Farewell to the Seminarian
Byron D. Klaus, the fifth and longest-serving president in the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary's 42-year history, is retiring, leaving behind a substantial legacy from his 16 years as the school's leader.
During the Klaus era, the seminary implemented three doctoral programs (in missiology, intercultural studies, and biblical interpretation and theology). The school strengthened its ties with AG U.S. Missions Chaplaincy to the point where AGTS now annually graduates among the highest number of military chaplains in the U.S. AGTS has a solid relationship with AG World Missions, personified by visiting missionaries as faculty and the annually appointed J. Philip Hogan Chair of World Missions.
"Their published research has been recognized and has great influence in a variety of settings around the world," says Klaus. "If there was anything I was proud of, it's that we have had a growing influence among influencers."
One of the few regrets Klaus has as he retires is that he couldn't make the educational experience more affordable for students. However, during his tenure, AGTS has provided scholarships to empower indigenous theological educators to establish doctoral programs around the world.
Klaus also is jazzed about the new Byron Klaus Leadership Fund established by the seminary to invest in proven ministry leaders. In the next two years, the school hopes to distribute nearly $100,000 in $5,000 increments to individual doctoral program candidates.
"We want to take already productive people and make them more productive in the program," Klaus says.
AGTS has an enrollment of 330, but a variety of factors, led by student loan debt affordability and online education accessibility, has resulted in challenges to attract students to the Springfield, Missouri, campus. Yet Klaus believes the need for theological training has never been greater.
"Cultural challenges cannot be met by minimalistic shortcuts to the development of leaders in the church," Klaus says. "The stakes are higher than ever before. To penetrate the bastion of cultural influence, one must have theological rootedness rather than merely relying on sheer skill or charisma."
Klaus oversaw the establishment of female-only cohorts at the master's and doctoral level. Women comprised slightly more than one in five seminarians at the school when Klaus arrived, and nearly one in three as he departs.
"We have a deep commitment to women in ministry, a deep belief in the spiritual giftedness of women to lead," Klaus says.
Klaus argues that theologically grounded people are needed beyond the pulpit, mission field, and chaplain post.
"If you are a Christian working on Wall Street or in the media, your sphere of influence in the rule of Christ's kingdom is critical," Klaus says. "It's not just done knowing a few Scripture verses and loving Jesus."
Although the AGTS board, after a 2008 study, opted to keep "Assemblies of God" in the seminary's name, Klaus thinks it's critical to reach beyond the Fellowship in a quest for students. More than four in five seminarians currently have an AG background.
"The future requires us to not be a school exclusively for the Assemblies of God, but to provide a quality theological education sensitive to the Holy Spirit for the broader Pentecostal and charismatic tradition," Klaus says.
The 2013 consolidation of the seminary into an embedded part of Evangel University is the pattern of the future for graduate theological education around the nation, Klaus believes.
"Dr. Klaus has been a tireless and visionary champion for seminary education and for the benefits of an embedded seminary where ministerial education can now be provided from baccalaureate through doctoral levels," says Evangel University President Carol Taylor.
AG General Superintendent George O. Wood says without Klaus' leadership the consolidation of AGTS, Central Bible College, and Evangel University couldn't have occurred.
"Byron has a sure and steady compass and passion for graduate and undergraduate ministerial preparation and has set AGTS and Evangel's School of Theology and Church Ministries in a direction that will thoroughly prepare the next generation of ministers for effective Spirit-empowered service," Wood says.
A successor will be named this week by the AGTS board after a lengthy search process.
At 65, Klaus won't be sitting in a rocking chair on his porch. The high-energy leader will participate in a lectureship at North Central University in Minneapolis in the fall, do consulting work for various seminaries, and help out at Latin America ChildCare, where he served as vice president for a decade before accepting the AGTS post.
On June 10, the AGTS board named Mark Hausfeld as the school's new president. Read that story here.