Wichita student selected for Switzerland seminary scholarship


Daniel Reffner didn’t think he had a chance.

He found out about a scholarship to attend the prestigious Ecumenical Institute at Chateau de Bossey, located in Switzerland. But the late-September deadline was four days away.

“I definitely perceived it as taking a chance,” the Wichita native said. “It sounded phenomenal, but it was due in four days. I didn’t think it would be possible.”

After a phone interview with the Council of Bishops (where he admitted he “didn’t think I did exceptionally well”), Reffner was chosen as the only American student to receive the $10,000 scholarship to attend the institute.

“I was definitely surprised,” he said. “It was not the outcome I was expecting.”

Daniel Reffner creates pottery during a service at Wichita's Aldersgate ReNew campus, where he served as an intern, in the summer of 2016. Photo by David Burke

The last hurdle, Reffner said, is to be approved by Bossey as a student in the program.

Reffner, 22, is a May graduate of Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. He is a member of Calvary United Methodist Church, Wichita. He is a first-year graduate student at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

If selected, Reffner would participate in the program, which continues from mid-September to late January.

“I would live in community with people from all around the globe, with a wide variety of Christian traditions and denominations,” he said.

Reffner said he would be taking classes on ecumenism and learning about the history of the movement, as well as classes in theology, the Bible and social ethics.

“We’re going to be exposed to a lot of different ways of doing theology, kinds I wouldn’t be able to be exposed to here in Atlanta, but that’s just because we don’t have the diversity of the global church,” he said. “From my perspective, this is a chance to learn about the traditions of the church family around the world.”

The cost of the program is about $13,000, Reffner said, and he believes he will be able to get funding from the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s foundation, which has already provided some of his seminary scholarship.

“I’m thinking I would be able to apply for those again,” he said.

Contact David Burke, communications coordinator, at dburke@greatplainsumc.org.

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