An Episcopal Center for Learning & Discipleship

About

Our History

One of 10 accredited seminaries of The Episcopal Church, Bexley Seabury equips lay and ordained persons to lead the church we are becoming. We offer graduate-level theological education taught in a generous spiritual and intellectual tradition.

Rooted in the 19th century, in the frontier ministries of founders Philander Chase and Henry Benjamin Whipple to recent settlers and native peoples, Bexley Seabury continues to prepare leaders for bold inquiry in service of the Gospel and active engagement in congregational and community life.

The most ecumenically diverse Episcopal seminary

Cross-denominational partnerships are a Bexley Seabury hallmark. The seminary’s 17-year, groundbreaking collaboration with Trinity Lutheran Seminary both predated and exemplified the Call for Common Mission agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and The Episcopal Church.

Similarly, Bexley Seabury has long embraced multi-faith and interreligious relationships. This includes the forging of academic partnerships with non-Episcopal seminaries as well as establishing and participating in the Theological Consortium of Greater Columbus and the Association of Chicago Theological Schools.

Located in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park/Woodlawn district

In July 2016 Bexley Seabury became the sixth (sole Episcopal) seminary in a one-square-mile area in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park/Woodlawn district, long a center of learning and formation.

Bexley Seabury is located on the second floor of Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) at 1407 East 60th Street. The entire campus is fully ADA-accessible and environmentally responsible, from its vegetated outdoor landscape to its striking green-roof edifice, for which CTS was awarded Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification status.

Co-locating with CTS represents a deepening of the two seminaries’ association, which dates to 1984. Both Bexley Seabury and CTS share a commitment to interfaith experience as a key component for the formation of lay and ordained leaders to better equip them to lead change in the church and in the world.

Advantages for students

Bexley Seabury’s move to Hyde Park/Woodlawn makes it easier for students to take advantage of long-standing cross-registration privileges for courses offered by member schools in the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS), of which Bexley Seabury and CTS are founding members.

Notably, Bexley Seabury students will also enjoy greater access to CTS courses as well as the academic programming offered by its four theological centers: The Center for the Study of Black Faith and Life; The LGBTQ Studies Center; The Center for Jewish, Christian & Islamic Studies; and The Center for the Study of Korean Christianity.

Degree, diploma, and lifelong learning programs

Bexley Seabury offers a range of theological education programs for academic credit, continuing education credit and enrichment (audit/no credit).

*pending state authorization, anticipated September 2016

ATS Accreditation

In September 2013, Bexley Seabury was accredited through 2015 by the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) in the United States and Canada to offer the degrees of Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. In June 2015, ATS reaffirmed the accreditation for a period of seven years, through spring 2022.

Serving the church since 1824

Formed in 2012 through the federation of Bexley Hall in Columbus, Ohio, and Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Chicago, Bexley Seabury has been forming leaders for the Episcopal Church since 1824. The seminary’s mission is rooted in the frontier ministries of founders Philander Chase and Henry Benjamin Whipple, to develop priests and plant congregations across the Ohio River Valley and the prairies to the west. More on the pioneering efforts of Chase and Whipple.

Bexley Roots

Bexley Hall was established in 1824 by Bishop Philander Chase in conjunction with the establishment of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. Bexley Hall was later identified separately, named in honor of Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley, an early benefactor of Kenyon College.

The seminary disassociated with Kenyon in 1968 and moved to Rochester, N.Y., where it affiliated with Colgate Rochester Divinity School (now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School). The 1839 seminary building in Gambier now houses administrative offices for Kenyon, and is still known as Bexley Hall.

After 30 years in New York state, in 1999, Bexley Hall re-established an Ohio campus through a partnership with Trinity Lutheran Seminary of Columbus, in a suburb coincidentally named Bexley. In 2008, the Rochester campus was closed to focus efforts on the collaboration with Trinity Lutheran Seminary.

The highly collaborative partnership between Bexley Hall and Trinity Lutheran Seminary predated—and some would say presaged—the historic Called to Common Mission agreement between the Evangical Lutheran Church in America. For 17 years, each of the two seminaries contributed to a dynamic ecumenical partnership that produced hundreds and hundreds of ordained and lay leaders prepared and credentialled to lead either or both Episcopal and Lutheran communities.

Bexley Hall was a founding member of the Theological Consortium of Greater Columbus (TCGC), along with Trinity Lutheran Seminary, the Methodist Theological School in Ohio (MTSO), and the Pontifical College Josephinum.  Students were free to take courses at any of the TCGC member schools.

Seabury Roots

The origins of Seabury-Western are in Illinois and in Minnesota. There, three years before the Civil War, Bishop Henry Whipple began advocating for the Dakota and Ojibwe people on what the western frontier. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary was created in 1933 by the merger of Seabury Divinity School (1858, Faribault, Minn.) and Western Theological Seminary (1883, Chicago).

In 1858, James Lloyd Breck founded Bishop Seabury Mission in Faribault, Minn. to provide education from primary school through theological studies for both Native Americans and Euro-American settlers. He envisioned his “School of the Prophets” as the center of evangelism for the about-to-be organized Diocese of Minnesota.

In 1883, under the leadership of Chicago’s Bishop William E. McLaren, the Western Theological Seminary was chartered and built in Chicago. Its first class was held in 1885. Western’s mission was to educate “fit persons in the Catholic Faith in its purity and integrity, as taught in the Holy Scriptures, held by the Primitive Church, summed up in the Creeds, and affirmed by the undisputed General Councils.”

Western moved from Chicago to Evanston, Ill. in 1929 at the invitation of Northwestern University and the Garrett Biblical Institute.

Complementary concerns and common interests led the boards of Seabury and Western to combine resources. The merged Seabury-Western Theological Seminary opened its doors in Evanston on October 10, 1933. In 1994 the Seabury Institute was founded as a ministry of the seminary to create a partnership with parishes seeking to exercise innovative forms of leadership for mission.

In 2009, Seabury-Western made a stewardship decision: to sell its property to Northwestern University. The transaction, completed in July 2009, allowed the seminary to eliminate its debt, balance its budget, and position itself to realize a new mission as “Seabury Next.”

Becoming Bexley Seabury

Bexley Hall and Seabury-Western began the process of federation in 2007. Conversations exploring common ground were facilitated by a team from Auburn Seminary’s Center for the Study of Theological Education led by former Virginia Theological Seminary President Martha Horne. Dialogue continued prayerfully, deliberately, with due consideration to how the two institutions might best serve the church.

In February 2011, the two seminaries ratified a joint operating agreement. At historic meetings in March 2012, the boards of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Chicago and Bexley Hall in Columbus each voted unanimously to federate and to elect the Rev. Roger Albert Ferlo, PhD, DD, as president.

The Bexley Hall Seabury Western Theological Seminary Federation was founded and President Ferlo was inaugurated in April 2013 at a festival Eucharist in the chapel of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Bexley Seabury was accredited as a single institution by the Association of Theological Schools in 2013. In 2016, following the recommendation its Board of Directors’ Beyond Walls Task Force, the seminary consolidated its operations on the campus of Chicago Theological Seminary, in Chicago’s Hyde Park/Woodlawn neighborhood.