Francis Chan is Named Inaugural Karlson Scholar of Newly Established Seminary Scholar Program

The Karl J. Karlson Memorial Endowment for Best Practice in Seminary Education has been used to establish the Bethel Seminary Karlson Scholar program. The program was established in 2022 to facilitate partnership between Bethel Seminary and influential leaders of the Evangelical church. The first-ever Karlson Scholar will be author Francis Chan, who will be visiting campus in Fall 2023.

By Marcus Dip Silas S’25

April 06, 2023 | 9 a.m.

Francis Chan

Through the generous contribution of donors, Bethel Seminary’s new Karlson Scholar Program provides funding for ongoing work to advance the Gospel in creative, culturally-relevant ways. The goal of the program is to foster partnerships between influential evangelical leaders and Bethel Seminary. The program will facilitate the development of church leaders who will take the insights from the Karlson Scholar into their ministry leadership responsibilities. The program and the endowment that funds it are the legacy of Karl J. Karlson who served as Dean of Bethel Seminary from 1925-48.

We were looking for a way to both highlight evangelical scholarship and enhance the experience of seminary students,” says Peter Vogt, the current Dean of Bethel Seminary. “This program is a great opportunity for us to partner with really strong thinkers and leaders in the evangelical church by highlighting their work and bringing the benefit of that work to Bethel Seminary.”

The Karlson Scholar Program is designed to be an experience tailored to the strengths of the nominated scholar. Karlson Scholars perform an agreed upon combination of activities such as teaching a Seminary for Everyone class, delivering guest lectures in classes, teaching a seminary elective, participating in one or more episodes of the Whole & Holy podcast, or speaking in Chapel.

According to Vogt, the faculty of Bethel Seminary had compiled a list of leaders as they considered naming the inaugural Karlson Scholar. Francis Chan’s name had come up, as faculty appreciated his emphasis on applied theology in the day-to-day life of a believer. “Francis’ value for applied theology dovetails with Bethel Seminary’s emphasis on transformative education that is not merely an intellectual pursuit,” says Vogt. Vogt states that the focus of Bethel Seminary is to provide its students with a biblical and theological foundation that is coupled with the flourishing of spiritual and personal formation. After evaluating the candidates for the scholarship, the naming committee agreed on proceeding with the nomination of Francis Chan as the program’s inaugural scholar.

Chan pastored for over a decade at Cornerstone Community Church in Ventura County, California. In 2010, Chan transitioned out of his pastoral role and was actively involved in church-planting movements. As an influential evangelical speaker, Chan also authored numerous books. His works include Letters to the Church, Crazy Love, Forgotten God, Erasing Hell, and You and Me Forever, a book on building a healthy marriage that he co-authored with his wife, Lisa Chan.

Chan will begin his tenure as Karlson Scholar at the start of the 2023-24 academic year this fall. “Getting to participate in this program humbles, encourages, and excites me,” Chan says. “I have been in ministry for over 30 years, and I believe strongly that it’s time for me to enter a new season. Rather than starting new ministries, my focus now is to invest in the next generation of leaders. Accepting this nomination gives me the opportunity to pour into the students at Bethel, where I will endeavor to impart some wisdom gleaned from many years of mistakes.”

“I am honored to be named the inaugural Karlson Scholar.”

— Francis Chan, pastor & author

Chan is expected to be on campus October 20 to make a guest presentation in a class and to speak at a Chapel service sponsored by the seminary.

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