Interdenominational Theological Center
|Type||Private, historically black, theological|
|President||Dr. Edward L. Wheeler|
The Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) is a consortium of six predominantly African-American denominational Christian seminaries located in Atlanta, Georgia, operating together as a professional graduate school of theology. It is the largest African American theological school in the United States and has been described as "one of the more successful ventures in black ecumenism" and "a major center of progressive, African American theological thought".
Its constituent seminaries are the Baptist School of Theology (previously Morehouse School of Religion, it is associated with a number of Baptist groups, including American Baptist Churches USA, National Baptist Convention, USA, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention), Gammon Theological Seminary (United Methodist), Turner Theological Seminary (African Methodist Episcopal), Phillips School of Theology (Christian Methodist Episcopal), Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary (Church of God in Christ), and Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary (Presbyterian Church (USA)). All have the mission to educate Christian leaders for ministry and service. Students who are not affiliated with one of the six denominations represented by these seminaries are enrolled in the ITC's Harry V. and Selma T. Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship program.
The idea of a single collaborative institution for the training and development of African American Christian ministers began to form in the early 1940s, after Benjamin Mays became president of Morehouse College and when Gammon Theological Seminary and Morehouse College began a cooperative exchange program. Morehouse College was interesting in phasing out its Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) degree program, while increasing its liberal arts focus. Mays expected that the individual theological schools for African Americans would be unable to obtain the resources to develop and maintain first-rate facilities and programs, but could be successful by working together. Discussions about cooperation between Gammon, Morehouse, and Morris Brown College (representing Turner Theological Seminary) began in the early 1940s. In the 1950s, the concept of a new collaborative seminary in Atlanta gained support from foundations and the American Association of Theological Schools (AATS). The Phillips School of Theology, then located at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee, later joined the discussions.
In 1958 the ITC was founded as a joint initiative of four seminaries: the Baptist-affiliated Morehouse School of Religion, the United Methodist-affiliated Gammon Theological Seminary, Turner Theological Seminary (African Methodist Episcopal), and Phillips School of Theology (Christian Methodist Episcopal). The Sealantic Fund, which had been established by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to support theological education, was a major source of financial support. In September 1959, when instruction began, there were 21 faculty members and 97 students in the ITC. The new institution occupied the Gammon campus until its own facilities were completed in 1961. The combined institution quickly won accreditation from the AATS, which had previously accredited Gammon. Dr. Harry Van Buren Richardson, the president of Gammon Theological Seminary, became the first president of ITC, serving in that position from 1959 to 1968.
The Presbyterian-affiliated Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary joined ITC in 1969, relocating to Atlanta from Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1970 the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary was established as a new seminary within ITC, named for Church of God in Christ founder Charles Harrison Mason.
From 1971 through 1979 the ITC also operated the Absalom Jones Theological Institute in cooperation with the Episcopal Church. This institute was named for Absalom Jones, the first African American to be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Enrollment was insufficient to support operation of this seminary, leading it to close in 1979.
The Lutheran Theological Center in Atlanta was established on the ITC campus in 1997. Its establishment was an outgrowth of an enrichment program, started in 1988, through which students from two Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) seminaries took courses at the ITC. The Lutheran Center now provides opportunities for students at any of ELCA's eight seminaries to spend time in Atlanta taking courses at the ITC, Candler School of Theology, or Columbia Theological Seminary for academic credit at their home seminaries.
In the fall of 2012, the Baptist School of Theology was formed as a new legal entity to succeed and replace the Morehouse School of Religion. This action followed a legal and financial dispute between ITC and the Morehouse School over the Morehouse School's alleged failure to make contractually required payments to the consortium. The Morehouse School's official membership in the ITC consortium was terminated in October 2011 due to the financial dispute. A letter sent to the school's alumni advised that the new name was temporary and would be replaced by a name that both incorporates the “Morehouse” name and honors Morehouse College leader Benjamin Mays.Fortunately, a historical corrective was agreed to and instituted in November of 2013 when the Board of Directors of ITC voted to readmit Morehouse School of Religion to the consortium.
The Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary withdrew from the ITC in June 2014.
ITC awards three master's degrees: Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Arts in Christian Education (M.A.C.E.), and Master of Arts in Church Music (M.A.C.M). Two types of doctoral degrees are awarded: Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) and Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) in Pastoral Counseling. The Master's of Divinity program is available online, as well as on the ITC campus. The D.Min. degree program is intended for people currently engaged in Christian ministry and is a collaborative offering with the Atlanta Theological Association. In addition to the degree programs, a Certificate in Theology program has been conducted at a number of off-campus locations in the U.S. and worldwide.
Special programs and centers within ITC include the Black Women in Church and Society program, the Institute for Black Religious Life, the Womanist Scholars Program, the Urban Theological Institute, and the Institute of Church Administration and Management.
ITC occupies a 10-acre (4.0 ha) campus, between Beckwith Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., in the Atlanta University Center, near Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morris Brown College, Clark Atlanta University, and the Morehouse School of Medicine. In 2012, ITC prepared for major renovations to its office and classroom buildings and chapel, including asbestos removal, installation of new infrastructure, and other repairs, ITC planned to move its operations to the Morris Brown College student center while its own facilities were being renovated. In September 2012, after ITC had spent $400,000 on alterations to the Morris Brown building, it was reported that an impending foreclosure action by Morris Brown's creditors might delay the renovation project by preventing the ITC from using the student center building as planned.
Faculty and students
ITC is the largest African American theological school in the United States. As of 2012, the institution has about 40 full- and part-time faculty and enrolls about 450 students. More than 15 denominations are represented in the student body.
Accreditation and affiliations
ITC is accredited to award masters and doctoral degrees by both the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. In December 2011, the Southern Association's Commission on Colleges denied ITC a reaffirmation of accreditation and placed the school on "warning" status, citing concerns regarding several areas, including institutional planning, outcomes evaluation, and financial controls. The Commission was scheduled to reconsider ITC's accreditation status after one year, in December 2012.
ITC is the only graduate institution of theological education that is a member of the United Negro College Fund. ITC is one of the five organizations that form the Atlanta Theological Association, which also includes Candler School of Theology, Columbia Theological Seminary, Erskine Theological Seminary, and the Georgia Association for Pastoral Care. Other ITC affiliations include membership in the Atlanta University Center and the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education.
Since 1973, ITC has published a twice-annual academic journal, The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center. ITC describes the journal as "dedicated to the advancement of theological education with a special emphasis on the African-American perspective." The ITC Press also has published books, including seven volumes in the Black Church Scholars Series.
In their 1990 book The Black Church in the African American Experience, C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya identified the ITC as one of several black ecumenical initiatives that arose in the United States in connection with the civil rights and black consciousness movements. They called the ITC "one of the more successful ventures in black ecumenism". In their 2007 book The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States, Eric Patterson and Edmund John Rybarczyk described the ITC as "a major center of progressive, African American theological thought".
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A consortium of seminaries is suing the Morehouse School of Religion, claiming Morehouse is in breach of contract and owes the 53-year-old Interdenominational Theological Center more than $568,000.
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- C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya (1990). The Black Church in the African American Experience. Duke University Press. p. 392. ISBN 9780822310730.
- Eric Patterson and Edmund John Rybarczyk (2007). The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States. Lexington Books. p. 183. ISBN 9780739121030.