History of Grace


Affiliated with the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, Grace Theological Seminary was founded first, in 1937, and the college was established eleven years later in 1948. Coming from the Brethren tradition, the founders were shaped by a heritage that drew distinctive features from a variety of historic traditions. Influential among this group was Alva J. McClain, the institution’s first president. These historic traditions included Pietism, a centuries old movement of warm and experiential faith, as well as the Anabaptist and Calvinist branches of the Protestant Reformation. This heritage also included a commitment to remain free from worldly conformity yet relevant to the culture around them — a commitment that proved to be a challenging balancing act for the Brethren movement throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As McClain, along with those around him, established the seminary and then the college, he sought to create an environment that was informed in meaningful ways by the eclectic heritage of the Brethren tradition while fashioning institutions that would thrive within American evangelicalism, which was, in the 1930s and 1940s, an increasingly robust and influential movement. This 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, the enrollment of Grace Theological Seminary and Grace College has grown exponentially and numerous buildings have been added to the 180-acre campus. 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 it continues to offer an educational program that is rigorous, academically excellent, as well as practical. We are proud that the streams of our heritage flow back to the sixteenth and seventeenth 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 six schools that constitute Grace College and 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 and Online Education.

Spiritual Development & Academic Excellence

Our story is one that recognizes that spiritual development and academic excellence go hand in hand. For both undergraduates 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.