Kline Leaves Legacy of Higher Ed Excellence

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Bruce Kline in 1990 (Marston Memorial Historical Center)

Bruce Kline led the Free Methodist Church’s higher education efforts after serving as president of one of the denomination’s key institutions — now known as Central Christian College of Kansas.

“Dr. Kline’s service to the kingdom of God and the Free Methodist Church is impressive indeed. In one capacity or another, he served under Free Methodist appointment for over 40 years,” Bishop David Kendall wrote in a tribute to Kline that Great Plains Conference Superintendent Chuck Frankenfeld read at Kline’s memorial service April 17 (Kline’s 93rd birthday) at Northwest Free Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. Kendall praised Kline’s “well-lived life” and his leadership skills. “Often, in the life of a college or university, one can identify an iconic figure whose ministry leadership establishes the culture and sets the trajectories of a school and decisively sets its future for the good. Surely, Bruce Kline is such a figure for Central.”

Kline began his career in Christian education in 1945 at Wessington Springs College in South Dakota and continued his career at Central. According to Central’s Today newsletter, Kline served as the dean of students, academic dean and registrar before serving as president for 17 years that included construction of the college’s Parsons and Gillespie halls, the Broadhurst Student Center, the Mingenback Family Life Center and two apartment units for faculty. The college named a dormitory Kline Hall in 1998.

His influence extended well beyond Wessington Springs and Central, and Kendall credited Kline with continuing the Methodist commitment to theological education combined with “fervent love for God” that the Wesleys and B.T. Roberts also possessed.

Kline in Central newsletter

Central President Bruce Kline has his daily visit with students in the Tiger den. (Central Christian College of Kansas Today newsletter)

“Dr. Kline’s work at Central led to his appointment as general secretary of higher education and of the ministry in 1981,” Kendall wrote. “As our general secretary, he championed the cause of theological and practical education for Free Methodist clergy (and thus raised the bar for our leadership in general); helped initiate what became known as the John Wesley Seminary Foundation and its loan grant program for theological education; played a key role in structuring, setting the agenda for and expanding the role of the Association of Free Methodist Educational Institutions; organized and administered the January term that has offered educational opportunities for developing pastors to the present day; and then somehow along the way also donated his time, energy and expertise to the Evangelical Church of Hungary and its theological institute. In all these ministries, Dr. Kline was a ‘servant leader’ before anyone was using such language and, as a result, raised his stature to become an elder statesman for the church and God’s kingdom.”

One of Kline’s children, the Rev. Celeste Cranston, the director of Seattle Pacific University’s Center for Biblical and Theological Education, led her father’s memorial service.

“The word I use most often to describe my father is integrity, and by that I mean to be so present to God, so present to himself and to others, that what he spoke was one with who he was,” Cranston said.

In interviews with Light + Life, Kline’s former World Ministries Center colleagues Joyce Cullison and Julie Innes agreed.

“He was very kind, very considerate and just a gentleman,” said Cullison, who began working for Kline when the center moved from Winona Lake, Indiana, to Indianapolis.

“He was the most amazing gentleman. He treated everyone with respect, and he was a great listener,” said Innes, now the donor communications coordinator for International Child Care Ministries. “He was so knowledgeable about so many things but was a man of great humility.”

Kline was born April 17, 1924 in Evanston, Illinois, as the seventh of eight children of Pastor George Kline and Carrie Kline. He died March 23 at home in Wichita. He is survived by his wife, Kneldrith “Kay” Harden with whom he celebrated 73 years of marriage in January; his children, Bruce E. (Leora) Kline of Dayton, Frank (Rhonda) Kline of Seattle, Carolyn (Pat) Gaughan of Wichita, Miriam (Willis) Overholt of Wichita, Celeste (Gary) Cranston of Seattle; grandchildren, April Kline (David Bush), Jonathan (Jackie) Kline, Karly (Eric) Marshall, Kerri Kline, Lauren (Daniel) Scislowski, Erin (Mike) Visitacion, Joshua (Rachel) Zahniser-Cranston, Dan Overholt, and Elise (Tyler) Merrill-Cranston; great-grandchildren, Kayla and Hanalei Bush, Levi Kline, Bridget Lindberg, PoppyNoel Marshall, and Zoe Scislowski; and sister, Rosemary Stickney of Phoenix.

Memorial gifts may be made to Central Christian College of Kansas, P.O. Box 1403, McPherson, KS 67460.

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