ALPS History

Appalachian Local Pastors School

Appalachian Local Pastors School (ALPS) was the realization of a longtime dream to offer training for ministry for those indigenous to Appalachia. The school began in 1991 with seven students. Currently, yearly attendance is approximately 100 local pastors from 18 annual conferences of The United Methodist Church.  ALPS is an extension school of the Emory University Course of Study School. It is approved by the Division of Ordained Ministry of the United Methodist Church.

The mission of the Appalachian Local Pastors School is the spiritual and academic formation of persons who are willing to identify with the people, share the gospel and give leadership for the development of strong and effective congregations.

Participants in the Appalachian Local Pastors School will be challenged both academically and spiritually by the outstanding instructors who are known for their expertise in their own fields of ministry.

The Appalachian Local Pastors School offers two formats for taking Course of Study classes, May School and Weekend School. The May School meets for two weeks at Union College in Barbourville, Kentucky. Classes meet Monday through Friday, four hours each day for a total of 20 hours per class. The Weekend Schools are held in London and Madisonville, Kentucky. These classes meet for two weekends, beginning on Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. Each weekend consists of 10 hours for a total of 20 hours per class.


A Task Force on Leadership and Parish Development was appointed by the RBMC Council on Ministries Executive Committee September 14, 1989 and confirmed by the CCOM October 5, 1989. The Task Force was given two principle tasks:

(1) To establish a school to train lay persons to assume pastoral leadership in some of RBMC churches, and
(2) To augment and develop cooperative parishes among the churches.

On March 13, 1990 the RBMC Board of Ordained Ministry unanimously passed the following proposal: “The Red Bird Missionary Conference Board of Ordained Ministry approves a Red Bird Missionary Conference Pastor’s School to train laypersons from our churches as local pastors so long as this school meets the requirements for license as Local Pastors as delineated by the Division of Ordained Ministry.”

A process was put in motion. Ruth Wiertzema made contact with Professor George Morris of Emory University about this project. It was felt that the model being implemented in the School for New Congregational Development For Minority Groups of the World Methodist Evangelism Institute at Candler School of Theology would provide a workable plan for the RBMC. A letter of invitation to Dr. Morris, dated November 9, 1989 from Randall C. Brock, was issued. A retreat was held January 9-10, 1990 and Dr. Morris was invited as a resource person. The Task Force wanted information regarding the following:

  1. The curriculum and strategy used in the training of minority persons at Emory.
  2. Basic requirements in training Pastors (subjects, style of teaching, duration, systems of evaluation, etc.
  3. Faculty and facilities required.
  4. Necessary groundwork in getting a school started; how and when?
  5. How can we involve others from the Appalachian region and beyond? Could this pilot project be beneficial to the entire church as a model for ministry and mission?
  6. The availability of Dr. Morris and Dr. Earl Brewer to be involved in future consultation, teaching, planning and oversight.
  7. A discussion of the unique aspects of the missionary conference setting.

The Task Force agreed that the basic paradigm for teaching adults, the curriculum, and the strategy being implemented in the NCD School at Emory would fit very well in Appalachia. As they said in their report: “…the educational model could be very well suitable to our needs. Furthermore, we envision a school that would not only train laypersons from within the bounds of the RBMC but from the region of Appalachia. Thus, this school is seen not only as a way to meet our needs, but also as a mission…to the rural church in general.”

During the retreat, the Task Force was in conversation with Robert Kohler of the Board of Higher Education. He agreed to this concept and agreed to work with the Task Group to assure credentialing of the License to Preach as Local Pastor for the participants. He also agreed to help the Task Force explore other ministry options for participants. Thus plans were in place to go ahead with the development of the ALPS. Dr. Morris and Dr. Earl Brewer agreed to work closely in establishing the school. A Director would be secured to work with the Task Force in drafting a rationale for the school, securing faculty, and working to assure credentialing of Local Pastors and other options for ministry. Since Dr. Morris was on sabbatical from Emory plans were drafted to hold the first month of classes April 8-May 5, 1991

The proposal was unanimously approved by the RBMC Annual Conference session May 11, 1990.

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