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.
We are proud that the University Senate has approved Palmer to prepare students for ordained and certified ministries within the United Methodist Church. United Methodist students comprise a significant portion of our student population, often second only to American Baptists. Among Palmer’s graduates are bishops, District Superintendents, clergy and seminary professors.
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.
John Wesley placed great value on the regular practice of spiritual disciplines, both personal and corporate. The General Rules of the early Methodists included “attending upon all the ordinances of God” including worship, prayer, and searching the Scriptures. At Palmer, we take seriously this call to practice our faith. Students are encouraged to participate in weekly chapel services, often designed using United Methodist liturgical resources. All entering students are required to take the course Nurturing Spiritual Life and Character 1, 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. Opportunities are provided for students to engage in both works of piety and works of mercy, imitating the practices of the Wesley brothers.
The Methodist Fellowship provides a common ground for Methodist students, and offers programs designed to further develop a Wesleyan understanding of ministry. Although open to all students, the Fellowship includes visits from speakers of particular interest to Methodist students including representatives of area conference Boards of Ordained Ministry and District Superintendents.
Through our partnership with Drew Theological School, courses required for United Methodist ordination offer the opportunity to better understand the connections between Methodist history and doctrine, and the Polity class is taught by a former Superintendent at Palmer. Together these courses empower students to understand what it means to live as United Methodists.
Students desiring ordination as a deacon will find at Palmer all the courses necessary for their preparation. For those desiring a general ministry preparation, students may complete the M.Div. or the M.T.S. in General Studies. There are also M.T.S. concentrations in Biblical Studies and Theology, Christian Counseling, and Christian Faith and Public Policy. In addition to the courses needed for the degree, students are able to complete the Basic Graduate Education courses required for ordination. These may also be taken by those who hold a master’s in the field of their intended ministry (music, education, medicine, etc.) in order to meet requirements for ordination as a deacon.
General Conference sessions have been streamed on campus to provide students with an understanding of the larger church beyond local congregations. 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, reference to the Wesleyan movement is regularly made in class sessions. Students gain a "whole world" outlook of United Methodism, which is increasingly important as Methodism is growing the fastest outside of North America.
Our United Methodist faculty are scholar-practitioners, and we hope our United Methodist students will be as well.
Rev. Johnson Dodla serves as the Director of United Methodist Student Advising and Ethos. Rev. Dodla currently serves as the lead Pastor at Mount Hope UMC located in Aston, PA. For over a decade he has been serving the Eastern PA (EPA) conference as an ordained Elder. He has served the Eastern PA Conference and the Northeast Jurisdiction in various capacities. Some of the agencies and boards he has served include Camping and Retreat Ministries to provide oversight and support to four camps in the bounds of the EPA conference, I-Care Team that supports churches and communities when there is a violation of Safe Sanctuary policies, Economic Justice to work towards providing equity to black and brown churches and Bipoc Clergy to receive equitable pay, as well as serving as Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry that helps navigate candidates through the ordination process. In 2019 Rev. Dodla was elected to the General and Jurisdictional conferences to serve as a clergy delegate at the national and regional levels of the denomination. He holds an M.A. New Testament from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and an M.Div from Palmer Theological Seminary.
Dr. Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch teaches primarily in the undergraduate program. A native North Carolinian, she completed her doctoral work at Duke University and taught biblical studies courses for seventeen years at Greensboro College (in Greensboro, NC) before joining Eastern’s faculty. Dr. BB is passionate about teaching and mentoring students toward maturity in the Christian faith. Her research interests concern the Bible’s use and influence within faith communities and in the broader culture, especially in the medium of film. Dr. BB lives with her husband Rev. John Bletsch in Wayne, PA where John serves St. Matthews United Methodist Church and teaches New Testament as an adjunct in the undergraduate program.