Virginia Theological Seminary

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This article is about the seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. For the Virginia Theological Seminary and College in Lynchburg, Virginia, see Virginia University of Lynchburg.
Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary
Virginia Theological Seminary Alexandria, VA.JPG
Aspinwall Hall, dedicated 1859
Virginia Theological Seminary is located in Alexandria, Virginia
Virginia Theological Seminary
Coordinates 38°49′13.36″N 77°5′30.53″W / 38.8203778°N 77.0918139°W / 38.8203778; -77.0918139Coordinates: 38°49′13.36″N 77°5′30.53″W / 38.8203778°N 77.0918139°W / 38.8203778; -77.0918139
Area 3.5 acres (1.4 ha)
Built 1858 (1858)
Architect Starkweather, Norris G.; Multiple
Architectural style Italianate, Gothic Revival
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 80004166[1]
VLR # 100-0123
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 17, 1980
Designated VLR May 16, 1978[2]

Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), formally called the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia,[3] is the largest accredited Episcopal seminary in the United States. Founded in 1818, VTS is situated on an 80-acre (320,000 m2) campus in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles from downtown Washington, DC. VTS is a member of the Washington Theological Consortium.[4] In 2007 the Very Reverend Ian Markham was elected by the Board of Trustees as the 14th Dean and President of Virginia Theological Seminary.


Aspinwall Hall, photographed between 1861 and 1869

A small group of dedicated men committed themselves to the task of recruiting and training a new generation of church leaders following the Revolutionary War. Francis Scott Key was one of this group which, in 1818, formed "An Education Society" and five years later opened the "School of Prophets," to become the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia. When the school opened in Alexandria with two instructors, 14 students were enrolled. During the Civil War, the school was occupied. After the war, two professors and 11 veterans reopened the seminary on a campus that had been used to house 1,700 wounded Federal troops and to bury 500 soldiers.

On June 3, 1953, Virginia Seminary merged with the Bishop Payne Divinity School, a distinguished African-American institution started by Virginia Seminary in 1878. Since 1950, 22 new buildings have been added to the campus, including five dormitories, the refectory and Scott Lounge, 15 faculty homes, a recreation building, and a day-care center for young children. In 1993, the Addison Academic Center opened with classroom space, the Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Auditorium, the seminary bookstore, and the student lounge.

On 22 October 2010, an intense fire destroyed 19th-century Immanuel Chapel on the grounds of the seminary. The flames were so fierce that firefighters were unable to enter the building and were forced to attack the fire from a distance using ground based crews and a high level (aerial platform) hose. No other part of the seminary was damaged and there were no injuries. Several of the stained glass windows were destroyed, including the Miriam window and the window over the altar. The iconic words, "Go Ye Into All The World And Preach The Gospel," painted above that window, were also destroyed by the heat of the fire. The pulpit, the lectern and its Bible for readings during services, and the baptismal font, were not hurt by the fire.[5][6] Damage is estimated at $2.5 million. An investigation by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Alexandria Fire Marshal’s Office determined that the fire was of accidental nature.[7]


The seminary’s primary mission is to form men and women for lay or ordained leadership and service in the ministry of the church. Out of its evangelical heritage and its missionary tradition, it emphasizes the life of prayer, worship and community, the ministries of preaching, teaching, pastoral care and social justice. It seeks to prepare its students as servants of Jesus Christ to equip the people of God for their vocation and ministry in the world. It also provides continuing theological education for clergy and laity of all denominations.

The seminary believes that theological education leading to ordination normally requires full-time study and full participation in its common life and worship. It also believes that theological education is greatly enhanced when it is done within an ecumenical, international and cross-cultural context.

Degree programs[edit]

  • The Master in Divinity program is a three-year residential program designed for those in the ordination process in the Episcopal Church or the equivalent in other denominations. It provides a foundation in all theological areas: biblical studies, historical studies, ministerial studies, studies in Christian worship, studies in faith and society, and theological studies.
  • The Master of Arts program with concentration in Theological Studies, Christian Formation, Religion & Culture, or Biblical Interpretation.
  • The Anglican Studies program for those who seek ordination in The Episcopal Church but who have earned a theological degree from a seminary or divinity school of another denomination.
  • Doctor of Ministry in Ministry Development.
  • Doctor of Ministry in Educational Leadership.
  • Non-degree studies are also offered.

Historically, the seminary was associated with the more Low Church, or Evangelical, tradition within Anglicanism, but these days reflects, for the most part, the majority Broad Church consensus in the Episcopal Church.

Demographics in July 2012[edit]

Total enrollment as of July 2012 was 227.[8]

  • Median MDiv student age: 34 (33% in their 20s)
  • Married: 48%
  • Men 52 / Women 48
  • International students: 8
  • Full-time faculty: 22
  • Adjunct faculty: 29
  • Field education associates: 50
  • Staff: 56

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 05-12-2013.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ "Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary in Virginia". An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians. Church Publishing Incorporated. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  4. ^ "Member Institutions of the Washington Theological Consortium". Washington Theological Consortium. Retrieved 2009-08-20. 
  5. ^ Local news report here.
  6. ^ Goodman, Christy and Weil, Martin. 'Traumatic' fire ravages historic seminary chapel in Alexandria. The Washington Post. Friday, October 22, 2010.
  7. ^ ATF News Release. Fire Investigators Determine Cause of Virginia Theological Seminary Church Fire. October 28, 2010.
  8. ^ "VTS at a Glance". Virginia Theological Seminary. Retrieved 2012-07-21. 

External links[edit]