Proposed Martin Methodist College Partnership with UT System | Guest Blog by Allen StantonPosted: September 14, 2020
As you may know, Martin Methodist College has entered into an agreement with the University of Tennessee to pursue a partnership with UT whereby Martin becomes a satellite campus of the University.
While there is a great deal of work that must be accomplished for this to occur, it does appear to be a very real possibility.
Below, please read Allen Stanton’s guest blog post about what this will mean for our United Methodist presence on Martin’s Campus. Allen is the Director of the Turner Center at Martin Methodist and illuminates what is hoped for with regard to our Wesley Foundation and the Turner Center going forward.
Guest Post by Rev. Allen Stanton
When Martin Methodist College announced our intention to become part of the University of Tennessee System, I knew that I would get a fair amount of questions from colleagues and friends. As the director of the Turner Center at Martin Methodist College, I knew that most of those questions would be asking about my thoughts as the leader of a faith-based initiative. How was I feeling about this transition? What does this mean for Methodist higher education? What does this mean for the mission of Martin Methodist?
Martin Methodist College is a special institution in the Nashville Episcopal Area, and I know that a number of people share those questions. To answer them, I think it’s important to remember a few points.
First, Martin Methodist College was founded in a deep Wesleyan tradition of expanding access to education. For those early Methodists, access to social goods like education was about inviting participation into the Kingdom of God. By opening up this access, the college could be a place that offered transformation for the students and the community.
That mission is still deep in our DNA. Today, we pride ourselves on serving rural students, first-generation college students, and Pell-eligible students. It was a mark of pride when US News and World Report ranked us among the top colleges for social mobility.
It’s important to know that Martin Methodist College is still a strong institution. Unlike a lot of colleges of our size, we have a strong and stable enrollment. We have low debt, and we are constantly seeking new ways to live out our mission.
That strength does not make us immune from changes facing every small college, though. For instance, there are fewer high-school students than in decades past, which means colleges are competing for a smaller pool of students. And, COVID-19 is forcing change in every college, from the wealthiest to the smallest.
All of this leaves us with an important question: What is best for our mission?
The truth is that by becoming part of the University of Tennessee System, we will be able to improve the ways in which we carry out that foundational calling. We will have more resources to continue to provide quality education for our under-served area. We will be able to improve the economy of South-Central Tennessee. We will be able to help every member of our community unlock their potential and realize their vocation.
The second point that I want to emphasize is that we will still retain a connection to our Methodist tradition, and the people of the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. For our students, we will have a robust Wesley Foundation, where they will experience the transformative grace of Jesus Christ. The Turner Center at Martin Methodist College, meanwhile, will continue to work with faith-based communities, including United Methodist Congregations, to cultivate thriving rural communities.
The truth is this: Just because we lose our Methodist name does not mean that we lose our connection. In my first job out of seminary, I managed an initiative at a public university that supported United Methodist congregations in ways that mirror much of the current work of the Turner Center at MMC. There is no doubt that we will continue in our work. Even as we prepare for this transition, we will soon be announcing new initiatives, including a partnership with Duke Divinity School to expand access to theological education in our area.
All of this brings me to the question I am most often asked: How do I, as an ordained elder who came to Tennessee to work at Martin Methodist College, feel about this new development?
Simply put, I am hopeful. To be a follower of Jesus Christ is to embrace transformation. Just as our episcopal area is becoming recreated into a new Conference, and just as our denomination is in a state of change, Martin Methodist College will enter into this transformation sure and confident in our ability to “do all the good we can.”
What I love about Martin Methodist College is that we are a people on a mission. Our mission permeates our campus culture. It is at the heart of all that we do. In staff meetings, when working with students, and in conversations with faculty, we are constantly reminding ourselves of the work to which we are called.
We are a people on mission, and we will go where the mission demands.
We are a people on mission, and we are always confident in the grace that makes all things new.
We are a people on mission, and our mission deserves nothing less.
Rev. Allen Stanton is the Executive Director of Turner Center at Martin Methodist College, working with rural congregations, non-profits, businesses, and community leaders to cultivate thriving rural communities.