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The tower at Union Theological Seminary
Entrance to Union Theological Seminary

Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York is a preeminent independent graduate school of theology, located in Manhattanmarker between Claremont Avenue and Broadwaymarker, 120th to 122nd Streets. The seminary was founded in 1836 under the Presbyterian Church, and is currently affiliated with nearby Columbia University.


The brick and limestone English Gothic architecture, by Francis R. Allen (1844 – 1931) and Collins, completed in 1910, includes the tower (pictured), which adapts features of the crossing tower of Durham Cathedralmarker. The Seminary is also adjacent to Teachers College, Barnard Collegemarker, the Jewish Theological Seminary of Americamarker and the Manhattan School of Musicmarker and has cross-registration and library access agreements with several of these schools. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 23, 1980. Due to declining enrollments, large sections of the campus are now on long-term lease to Columbia University.


The seminary was founded in 1836, and is one of the most prestigious divinity schools in the country. During the late-19th Century, Union Theological Seminary (UTS) became one of the leading centers of liberal Christianity in the United States. Among its graduates were the historian of Christianity Arthur McGiffert, biblical scholar James Moffett, Harry Emerson Fosdick, pastor of Riverside Churchmarker, who served as professor during his tenure there, and the Socialist leader Norman Thomas. It is home to the Burke Theological Library, which is the largest theological library in the Western Hemisphere and serves a national and international field of scholars, pastors, and students. It contains more than 700 thousand volumes, periodicals, manuscripts, scores, and rare historic material.

On July 1, 2008, prolific feminist theologian Serene Jones became Union's first female president in its 172-year history, succeeding Joseph C. Hough, Jr.

"Union has a distinguished history among graduate theological institutions. Its faculty has always ranked among the best in the world and has included such luminaries as Walter Rauschenbusch, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, James Cone, and others. Its students come from around the country and the world. The seminary is known for its progressive understanding of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, and has long been at the forefront of the great social movements in this nation's history."


UTS currently employs several prominent theologians on its faculty. Dr. Serene Jones, the seminary's first female president, was inaugurated in November 2008. Dr. Joseph Hough, UTS' immediate past president, is an important Christian Democratic Socialist. Henry Sloane Coffin was a past president. Dr. James Hal Cone is one of the founders of liberation theology and is especially important in the development of African-American theology. Union has also been home to many prominent Womanist theologians such as Delores Williams. Dr. Gary Dorrien is a leading social ethicist. Dr. James A. Forbes, the former senior pastor of the adjacent Riverside Churchmarker, is an adjunct professor at the seminary and had been a full-time, chaired professor before accepting the Riverside post.

Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich made UTS the center of both liberal and neo-orthodox Protestantism in the post-War period. Prominent public intellectual Dr. Cornel West commenced a promising academic career at UTS in 1977. As liberalism lost ground to conservatism after the 1960s (while neo-orthodoxy dissipated) and thus declined in prestige, UTS ran into financial difficulties, and shrank significantly, due to a reduced student base. Eventually, the school agreed to lease some of its buildings to Columbia University and to transfer ownership of and responsibility for the Burke Library to Columbia. These agreements helped stabilize the school's finances, which had been hobbled by increasing library costs and the need for substantial campus repairs.


The school confers Master of Arts, Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Theology, Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Philosophy, and offers joint degree programs with Columbia University. The school has long been associated with ecumenism.

List of founders

Notable current faculty

  • Mary C. Boys — Skinner and McAlpin Professor of Practical Theology
  • Euan K. Cameron — Henry Luce III Professor of Reformation Church History & Academic Dean. (1958-)
  • David Carr — Professor of Old Testament; contributed to Genesis in the New Oxford Annotated Bible (New Revised Standard Version)
  • James Cone — Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology - Founder of Black Liberation Theology.
  • Gary Dorrien — Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics
  • Roger Haight — Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology
  • Brigitte Kahl — Professor of New Testament
  • Paul F. Knitter — Paul Tillich Professor of Theology
  • Chung Hyun Kyung — Associate Professor of Ecumenical Theology
  • Barbara Lundblad — Joe R. Engle Associate Professor of Preaching
  • Daisy L. Machado — Professor of the History of Christianity; first U.S. Latina ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
  • Christopher Morse — Dietrich Bonhoeffer Professor of Theology & Ethics
  • John Anthony McGuckin — Professor of Early Church History
  • Hal Taussig — Visiting Professor of New Testament
  • Ann Belford Ulanov — Christiane Brooks Johnson Memorial Professor of Psychiatry and Religion
  • Janet Walton — Professor of Worship

Several of Union's members also teach in the Religious Studies department at Columbia University and at the Teachers College, Columbia University, and the Jewish Theological Seminarymarker.

Former theologians and faculty

Notable alumni


External links

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