Wesley Biblical Seminary grew out of the need for adequately prepared pastors within the Methodist tradition in the Deep South. It has since become global in its perspective and mission. In 1974, after two years of study, the Association of Independent Methodists voted to establish an interdenominational seminary committed to historic Methodist theology.
Dr. Ivan C. Howard became the seminary’s first president. The facilities of Wesley College in Florence, Mississippi, provided temporary housing for the seminary’s opening semester in September 1974. On July 22, 1975, Wesley Biblical Seminary was incorporated as an independent, non-denominational, non-profit educational institution with its charter, by-laws, and doctrinal statement duly adopted at the first Board of Trustees meeting on September 20, 1975. Subsequent to the death of Dr. Howard, Dr. Eldon R. Fuhrman was elected president in 1977. Dr. Fuhrman served the seminary as president for eight years, and returned to full-time teaching in 1985. Dr. Harold G. Spann assumed presidential leadership July 1, 1985. Dr. Robert Lawrence succeeded Dr. Spann as president in 1996. On January 15, 1998, Dr. Ronald E. Smith was elected as the fifth president of Wesley Biblical Seminary. He was followed in July 2010 by Dr. James L. Porter as the seminary’s sixth president. The current president, Dr. John E. Neihof, Jr. has served since July 2013.
The seminary is governed by a Board of Trustees composed of ministerial and lay leaders who represent the rich diversity of the Methodist tradition. Financially, the seminary depends primarily upon gifts and pledges of individuals, groups, and churches for operational capital and endowment funding. The generous giving of those aligned with the WBS mission allows the seminary to keep tuition affordable.