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School of Theology and Ministry marks 20th year

Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry (STM) became an ecumenical theological seminary offering various master’s degrees for Protestant and Catholic students in 1997.

The UCC was among the original nine denominations that formed the Institute for Ecumenical Theological Studies (IETS), the precursor to the School of Theology and Ministry, an accredited theological seminary at the Jesuit-run Seattle University, which was founded in 1891 and has 7,400 students in graduate and undergraduate programs.

Fourteen Christian denominations have signed formal partnerships, and the STM has collaborative relationships Christian and interreligious groups locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. 

Graduate theological education at Seattle University began as a summer program in 1969 with faith partners.

From 1984 to 1990, the independent Northwest Theological Union showed there were students interested in theological education in Seattle.

In 1993, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) approved Seattle University’s master’s degrees in pastoral studies, transforming spirituality and a master of divinity. 

For two years, 10 Protestant, Anglican and Unitarian traditions explored partnering with Seattle University. In 1997, SU’s Board of Trustees formally established the STM as a graduate school. 

From 1997 to 2000, the UCC had a memorandum of understanding with Seattle University, reported Dee Eisenhauer, pastor at Eagle Harbor UCC in Bainbridge Island, in the November 2010 PNC-UCC News.

Since its founding, the STM has offered accredited master’s degrees in divinity and spirituality. Keeping up with changing needs the school now also offers master’s degrees in transformational leadership and in couples and family therapy, and offers a doctor of ministry.

When Dee was co-chair of the STM executive board, she said it was “a lively model of creative cooperation in theological studies connected with a Jesuit school that emphasizes doing justice.”

Students were in classes together in a common core curriculum, and each denomination set requirements for studies in their history, polity, theology, ministry and worship.

“The students need to know about other traditions not only for their future ministries but also to be ready to engage in discussions with other students about what their churches believe and do,” Dee said

Denominations now involved are African Methodist Episcopal, American Baptist, Church of the Brethren, Community of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, ELCA Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, UCC, United Methodist and Unitarian. 

The STM has 13 core faculty, nine extended faculty, 32 adjuncts and seven extended adjunct and emeriti faculty.

Over the years, many UCC pastors and members have been involved, with its formation, on its board and teaching.

Gail Crouch, retired pastor from University UCC Seattle, and Don Mayer, retired pastor from Eagle Harbor UCC, taught for several years.  Gail was also coordinator for UCC students for several years.

Susan Yarrow Morris taught UCC liturgics, including history and theology, for about five years in the early 2000s as liturgical coordinator for UCC students.

Retired pastors David Kratz and Greg Turner from 2009 to 2013 co-taught a class on UCC history, theology, polity and ministry.  David continues to teach.

For early years, founding denominations helped fund the STM, until their funding dwindled. The STM, as a unique model of theological education, has drawn other funders.

Conference Ministers from Jim Halfaker to Mike Denton have supported it, and UCC students who have attended to earn master of divinity and other degrees. Jim was senior development officer from 1999 to 2004 raising Protestant funds to remodel Campion Hall chapel into an ecumenical chapel and multi-faith prayer room, and to renew Chieftan student center into the main STM building, Hunthausen Hall.

Maria Groen of Fauntleroy UCC now is senior director of development.

Rick Russell, retired from Eastgate in Bellevue, taught ministerial and theological integration, which is the field education component of the graduate degrees, from 2002 to 2017.

Carol Scott-Kassner of University UCC taught a practicum in spiritual retreats.

Joy Haertig is in her third season as the Faith Formation Chaplain for the UCC students.  This year there are five students in master’s programs locally and one doing the doctoral program from Ohio. Current UCC students are Allison Decker of Fauntleroy, Cheryl Ellsworth, Amara Oden of Tolt in Carnation, Marci Scott-Weis of St. Paul’s, Jermell Witherspoon and Karen Georgia Thompson (in Ohio). 

The number varies annually.  There were 13 in 2010, when 80 of 272 students were working on master of divinity degrees. It’s not a seminary for Catholic priests.

Susan, Tim Devine and Catherine Foote were liturgical consultants. Tara Barber connects students with the Committee on Ministry.

Greg was on the UCC Outreach Committee for a while, retiring from that responsibility earlier this year. 

Others involved with the STM include Karyn Frazier.

“It’s great to have a place for students interested in ministry to go to seminary without leaving the conference,” Dee said. “It’s ideal for us in the UCC with our ecumenical interest and identity to expose our students to students from different traditions. It’s practical ecumenical cooperation of learning to be good neighbors.”

“It sees ministry in the broadest context,” said David.  “Being a seminary these days is a tough and uncertain, but the STM is a great opportunity.”

“STM students find a solid ecumenical experience. SU as a whole, is an intellectually stimulating setting, with ties to and study of most issues facing ministry today in the church and society,” said Greg.

The STM, a unique, inclusive school committed to interreligious relationships, brings together people from different religious and spiritual backgrounds through special events, panels and worship.

Now its Center for Religious Wisdom and World Affairs uses insights from faith communities to address some of the world’s complex issues.

At the celebration, STM dean Mark Markully reported that the STM has had its first Muslim graduate.  The STM also has a relationship with the government of Vietnam.

For information, call 206-926-5330 or visit


Pacific Northwest United Church of Christ News © November-December 2017


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