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Graduate Theological Union

During the 19th century, several Protestant denominations and Catholic orders successfully established theological seminaries in the San Francisco Bay Area. By the 1930s, several Protestant seminaries had relocated to Berkeley, California, drawn by the proximity of the University of California and the availability of its vast educational resources. With the post-World War II period, however, came a rise in ecumenical sensitivities and cooperation. The war had brought devastation, and disruption of church organizations in Europe. The global church community responded with the formation of the World Council of Churches in the Protestant tradition, and the Vatican II Council in the Catholic tradition, 1962-65. The understanding of theological education, too, began to shift away from denominational isolation to a more ecumenical approach. Seminaries began to understand the advantages of working in cooperation to strengthen curricula and advanced degree programs. In this atmosphere, negotiations to form a cooperative degree program began among the Protestant seminaries in Berkeley, and the Bay Area, around 1958. The ad hoc committee consisted of representatives from the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, San Francisco Theological Seminary, and Pacific School of Religion. Agreement among four of the schools was achieved, and the Articles of Incorporation forming the Graduate Theological Union were signed, in 1962. The Pacific School of Religion chose not to enter the GTU until 1964, along with the Starr King School for the Ministry. The first Catholic school was admitted in 1964, St. Albert's, relocating from Oakland, California. They were followed in 1966, by Alma College, which relocated from Los Gatos, California, and was renamed the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and the Franciscan School of Theology, which moved up from Mission Santa Barbara, in 1968. The first affiliated centers of the Graduate Theological Union were established 1968-70, these were the Center for Judaic Studies and the Center for Urban Black Studies. In the decades to follow, the GTU-affiliated institutes, centers, and programs have grown to eight, including the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, and the Institute of Buddhist Studies. The nine member schools originally maintained their own libraries. In 1964, the Bibliographical Center was formed to consolidate collections and centralize book ordering and cataloging. In 1969, the GTU Common Library was established. The individual collections were merged and housed in the basement of a member school. In 1987, the library was completed. The Flora Lamson Hewlett Library is now one of the major theological libraries in the country. By 1971, the GTU was itself fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. At first offering only a doctorate in Theology, GTU now offers the Ph.D., Th.D., and M.A. There are two joint Ph.D. programs with UC Berkeley in Near Eastern Studies and Jewish Studies. The original four areas of stud — Bible, History, Theology, and Ethics — were broadened to include the arts, the personality sciences, phenomenology of religions, spirituality, and inter-area studies. The Graduate Theological Union remains committed to the spirit of ecumenism in which it was formed.