​​​​History of UF and the Churches of God, General Conference

The origins of the University of Findlay, the nature of the education and the sense of service that is foundational to the UF experience are grounded in the Churches of God, General Conference. Throughout their shared history, the two institutions have played significant roles in helping guide and grow each other, ultimately continuing to forward John Winebrenner's vision of fostering the 'true Christian spirit.[1]" Winebrenner, a German Reformed pastor from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, founded the Churches of God in North America, now the Churches of God, General Conference, in 1825.

Historical Timeline of Partnership between University of Findlay and the Churches of God, General Conference 

The following timeline was taken from Findlay College The First Hundred Years, R. Kern unless otherwise noted.

1844 – Within 15 years of the establishment of the Church, the eldership of the Church of God expressed concern that the Church had no "institution of learning." 

1845 – After two resolutions focusing on the need for education were adopted at the first General Eldership meeting in 1845 in Pittsburgh, the Church of God began a 37-year search to provide an educational institution under Church of God control.

1881 – The leadership of the Churches of God in North America chose Findlay, Ohio as the location of their long-awaited college. Findlay was selected, in part, thanks to a visionary group of Findlay citizens who offered $20,000 and 10 acres of land to the Church leadership as the site of its first college. This group of 'public-spirited and energetic citizens' saw the benefits the city would accrue by having an institution of learning located in Findlay.

Rev. Christian Henry Forney

1882 – On Jan. 25, 1882, the executive board of the General Eldership of the Church of God (which included Rev. Christian H. Forney)  met in Findlay and formally established Findlay College. The first Board of Trustees of Findlay College was made up of leaders from both the Church of God and the city of Findlay – a tradition that is still true today.

1884 – The cornerstone of Old Main was laid. Old Main, which is still the heart of University of Findlay's campus, was designed to be "a massive and imposing" building that was to stand as a point of pride for the Church of God and the city of Findlay. Inside the cornerstone "relics", including memorabilia concerned with Findlay and the Church of God, were placed to commemorate the construction of the building.

1886 – Findlay College opened for classes on Sept. 1, 1886, with 70 students. This inaugural class could choose to pursue one of three courses of study – Classical, Philosophical or Scientific.

1890_Findlay_College_Student_Body_Faculty_and_Staff (1).jpg1888 – Two years after Findlay College opened, the Church of God established the College Church of God. In the early years of the church, the president of Findlay College was named to serve as pastor of the church.[2] 

1912 – The College Church of God, which held worship services in Old Main, remodeled the chapel (now Ritz Auditorium) by adding an elevated floor, enlarging the platform and installing new lights.  The College Church regularly met in the chapel of Old Main from 1887 to 1950.

Chapel_Platform 1890.jpg

1942 – Findlay College established the Winebrenner Graduate School of Divinity. The School of Divinity was established as a post-graduate program to help retain an increasing number of Churches of God ministerial students who were graduating from Findlay College and then doing their post-graduate theological studies elsewhere. 

1945 Argus Chapel Flag pic small.jpg1944-1945 – The war years resulted in Findlay College experiencing low enrollment. But thanks in part to the Winebrenner Graduate School of Divinity and more CGGC members sending their children to Findlay College, a larger number of students remaining on campus were members of the Churches of God. During this time, 64 percent of students were from the Church.

1948-1950 – College First Church of God was built directly north of Old Main, and the Winebrenner Graduate School of Divinity was moved to the new church. The Church is still there today and is a vibrant church community comprised of community members and students from the University. As has been its history, College First Church of God operates independently of the University but continues to minister to the spiritual needs of campus.

Winebrenner 701 E. Melrose Ave.jpg

1961 – To help focus the resources of both Findlay College and the Churches of God, the two entities met to approve the separation of the Winebrenner Graduate School of Divinity from the College, creating Winebrenner Theological Seminary (WTS). The Seminary moved off campus in 1962 to its new three-building complex two miles from campus.

1997 – The Boards of Winebrenner Theological Seminary and the University of Findlay unanimously approved a proposal to relocate Winebrenner Seminary to a site adjacent to the UF campus. The two institutions maintained their separate boards of trustees, administration, and mission, but the benefits of the cooperative relationship include sharing of technology, faculty, and resources; enhanced academic quality and opportunities; and a stronger Christian witness.

1997 – A new cooperative degree between UF and Winebrenner was established. The Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies-Pastoral Studies is taught by faculty from both organizations and prepares individuals for pastoral training in some denominations, including the Churches of God, General Conference, and serves as foundational training for individuals seeking to enter the seminary for graduate studies. The program offers students the advantage of earning degree credits at both the University and the Seminary while gaining vocational training and an undergraduate degree at the same time. The program still exists.

Winebrenner Theologial Seminary.JPG

2003 – After completing a capital campaign and several years of preparation, the new home of Winebrenner Theological Seminary was dedicated on Nov. 8, 2003.  The 52,100-square-foot facility featured a 750-seat auditorium, classrooms, meeting rooms and office space. As stated in the dedication day program by Dr. Philip Harrold, then assistant professor of church history at WTS, "The first movement, from the Findlay 'College' campus to new educational facilities at College First Church of God, reminds us that history often moves full-circle; the new Main Street building is only a few yards from the birthplace of the Seminary."

2016 – On May 6, 2016 both organizations came together to celebrate the inauguration of Brent Sleasman, Ph.D., as Winebrenner's new president, following the retirement of Dr. David E. Draper. Sleasman earned his undergraduate degree in speech at the University of Findlay and a Master of Divinity from Winebrenner Theological Seminary. He earned a Ph.D. in rhetoric from Duquesne University in 2007. He is ordained in the Allegheny Region of the Churches of God, General Conference and has served in several pastoral roles.

2017Winebrenner Theological Seminary and the University of Findlay announced a new partnership between the two institutions. The University and Winebrenner have reached a mutual agreement for the University to purchase the facility currently owned and occupied by Winebrenner Theological Seminary. The two institutions continue to remain separate organizations in identity and institutional governance.

[1] Findlay College The First Hundred Years, R. Kern

[2] A History of the Ohio Conference, R. Kerns