Boston University School of Theology, founded in 1839 as the Newbury Biblical Institute, is the oldest Methodist theological seminary in North America and the founding school of Boston University. Its historic commitments are represented in the Boston University coat of arms: learning, virtue, and piety. The faculty strives to embody these historic priorities by emphasizing academic excellence, religion’s role as bearer of values, and the preparation of leaders for Christian ministries.
The school has a rich history. The personalist tradition of social ethics, as defined by former Dean Walter Muelder, reached its practical culmination in the activities of former student Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. King’s defense of the value of human personhood was partly grounded in his theological and philosophical studies at Boston University. The Muelder and King traditions remain important historical markers for the BU School of Theology.
The School of Theology has a legacy of well-known and highly respected doctoral candidates and theological professionals encompassing all races and ethnicities, including, in addition to Dr. King, such prominent figures as Howard Thurman, Samuel Proctor, Edward Wimberly, and STH’s first female graduate, Anna Howard Shaw.
A University-Based Theological School
As a university-based theological school, Boston University School of Theology is privileged to promote academic excellence in cooperation with the University’s other schools and colleges. Students are encouraged to pursue interdisciplinary learning within the wider University, and faculty members frequently cultivate relationships across departmental lines, including team teaching, collaboration in research centers, cross-registration of courses, and joint research projects. The School of Theology faculty cooperates with colleagues in the Division of Religion and Theological Studies, School of Fine Arts, School of Social Work, School of Education, and the African Studies, American Studies, Judaic Studies, Classics, Anthropology, Sociology, and History Departments. Scholarship at the School of Theology is strengthened by participation in this larger intellectual community.
The School of Theology is also a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine theological schools in the Boston area, including Holy Cross, Harvard Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell, and Boston College. Students frequently cross-register between BTI schools.
The School of Theology Fund
Alumni/ae contributions to the School of Theology Fund are vital to help the School train students for ministry in the contemporary world. Gifts to the STH Fund enhance many aspects of student life by supporting:
In the 2007/2008 academic year, 106 students matriculated in one of STH’s largest incoming classes. Students—forty-nine men and fifty-seven women, 28 percent of whom are international students—came from many countries including Canada, China, Israel, Korea, Latvia, Nepal, Russia, and Taiwan.
Boston University hosts one of the largest populations of international students of any American university. Recent STH graduates have continued a long tradition of serving in ministry around the world and of holding professorships in seminaries in numerous countries, including South Africa, Mozambique, Korea, China, the Philippines, Brazil, Estonia, Kenya, and India.
Domestic and international students are involved in activities and clubs such as CAUSE (Christian Activists United for Social and Environmental Justice), Young Adult Seminarian Network, MTS Club, Order of Saint Luke, Daytrippers, Black Seminarians, Korean Students Association, the Mission Club, and the Seminary Singers.
Student Financial Needs
- Affordable Housing—The average cost for a single student to live in Theology House is more than $9,000. A one bedroom for a married couple averages $1,200–1,500 monthly.
- Scholarships—Additional academic costs total more than $16,000/year. Approximately one-third of STH students receive full scholarships.
Research and Faculty
Boston University School of Theology remains one of the leading schools in the nation in awarding doctoral degrees in mission studies. Analyzing the spread of Christianity as a dynamic, cross-cultural movement remains a unique feature of the curriculum. A major research collection in the theology library is related to mission studies and world Christianity, including mission society archives and the Bible collection of the Massachusetts Bible Society.
The School of Theology continues its global orientation through an ongoing program in comparative theology in which both masters and doctoral students are encouraged to study Christian theology in tandem with other religious traditions. Several STH faculty members have expertise in East Asian religions or African religions, and experts in diverse religious traditions provide additional support in the Division of Religious and Theological Studies.
Another important area of inquiry is science and religion, including issues of bioethics, technology, and ecology. Science and religion is an area of overlap between Boston University School of Theology and the Graduate Division of Religious and Theological Studies, and a large number of doctoral students are focused on this subject. The School of Theology faculty plays a pivotal role in the science and religion emphasis in the Boston-area consortium of theological schools.
Music and worship remain valued features of seminary life and instruction at Boston University. STH conducts small but significant Masters of Sacred Music program in conjunction with the College of Fine Arts’ School of Music.
Since 1990, female faculty members have made great strides at the School of Theology. Pastoral Counseling Professor Carole Bohn has served as head of the Danielsen Institute. Missions and Church History Professor Dana Robert became the School’s first female tenured faculty member in 1990. She was followed by Hebrew Bible Professor Kathe Darr and Practical Theology Professor Claire Wolfteich in 2003. Recently, tenured women have been hired in areas of sociology of religion and worship/liturgical studies, bringing the total number of female tenured professors to five.
Research and Faculty Needs
- Faculty development and research
- Endowed faculty chairs
- Library Initiatives
- Acquiring new books for the library and subscriptions to the most current publications in theological fields
- Enhancing the hymnal collections at STH. These are one of the most important research collections in the theology library. The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada has its headquarters at the School of Theology under renowned hymn writer Dr. Carl Daw.
Physical Space Needs
- Building Renovations—As the School grows, space for student, faculty, and general community accommodations continues to be a need.