The United Methodist Experience at Palmer


Palmer Theological Seminary is proud of its commitment to promoting Christian unity. One of the ways we do this is by providing our students with a context in which denominational diversity is valued and denominational distinctiveness is affirmed.  A nine-member United Methodist Advisory Board comprised of elders, deacons, and local pastors from the surrounding Annual Conferences provides ongoing guidance to Palmer Theological Seminary to ensure that the quality of United Methodist formation remains high. 

With the exception of UMC seminaries Drew and Wesley, more United Methodists choose to attend Palmer than any other seminary in the Northeast.  The 40 United Methodist students at Palmer represent the second most frequently cited denominational affiliation of our students--second only to American Baptists. 

United Methodist denominational affiliation does not necessarily make a Palmer education dramatically different for U.M. students, as compared with others. Nevertheless, there are some things that are distinctive about the United Methodist experience at our school.

Deepen your Discipleship

All entering students are required to take the course Spiritual Formation I, which includes the consistent, structured practice of and reflection upon a wide array of personal and corporate spiritual disciplines that have historically been central to the Wesleyan movement. The diaries of John Wesley are sometimes used in this course to help teach about the practice of spiritual journaling. Our lead faculty in the area of spiritual formation is Professor Francesca Nuzzolese, who did her doctoral studies at Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary.

In two required courses for United Methodist ordination, both Rev. Jana Purkis-Brash and Dr. Ben Hartley build upon topics raised in Spiritual Formation by requiring their students to participate in a Wesleyan "band meeting" prior to the beginning of class each week. In United Methodist Doctrine and Polity, this practice is a weekly reminder that the Book of Discipline is, in a sense, an expanded effort to promote corporate accountability, which had its genesis with the Wesley brothers' Oxford Holy Club meetings. Students learn that accountability in discipleship is a foundational aspect of what it means to be a Wesleyan today.

Also, evening prayer with Lord's Supper worship services utilizing United Methodist resources are regularly offered to students. This is in addition to chapel services and other special worship events throughout the year.

Widen Your Appreciation for United Methodism

No other seminary in the United States takes every class of United Methodist History students to visit the oldest congregations of the Wesleyan movement in America--St. George’s United Methodist Church and Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. United Methodist History class members routinely hold two of their class sessions at these historic congregations. During the class, we even celebrate a "Love Feast" worship service at St. George’s just as our forbears did many years ago.

Key textbooks by United Methodist authors are used in many of our courses on Evangelism, Theology of Worship, Systematic Theology, and Christian World Mission. In our Christian World Mission course, some kind of reference to the Wesleyan movement is made in nearly every class session by Associate Professor for Christian Mission Dr. Ben Hartley, who also serves as the Director of United Methodist Studies. Students gain a "whole world" outlook of United Methodism, which is increasingly important as Methodism is growing the fastest outside of North America.

Integrate Learning with Practice

Our United Methodist faculty are scholar-practitioners, and we hope our United Methodist students will be as well. In addition to teaching classes in mission, the history of world Christianity, and Methodism, Dr. Ben Hartley is an ordained deacon in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference. He has served as a United Methodist representative for the Commission on Faith and Order of the National Council of Churches and to the Wesleyan and Holiness Consortium.  To learn more about Dr. Hartley see his website and blog at http://www.missionandmethodism.net

Dr. Donald Brash serves as our Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Palmer, but does so after serving for more than fifteen years as a pastor of urban and suburban congregations. In addition to courses in systematic theology, Dr. Brash teaches Theology of Worship, where United Methodist worship resources and theological insights are regularly discussed. While an ordained American Baptist pastor, he is an active member and “Resident Theologian” at Princeton United Methodist Church in New Jersey, where his wife, the Reverend Jana Purkis-Brash, is pastor.

Rev. Purkis-Brash has been teaching United Methodist Polity and Contemporary Doctrine at Palmer since 2007. She also teaches courses in the areas of Christian Education and Pastoral Care. As a United Methodist elder with more than 25 years of local church leadership experience, she is a leader in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. She has worked with a wide variety of conference committees, including many years of service on her conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Other United Methodist adjunct faculty at Palmer also bring important contributions to the United Methodist experience. Rev. Joseph DiPaolo currently serves as Senior Pastor at Wayne United Methodist Church. A gifted preacher, historian, and editor of the journal The Annals of Eastern Pennsylvania (a historical journal of Methodism in the region), he co-taught United Methodist History with Professor Hartley for five years. He will be teaching other church history courses at Palmer in the future. Rev. Dr. Andrew Foster III is an adjunct professor in our Supervised Ministries Theological Field Education (TFE) program. He has taught in this program for four years. Dr. Foster is the Senior Pastor of Janes Memorial United Methodist Church in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. He is the president of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) in the Philadelphia area as well as an executive member of Black United Methodist Preachers (BUMP).