Chicago Theological Seminary

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Chicago Theological Seminary in Hyde Park
Seal of Chicago Theological Seminary.jpg
Seal of Chicago Theological Seminary
Motto "Leaders for the Next"
Type Private
Established 1855
Affiliation United Church of Christ
President Alice Hunt
Dean Ken Stone
Address 1407 E. 60th Street, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Campus urban 78,000 gross square foot, 4-story seminary with full basement located in the center of the University of Chicago campus
Affiliations University of Chicago
Association of Chicago Theological Schools
Chicago Theological Seminary Loto.png

The Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) is an Christian ecumenical American seminary located in Chicago, Illinois, and is one of several seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. It is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago, originally established in 1855 under the direction of abolitionist the Rev. Stephen Peet[1] and the Congregational Church (now the United Church of Christ) by charter of the Illinois legislature.[2] In addition to being a seminary of the United Church of Christ, CTS offers students coursework necessary to be ordained by both the United Methodist Church[3] and the Metropolitan Community Church denominations.

In the 19th century, the Chicago Theological Seminary lead the Christian Abolitionism movement, while during the 20th century, the seminary stood as a bastion of Social Gospel Christianity. The seminary's preeminent religious activists and theologians among its faculty and alumni include Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, Graham Taylor, Howard Schomer, G. Campbell Morgan, John W. de Gruchy, and Otis Moss III among others.

Chicago Theological enrolls a diverse student population representing more than 40 different faith traditions, perspectives and denominations, and houses the Center for the Study of Black Faith and Life (CSBFL), the Center for Jewish, Christian, & Islamic Studies (JCIS), the Center for the Study of Korean Christianity (CSKC), and the LGBTQ Religious Studies Center. CTS students hold academic reciprocity with the University of Chicago, the University of Chicago Divinity School, and with member schools of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools consortium.

The first in many fields, CTS remains the first theological school to introduce the field education experience into a seminary curriculum,[4] the first to create a distinct Department of Christian Sociology in an American theological school,[5] the first seminary to award a degree in divinity to a woman in the US (Florence Fensham, 1902),[6] the first seminary in the US to award the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for his activism in the Civil Rights movement,[7] the first to elect an African American to lead a predominantly white theological school (C. Shelby Rooks, 1974 to 1984),[8] and the first free-standing Protestant seminary to endow a chair in Jewish Studies.[9]


The Chicago Theological Seminary at its new location in Hyde Park, Chicago

Chicago Theological Seminary is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago, having been established in 1855. Unintimidated by controversy, the seminary had a distinguished century-long record of setting trends in church life and leadership.

The very first CTS curriculum in 1855 provided for the scattering of students among congregations and missions across the Midwest. Students were encouraged to learn first hand the facts of community life and church needs in a restless, experimental culture. Although such a practice was unknown at that time, this curriculum was the beginning of the first field education component ever introduced into seminary education. Field education is now a part of every accredited professional theological degree program.

Twentieth century[edit]

Because of a deeply held conviction that training for ministry needed to combine the study of Christian faith and the world of secular knowledge and action, during President Ozora Davis' tenure in 1900s, CTS moved to the vicinity of the University of Chicago. Under his leadership the magnificent buildings of the seminary were financed and constructed, and the relationship with the University firmly established.

After Florence Fensham earned the first seminary degree awarded to a woman, the Congregational Training School for Women was founded at the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1909 as an opportunity to provide Congregational women with advanced educational training. The school continued its mission until it was subsumed into the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1926. CTS alum Florence Fensham was the first dean, succeeded by Agnes M. Taylor and Margaret M. Taylor, when Dean Fensham died unexpectedly in 1912. The Chicago Theological Seminary decided to allow full acceptance of women to its programs in 1926, thereby eliminating the need for a separate institution for women.

Graham Taylor established at CTS the first distinct Department of Christian Sociology in an American theological school. Working closely with Jane Addams in Chicago, Taylor established the Chicago Commons settlement house and a graduate school of social work which later became the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration Social Service Administration. While a faculty member at CTS, Anton Boisen worked with a group of CTS students in order that they might become competent in ministering to the physically, mentally, and emotionally ill, and from that experience helped to found the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). Boisen's ashes are interred in the CTS cloisters.

In 1965 CTS launched a Doctorate of Religion program, one of the first professional doctorates in ministry. As standards for the professional doctorate were established by the Association of Theological Schools, the Seminary became one of the initial group of six schools to have fully accredited programs of study for the Doctor of Ministry degree.

Twenty-first century[edit]

Among schools of theological education, the Chicago Theological Seminary is especially welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex concerns and is listed as an officially "Open and Affirming" institution of the United Church of Christ by the UCC Coalition for GLBT Concerns. The seminary has many openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, staff and faculty; several of its faculty members have published books and articles regarding religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The institution offers an annual Gilberto Castaneda scholarship award for outstanding GLBT students. It is home to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Religious Archives Network. Students are invited to participate in the social activities of the Heyward Boswell Society. In 2006 CTS launched the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) Religious Studies Center (Queer Center), a grant-funded research program.[10][11]

Founded in 2009, the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies is the only American program of its kind based in a free-standing theological seminary. Students in the Theology, Ethics and Human Sciences concentration enjoy resources appropriate to experientially and theoretically integrate theology with the human sciences.

New Chapel elevation

Notable firsts[edit]

  • CTS is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago.
  • CTS faculty and students participated in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War.[12]
  • First seminary to introduce field education into a seminary curriculum in the US.[4]
  • First to create a distinct Department of Christian Sociology in an American theological school.[5]
  • First seminary to award a degree in divinity to a woman in the US. (Florence Fensham, 1902)[6]
  • Faculty and students instrumental in founding the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) in 1930.[13]
  • First seminary in the US to award the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for his activism in the Civil Rights movement.[7]
  • First African American to lead a predominantly white theological school (C. Shelby Rooks, 1974 to 1984).[8]
  • First free-standing Protestant seminary to endow a chair in Jewish Studies, advancing interfaith engagement and multi-faith education.[9]


The campus of the University of Chicago.
The Chicago Theological Seminary is an independent educational institution located within the broader campus of the University of Chicago.[14] From the top of Rockefeller Chapel, the Main Quadrangles can be seen on the left (West), the Oriental Institute and the Booth School of Business and Laboratory Schools can be seen on the right (East). The panoramic is bounded on both sides by the Midway Plaisance (South).

The original buildings were designed by Herbert Riddle and built between 1923 and 1928. Riddle was the architect for Mather Tower in the Loop, as well as many buildings in New York. The original CTS building complex was a harmonious, organic, integrated work of art, including stained glass windows, medieval style groin vaulting, furniture, lighting fixtures, ceramic ornament and tile work, architectural relics – all of the highest quality of its day.

New building[edit]

The seminary, which was for decades located at 5757 South University Avenue in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, adjacent to the University of Chicago, during the 2011/2012 academic year moved to 1407 East 60th Street, also in Hyde Park. The building designed by Riddle that had served as a seminary for decades became home to the Department of Economics at the University of Chicago and the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.

Construction of the new $30,000,000 CTS facility is a partnership between the University of Chicago and the Chicago Theological Seminary.[15] In May 2008, the University of Chicago Board of Trustees Executive Committee authorized the purchase of two CTS buildings and an adjacent parking lot. Additionally, the University of Chicago agreed to construct a new seminary building at 60th Street and Dorchester Avenue. The seminary’s new building, designed with staunch commitments to environmental sustainability, is located at 1407 E. 60th Street, is LEED Gold-certified and fully ADA accessible.[16] As of 2013, the building project has acquired numerous private and public funds.[17]

Aerial view of new CTS building on University of Chicago campus

Lapp Learning Commons Library[edit]

The Robinson & Janet Lapp Learning Commons, centrally located on the third floor of CTS's new building, is a working theological collection of over 45,000 volumes. The library also receives over 700 periodicals and subscribes to multiple databases. The collection is strong in the theological subject areas of Bible, Church history and theology. Special holdings include the Boisen Collection in psychology and personality science, and the Campbell Morgan Collection named for the Rev. G. Campbell Morgan. The collection contains his sermons, writings, books, newspaper clips, lecture notes, photographs, and other archival materials. Particular fields of note also include African American religion and spirituality, women's studies, LGBT/queer studies, and Jewish and Christian studies.

CTS students also have access to the University of Chicago Library system, the 11th largest library collection in the United States. Through special arrangement, CTS students and faculty can utilize this resource in person.[18]


Accreditation and ordination[edit]

The seminary is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada and by the North Central Association. Further it is one of the 11 seminaries that form the Association of Chicago Theological Schools consortium.

In addition to being a seminary of the United Church of Christ, it offers students coursework necessary to be ordained by both the United Methodist Church and the Metropolitan Community Church.

Degree programs[edit]

Interior of the original seminary

Notable people[edit]


Notable former faculty[edit]

  • Samuel Ives CurtissProlific Old Testament scholar and protege of Friedrich Delitzsch, great-grandson of the Rev. Jesse Ives, and intercity missionary[31]
  • Clarence BeckwithAuthor, minister, and professor at CTS
  • Anton Boisenleading figure in the hospital chaplaincy and clinical pastoral education movements.
  • Clara E. Powellfirst female professor at CTS, and English teacher.[32]
  • G. Campbell MorganBritish evangelist, preacher and a leading Bible scholar (D.D., 1902)
  • Graham TaylorMinister, Social Reformer, Educator and Founder of Chicago Commons Settlement House which later became the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration.[5]
  • Arthur Cushman McGiffertInstructor, Fulbright scholar, professor, and church historian
  • Arthur E. HoltAuthor, professor, founder of the Merom Institute (renamed the Merom Conference Center),[33] Chairman of the department of social ethics in the University of Chicago Divinity School, regional consultant for the India, Burma, and Ceylon foreign work survey of the YMCA and YWCA, visiting professor at the Tata School of Social Service, India 1936-1937.[34]
  • Fred EastmanACPE pioneer and colleague of Anton Boisen, Union Theological Seminary (Manhattan) alumni, and professor of Biography, Literature, and Drama.[35]
  • Victor ObenhausUnion Theological Seminary (Manhattan) alumni, author, professor of Christian ethics, National Council of Churches leader, prison reform advocate.[26]
  • André LaCocqueFounder of the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies at CTS, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Chicago Theological Seminary, colleague of and co-author with Paul Ricœur, winner of the Gordon J. Laing Award, prolific author. [36]
  • W. Widick SchroederPolitical and Process Theologian, professor of religion and society Emeritus at CTS
  • Rabbi Herman SchaalmanActivist, rabbi, scholar, son of Dachau concentration camp survivor, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Emanuel, past president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, honoree of the Herman Schaalman Chair of Jewish Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary.[37][38]
  • Yoshio Fukuyamatheologian and religious pioneer, father of Francis Fukuyama
  • Wilhelm PauckGerman-American church historian and historical theologian in the field of Reformation studies

Notable current faculty[edit]

  • Theodore W. Jennings, Jr. — Professor of Biblical and Constructive Theology
  • Ken Stone — Professor of Bible, Culture and Hermeneutics
  • John H. Thomas — Visiting Professor in Church Ministries
  • Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite — author, former CTS president, syndicated columnist, ordained minister, activist, theologian, and translator of the Bible[29]
  • Rachel Mikva — Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, director of the Center for Jewish, Christian and Islamic Studies
  • Rami Nashashibi — community organizer and American Muslim activist who co-founded and continues to serve as the Executive Director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN)

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Florence Amanda Fensham— First woman in the US awarded a degree from a seminary (CTS), founder and dean of the Congregational Training School for Women, missionary, teacher, and activist Protestant laywoman[39] (BD, 1902)
  • G. Campbell MorganBritish evangelist, preacher and a leading Bible scholar (D.D., 1902)
  • Richard A. JensenAmerican theologian, author, and Carlson Professor of Homiletics Emeritus at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.American pastor, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. (Honorary Doctor of Divinity, 1957)
  • John W. de GruchyAnti-Apartheid leader, Karl Barth Prize award recipient, former Robert Selby Taylor Professor of Christian Studies at University of Cape Town, and an Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch. [40]
  • Abraham Kahikina AkakaAmerican clergyman (1955)
  • Margaret Palmer Taylor—Pioneer in sacred dance[41]
  • Ralph Richard Keithahn—Missionary, social worker, Benedictine Oblate influenced by Gandhi (1959)
  • Philo CarpenterIllinois' first pharmacist, managing director of the Chicago Bible Society, abolitionist, school board member, board of health member, organizer of the Relief and Aid Society, and co-organizer of American Anti-Slavery Society.
  • Otis Moss IIIPastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ (D.Min., 2012)
  • Jared Maurice ArterFormer slave, Virginia school superintendent, author. (B.D.)
  • Dean DraytonGeophysicist, Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) minister and president, United Theological College lecturer, author, and aboriginal advocate. (Ph.D.)
  • Desmond TutuSouth African anti- apartheid social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop. (Honorary Doctor of Divinity, 1986)
  • Daniel Day WilliamsProcess theologian, professor, and author. He served on the joint faculty of the University of Chicago and the Chicago Theological Seminary, and later at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. (D.D., 1966)
  • Mary McDermott Shideler—Author, poet, president of the American Theological Society, president of the Society for Descriptive Psychology. (1971)
  • Susan SarandonActor and activist (2002, honorary Doctorate of Letters)
  • Jim WallisMinister and founder of Sojourners (2005, honorary Doctorate of Divinity)
  • Mercy OduyoyeMethodist theologian known for her work in African women's theology. (2001, D.D.)
  • E.L. Kornegay Jr.—Founder and director of the Baldwin~Delaney Institute, author, and theologian(Ph.D., 2013)
  • Jeremiah Wright, Jr.—Pastor Emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ, and black liberation theologian. (1982, D.D.)
  • Larry PickensUnited Methodist pastor, and ecumenical activist (Ph.D.)
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.—American civil rights activist and Baptist minister. (M.Div., 2000)
  • Delores S. WilliamsAuthor, Black Feminist (Honorary Doctorate of Letters)
  • James H. ConeFounder of Black Liberation Theology, scholar, professor (2008, honorary Doctorate of Divinity)
  • Adam KotskoAmerican writer, theologian, religious scholar, and translator, working chiefly in the field of political theology. (M.A, 2005; Ph.D., 2009)
  • Alden Ewart MatthewsChinese: 麻安德; Pinyin: Má Āndé; Congregational missionary to China and Japan.
  • James Henry BreastedAmerican archaeologist and historian
  • Delbert TibbsWrongfully convicted ex-felon, writer and anti-death penalty activist
  • Wilhelm PauckGerman-American church historian and historical theologian in the field of Reformation studies
  • Donald G. Bloeschnoted American evangelical theologian
  • Rev. Graylan HaglerAfrican-American pastor and activist (MDiv, 1976)
  • William Leonard RoweProfessor emeritus of philosophy at Purdue University who specializes in the philosophy of religion
  • Emily C. HewittFormer Judge and Chief Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims. (DMin)
  • Caleb Frank Gates, SrMissionary, Former President of Euphrates College, in Harput, Turkey and then President of Robert College,Istanbul, Turkey.[42] [43][44] (1881)
  • Gunnar VingrenSwedish Pentecostal missionary evangelist
  • Daniel Crosby GreeneFirst missionary of the American Board to Japan, member of the committee for the translation of the New Testament into the Japanese and Chinese languages
  • Syngman Rhee (Presbyterian minister)Former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, civil rights activist, teacher
  • Chuck Currie, United Church of Christ minister — "Director of the Pacific University Center for Peace and Spirituality" (D.Min., 2015)
  • Daniel Patte -- "Professor of Religious Studies and of New Testament & Early Christianity at Vanderbilt University" (Th.D.,1971)


  1. ^ "Archives: Stephen D. Peet". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  2. ^ The Chicago Theological Seminary Register, Volumes 1–4, By Chicago Theological Seminary
  3. ^ "New MDiv Concentration in LGBTQ Studies in Partnership with Chicago Theological Seminary Now Available". Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Retrieved 2015-12-16. 
  4. ^ a b "About / History - Chicago Theological Seminary". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  5. ^ a b c "Taylor, Graham - Social Welfare History Project". 1938-09-26. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  6. ^ a b "HONOR TO A WOMAN. - Made a Bachelor of Divinity by a Congregationalist Seminary. - Article -". New York Times. 1902-06-01. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  7. ^ a b "LSU Libraries". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
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  9. ^ a b "Chicago Theological Seminary Establishes Jewish Studies Chair - re> CHICAGO, April 21 /PRNewswire/". 2008-04-20. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  10. ^ [1] Archived February 16, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ [2] Archived November 15, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
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  13. ^ "ACPE | Values". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  14. ^ "New Chicago Theological Seminary | Facilities Services at The University of Chicago". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  15. ^ Gregg Brekke (2011-05-01). "New $30 million CTS building on course for October dedication - United Church of Christ". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  16. ^ Gregg Brekke (2011-10-24). "Chicago Theological Seminary dedicates new, LEED certified building - United Church of Christ". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  17. ^ Barb Powell (2011-02-08). "UCC-related Chicago Theological Seminary receives $1 million gift from Don and Ellen Clark to inspire generosity to theological education - United Church of Christ". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  18. ^ "About the Learning Commons - CTS Learning Commons". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  19. ^ "Death of Prof. Franklin W. Fisk - Article -". New York Times. 2012-06-10. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  20. ^ "Chicago Theological Seminary's collection of Ozora Stearns Davis, 1896-1933. | Congregational Library & Archives". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  21. ^ "January 21, 1950 - Religious News Notes | Chicago Tribune Archive". 1950-01-21. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
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  23. ^ "Draft Resistance, 1940 | Andover-Harvard Theological Library". 1940-10-16. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  24. ^ Pace, Eric (2001-07-21). "Howard Schomer, 86, Seminary President". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  25. ^ "Westchester Community Church, First 25 Years". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  26. ^ a b "Victor Obenhaus, 90, Professor Of Christian Ethics And Author - Chicago Tribune". 1994-04-07. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  27. ^ Stephanie Ortiz (2001-05-31). "UCC leader Charles Shelby Rooks dies - United Church of Christ". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  28. ^ "Betty Reneker, 89 - Chicago Tribune". 2002-08-06. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  29. ^ a b "Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  30. ^ a b "Incoming Chicago Theological Seminary president hoping to tackle tough issues". Chicago Tribune. 2008-05-23. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ "May 23, 1930 - Council of Legion Asks for Limit on Decoration of Graves | Chicago Tribune Archive". 1930-05-23. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  33. ^ "New archival collection - Chicago Theological Seminary collection on Merom Institute | Congregational Library & Archives". 2013-06-27. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  34. ^ "January 14, 1942 - Dr. Arthur Holt, theologian, dies in U. of C. office | Chicago Tribune Archive". 1942-01-14. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  35. ^ "Educating Our Capacity To Choose". 1939-05-01. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  36. ^ "André LaCocque - Chicago Theological Seminary". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  37. ^ "At 95, Rabbi Herman Schaalman experiences spiritual awakening - Page 2 - Chicago Tribune". 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  38. ^ "professors2". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  39. ^ "The Congregational Training School for Women - United Church of Christ". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  40. ^ "Washington National Cathedral : Biography for John W. de Gruchy". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  41. ^ "Margaret Palmer Taylor Collection of Sacred Dance | Graduate Theological Union". Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  42. ^ "A Christian business man; biography of Deacon C.F. Gates". Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  43. ^ "Gates, Caleb Frank 1857-1946". Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  44. ^ Caryn Hannan Illinois Biographical Dictionary, p. 276, at Google Books

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°47′23″N 87°35′51″W / 41.7898°N 87.5976°W / 41.7898; -87.5976