Chicago Theological Seminary is an affiliated seminary of the United Church of Christ. For over 150 years, we have educated future leaders for a multitude of ministries. Since our beginning, CTS has pushed at the growing boundaries of the church in order to make our faith relevant and transform our society towards greater justice. Our student body now represents more than 40 different faith traditions, perspectives and denominations.
Since its inception, CTS has lived -- literally and figuratively -- on the frontier. Established in the boomtown of Chicago in 1855, the Seminary’s first mission was to train church leaders to serve on America’s western frontier.
Throughout its history CTS has been a pioneer in theological education:
- Its very first curriculum in 1855 required students to combine theory and practice, action and reflection by serving in churches and mission settings across the Midwest. In doing so, CTS created the first field education component ever introduced into a seminary curriculum in the US.
- In the early 20th century, CTS professor Graham Taylor established the first distinct department of Christian Sociology in an American theological school. Working closely with Jane Adams, 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.
- CTS faculty member Anton Boisen taught a group of students to minister more effectively to the physically, mentally and emotionally ill. Boisen’s work led to the founding, in 1930, of “The Council for the Clinical Training of Theological Students” – which, in 1967, merged with several other organizations to form the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE).
- In launching a Doctorate of Religion program in 1965, CTS became one of the first seminaries to establish a professional, fully accredited doctorate in ministry.
In addition to being a pioneer in theological education, a commitment to social justice and societal transformation has been a hallmark of CTS:
- CTS faculty and students participated in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War.
- When the Great Chicago Fire killed 300 people and left 90,000 homeless, in 1871, CTS students helped rescue and care for women, men and children.
- As immigration increased on the frontier, CTS led the charge for being inclusive by having theology and Bible courses taught in other languages.
- In 1902, eighteen years before women received the right to vote in the US, CTS was the first seminary to award a degree in divinity to a woman, Florence Fensham.
- In 1957, CTS became the first seminary in America to award the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for his activism in the Civil Rights movement.
- During the 1960s, CTS students and faculty were involved various activities and efforts to advance the cause of Civil Rights. Likewise, in the ‘80s, they were fully engaged in the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa.
- In 1986, CTS awarded Archbishop Desmond Tutu an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree for his transformational activism against Apartheid.
- In 2009, CTS became the only free-standing Protestant seminary to endow a chair in Jewish Studies, advancing interfaith engagement and multi-faith education.