Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) is an accredited Christian seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, affiliated with Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA.

The seminary offers a three-year Master of Divinity program or two-year Master of Arts degrees in areas such as Christian spirituality, mission and evangelism, pastoral care & counseling, pastoral ministry, peace and justice studies, worship and youth ministry.

AMBS is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.



Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary has roots in two former Mennonite seminaries: Goshen Biblical Seminary of the Mennonite Church and Mennonite Biblical Seminary of the General Conference Mennonite Church.

Goshen Biblical Seminary

Goshen Biblical Seminary at Goshen College, a Mennonite Church school in Goshen, Indiana, was one of two institutions that joined to form AMBS. Goshen College began as Elkhart Institute in 1894.

Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Mennonite Biblical Seminary (MBS), a General Conference Mennonite Church institution in Chicago, Illinois, was the second school that became part of AMBS. The General Conference Mennonites had a history of educating pastors and church leaders which started with Wadsworth Institute (1868–1878), then Halstead Seminary (1883) the forerunner of Bethel College and Witmarsum Theological Seminary (1914–1931), part of Bluffton College.

The Witmarsum school closed in 1931 for what was assumed to be a year or two during which a better location could be found and an association with an older seminary arranged. This would last until 1945 when a Chicago, Illinois, site was selected and an affiliation with Bethany Biblical Seminary was established.

Mennonite Biblical Seminary was opened in September 1945 and used available space at Bethany for classes and student housing. By the fall of 1946 the seminary purchased property on the 4600 block of Woodlawn Avenue as it prepared for more students who were expected with the end of Civilian Public Service. Over the next six years most of the property on that block would become part of the Seminary.

The school operated with five full time faculty and two part time administrative staff members. After the startup years, student enrollment averaged about 40 with about nine degrees granted each year.[1] Each year about a dozen Mennonite students who were attending other Chicago schools were allowed to use Seminary apartments.

In 1953, MBS worked together with Goshen Biblical Seminary to create a joint summer school for the following year. As this friendly exchange progressed throughout the next several years a desire for a larger inter-Mennonite seminary developed. This process was culminated in 1958 by which time the Chicago property had been sold and the Seminary moved to a new joint campus in Indiana.


After the success of the 1954 cooperative summer school, the Goshen and Chicago seminaries started seriously exploring closer cooperation. Other Mennonite denominations were invited to explore what was hoped to be a larger inter-Mennonite school. Although the Evangelical Mennonite Church, Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Mennonite Brethren and Brethren in Christ all showed initial interest, each of these bodies ultimately opted not to pursue this type of partnership.[2]

A plan was devised where each school would operate independently at a single site, sharing a library, a few joint courses, joint chapel services once a week and joint use of certain facilities. It was felt that the two denominations' respective constituencies would support this new venture only if the schools remained independent. This arrangement of two parallel schools is evident in the school's original plural name: Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries.

The largest sticking point in the negotiations was selecting a suitable location. Although Bethel College in Kansas offered a site, this option was never seriously considered. The Goshen group wanted the seminary to be located on their existing campus at Goshen College in Indiana, believing their church members would not support a move. The General Conference Mennonites rejected this site for fear of being swallowed up by the larger group. Eventually an Elkhart, Indiana, site was chosen as a neutral location between the two schools.

Ground breaking at the Elkhart property took place on September 3, 1957[3] and was essentially completed by the next August. A chapel was added and dedicated in June 1965.[4]

The Goshen Seminary received Association of Theological Schools accreditation in 1958 and Mennonite Biblical Seminary followed with accreditation in 1964.

Over the years closer cooperation eventually eliminated the distinction between the two schools. By 2002 the two Mennonite denominations themselves had joined to form a common structure, in which decades of cooperation between the two groups at AMBS played role.

Institute of Mennonite Studies

The Institute of Mennonite Studies (IMS) is the research and publishing arm of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries.[5] The Institute has fostered inter-Mennonite connections and scholarship advances in the areas of Anabaptist theology and history since 1958. Key Mennonite leaders such as theologian John Howard Yoder have been associated with IMS.


AMBS library and bookstore building.

In 2007, AMBS completed a new building to house the library and bookstore. This building was the first theological library registered with the United States Green Building Council for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The building received a LEED Gold rating in 2009.

The library collection includes approximately 115,000 books and more than 500 journal subscriptions, forming one of the most comprehensive collections of Anabaptist materials for theological study and ministry preparation.


  1. ^ Pannabecker (1975), Ventures of Faith, p. 45.
  2. ^ Pannabecker (1975), Ventures of Faith, p. 62.
  3. ^ Pannabecker (1975), Ventures of Faith, p. 78: Pannabecker lists the year as 1958 here, which I believe is an error.
  4. ^ The architect, Charles Edward Stade, also designed the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University.
  5. ^ Institute of Mennonite Studies official site.


  • Pannabecker, Samuel Floyd (1975), Open Doors: A History of the General Conference Mennonite Church, Faith and Life Press. ISBN 0-87303-636-0, pp. 368–374.
  • Pannabecker, Samuel Floyd (1975), Ventures of Faith: The Story of Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

External links

Coordinates: 41°39′21″N 85°58′19″W / 41.6557°N 85.971907°W / 41.6557; -85.971907

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