Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Today on the Almanac, we discuss the idea of a seminary and remember the first graduate Seminary in America.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 28th of September 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

This show is no stranger to talking about seminaries- that is, usually understood, graduate institutions that train would-be pastors (among other things). Princeton Seminary, Fuller Seminary, Concordia Seminary- I’ve had questions and comments from students at those three. Your particular tradition likely has its own seminary (though not all churches require students to attend certain seminaries). The word comes from Latin for seed bed- a kind of nursery for pastors. But when did these seminaries become graduate schools? And, you might ask, who decided that after college, you should go to more college (and I am seriously asking because those dudes cost me a lot of cash)?

The first graduate school in America- distinct from a college- was also its first seminary- Andover Theological Seminary, which was founded on the 28th of September in 1807.

Andover would be formed by a coalition of Harvard divinity professors that broke off from that once Puritan institution when it nominated Henry Ware to fill its Hollis Chair of Divinity in 1805. Henry Ware was a unitarian, and both congregational and Presbyterian professors saw that as an unacceptable heresy. And so, with funds from Boston merchant Samuel Abbot, and in conjunction with the Phillips Academy, two buildings were erected on the site of Phillips Academy for the new school for graduates who wanted to continue their preparation for ministry at a separate school.

The school was formed with a broad coalition, and while this would prove fertile ground for the burgeoning World missions movement, it would also lead to the division that would threaten to take the school down.

It was Adoniram Judson, an Andover student, who was a member of a group called the Brethren- students from Andover, Williams College, and Harvard who would convince the Congregational church to form The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1810. This group would send Judson to the East and Hiram Bingham to Hawaii.

In the 1880s, a controversy broke out that would be subsequently called the “Andover Controversy.” Like many theological controversies, it had theological and institutional roots. The Abbot chair of Christian Theology was vacant and offered to Newman Smyth in 1881. Smyth was a Presbyterian pastor, renowned speaker, and student of August Tholuck in Berlin. The faculty elected Smyth without dissent, and his name was sent to the Trustees for approval. A local newspaper derided this hire with an anonymous column decrying “second probation.” Smyth had written that it was not unreasonable to think that someone who had not heard of Christ in this life might be allowed to hear and believe in the hereafter. The article argued that this would “cut the nerve of missions.” A 3 member board of “Visitors”- like theological ombudsmen wrote to the Trustees to block his hiring. The case would be settled in favor of Smyth by the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

It was back to the Court again in the early 20th century. In 1907 Andover moved campuses back to Cambridge to establish ties with Harvard- the school from which it originated. However, in 1925 after the Visitors had argued against the union, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in its favor, and the school's unification was stopped.

In 1929 Andover began looking into a union with the Newton Theological Institute- a Baptist seminary. Andover would relocate again in 1931, this time to Newton Center. In 1965 the two schools formally merged, forming the Andover Newton Theological School.

In 2017 they were on the move again, this time as Andover Newton Theological School to New Haven, Connecticut, where it is today the Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School. A long strange path for the oldest and first graduate school and Protestant seminary in America, which was established on this day in 1807.

The Last Word for today comes from the lectionary for today from Matthew 19:

16 Just then, a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

18 “Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’

20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 28th of September 2022, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man from that Lutheran seedbed in Fort Wayne, Indiana- home of the TinCaps! He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man whose Christian college would not indeed forgive him his debts as he forgives his debtors. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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