Harvard Divinity School is one of the constituent schools of Harvard University, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States. As of June 2015[update], the school's mission is to train and educate its students either in the academic study of religion, or for the practice of a religious ministry or other public service vocation. It also caters to students from other Harvard schools that are interested in the former field. Harvard Divinity School is among a small group of university-based, non-denominational divinity schools in the United States (the others include the University of Chicago Divinity School, Yale Divinity School, Vanderbilt University Divinity School and Wake Forest University School of Divinity).
Harvard College was founded in 1636 as a Puritan/Congregationalist institution and trained ministers for many years. The separate institution of the Divinity School, however, dates from 1816, when it was established as the first non-denominational divinity school in the United States. (Princeton Theological Seminary had been founded as a Presbyterian institution in 1812. Andover Theological Seminary was founded in 1807 by orthodox Calvinists who fled Harvard College after it appointed liberal theologian Henry Ware to the Hollis Professorship of Divinity in 1805.)
During its first century, Harvard Divinity School was unofficially associated with American Unitarianism. However, it also retains a historical tie to one of the successor denominations of American Congregationalism, the United Church of Christ.
Harvard Divinity School and Unitarianism
Throughout the 18th century, Enlightenment ideas of the power of reason and free will became widespread among Congregationalist ministers, putting those ministers and their congregations in tension with more traditionalist, Calvinist parties.:1–4
When the Hollis Professor of DivinityDavid Tappan died in 1803 and the president of Harvard Joseph Willard died a year later, in 1804, the overseer of the college Jedidiah Morse demanded that orthodox men be elected.
Nevertheless, after much struggle, the Unitarian Henry Ware was elected in 1805, which signaled the changing of the tide from the dominance of traditional, Calvinist ideas at Harvard to the dominance of liberal, Arminian ideas (defined by traditionalists as Unitarian ideas).:4–5:24 The appointment of Ware, with the election of the liberal Samuel Webber to the presidency of Harvard two years later, led Jedidiah Morse and other conservatives to found the Andover Theological Seminary as an orthodox alternative to the Harvard Divinity School.:4–5
Today, students and faculty come from a variety of religious backgrounds: Christian (all denominations), Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, etc. Its academic programs attempt to balance theology and religious studies—that is, the "believer's" perspective on religion with the "secular" perspective on religion. This is in contrast to many other divinity schools where one or the other is given primacy (Yale Divinity School, for example, emphasizes its theological program, while the majority of students at the University of Chicago Divinity School enroll in its "religious studies" Master of Arts program).
Harvard Divinity School is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and approved by ATS to grant the following degrees:
In addition to candidates for the above, many Harvard graduate students pursuing PhDs in the study of religion work closely with Divinity School faculty. These students are formally affiliated with the Committee on the Study of Religion which is made up of 50% Arts and Sciences and 50% Divinity faculty members and housed in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In April 2014, the Faculty of HDS voted to unify the ThD and PhD in the study of religion in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), suspending admission to the ThD starting in fall 2015. Those previously admitted to the ThD program continue to be candidates for the ThD, with the first cohort of PhD candidates entering in fall 2015. While many PhD students in the GSAS take courses at HDS, and admissions material from HDS advertises the PhD in the study of religion, PhD students are formally enrolled in the GSAS and not at HDS; only the GSAS at Harvard may award the PhD.
Candidates for the MTS choose among 18 areas of academic focus:
Candidates for the MDiv are required to take:
- Three courses in the theories, methods, and practices of scriptural interpretation within the student's religious tradition
- Six courses in the history, theology, and practice of the student's religious tradition in which they are preparing to minister
- Three courses within a religious tradition different from the one they are studying
Research and Special Programs
Women's Studies in Religion Program
The Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) at Harvard Divinity School was founded in 1973 and was the first program to focus on the interdisciplinary study of women and religion. Since its founding, it has supported more than 100 scholars, representing over 50 institutions of higher learning in the United States and around the world.
The WSRP promotes critical inquiry into the interaction between religion and gender, and every year the program brings five postdoctoral scholars to HDS. The research associates each work on a book-length research project and teach courses related to their research.
Center for the Study of World Religions
Founded in 1960 after an anonymous donation in 1957, the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School is a residential community of academic fellows, graduate students, and visiting professors of many world religious traditions. The Center focuses on the understanding of religions globally through its research, publications, funding, and public programs. It welcomes scholars and practitioners, and highlights the intellectual and historical dimensions of religious dialogue. As of July 1, 2017, its current director is Charles Stang, a scholar of ancient Christianity, focusing especially on Eastern varieties of late antique Christianity. The Center sponsors a diverse range of educative programs, ranging from public lectures to colloquia and reading groups, student-initiated projects, and “religion in the news” lunches on topics of public interest. The Center’s Meditation Room is used regularly by individuals and groups.
The building that houses the Center was designed by Josep Lluís Sert.
Summer Leadership Institute
The Summer Leadership Institute (SLI), which has been discontinued, was a two-week training program that sought to establish theological instruction and grounding for individuals engaged in community and economic development.
The program of study was divided into four modules: Theology, Ethics, and Public Policy; Organizational Development and Management; Housing and Community Development; and Finance and Economic Development. As a full-time residential program, holding classes five days a week, the educational focus lies on faith-based case studies of corporations and communities.
Since the SLI's inauguration in 1998, more than 450 participants have completed the program. About 50 people were selected each year from around the United States and internationally to participate in lectures, seminars, and field visits with faculty from across Harvard and other recognized experts. Participants also developed individual plans of action, on a case-study model, applicable to the local work in their communities.
Program in Religion and Secondary Education
The Program in Religion and Secondary Education is a teacher education program that prepares students to teach about religion in public schools from a non-sectarian perspective. Students in the master of theological studies or master of divinity degree programs integrate their work in religion with courses on education and public policy to understand the relationship between religion and education and to advance religious literacy within their fields of licensure.
Harvard Divinity School's Program in Religious Studies and Education (PRSE) has been temporarily suspended, pending new permanent funding that will allow the program to continue and to be capable of serving more students than can currently be admitted into the program. Beginning with the 2009-10 academic year, no new students will be admitted to the program for at least the next two years. Students who are already in the PRSE will continue and be able to finish their degree in normal fashion.
Andover-Harvard Theological Library
Andover-Harvard Theological Library was founded in 1836 and underwent expansion in 1911 when the collections of HDS and Andover Theological Seminary were combined. The Library is part of the larger Harvard University library system, which is available to all faculty, staff, and students at HDS. In September 2001, the library completed a $12-million renovation that enhanced its technology facilities and improved its information systems. Andover-Harvard participates in the Boston Theological Institute library program, which extends borrowing privileges to all members of the HDS community at any of the other BTI libraries.
(From the HDS 2007-08 Catalog)
- Books and bound periodicals: 485,046
- Over 30,000 rare books (including 22 published before 1525)
- Current serial (periodical) subscriptions: 2,981
- Original papers of Paul Tillich
- Audiovisual material: 633 titles
- Historical archives of the Unitarian Universalist Association
- Library adds 4,000 to 6,000 new volumes to its collection each year.
- Total circulations in 2006: 46,703
Completed in 1911 at a cost of $300,000, Andover Hall was designed by Allen and Collens, a firm that focused largely on neo-medieval and ecclesiastical designs, and is the only building at Harvard built in the Collegiate Gothic style of architecture.
Andover Hall was commissioned by Andover Theological Seminary, which, by 1906, saw its enrollment slide and entered an affiliation with the Divinity School in 1908. The Hall contained a chapel, library, dorms, and seminar and lecture rooms. Today, Andover Hall still contains a chapel and some classrooms, but it also holds many administrative and faculty offices.
- James Luther Adams, ethicist and most influential theologian among American Unitarian Universalists in the 20th century
- Leila Ahmed, professor of women's studies and scholar of Islam
- Charles Gilchrist Adams, William and Lucille Nickerson Professor of the Practice of Ethics and Ministry (2006-2011)
- François Bovon, professor emeritus, prolific scholar in New Testament and Christian Apocrypha
- Davíd Carrasco, scholar of Latin American religion and culture
- Francis Xavier Clooney, comparative theologian and scholar of Hinduism
- Harvey Cox, Hollis Professor of Divinity emeritus, author of "The Secular City"
- Diana L. Eck, scholar of Hinduism and founder of The Pluralism Project
- Ephraim Emerton (1851–1935), first recipient of the Winn Professorship of Ecclesiastical History
- Peter J. Gomes (1942-2011), Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals
- Janet Gyatso, scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, history, and culture
- William A. Graham, Dean of the School (2002-2012), Albertson Prof. of Middle Eastern Studies (Arts and Sciences), comparative historian and scholar of Islam
- Charles Hallisey, scholar of Therevada Buddhism
- David Hempton (dean), Dean of the School, historian of Methodism and Evangelical Protestantism
- Michael Jackson (anthropologist), anthropologist and novelist
- Baber Johansen, scholar of Islamic law
- Ousmane Oumar Kane, Alwaleed Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society
- Karen King, Hollis Professor of Divinity, author of "What is Gnosticism?" and "The Gospel of Mary Magdala"
- Gordon D. Kaufman (d. 2011), liberal Mennonite pacifist theologian and author of God the Problem
- Helmut Koester (d. 2016), professor emeritus, New Testament scholar
- Jon D. Levenson, scholar of Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies
- Arthur Chute McGill, (1926-1980) Bussey Professor of Theology at Harvard from 1971 until 1980
- Richard R. Niebuhr, Hollis Professor of Divinity emeritus, theologian
- Henri Nouwen (1983–1985), Professor of Divinity and Horace De Y. Lentz Lecturer
- Jacob K. Olupona, scholar of Indigenous Religions, Religions in Africa
- Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza,Krister Stendahl Professor feminist New Testament scholar, author: In Memory of Her; Rhetoric and Ethic; The Power of the Word
- Francis Schüssler Fiorenza, Charles Chauncey Stillman Professor of Roman Catholic Theological Studies
- Robert William Scribner (1941–1998), Reformation historian
- Wilfred Cantwell Smith, former director of the school's Center for the Study of World Religions
- Ronald Frank Thiemann, Christian theologian and dean of the Divinity School from 1986 to 1998
- Paul Tillich (1886-1965), Protestant theologian and Christian existentialist
- Henry Ware Jr., (1794–1843), Unitarian theologian
- Henry Ware Sr. (1764–1845), prominent early Unitarian theologian
- C. Conrad Wright (1917-2011), historian of American Congregationalism and Unitarianism
- George Ernest Wright (1958–1974), Parkman Professor of Divinity; (1961–1974) Curator of the Semitic Museum, Presbyterian, leading Old Testament scholar and biblical archaeologist
- Cornel West, public intellectual, author, philosopher, political activist, social critic and member of the Democratic Socialists of America
- Charles G. Adams, Pastor, Hartford Memorial Baptist Church; Former President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.; William and Lucille Nickerson Professor of the Practice of Ethics and Ministry, Harvard Divinity School.
- Chris Adrian, author and medical doctor
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher, poet, and essayist
- Horatio Alger, scholar and novelist
- Reza Aslan, author and Islamic scholar
- Charles Bennison, bishop in the Episcopal Church
- George Madison Bodge, author, historian, and Unitarian minister
- George Bradburn, Unitarian preacher and abolitionist from Massachusetts.
- Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance
- Edward John Carnell, prominent neoevangelical theologian
- Demetrios, Archbishop of America, current primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America
- George Allen Turner, Professor, English Bible, Asbury Theological Seminary
- Tom Chappell, founder of Tom's of Maine, large producer of natural personal care products
- Tom Chick, actor, editor and video game journalist
- Delman Coates, Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD
- Moncure D. Conway, Unitarian preacher and abolitionist from Virginia.
- Janet Cooper-Nelson, Chaplain of Brown University, first woman university chaplain in the Ivy League
- John Cranley, former congressional candidate in Ohio.
- Elizabeth Eaton, fourth presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
- William Greenleaf Eliot, co-founder of Washington University in St. Louis
- Archie Epps, Harvard University Dean of Students 1971-1999
- Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, and author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe
- Robert P. George, author, constitutional law scholar, and Princeton professor
- Ronald Goetz, Niebuhr Distinguished Chair in Christian Theology and Ethics at Elmhurst College
- Peter J. Gomes, preacher and writer and Chaplain, Harvard University
- Chris Hedges, author and journalist
- Iakovos, Archbishop of America, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America from 1959 to 1996
- John Figdor, Humanist Chaplain at Stanford University
- James Franklin Kay, professor of Homiletics and Liturgy at Princeton Theological Seminary
- Ray Keck, president of Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas; was Rockefeller Brothers Fellow at Harvard Divinity
- Michael Muhammad Knight, author
- Charles Marsh, theologian, writer and biographer of Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- Scotty McLennan, Dean for Religious Life at Stanford University
- C.E. Morgan, author
- Tori Murden, the first woman to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and to ski to the geographic South Pole
- William B. Oden, bishop in the United Methodist Church
- Theodore Parker, prominent Unitarian and transcendentalist Unitarian minister, scholar, abolitionist and author of the line, "...the moral...arc of history...bends toward justice..."
- Rodney L. Petersen, scholar of history, ethics, and religious conflict, and executive director of the Boston Theological Institute
- Richard L. Pratt Jr., Professor of Old Testament, President of Third Millennium Ministries
- Saba Soomekh, professor and essayist
- Letty M. Russell, feminist theologian
- Edmund Sears, Unitarian theologian
- Jeffrey L. Seglin, journalist, writer, and Emerson College professor
- Vanessa Southern, Unitarian minister and progressive liberal advocate
- Richard Tafel, founder Log Cabin Republicans, lobbyist, executive coach
- Ross H. Trower, Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Navy
- Sarah Warn, Editor-in-Chief; founder of AfterEllen.com
- Leland Wilkinson, statistician and computer scientist
- Stephen A. Hayner, President of Columbia Theological Seminary, ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA, professor, former president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
Harvard Divinity Bulletin
Harvard Divinity Bulletin is an award-winning glossy magazine published by Harvard Divinity School two times per calendar year. The magazine features nonfiction essays, opinion pieces, poetry, and reviews about religion and its relationship with contemporary life, art, and culture. The magazine often publishes the text of each year's Ingersoll Lecture on Human Immortality. It is mailed to a subscriber base of more than 20,000; subscriptions are on a donation basis. Past contributors have included Reza Aslan, Martine Batchelor, Sarah Sentilles, and Christian Wiman.
Harvard Divinity Today
HD Today was an alumni/ae magazine published three times per year also by the HDS Office of Communications. It included original news articles, event listings, an alumni/ae journal, and class notes. It ceased publication in spring 2012.
Harvard Theological Review
Founded in 1908, Harvard Theological Review is a quarterly journal that publishes original research in many scholarly and religious fields, including ethics, archeology, Christianity, Jewish studies, and comparative religious studies.
The Graduate Journal of Harvard Divinity School
The Graduate Journal of Harvard Divinity School is the print/online, student-run academic journal of Harvard Divinity School and the only graduate journal of religion at Harvard University. It publishes exemplary student scholarship in the areas of religious studies, ministry studies, and theology every year.
The Wick is a journal for literary and creative works by the HDS community. The Wick publishes both published and unpublished writers of fiction, poetry, essays, photography, sermons, and creative non-fiction.
The Nave is an online electronic newsletter of HDS student activities and events. It includes announcements of lectures, social events, important academic deadlines, and other matters. The Boston Theological Institute, along with other schools in the area, provides students, staff and faculty numerous cultural and academic experiences, many of which are featured in The Nave.
Student religious affiliation
This section needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(January 2016)
(Figures taken from 2007-2008 Harvard Divinity School Catalog)
Divinity School buildings
- Divinity Hall
- Andover Hall
- Center for the Study of World Religions
- Rockefeller Hall
- Jewett House (Dean's Residence)
- Carriage House (Women's Studies in Religion Program)
- ^Morison, Samuel Eliot (1964). Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1926. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. pp. 242–243. ISBN 9780674888913. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- ^ abcDorrien, Gary (2001). The Making of American Liberal Theology (1st ed.). Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 195. ISBN 9780664223540. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- ^Balmer, Randall (2001). The Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism (1st ed.). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 393. ISBN 9780664224097. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- ^Field, Peter S. (2003). Ralph Waldo Emerson: The Making of a Democratic Intellectual. Lewiston, NY: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780847688425. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
- ^"Member Schools: Harvard University Divinity School". Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Archived from the original on 28 August 2012. Retrieved 2 October 2009.
- ^"Charles Stang Named Director of Center for the Study of World Religions". hds.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
- ^ ab"Harvard Divinity School at the Turn of the Last Century: Building Andover Hall". Andover-Harvard Library. 2005. Retrieved 2009-03-06.
- ^"HDS - Alumni Relations - Katzenstein Award Recipients". Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved 17 May 2010.
- ^"WEDDINGS; Vanessa Southern, Rohit Menezes". The New York Times. 2 May 1999. Retrieved 2011-07-31.
- ^"Summit Unitarians support reproductive-health spending". Independent Press. June 14, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-31.
- ^"Harvard Divinity Bulletin Named Magazine of the Year," October 2012. http://hds.harvard.edu/news/2012/10/18/harvard-divinity-bulletin-named-magazine-year
Search for Schools and Degrees
Successful Admission Essays
When you first learned to drive, it was one thing to sit in driver’s education class to learn the theory of driving, but it was another thing entirely to sit behind the wheel and actually drive. Like learning to drive, essay writing is best learned by experience. From reading these essays, you’ll see that there is no absolute “right” or “wrong” way to write an essay. In fact, there are an unlimited number of topics to write about and ways to approach the essay. And contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a professional writer to write a great essay.
What we hope you’ll learn from these essays is that to write the strongest essay possible, you just need to be you. Present where you are and what you’d like to achieve by furthering your education. This is what these students did, and they are all well on their way to their goals. Important note: Please remember that these essays are only examples of ways that some students have successfully written their admission essays. Your essays will naturally be your own.
Mount Holyoke College
Nancy H. had a brief college stint after high school but left and pursued a successful career in publishing. She became the director of sales and marketing at a publishing company, but she was denied a well-deserved promotion because she didn’t have a college degree. It was then that Nancy decided to earn her degree no matter what. At first she attended community college courses via the Internet to accommodate her work schedule.
She later applied to Mount Holyoke College to a program for older re-entry students. She says, “That made a huge difference. I felt that there was going to be a certain accommodation for my past but that I would still be held to the same high standards as their other, traditionally-aged students.”
When she applied to Mount Holyoke College, she tried to convey to the admission office her academic passion and what she wanted to achieve. She says, “The college would rather have someone who has a plan and changes her mind later than someone who is ambivalent and unfocused.”
Nancy is currently studying for a master’s of theological studies at Harvard Divinity School. Why study religion? “Religion is one of many lenses available for viewing the human experience and how people create meaning in their lives,” she says, adding, “I think that religion is unique because it is nearly universal, has historical evidence that is among the oldest remnants available and provides one of the few windows on women’s contributions.”
After Harvard, Nancy plans to pursue a Ph.D. and teach at the college level one day. But she doesn’t want to limit herself to teaching. “I want to use the lessons that I’ve learned to act and be an activist in community efforts fostering harmony, peace and coalition building,” she says.
I have a successful and rewarding career working for a publishing company whose books help people learn. For me, that has been about as close to “right livelihood” as I have ever enjoyed. My children are grown with families of their own a few hours away. I live in the country with deer and wild turkeys as neighbors. The ocean is a short drive away. What more could I want?
When I went back to college last year, it was for the purpose of freshening my business skills. My plan was to get an undergraduate degree in business then proceed to an MBA. Along the way, something unexpected happened. While studying Western Civilization-Ancient World (History 4A), I was struck by the role of women throughout ancient history. What happened that made women’s roles so subservient? I was sufficiently intrigued to follow that up with Western Civilization-to the 1800’s (History 4B) AND Philosophy-Comparative Western Religion (PHIL 25). I discovered that some scholars claim that during the Inquisitions and European Witch Hunts, 9 million women were killed. While the number is in dispute, it is agreed that this was the largest non-war-related murder of a people BY THEIR OWN in recorded history. Wow! And that was just ONE compelling insight that got me stirred up. (You did ask me to be brief!)
I couldn’t put the topic down. And the topic wouldn’t let me put it down. It seemed that around every corner I was finding books or articles that continued to stimulate more questions. So many questions and so little time! I work between 40 and 50 hours a week with extensive travel. I was sufficiently challenged taking two college classes over the Internet. I just couldn’t seem to find extra time to explore these issues as fully as I wanted to. It was becoming evident that it mattered more to me to ask the questions and look for the answers than maintain my employment. One day while clicking through screens on a completely unrelated topic (as if there are “accidents”), there was a small banner ad about girl’s education. To this day, I have no idea why I felt compelled to click on that small, obscure ad. I don’t even remember the specifics of the ad, something about supporting educational options for girls. My eye caught the fine print at the bottom, “Sponsored by the National Ad Council” (or whomever) and “Mount Holyoke College.” I clicked on the MHC link and my life changed.
That night I read virtually every page on the website. I read the course descriptions, read about the dormitories, read what they were having for breakfast next week. I read about the professors, about the facilities and of course, about the Frances Perkins Program. And then, just to make sure, I opened the site map and checked that I hadn’t missed anything. Here was a community of smart women engaged in exploring the world in a way that I keenly wanted to be part of. And there was a special program for older re-entry students. Not just a program but a real community of older students. I looked at their pictures and read their stories. They were like I was! It sounded too good to be true! When I read the descriptions for major studies for women’s studies (i.e., “provokes questions, discussions, disagreements and illuminating insights”) and critical social thought, I knew in my heart that this was where I was supposed to be. Here I could explore the questions that have made me restless and hopefully find some answers that would be relevant. And do it in a community-based context that would be a valuable part of the process (I appreciated that 98 percent of the students lived on-campus.)
I’ve got to tell you that just because I got the wake-up call, I didn’t immediately respond with, “Okay, let’s go!” I struggled with fear and self-doubt and denial. But the call didn’t go away. Rather, I found myself at work, while on hold, clicking back to the MHC website for just another peek. Even though only a week had passed since the first click on the MHC website, it was now or never. The deadline for application was only weeks away. I sent for the application for admission.
Now I have gratefully accepted the gift of the call. It’s what I have to do. It’s what I choose to do. What a treat to have something in my life that makes me feel so engaged, so passionate, so alive! It is so important that I will give up my security; I will give up my possessions (yet another prospective tag-sale about to be in progress!); I will give up my current way of being to plunge into this Sea of Uncertainty. Is the water cold? I don’t know. Where will I end up? I don’t know. For now, I’m secure in the belief that it’s the journey, not the destination. I’ve always known what I need to know, when I need to know it. And so here I am. I am knocking on your door and asking you to invite me to join you.