History of Grace

Beginnings

Affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Grace Theological Seminary was founded in 1937, and the college was established eleven years later in 1948. The founders—including Alva J. McClain, the institution’s first president—drew distinctive features from their Brethren heritage, which, in turn, drew from a variety of historical traditions. These historical traditions included Pietism, a centuries-old movement of personal and experiential faith, as well as the Anabaptist and Calvinist branches of the Protestant Reformation. This heritage also included a promise to remain free from worldly conformity yet relevant to the culture around them—a commitment that challenged the Brethren movement throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. As McClain and his fellow founders established the seminary and then the college, they sought to create an environment that was informed by the eclectic heritage of the Brethren tradition while fashioning an institution that would thrive within American evangelicalism, which grew increasingly robust and influential in the 1930s and 40s. Grace’s evangelical identity was enhanced by the location of the seminary and college in Winona Lake, Indiana, a resort community that had become a center for Progressive Era social and political activity and, by the 1920s, a well-known location for evangelical Bible conferences.    

A Deep Experience of Community

Throughout the ensuing decades, both Grace Theological Seminary and Grace College have grown exponentially. The college and seminary have weathered storms and experienced periods of change as any institution does. But throughout its history, the institution has remained committed to its heritage, emphasizing biblical authority, a deep experience of community, living under the sovereignty of God and fostering experiential faith, even as Grace continues to offer an educational program that is rigorous and academically excellent as well as practical. We are proud that the streams of our heritage flow back to the 16th and 17th century and also excited about the role Grace has played within American evangelicalism. Informed by our diverse heritage while committed to the values that unite us, we look to the future, offering quality undergraduate and graduate degree programs through the six schools that constitute Grace College & Theological Seminary: the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Behavioral Sciences, the School of Business, the School of Education, the School of Ministry Studies, and the School of Professional & Online Education.

Spiritual Development and Academic Excellence

Our heritage recognizes that spiritual development and academic excellence go hand in hand. For both undergraduate and graduate students, the Grace faculty and staff, the design and content of the Grace curriculum and the entire Grace campus community contribute to an atmosphere where spiritual growth and scholarly inquiry are mutually enhancing.