

Ken Schenck said...

I don't know about Regent, but I think Gordon-Conwell and Trinity are excellent schools for learning exegesis. Gordon-Conwell at least used to be the very home of the famed Mounce and Trinity has the author of the Hermeneutical Spiral himself.

I don't know how charismatic friendly either of these places might be. I'll let others comment here.

bpun said...

kalibambam, I'm a 2nd-year M.Div. student at GCTS. Like Ken said, GCTS is a great place for exegesis -- the biblical studies departments are probably the strongest departments of the seminary. GCTS has stringent requirements for exegesis -- two exegesis courses in both the NT and the OT. The OT department especially is quite well-known, with Walt Kaiser (who teaches part-time now), Doug Stuart (who wrote "Old Testament Exegesis"), and Gary Pratico (who co-wrote the textbook "Basics of Biblical Hebrew.") I have a friend who went to Regent, and he said that the exegesis requirements were quite minimal -- both hebrew and greek are not even required -- only one language of your choice. It seems like Regent might focus more on theology and cultural studies, perhaps.

As far as charismatics goes, I don't get an anti-charismatic "vibe" here. I've met several students from the Assemblies of God, a few profs who are from charismatic traditions, and there are many South Koreans on campus who are more charismatic.

Questionable Ethics said...

As one who lives in the area but is not a graduate of GCTS, I believe that I can offer a fresh perspective.

GCTS, its faculty, alumni, and students, possess far too much (unmerited) academic snobbery for their own good. Surely, the seminary ranks among the greatest academic evangelic seminaries in the world. This is because the number of evangelical seminaries which emphasize academic scholarship over preparing ministers for the harvest can be counted on one hand.

Moreover, while there are distinguished faculty and alumni, I have found most GCTS graduates to be educated beyond their intelligence. That is, they possess an air of academic superiority when in fact they do not strike me as particularly intelligent or learned.

Finally, one of the biggest problems that I have with the seminary is that it consistently produces scholarly ministers who lack spiritual form and godliness. As but one example, I know one alumnus who pastors a prominent multi-million dollar church. He is revered at the seminary. But I also know that he is involved with a woman who is not his wife, and he spends his day sending her messages and gifts -- literally thousands over the course of a year. There are several others that I know who are the same. I can't help but wonder how the seminary has failed these men.

If you are interested in a seminary with a great academic reputation that will expose you to both liberal as well as conservative theory without an emphasis on personal godliness, then your $40,000 might be better spent at the Harvard Divinity School. Its academic scholarship is real.

bpun said...

"Questionable Ethics" points out a very valid and real problem among seminary graduates of schools where there is a high level of scholarship. I think you will find this trend at many similar seminaries. However, I would add that there are also many GCTS grads (I know several) who are humble, spiritually formed, and of godly character. My experience of all the GCTS profs that I have had is exactly this -- they are all of godly, humble character. Unfortunately, not all the students (including myself) are as consistent. I would also add that it seems to me that GCTS is very aware of this problem. In my 2 years here, it seems that this is a common theme in the all-school chapels. We are being urged, and reminded that head knowledge is meaningless without character and transformation. May God continue to work in our seminary and others to produce leaders who are BOTH well trained in knowledge and spiritually formed. Alas, I don't think you can really have one without the other.