About ESR

About ESR

Theological Education in the Manner of Friends

A vision for leadership and ministry among Friends has been the guiding principle at Earlham School of Religion (ESR) since the School’s inception in 1960. As in any faith tradition, certain key distinctives provide a particular Quaker imprint upon our theology, worship and ministry. At ESR, these distinctives shape our educational program.

As did George Fox and other early Friends, we believe that only God gives gifts for ministry. ESR’s role in the process is to assist students’ discernment of those gifts, to provide the formal context in which these gifts are theologically considered, and to nurture those ministries into powerful witnesses to the Truth. As this process unfolds year after year, the initial vision that motivated the School‘s founding continues to under gird our decisions, our curriculum, and our commitment to our students.

ESR is a place of learning with a particular commitment to preparing students for ministry. Our educational programs and teaching methods are intentionally designed to integrate spirituality, academic rigor, and practicality. We believe that those three components create opportunities for transformational education within a Christian, Quaker setting that grows leadership and teaches persons to discern and to follow God ’s leading in lives characterized by ministry.

“Leading” occupies a place of priority in the ESR curriculum in two ways. We understand our educational program to be part of a process that prepares individuals to assume leadership roles through their public ministries. Reflecting our Quaker roots, we believe that ministry and leadership best spring from inner leadings where the voice of God converses with the deepest reaches of the human soul. At the School of Religion, this dual appreciation of leading causes us to model and to teach a particular approach to ministry. Preparation for ministry at ESR is grounded in the inner workings of the Holy Spirit where one learns to identify and test one’s gifts. It is sharpened with caring, but rigorous classroom preparation where arguments are critically but respectfully assessed and considered. It is deepened in corporate worship and other extra-curricular activities that provide occasions for sitting in the Presence of the Living Christ and reflecting upon God’s direction. Ultimately it is a model for ministry that is tested in the larger community, allowing God to work through our corporate experiences to affirm and refine our gifts. For each student who enrolls at ESR, we desire personal growth and transformation that leads to quality ministry.

As transformed ESR students and graduates go forward and minister, and as ESR faculty offer their services in the classroom and beyond, we intend to be “leaven in the loaf.” ESR seeks to contribute to the vitality of our constituents’ faith journeys, and to the quality of life experienced in society at large, as we bear witness to the Truth of the Gospel. Within this educational process, we observe again and again the transforming power of God’s grace as competent ministers of the Gospel go forth year after year.

A complete presentation of the school is available here on our website. For a more personal, insightful experience let me invite you to visit our campus. Without doubt, that is the best way to sample the ESR educational process, to gain an appreciation for the manner in which we continue to uphold our founding vision, and to discern whether you are being led to learn at Earlham School of Religion.

Warmest Regards,
Jay Marshall, Dean