Interdenominational Theological Center
|Type||Private, historically black, theological|
|President||Dr. Edward L. Wheeler|
The Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) is a consortium of five predominantly African-American denominational Christian seminaries in Atlanta, Georgia. ITC is operating together as a professional graduate school of theology. It is the largest free-standing African American theological school in the United States.
Its constituent seminaries are the Morehouse School of Religion (associated with a number of Baptist groups, including American Baptist Churches USA, National Baptist Convention, USA, and Progressive National Baptist Convention); Gammon Theological Seminary (United Methodist Church); Turner Theological Seminary (African Methodist Episcopal Church); Phillips School of Theology (Christian Methodist Episcopal Church); and Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary (Church of God in Christ). All have the mission to educate Christian leaders for ministry and service. Students who are not affiliated with one of the five 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 interested 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.
The Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary withdrew from the ITC in June 2014.
ITC awards two master's degrees: Master of Divinity (M.Div.), and Master of Arts in Christian Education (M.A.C.E.). ITC also offers one Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.). The Master's of Divinity program is available online, as well as on the ITC campus. The D.Min. degree program is intended for persons who are currently engaged in Christian ministry and have at least three years of experience in ministerial leadership. 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. This is a community outreach program that provides no academic credit.
Accreditation and affiliations
ITC is accredited to award masters and doctoral degrees by both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. In December 2015, the Southern Association's Commission on Colleges reaffirmed ITC's accreditation. On June 7, 2016, the Association of Theological Schools’ (ATS) Commission on Accrediting confirmed that ITC has demonstrated its financial viability.
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 includes the Robert W. Woodruff Library and the Atlanta Regional Council for Higher Education.
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.
Faculty and students
ITC is the largest free-standing African American theological school in the United States. As of 2017, the institution has about 25 full- and part-time faculty and enrolls about 300 students. More than 15 denominations are represented in the student body.
Since 1973, ITC has published an 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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- "Our History". Interdenominational Theological Center.
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- "Interdenominational Theological Center Academic Catalog 2008-2012" (PDF). p. 26.
- Laura McCarty (December 1, 2006). "Interdenominational Theological Center". New Georgia Encyclopedia.
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- "The Journal of the Interdenominational Theological Center". Johns Hopkins University Libraries.
- 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; Edmund John Rybarczyk (2007). The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States. Lexington Books. p. 183. ISBN 9780739121030.