Denver-based Illif School of Theology – one of the UMC's "showcased" schools – was founded 130 years ago as a theology school committed to the teachings of John Wesley and the Holy Scripture. But Dr. Matt Ayars, president of Wesley Biblical Seminary in Mississippi (also a showcased UMC school), says Iliff has not only left orthodox theology, it has abandoned the entire Bible itself.
"[They have] students who are Hindus, Universalists, Jews, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic," Ayars lists. "One of their senior M.Div. students served at the Wiccan church, which would be a witch church, a paganist church."
In fact, The Institute on Religion & Democracy – a group that advocates for Christian orthodoxy – argues in a recent piece that the Colorado seminary "embraces" paganism; and points out that Iliff's explanation of its core values "says nothing directly about God, Jesus Christ, or the Bible."
The alumni profiles section on Illif's website celebrates a "chaplain" who is part of the atheistic American Humanist Society. And the school has especially close ties to the Unitarian Universalist church, even offering classes that a student will need to be ordained to that religion.
According to Ayars, that's the "natural end" when the authority of the Bible is abandoned for a liberal theology.
"[That's what happens] if you throw out absolute truth, if you throw out the historicity of the gospels, saying things like 'Well, we don't like the Bible but we like Jesus,'" he tells AFN. "And even though this is more extreme than those other cases where you have progressive ideologies dominating the classroom, this is where they will end up. There's no doubt about it."
Ayars notes that Iliff gets more than $800,000 a year from the United Methodist Ministerial Education Fund.
"The average person in the pew at a United Methodist Church in America is conservative," the seminary president offers. "There's no doubt in my mind that those people have no idea what their money is going towards when they give to United Methodist Church."
According to the IRD, "with all that money, [Iliff] only educated an annual average of a mere 11 people ordained into American United Methodist ministry."