Areas of Specialization

Church History and History of Doctrine

Early Christianity and Its World

Beginning as a sectarian movement within Palestinian Judaism, Christianity emerged through a process of religious, social and cultural encounter both within the Roman Empire and beyond its borders to the east. Within a few centuries Christian communities had developed in Europe, Africa and Asia, and their members had produced a broad array of literature (theological, exegetical, historical, hagiographic and liturgical) in a plethora of languages (Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian, Greek, Latin and Syriac). They also created a rich trove of material culture from jewelry to liturgical implements to massive structures for community worship. Study of this period of Christian history rests on a foundation of linguistic, cultural and religious knowledge about the ancient world, and it embraces the theological, exegetical, liturgical and archeological study of Christian communities from the New Testament period through the rise of Islam. Our program offers many points of entry into this complex field of study.

Medieval Christianity and Its World

By “medieval” Christian history we mean an entire millennium, from 500 to 1500. In this era, the history of theology (and philosophy) is inseparable from the institutional history of Christianity, its worship and art, especially in the encounter with Islam. Although the idea of “middle” ages stems from Western Europe (in the middle between antiquity and the Renaissance) we here include the Eastern Orthodox churches not only in Byzantium and Russia but also in Asia, North Africa, and Ethiopia.

Reformation and Its World

The major religious changes of the Reformation were one of the most significant factors in the early modern era (1450-1650), and they were not confined to western Europe, or to theology or church structures alone. The Reformation and Its World covers church, social and theological history, Christian life, worship, and mission in a global frame. Titles of courses and doctoral seminars indicate some of the wide-ranging themes addressed and specific topics treated in depth in this area of specialization, as well as how this era forms an integral part of the wider history of Christianity in the world.

Modern Europe

The history of Christianity in modern Europe covers the period from the end of the Thirty Years War (1648) to the present. This is a time of dramatic social, economic, intellectual and political changes, in which Europe passes from a region in which the church and Christian identity were central to social, cultural and political life, to one where the church to a significant extent has been displaced by a broad variety of practices, ideas and institutions out towards the margins of national, social and even personal life. In an effort to form a deeper understanding of this transformation the study of the history of Christianity in modern Europe focuses in particular on the interface of the church and Christianity with broader aspects of European society and culture.

Modern North America

The history of Christianity of North America is a rich tapestry of movements, denominations, and communities. The study of American Christian History involves an interdisciplinary approach reflective of the complexity of American society. Diverse research methods, including the use of archival study, literature, and primary texts, reveal a picture of the important themes, events, and leaders that have shaped religious faith from America’s founding until today. Situated in a multicultural and multi-faith context, the history of Christianity in North America provides a model for understanding the cycles of growth, decline, and influence of Christendom in the global context.

Mission, Ecumenics, and History of Religion (MEHR)

MEHR integrates the fields of Mission (history and theology), Ecumenics (history and theology), and History of Religions to promote the interdisciplinary study of Christianity as a cross-cultural, global phenomenon. Capitalizing on the Seminary’s diverse resources, MEHR nurtures a broad perspective on Christianity’s historical and contemporary expansion and expression throughout the world, including representative theologies emanating both from the global South and North. Additionally, MEHR pays special attention to the ecumenical interrelations of the global Christian communion as well as to its interactions with believers from other faith communities. As a whole, MEHR provides a rigorous scholarly foundation for a multifaceted study of world Christianity.

Missional and Ecumenical Theology

The rigorous theological engagement with the mission of the church as understood within the comprehensive context of God’s salvific mission for the world. Working from the assumption that the “church is missionary by its very nature,” this discipline addresses the Biblical foundation and formation of mission, the historical approaches to mission, and the contemporary challenges to mission. Of particular concern are the re-orientation of western Christianity to its post-Christendom reality as well as the theological implications of the rapid globalization of the Christian movement. Missional theology is especially informed by the emergence of the ecumenical movement in the 20th century.