Interdenominational Theological Center: Perfect example of Christian unity in theological education

Rev. Dr. Candace L. Lewis, President-Dean of Gammon Seminary and ITC, leads a tour of the campus recently.

The Interchurch Theological Center
April 2022
By Jean Hawxhurst
 Gammon Theological Seminary
Sometimes it is helpful to remind ourselves ecumenism is alive and well throughout Jesus’ universal church and to know Christ’s followers are continuing to build relationships and be in ministry together, despite their differences.  I recently experienced one of the greatest examples of Christian unity in the realm of theological education, and I want to share with you about it.
The Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) was chartered in 1958 in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States.  At that time four separate seminaries came together to form one school of theology, maintaining their unique identities but cooperating together in an ecumenical cluster.  Today the ITC includes five seminaries, including: Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary (Pentecostal), Morehouse School of Religions (Baptist), Phillips School of Theology (CME), Turner Theological Seminary (AME) and our own United Methodist Gammon Theological Seminary.  Students who are not affiliated with one of the five denominations/families represented by these seminaries are enrolled in the Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship Program.  Matriculation is through the individual seminary, but worship, fellowship and education are united through a shared faculty and campus.  As it notes on its website ( it is the only graduate theology program in the world with this unique model that is exclusively African American but inclusive to all people. 
The idea of this kind of ecumenical endeavor for African Americans training for vocational ministry began to form in the early 1940’s through a cooperation between Gammon Seminary and Morehouse College and then with Morris Brown College (now Turner Seminary) and Phillips School of Theology.  With major financial backing from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. instruction began in 1959 with twenty-one faculty and 97 students.   
Located on ten acres between Morris Brown College and Clark Atlanta University, ITC is the largest free-standing African American theological school in the United States.  It offers the Master of Divinity, the Master of Arts in Christian Education and the Doctor of Ministry.  It  has full accreditation from the American Association of Theological Schools, about 25 full and part-time faculty and enrolls over 300 students. 
Of the thousands of graduates our Council of Bishops is well-represented.   Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, Bishop Ernest W. Newman, Bishop Joseph B. Bethea, Bishop Alfred L. Norris, Bishop Cornelius Henderson, Bishop James R. King, Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and Bishop Sharma Lewis are among the graduates of Gammon Theological Seminary.  Rev. Dr. Candice Lewis, the new President-Dean of the Seminary is also a proud graduate.  And, Mr. Tavis Tinsley, the 2022 Council of Bishops’ United Methodist representative to the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Institute at Bossey will graduate within this year.
Christian unity comes in many forms and is lived out in many ways.  A consortium of ecumenical seminaries is one way Christians preparing for vocational ministry in the universal church of Jesus Christ can learn from each other, receive the diversity of gifts brought into engagement with each other, and continue to strengthen the bonds between communions across communions for decades to come.  It is a good and right thing to remind ourselves this kind of unity in the name of Christ continues.