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Harvard Divinity School is one of the constituent schools of Harvard Universitymarker, located in Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker, in the United Statesmarker. The School's purpose is to train and educate its students—either in the academic study of religion, or for the practice of a religious ministry or other public service vocation. It also caters to students from other Harvard schools that are interested in the former field. Harvard Divinity School is one of four selective university-based, non-denominational divinity schools in the United States (the others being the University of Chicago Divinity School, Wake Forest Universitymarker School of Divinity and Yale Divinity School).


Harvard College was founded in 1636 as a Puritan/Congregationalist institution, and trained ministers for many years. The separate institution of the Divinity School, however, dates from 1816, when it was established as the first non-denominational divinity school in the United States (Princeton Theological Seminarymarker, having been founded as a Presbyterian institution in 1812 and Andover Theological Seminarymarker, the oldest graduate school of theology in the United States). Nevertheless, for most of its history, Harvard Divinity School was unofficially associated with the Unitarian church. However, it does also retain a historical tie to the successor of the Congregational Churches in the U.S., the United Church of Christ.

Today its students and faculty come from a variety of religious backgrounds, Christian (all denominations), Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, etc. Its academic programs attempt to balance theology and religious studies, that is, the "believer's" perspective on religion with the "secular" perspective on religion. This is in contrast to many other divinity schools where one or the other is given primacy (Yale Divinity School, for example, emphasizes its ministry program, while the University of Chicago Divinity School sees the majority of students enroll in its "religious studies" Master of Arts program).


Harvard Divinity School is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and approved by ATS to grant the following degrees:

In addition to candidates for the above, many Harvard graduate students pursuing PhDs in the study of religion work closely with Divinity School faculty. These students are formally affiliated with the Committee on the Study of Religion which is made up of 50% Arts and Sciences and 50% Divinity faculty members and housed in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.


Candidates for the MTS choose among 19 areas of academic focus:

Candidates for the MDiv are required to take:
  • Three courses in the theories, methods, and practices of scriptural interpretation within the student's religious tradition
  • Six courses in the history, theology, and practice of the student's religious tradition in which they are preparing to minister
  • Three courses within a religious tradition different from the one they are studying

Research and Special Programs

Women's Studies in Religion Program

The Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) at Harvard Divinity School was founded in 1973 and was the first program to focus on the interdisciplinary study of women and religion. Since its founding, it has supported more than 100 scholars, representing over 50 institutions of higher learning in the United States and around the world.

The WSRP promotes critical inquiry into the interaction between religion and gender, and every year the program brings five postdoctoral scholars to HDS. The research associates each work on a book-length research project and teach courses related to their research. The director of the WSRP is Ann Braude, who is on leave for the 2007-08 academic year. Joan Branham is acting director.

Center for the Study of World Religions

Founded in 1960 after an anonymous donation in 1957, the CSWR at Harvard Divinity School is a residential community of academic fellows, graduate students, and visiting professors of major world religious traditions. The Center focuses on the understanding of international religions through its research, publications, funding, and public programs. Its current director is Donald Swearer, a Buddhism scholar.

The CSWR sponsors a diverse range of educative programs, which are generally centered around an annual programming theme. For example, the organizing theme for 2006-07 was "Whose Religion? Which Morality? Conflict and Authority in World Religions." The series included seminars on historical and contemporary issues in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It concluded with a conference titled "Visions of Peace and Reconciliation: Historical and Contemporary Patterns". The program's focus for 2007-08 will be "Rethinking the Human."

The building that houses the Center was designed by Josep Lluís Sert.

Summer Leadership Institute

The Summer Leadership Institute (SLI) is a two-week training program that seeks to establish theological instruction and grounding for individuals engaged in community and economic development.

The program of study is divided into four modules: Theology, Ethics, and Public Policy;Organizational Development and Management; Housing and Community Development; and Finance and Economic Development. As a full-time residential program, holding classes five days a week, the educational focus lies on faith-based case studies of corporations and communities.

Since the SLI's inauguration in 1998, more than 450 participants have completed the program. About 50 people are selected each year from around the United States and internationally to participate in lectures, seminars, and field visits with faculty from across Harvard and other recognized experts. Participants also develop individual plans of action, on a case-study model, applicable to the local work in their communities.

Program in Religion and Secondary Education

The Program in Religion and Secondary Education is a teacher education program that prepares students to teach about religion in public schools from a nonsectarian perspective. Students in the master of theological studies or master of divinity degree programs integrate their work in religion with courses on education and public policy to understand the relationship between religion and education and to advance religious literacy within their fields of licensure.

Harvard Divinity School's Program in Religious Studies and Education (PRSE) has been temporarily suspended, pending new permanent funding that will allow the program to continue and to be capable of serving more students than can currently be admitted into the program. Beginning with the 2009-10 academic year, no new students will be admitted to the program for at least the next two years. Students who are already in the PRSE will continue and be able to finish their degree in normal fashion.

The Outdoor Church

The Outdoor Church is an outdoor ministry to homeless men and women in Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker. It offers prayer services and pastoral assistance outdoors in all seasons and all weather in order to be accessible to men and women who, because of shame or embarrassment, hostility or illness, cannot or will not enter conventional churches. It takes the church to those who cannot or will not reach it on their own. The education and training of students and seminarians is an important part of the work of The Outdoor Church. The church is a field education site for the Harvard Divinity School.

Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Andover-Harvard Theological Library

Andover-Harvard Theological Library was founded in 1836 and underwent expansion in 1911 when the collections of HDS and Andover Theological Seminarymarker were combined. The Library is part of the larger Harvard University library system, which is available to all faculty, staff, and students at HDS. In September 2001, the library completed a $12-million renovation that enhanced its technology facilities and improved its information systems. Andover-Harvard participates in the Boston Theological Institute library program, which extends borrowing privileges to all members of the HDS community at any of the other BTI libraries.

(From the HDS 2007-08 Catalog)

  • Books and bound periodicals: 485,046
  • Over 30,000 rare books (including 22 published before 1525)
  • Current serial (periodical) subscriptions: 2,981
  • Original papers of Paul Tillich
  • Audiovisual material: 633 titles
  • Historical archives of the Unitarian Universalist Association
  • Library adds 4,000 to 6,000 new volumes to its collection each year.
  • Total circulations in 2006: 46,703

Andover Hall

Andover Chapel, Andover Hall, 2nd floor
Completed in 1911 at a cost of $300,000, Andover Hall was designed by Allen and Collens, a firm that focused largely on neo-medieval and ecclesiastical designs, and is the only building at Harvard built in the Collegiate Gothic style of architecture.

Andover Hall was commissioned by Andover Theological Seminary, which, by 1906, saw its enrollment slide and entered an affiliation with the Divinity School in 1908. The Hall contained a chapel, library, dorms, and seminar and lecture rooms. Today, Andover Hall still contains a chapel and some classrooms, but it also holds many administrative and faculty offices.

Notable professors

Notable alumni


Harvard Divinity Bulletin

Harvard Divinity Bulletin is a magazine published by Harvard Divinity School's Office of Communications four times per calendar year – generally spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The magazine features nonfiction essays, opinion pieces, poetry and reviews generally linked to religion and its relationship with contemporary life, art, and scholarship. Also included is the text of each year's Ingersoll Lecture on Human Immortality.

Harvard Divinity Today

HD Today is an alumni/ae magazine published three times per year also by the HDS Office of Communications. It includes original news articles, event listings, an alumni/ae journal, and class notes.

Harvard Theological Review

Founded in 1908, Harvard Theological Review is a quarterly journal that publishes original research in many scholarly and religious fields, including ethics, archeology, Christianity, Jewish studies, and comparative religious studies.


Cult/ure is a graduate journal and collection of student essays published annually under the auspices of Harvard Divinity School and supported by the Office of the Dean and the Center for the Study of World Religions.

The Wick

The Wick is a journal for literary and creative works by the HDS community. The Wick publishes both published and non-published writers of fiction, poetry, essays, photography, sermons, and creative non-fiction.

The Nave

The Nave is an online electronic newsletter of HDS student activities and events. It includes announcements of lectures, social events, important academic deadlines, and other matters. The Boston Theological Institute, along with other schools in the area, provides students, staff and faculty numerous cultural and academic experiences, many of which are featured in The Nave.

Student religious affiliation

(Figures taken from 2007-2008 Harvard Divinity School Catalog)

Divinity School buildings


External links

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