United Theological Seminary

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For the seminary in Minnesota, see United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

Coordinates: 39°48′52″N 84°16′49″W / 39.814418°N 84.280324°W / 39.814418; -84.280324

United Theological Seminary
United Theological Seminary logo.gif
Type Private school
Established 1871
Affiliation United Methodist
President Kent Millard
Dean David Watson
Students 444
Location Dayton, Ohio, United States
Campus Suburban, 80 acres
Website United Theological Seminary

United Theological Seminary is a United Methodist seminary in Trotwood, Ohio, just outside Dayton in the Dayton metropolitan area. Founded in 1871 by Milton Wright (the father of Orville and Wilbur Wright), it was originally sponsored by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.[1]

In 1946, members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ merged with the Evangelical Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church, with which the seminary then became affiliated. When that denomination merged with The Methodist Church in 1968, United Theological Seminary became one of the thirteen seminaries affiliated with the new United Methodist Church.[2][3]

Though the seminary is affiliated with the United Methodist denomination, students come from many denominations and are ordained by a wide range of denominations upon graduation. The seminary houses a Hispanic Christian Academy, a UMC Course of Study program for UM local pastors and also a United Church of Christ House of Studies.[4] The seminary also has strong ties to the African-American church tradition, with a number of major figures in the American Civil Rights Movement later going on to become students or faculty at United.[5][6]

In recent years, the seminary has become a leading center for discussion of church renewal.[7][8][9] It has also been named one of the fastest-growing seminaries in the United States.[10]


In 1869, the General Conference of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ voted to create and fund a seminary. The motion was suggested by Milton Wright, who later joined the seminary as the chairman of its first executive committee and named the seminary.[11] The denomination's publishing house was already located in Dayton, making the city an ideal location for its seminary. The school opened as Union Biblical Seminary in Dayton in 1871, operating with two full-time professors. In 1873 the seminary began admitting women. The first graduating class completed their studies in 1874, while the first woman graduated in 1883. An important early supporter of the school was the prominent Rike family, who founded and operated Rike Kumler Co.[12] The school changed its name to Bonebrake Seminary in 1909 to honor Mary and John Bonebrake, who gave the seminary 3,840 acres of land in Kansas in an effort to raise revenue for the school. After the land was sold this amounted to a gift of nearly $100,000.[13] Due to the seminary's growing popularity and increasing enrollment, school officials had already been looking to expand the school's campus. In 1911 the seminary, which had previously consisted of only one building, was able to buy a new 274 acre tract of land which was located a mile and a half away from the seminary's previous plot of land. However, the school did not break ground to build any new facilities until 1920. Eventually the school constructed three buildings on the land, with the new campus being designed by the internationally acclaimed Olmsted Brothers, who also helped design dozens of other national parks, university campuses, and landmarks around the world, including Biltmore Estate, The Jefferson Memorial, and Yosemite National Park and whose father, Frederick Law Olmsted, designed Central Park. The school was able to hire the Olmsted Brothers due to a sizable contribution from John Henry Patterson, the founder of the National Cash Register Company.[14] The three buildings were all completed in 1923, at which time the seminary sold the building it had previously been occupying. The building was bought by the Evangelical School of Theology, which had formerly been located in Reading, Pennsylvania.

In 1943, the United States government established a top-secret testing site at the Bonebrake Theological Seminary for the Dayton Project, which was part of the broader Manhattan Project, where research was conducted on the creation of an atomic bomb and polonium was produced that would eventually be used in the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945.[15][16] After many years of planning the Church of the United Brethren in Christ merged with the Evangelical Church, forming a new denomination which would be called the Evangelical United Brethren Church, with which the seminary then became affiliated.[17] As a result of the merger that created the Evangelical United Brethren Church efforts were made to merge the seminaries of the two denominations. In 1954, United Theological Seminary was formed when the existing Bonebrake Seminary (the former United Brethren seminary) merged with The Evangelical School of Theology (the former Evangelical Church seminary located on the campus of Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania). Four of the faculty members from the Evangelical School of Theology moved to the new United Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. A new library was constructed in 1952 and a new dormitory completed in 1957, while 1961 saw the completion of a new worship center. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church denominations completed a merger to become the present day United Methodist Church and United Theological Seminary merged.[18][19] became one of thirteen seminaries affiliated with the new denomination.

The seminary began offering a Doctor of Ministry degree for the first time in 1971, with the first students to receive a doctorate graduating in 1973. The school established the Communication Center in 1973, with a sizable amount of multimedia technology resources and a television production studio. The seminary soon became known as a leader and innovator in religious programming and the application of new technologies to theological education. The seminary was also one of the first seminaries to offer curriculum and research related to biblical storytelling, with New Testament professor Tom Bommershine being credited as the creator of the discipline.[20][21] The Harriet L. Miller Women's Center was created in 1977 to support theologians and clergy who wished to research or support feminist theology, womanist theology, and mujerista theology. The seminary later hired leading womanist theologian Prathia Hall as director of the center before she was later named dean of the seminary. During the 1970s and 1980s, several other new initiatives were undertaken and the seminary expanded their degree offerings at the masters level to offer two new degree programs. 1992 saw the creation of a Doctor of Missiology degree program. In 1996 a second campus was established in Buffalo, New York, on the campus of Houghton College, which was in existence until 2005, when school officials decided to shut down the campus and allocate funds to improve other institutional programs.[22] Another campus site had earlier been created at the University of Charleston. That campus was later moved to West Virginia Wesleyan College, which is still a popular venue for students living in the Mideastern United States. Two years after celebrating their 130th anniversary in 2001, the seminary formed the Institute for Applied Theology in 2003, which offers courses and workshops to clergy, lay leaders, and community members. In 2012, the seminary changed the name of the Institute for Applied Theology to the School for Discipleship and Renewal.[23]

In 2005, the seminary moved their campus from Dayton to the suburb of Trotwood, purchasing property that was formerly owned by the Dayton Jewish Federation. The school's campus now sits on an eighty-acre piece of land just inside the Trotwood city limits. The main building on the property, formally known as the Jesse Phillips Building, was renovated, and the 78,000 square-foot space now houses the seminary's classrooms, faculty offices, student lounge, bookstore, multimedia recording studio, and library.[24] O'Brien Library, named for two former longtime librarians at the school, features a replica Wright Glider to commemorate Dayton's aviation heritage and the leadership of Milton Wright (father of the Wright Brothers) at the seminary, as well as the Uncial 0206, which are a group of manuscripts from the Oxyrhynchus Papyri.[25][26] The library currently holds over 150,000 books, periodicals, journal articles, audio and visual materials, and other resources.[27] During the 2000,s United has developed several distance learning programs and continues to attract students from nearly every state in the United States, as well as from a number of countries around the world. The school celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2011. In 2012 the school was named one of the fastest-growing seminaries in the United States.[28] As of 2012, there are over 5,500 living alumni/ae who are living in all fifty states and over thirty countries around the world. The school has also become a leading center for discussion of church renewal and offers a variety of resources on the subject.[29]


The seminary offers Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) and Master of Arts in Christian Ministries (M.A.C.M.) degrees at the masters level, as well as a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree at the doctoral level.[30][31] Students in the Master of Divinity program can choose a number of concentrations, such as Church Renewal, Pastoral Caregiving and Wesleyan and Methodist Studies. Students who live in a geographic area where theological education is not readily accessible can choose one of the seminary's online programs.[32]

The school's Doctor of Ministry program is one of the largest in the nation.[33] Students in the program can choose from over forty concentrations, which each involve participation in a peer focus group cohort led by a faculty mentor specializing in the given concentration. United also offers a number of non-degree programs.[34] The seminary also offers an Online Teaching and Learning Certificate (OTLC) for professors, pastors, and administrators who are hoping to expand their expertise in distance learning and online education, as well as the Course of Study School of Ohio online program.[35][36] The school also houses the School for Discipleship and Renewal, which includes the Pohly Center for Supervision and Leadership Formation, the Center for Urban Ministry, the Center for Worship, Preaching and the Arts, the Harriet L. Miller Women's Center, and the Center for Hispanic/Latino Ministries, which all offer classes for enrolled students, clergy, and lay leaders.[37][38][39][40][40][41][42] In February 2013, the seminary created a new online Hispanic lay ministry school as part of its Center for Hispanic/Latino Ministries.[43]


United Theological Seminary is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.[44]

Annual Events and Lectures[edit]

The seminary hosts and sponsors a number of conferences, workshops, lectures, and other events every year. In 2011 the seminary hosted the first annual Light the Fire conference on church renewal.[45] The seminary also hosts the annual J. Arthur Heck Lectures, which has recently welcomed speakers such as Walter Brueggemann, Craig A. Evans, and Ted Peters.[46][47][48]

Other speakers to be featured in recent events include William Willimon, Geoffrey Wainwright, William Abraham, Leonard Sweet, Don Saliers, Amos Yong, Kenneth Copeland, Violet L. Fisher, Ellen Charry and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.[47][49][50][51]

The seminary also co-sponsors the annual Change the World conference hosted by Ginghamsburg Church, which has recently included such speakers as Greg Boyd, Brian McLaren, Jim Wallis, Ron Sider, Alan Hirsch, Michael Frost, Adam Hamilton, and Ruby Payne.[52][53] It also hosts and co-sponsors the Ryterband Symposium with the University of Dayton and Wright State University, which featured Jon D. Levenson in 2011 and Richard Elliott Friedman in 2012.[54][55]

United also hosted the 2012 Jesus Conference in which a number of issues related to the Historical Jesus were discussed. Scholars such as Dale Allison, Loren Stuckenbruck and Mark Goodacre, among others, spoke at the event.[56][57]

The influential rabbi Brad Hirschfield has also spoken at the seminary on multiple occasions in recent years.[58] Cornel West, has also spoken at seminary events (and formerly taught in the D.Min program).

Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the seminary on several occasions.

Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage[edit]

A part of United's archives is its Center for Evangelical United Brethren Heritage, which manages archives related to the Evangelical United Brethren and other related denominations.[59]

Executive Staff[edit]

Kent Millard - Interim President

Harold Hudson - Vice President for African American and Multi-Cultural Church Relations, Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies, and Assistant Professor in the Practice of Preaching
Ron Kuker - Vice President for Finance and Treasurer
David F. Watson - Academic Dean, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Associate Professor of New Testament
JoAnn Wagner - Senior Assistant to the President


Peter J. Bellini - Assistant Professor of Evangelization in the Heisel Chair
Sarah D. Brooks Blair - Director of Library Services and Assistant Professor of Church History
Presian R. Burroughs - Assistant Professor of New Testament
Wendy J. Deichmann - Professor of History and Theology
Thomas B. Dozeman - Professor of Hebrew Bible
James Eller - G. Ernest Thomas Instructor in Christian Communications and Assistant Professor of Digital Cultural Ministry
Lisa M. Hess - Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Practical Ministries
Harold Hudson - Vice President for African American and Multi-Cultural Church Relations, Assistant Professor in the Practice of Preaching, and Associate Dean for Doctoral Studies
Justus Hunter - Assistant Professor of Church History
Vivian L. Johnson - Professor of Old Testament and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Emma J. Justes - Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling
Scott Kisker - Professor of the History of Christianity
Anthony LeDonne - Professor of New Testament
Luther J. Oconer - Assistant Professor of United Methodist Studies
Andrew Sung Park - Professor of Theology and Ethics
Joni Sancken - Associate Professor of Homiletics
Jerome P. Stevenson- Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling
Vanessa Ward - Lecturer of Biblical Studies
David F. Watson - Academic Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament

Notable alumni/ae[edit]

Notable faculty[edit]


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External links[edit]