Founded in 1925, Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) was for many years the College of Religion (School of Religion) of Butler University and in 1938 became a graduate school of the university. Twenty years later, it separated from Butler and was reincorporated as Christian Theological Seminary. In 1966, it began occupying a campus near the university at 1000 West 42nd  Street. The school’s auditorium is named in honor of its first president, Orman Shelton, and was home to the Edyvean Repertory Theatre for 30 years until 1996.

A tall, rectangular bell tower rises above a Postmodernist structure of varying heights.
Sweeney Chapel at Christian Theological Seminary, ca. 1990s Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

A fully accredited member of the Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission, CTS enrolls graduates of colleges and universities from across the United States in its seven degree programs. The basic degree, the Master of Divinity, is recognized among Protestant churches to meet the educational qualifications for ordination. Other master’s degrees offer specialization in the academic study of religion, marriage and family therapy, and clinical mental health counseling. The school offers two doctoral degrees: Doctor of Ministry, a terminal professional degree, and Doctor of Philosophy in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric.

Closely related to the Christian Church (disciples of christ), the seminary identifies as “an ecumenical seminary.” Its board of trustees, administration, faculty, and student body represent more than 30 Protestant denominations as well as the Catholic and Jewish traditions. Theologically progressive, it strives also to be an inclusive community committed to social justice.

A stone cube-shaped sign stands in front of a long, low, modern sandstone building. Two sides of the sign are visible and each has "Christian Theological Seminary" on a white plaque attached to the face of the stone. On each is a circle around a stylized cross.
Christian Theological Seminary campus, 2013 Credit: Charlie Nye, IndyStar View Source

Paralleling mainline Protestant numerical decline in the past several decades, enrollment at the seminary also has declined. Financially very strong, it is poised to innovate in theological education that meets the current challenges of church and community ministry.

In 2017, CTS sold all of its buildings and most of its grounds to Butler and entered into a long-term lease agreement with the university. With an endowment of $125,000,000 and a debt-free balance sheet, CTS like many seminaries across the nation faced dwindling enrollment. Underutilization of the buildings and property in addition to the demand to maintain the aesthetic integrity of those buildings prompted the sale, except for five acres, to the growing Butler University. Though assessed at approximately $28,000,000, Butler University purchased CTS for $20,000,000. The collaboration allowed both entities to remain independent while sharing resources. CTS leased back its buildings and property from Butler with options to remain for 100 years or leave after fulfilling at least seven years of the lease. The deal allowed CTS to continue its theological programs for the 161 students enrolled during the spring 2020 semester at the secular Butler University.

The Shelton Auditorium is part of the Butler Arts Center.

Revised March 2021

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