On July 1, 2014, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary (JCSTS) embarked upon the third chapter in its illustrious 147-year history by re-establishing itself as an independent institution. (JCSTS traces its beginning to the founding of the Freedman's School of Charlotte, North Carolina in 1867. It remained in Charlotte until 1969, at which time it became a constituent of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.)
The seminary's new home is in the administrative offices of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta at 1024 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30306.
During the next six months, the board and staff will engage in a period of professionally facilitated planning and discernment. The primary goals of the process are to design a preliminary new curriculum and lay the groundwork for an academic affairs administration as well as to outline a plan to secure appropriate academic accreditation.
Although independent, the seminary will be actively exploring partnerships with other theological and academic institutions to make theological education affordable and accessible to clergy, lay people, and ministerial candidates.
A strong endorsement of JCSTS's new direction has come from its nine sister seminaries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Each of these institutions has pledged 10 per cent of its 2014-2015 allotment from the denomination to JCSTS.
For further information, please contact the Rev. Camille Josey, Institutional Development, JCSTS, 404-840-1485, firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHY DID JCSTS LEAVE THE ITC?
On June 30, 2014, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary disaffiliated from the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). JCSTS is no longer a member school of the ITC. Why? Because the religious environment has changed. JCSTS feels called to bring a new kind of seminary into existence--one that is innovative and that helps students anticipate the 21st century reality of Christian ministry at home and abroad.
What are some of the hallmarks of the changing environment to which we are responding? Virtually every mainline Protestant seminary in the U.S. is suffering a decline in enrollment; nearly half of all seminary students want to serve but are not especially interested in ordination; those who do prepare themselves for ordained parish ministry soon discover that declines in denominational membership have resulted in less opportunities for traditional ministry. The situation is especially acute for African-American students who would like to serve historically Black churches but who find that only about 50 of approximately 400 African-American Presbyterian congregations in the country can afford full-time pastoral leadership. Meanwhile, traditional residential theological education has become increasingly expensive. Many seminary graduates today embark on their careers saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. This debt load is a hindrance to their ministries. Further, technological advances are leading to huge shifts in higher education.
JCSTS' move away from ITC sets the stage for the seminary to become a leading institution by freeing it to be creative, nimble, and responsive to the theological needs of today's church leaders. Already, our bold move is generating new energy and excitement about the seminary's future. We invite you to take this journey with us!