A San Fernando Valley mega-church will launch a seminary next year that will be the only theological school on the West Coast for the steadily growing charismatic-Pentecostal movement.
The Rev. Jack Hayford, pastor of the 8,900-member Church on the Way and a nationally known figure in conservative Christian circles, said the seminary will open in September 1998 in an existing five-story education building on the church's west campus in Van Nuys.
"I see this as the primary thing I will be doing the rest of my life," he said.
Over the past 27 years, Hayford, 62, has turned a tiny congregation into a church that draws 5,000 worshipers each Sunday.
As president-designate of the graduate-level school, Hayford is expected to attract faculty, students and financial support by drawing on his reputation as a reasoned voice for the tongues-speaking, charismatic-Pentecostal movement that has been embarrassed at times by flamboyant televangelists.
The only Pentecostal-oriented seminaries west of the Mississippi River are an Assemblies of God institution in Springfield, Mo., and the Oral Roberts University School of Theology in Tulsa, Okla. Oral Roberts University extension classes were held at Church on the Way until last May.
The Rev. Paul Chappell also resigned in May as dean of Oral Roberts' seminary and was hired in August as dean and chief academic officer for Church on the Way's new seminary.
"I knew of Pastor Jack's dream and vision, but I did not leave ORU with the purpose of coming here," said Chappell, who holds advanced degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Drew University in New Jersey.
Hayford said he envisions that "within five to 10 years there will be 200 to 300 students" at what will be called the King's Seminary. The name is similar to the Master's Seminary, a school begun 11 years ago at another Protestant mega-church, Grace Community Church of Sun Valley, whose senior pastor is the Rev. John MacArthur. Both "king" and "master" are derived from Gospel references to Jesus.
But the two seminaries are likely to appeal to different constituencies within the broad evangelical wing of Christianity, officials of both schools agreed.
The Master's Seminary holds theologically fundamental positions while avoiding the political activism often espoused by fundamentalists. It also disputes the validity of Pentecostal "gifts of the Spirit" such as speaking in tongues, faith healing and prophecy, and castigates pastors perceived to be softening their preaching in favor of feel-good marketing techniques.
The King's Seminary, expected to echo Hayford's style of ministry, will honor the century-long growth of Pentecostalism, which caught fire in 1906-1908 at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, and 60 years later spread in moderated forms into mainline Protestant and Catholic churches as the charismatic movement.
Unlike the all-male Master's, the King's Seminary will admit female seminarians. Hayford estimated that women made up nearly 15% of the students who attended Oral Roberts University's now-defunct extension classes at Church on the Way. Hayford and his congregation are affiliated with the Foursquare Gospel Church, a denomination founded in 1927 by the headline-grabbing evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
Hayford's seminary would not be the first Pentecostal seminary started in California--Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim ran one for several years until it closed in the mid-1980s.