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About the Divinity School

About the Divinity School

Mission Statement of the Divinity School

Duke Divinity School’s mission is to engage in spiritually disciplined and academically rigorous education in service and witness to the Triune God in the midst of the church, the academy, and the world. The Divinity School strives to cultivate a vibrant community through theological education on scripture, engagement with the living Christian tradition, and attention to and reflection on contemporary contexts in order to form leaders for faithful Christian ministries.

History of the Divinity School

When James B. Duke established the trust fund for educational and charitable purposes in 1924 that allowed the expansion of Trinity College into Duke University, the reason for the trust was clear: “I have selected Duke University as one of the principal objects of this trust because I recognize that education, when conducted along sane and practical, as opposed to dogmatic and theoretical lines, is, next to religion, the greatest civilizing influence…And I advise that the courses at this institution be arranged, first, with special reference to the training of preachers, teachers, lawyers, and physicians, because these are most in the public eye, and by precept and example can do most to uplift mankind.”

The School of Religion began its work in the academic year 1926-27, and formal exercises for its opening were held on November 9, 1926. In 1940 the name was changed to Duke Divinity School. During its history, the Divinity School has had outstanding teachers, scholars, and administrative leaders. Since the founding of the school in 1926, the following persons have served as deans or acting deans: Edmund Davison Soper, 1926-28; Elbert Russell, 1928-41; Paul Neff Garber, 1941-44; Harvie Branscomb, 1944-46; Gilbert T. Rowe, acting dean of the faculty, 1946-47; Paul E. Root (elected in 1947, but died before assuming office); Harold A. Bosley, 1947-50; James Cannon III, acting dean 1950-51, dean 1951-58; Robert Earl Cushman, 1958-71; Thomas A. Langford, 1971-81; Jameson Jones, 1981-82; Dennis M. Campbell, 1982-97; L. Gregory Jones, 1997-2010; Richard B. Hays, 2010-15; Ellen F. Davis, interim dean, 2015-16; Elaine A. Heath, 2016-18; and L. Gregory Jones for a second appointment, 2018-21.

The current dean is Edgardo Colón-Emeric, whose appointment began July 1, 2021.

The school’s graduates have distinguished themselves by making significant contributions to the church, the academy, and the world.

Role of the Divinity School

Duke Divinity School represents theological inquiry and learning within the greater university. By history and indenture, it stands within the Christian tradition, mindful of its distinctive lineage in and its continuing obligation to the United Methodist Church. Duke Divinity School, although United Methodist in tradition, receives students from many Christian denominations and offers its educational resources to representatives of the several communions who seek an education for church-related ministry. From its inception, it has been ecumenical in aspiration, teaching, and practice, as well as in its faculty. Educational policy has consistently aspired to foster a Christian understanding that is joyfully evangelical, generously orthodox, and robustly catholic.

The principal purpose of Duke Divinity School is professional education for Christian ministry, which in today’s world is manifested in a variety of forms. Although the conventional and inherited styles of ministry are now undergoing change, the Divinity School curriculum continues to prepare students for informed and discriminating exercise of the church’s historic offices through the ministry of word, sacrament, order, service, pastoral care, and teaching. Duke Divinity School believes these offices will remain, although the form and context of the local church may change.

With this in mind, the Divinity School prepares students for the mature performance of their vocation. It hopes to develop in each graduate a disciplined intelligence, informed by sound learning and equipped for worthy professional service. Its resources are offered to students with a diversity of ministerial aims, although the school seeks, by recruitment and financial support, to prepare persons for ordination or lay professional vocations in the church. In all its endeavors, Duke Divinity School aims to serve Jesus Christ through service to the church, the academy, and the world.

Relation of the Divinity School to Duke University

Duke Divinity School is an integral part of the university and shares fully in its activities, privileges, and responsibilities. The Sunday services in the university chapel give Divinity School students each year an opportunity to hear several of the country’s leading preachers. The university libraries make a rich collection of books and other materials easily accessible. Without additional fees, selected courses in the graduate and professional schools are open to Divinity School students, as well as the general cultural and recreational resources of the university. The academic work of the Divinity School presently comprises six degree programs: the master of arts in Christian practice (MA), ordinarily a two-year degree designed to introduce students to theological reflection; the master of theological studies (MTS), ordinarily of two academic years; the master of divinity degree (MDiv), in residential or hybrid modality, ordinarily of three or four academic years; the master of theology (ThM), a one-year program beyond the basic degree; a doctor of ministry (DMin), a professional doctorate; and a doctor of theology (ThD), ordinarily a four- or five-year doctoral program.