I’m too old. I don’t like school. It’s too much money. Geneva Arnold thought up several excuses when she felt a pull toward seminary. “I’d had no vision for nine months,” she says. “But one day I was praying, and God told me to get a ministerial degree.”
Arnold was appalled. She came up with every reason not to go. Finally, thinking she’d found a way out, she decided to cut a deal. “I told God, ‘If you want me to go, then my husband has to be on board,’” she says. But when she told him, he surprised her. “Of course,” he said. “What else would you do?” And that was that. Arnold was going to seminary.
After spending the next four years earning her bachelor’s degree at local colleges, the time came to look for a seminary. Arnold was struck by the polar opposites she encountered. “There were some seminaries that made me wonder if they were Christian at all, while others were rigid and patriarchal,” she says. “When I settled in at MU, I found a balance. It has a good, scholarly environment that’s challenging. At the same time, there’s openness to innovation.”
Arnold was the first woman to attend the seminary at MU’s Reno-Tahoe campus. But rather than feel intimidated, she was empowered by the academic quality and close-knit community she found. “I felt respected in all the classes,” she says. “I’m impressed by the quality of the professors; they’re knowledgeable, and they sincerely love the Lord and the spiritual formation of their students. That is meaningful to me.”
Three years deep into the M.Div. program, Arnold is appreciating the depth of study she’s investing in the Scriptures. “I’m a better student of God’s Word,” she says. “I know how to read it better, ask questions of the text, mine out what God is saying and see it as an integrated whole. I loved the Bible before, but now I have expertise, confidence and the tools to find meaning and communicate it.”
But is biblical expertise important in a world that constantly questions the value of a seminary education? Arnold, who’s been attending churches for the past 30 years, says yes. “I do see a difference,” she says. “None of the pastors at the churches I attended had seminary degrees. I grew spiritually, but there was also damage, setbacks, mishandling and misunderstandings. None of those churches remain today. Those problems would have been settled if their leaders had a well-rounded education. They had the passion — but not the knowledge and wisdom.”
Although Arnold isn’t sure where God will lead her after graduation, she plans on diving into Christian conference and seminar work so she can travel nationally and internationally for speaking engagements. Wherever she ends up going, she’s confident that her education will have thoroughly equipped her for her calling. “You have to have something of everything,” she says. “And a seminary education gives people the broad-based education that they need for ministry today.”