In today’s changing world, service to Christ and His church can take many forms. At New Brunswick Theological Seminary – the first Seminary established in North America – we are dedicated to helping students respond to their individual calling through rigorous yet accessible theological education.
New Brunswick Seminary began in 1784, when the General Synod of the Reformed Dutch Church—now known as the Reformed Church in America—elected a New York pastor named John Henry Livingston (1746-1825) to be its “professor.” His task was to prepare students to become the Reformed Church’s ministers of the Word.
Livingston fulfilled that task first in New York City and then, from 1810 until his death, in New Brunswick, where—at first sharing a building and other resources with Queen’s College (now Rutgers University)—what began as only a small group consisting of this theological professor and his students quickly acquired the structures of organization and support that made it a resilient institution. And here in New Brunswick, surrounded by the old campus of Rutgers (though from 1867 no longer officially connected with it), the seminary has thrived for more than two centuries.
Over that time, some things have not changed. The seminary’s task is still to prepare ministers for their calling. It still has ties to the Reformed Church in America, and it remains centered in the doctrines of the grace and sovereignty of God that are dear to the Reformed tradition.
But in many other respects, the seminary has changed, especially over the last half-century, as the range of communities it serves has broadened and its vision of ministry has widened. Beginning in the 1960s, major adjustments in the curriculum brought a new emphasis on urban ministry. Then in the 1970s, NBTS made a commitment to offer evening classes and to welcome part-time students, female students, and students of color. Thus began an evolution which has continued ever since, toward a vision which we still embrace today: a vision of a diverse and anti-racist center of Christian learning that is committed to serving its urban context and to preparing women and men of many faith communities for Gospel ministries of justice, mercy, and evangelism.
For more on the history of the Seminary’s connection to Rutgers University: John W. Coakley, ThD, spoke about “The Theological Institution of Queen’s College: A Brief History of the New Brunswick Seminary” at the May 1, 2015 meeting of the RWJMS Retired Faculty Association.
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