Partnership Spotlight: Northwind Seminary

October 27, 2023


Karios partner Northwind Seminary shares its passion and mission for “equipping the Saints” for a new Reformation. 


Ecclesia semper reformanda is a common Latin phrase used by church reformers to remind the people of God that “the church must always be about reforming”. The early Jesus Movement and Apostolic Church, the Imperial Church of the Holy Roman Empire, the Protestant Reformation, and Roman Catholic Counter Reformation, all had their day and role to play in the growth of the Christian tradition. At least three “Great Awakenings” in the history of American Christianity served to renew the Church at critical times.  The “Great Emergence” of new church forms and fresh expressions of ecclesia at the turn of the third Millennium of Christianity served to prepare the way for a Global Church—no longer centered in Europe or America, but growing in the global south, Asia, and Africa.[1]  What next ‘new thing’ will the Spirit of God do in the world? What new ways and forms will characterize the next Church?

Behold, I am doing a new thing; do you not perceive it? –Isaiah 43:19

Northwind Theological Seminary emerged in 2019-2020 from a vision and calling to support and equip local pastors, bi-vocational ministers, second career clergy, lay leaders, and life-long learners seeking a theological degree and/or an alternative pathway to ordination in their own faith tradition during a time of great change and upheaval in the Church and culture.

The name of our seminary–Northwind–points to the breath of God and the dynamic movement of the Spirit to orient the compass of our lives to true North. Symbolically, northernness is an orientation in life, a quality of character, an image and metaphor in theology and ministry, the first of the four Cardinal points of the circle to which all others are related. For C. S. Lewis and other great writers, the way to God lies to the North.

As an ecumenical, online seminary attracting students from across the spectrum, our mission is to offer quality, affordable, online and hybrid degree programs in Theology, Semiotics, Specialized Ministry, Spiritual Formation, Faith-Based Community Development, and Biblical Studies within a ‘Big Tent’ that is broadly Christian, biblically-based, and postmodern in approach to contextualized ministry.

Northwind affirms a both/and approach to theological education.  We affirm the great classical Creeds of the Christian tradition as well as the prophetic radical edge of what it means to follow Jesus today in a postmodern, post-Christian, traumatized world. As Richard Rohr reminds us: “The prophets of old were both radicals and traditionalists. With penetrating insight and wisdom, they saw into the heart of their own tradition and called the people of God to embrace a new day. We shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves falling in love with our tradition and wanting to radically change the way things are.”[2]

Rooted in the Wesleyan-Methodist tradition, with tree leaves and branches extending into many faith traditions, Northwind nurtures new expressions of Christian faith and practice, new ways of being the Church in mission.  Our deep desire is to equip a new generation of faithful disciples and ministerial leaders for just and innovative ministry for a new era.

“I believe that Christianity is in need of a new reformation,” writes Adam Hamilton, pastor of the 15,000+ member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas.  “The fundamentalism of the last century is waning. And the liberalism of the last fifty years” has failed to reform the Church. “The new reformation will be led by people who are able to see the gray in a world of black and white.”[3]

United Methodist theologian Elaine Heath believes “we are still at the forefront of a new Reformation, one that is freeing the Christian faith from the sinful structures of patriarchy and classism, and exploitive forms of mission and evangelism.”  In her inaugural lecture at Northwind Seminary in 2022, Dr. Heath identified five marks of the New Reformation, including: healing the wounds of Christendom inflicted by racism, sexism, elitism, and all the other isms.  The new Reformation, she says, “is all about the emergence of a generous, hospitable, equitable form of Christian practice that heals the wounds of the world.”[4]

We are in the middle of this new Re-formation, according to Robert J. Duncan, Founding President of Northwind Seminary.   “The Church is moving from the modern to a postmodern world, fueled by digital media and innovative uses of new technology. We have an opportunity to redeem the technology of the global culture and use it for ministry in the digital age.  For Wesleyans, electronic circuit riding in the twenty-first century is the new form of evangelism and mission.” [5]

Northwind Professor Leonard Sweet identifies an important parallel between the modern and the postmodern Reformations: “If the technology that fueled the Protestant Reformation was the printing press, and the product was ‘The Book,’ the technology that is fueling the Postmodern Reformation is the microprocessor and the product is ‘The Net.’”[6]

As a Christian futurist, Professor Sweet adds: “The NextChurch has two next challenges: getting clear and clearing out.”  Getting clear about who Jesus is and clearing out spiritual deformities that dis-order the church’s structural life and dis-able mission.”  In the process, “the role of pastoral leadership is dramatically shifting from representative to participatory models” in the priesthood of believers.[7]

“A new Reformation of the Laity has already occurred,” according to Michael J. Christensen, Founding Academic Dean of Northwind Seminary.  “What remains of the revolution is whether the clergy or the laity will be abolished in favor of ‘one body with many parts.’” If all Christians are ministers, all believers priests, then the mere layman is nonexistent, and the clerical order gone.  “In the New Reformation of the Laity, the people of God are rising up in opposition to clerical privilege, episcopal power, and ecclesial exclusivity in ministry.”[8]

This new Reformation requires a new approach to ministry. according to Carl Savage, Dean of Degree Programs of Northwind Seminary.  “Ministry in a postmodern world requires that we have a layered approach and portrait of our ministerial context. We are trying to grasp the ‘what is,’ the present in that context, and to understand how that moment is defined by its past and/or its future”.[9]

Northwind Professor Thomas Jay Oord sees light at the end of the revolution. “The future is open and yet to be determined. We’re all in process.” As we walk in God’s light we are becoming all that God has called us to be.  Tom Oord envisions an “open future” in which our everloving and relational God “guides us, inspires, nurtures, nudges, and coaxes us” into greater creativity and wholeness. Those who embrace this human and divine freedom “step outside confining categories, able to explore a way that reflects their experience of reality.  Many feel invigorated. God seems more like a companion. Life seems expansive. Reality becomes a pulsing, living movement into possibilities.”[10]

Today we celebrate a milestone: Northwind Theological Seminary is now a contextualization partner of Kairos University. We gladly join the other contextualization partners in the global network for the shared mission of making disciples, equipping the saints, and preparing ministerial leaders for a new Reformation– the “New Thing” God is doing in the world (Isa. 43:19).



[1] See Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why (2008).

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1987), 79-81

[3] Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White (2008), p. xvii.

[4] Elaine Heath, Inaugural Lecture on the “Five Marks of the NextChurch of the New Reformation” at Northwind Seminary, September 24, 2021.

[5] Robert J. Duncan Jr., “Circuit Riding in the Twenty-First Century” in Equipping the Saints: Mobilizing Laity for Ministry, Michael J. Christensen with Carl E. Savage, eds (2000), p. 142

[6] Leonard Sweet, SoulTsunami (1999), p.32

[7] Leonard Sweet, Foreword, in Equipping the Saints: Mobilizing Laity for Ministry, Michael J. Christensen with Carl E. Savage, eds (2000), p. 7-8

[8] Michael J. Christensen, Equipping the Saints: Mobilizing Laity for Ministry, Michael J. Christensen with Carl E. Savage, eds (2000), p. 166

[9] Carl Savage & William Presnell, Narrative Research in Ministry, (2006), p. 31

[10] Thomas Jay Oord, Open and Relational Theology: An Introduction to Life-Changing Ideas (2021), pp. 28, 45

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