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STM began with a 1969 program, Protestant efforts

Seattle faith leaders partnered with Seattle University¬† in summer 1969 to do an intensive program for master’s degrees in religious education and pastoral ministry. By 1971, programs had more than 300 students.

From 1984 to 1990, the Protestant Northwest Theological Union had showed there were many students interested in theological education in Seattle, but it could not secure accreditation.

By 1994, the Association of Theological Schools accredited and approved three graduate degrees at the Jesuit Seattle University’s Institute for Catholic Theological Studies (ICTS): master of arts in pastoral studies, master of arts in transforming spirituality and master of divinity.

In 1995, 10 Protestant, Anglican and Unitarian leaders created the title, Institute of Ecumenical Theological Studies (IETS), as they explored partnering with the ICTS to offer master’s degrees, including a master of divinity.

In 1997, SU’s Board of Trustees established the STM as a graduate school. In 2000, it was accredited by the Association of Theological School.

Dee Eisenhauer served on the STM executive board.

The IETS and ICTS names in the STM were dropped in 2009. A common board formed, reflecting that students were studying together in a common curriculum. Each denomination set requirements for studying church history, polity, theology, ministry and worship, said Dee Eisenhauer, pastor of Eagle Harbor UCC, who became co-chair of the STM executive board in 2010.

The STM began with nine denominations. Eventually 11 denominations and three faiths signed formal partnerships. They included African Methodist Episcopal, American Baptist, Church of the Brethren, Community of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, ELCA Lutheran, Mennonite, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, United Methodist and Unitarian, and interreligious groups.

The STM was accredited for a master of divinity. It also offered master of arts degrees in transformational leadership, and in couples and family therapy, and a doctor of ministry.

As a unique, inclusive school, committed to interreligious relationships, the STM gained national and international recognition for its approach to theological education, drawing foundation funding.

In 2010, Dee described the STM as “a model of creative cooperation in theological studies connected with a Jesuit school that emphasizes doing justice.”

She said students in each tradition needed to know about their tradition not only for their future ministries but also to discuss with other students what their church believes and does.

In 2010, there were 13 UCC students and 67 other Protestant students, among 272.

Founding denominations in early years helped fund the STM, but as their funds dwindled and the STM become such a unique model, it found other funders.

The STM’s account of its closing is at seattleu.edu/stm and seattleu.edu/provost/updates.

Describing it as “a work in progress,” they respond to questions raised about their decision by students, alums and others.

In April 2020, the Board of Trustees voted to close the STM as a freestanding school and authorized SU’s administration, “in consultation with faculty, students and other relevant stakeholders, to develop and implement a comprehensive transition and communication plan which will include ending degree and certificate programs, integrating academic programs into existing university programs, and developing teach-out plans for affected academic programs.”

They talk of forming a transition committee to look at future opportunities for ministerial and faith formation, and of consulting with “a broad range of stakeholders, including denominational partners.”

In summer 2020, STM stopped enrolling new students in ministry programs.

In July 2021, SU formed the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement for “Public Theology for a New Generation.”

For information, contact Don Mayer at 206-715-9572, Jim Halfaker at 206-363-3653, Dee Eisenhauer at 206-604-2167, David Kratz 206-697-1361 or Rick Russell 206-999-6968.

 

Pacific Northwest Conference United Church News © Winter 2021-22

 

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