One of the nation’s oldest seminaries has changed its name and removed the word “seminary” in the process.
Hartford Seminary, established in 1833 by a group of Congregational ministers to train ministerial leadership for churches, now is known as Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, or Hartford International University for short. The school is located in Hartford, Conn.
Amid the rapidly changing nature of theological education in America, institutional name changes still remain uncommon. In 2020, the American Baptist Seminary of the West changed its name to Berkeley School of Theology. In 2014, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary changed its name to Gateway Seminary in conjunction with a sale of its San Francisco-area campus. In 2017, Portland Seminary emerged from George Fox University.
A news release from Hartford International University said the name change is the culmination of a two-year strategic planning initiative. The school wants to be positioned as “a global leader in interreligious education, peace studies and religion research,” it added.
University President Joel Lohr arrived at Hartford in 2018 and led the strategic initiative.
“We’re excited about our future here because the world today, more than ever before, needs the kind of education we provide,” he said. “The goal we’ve set for ourselves is to show that religion and peace are deeply connected. Or, put another way, there will be no peace in this world until there is understanding among religions.”
Hartford already was unique among most seminaries because of its interreligious emphasis. Its faculty and curricula reflect Christian, Jewish and Islamic emphases.
Amid this diverse faculty, Hartford recently made a notable hire with the addition of Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish New Testament scholar who is a well-known author and speaker in both Jewish and Christian circles. She previously taught at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Hartford also is known for its affiliated research units, including the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, created in 1981.
Nationally, seminary enrollments have been in decline for a couple of decades, as fewer men and women are preparing for congregational ministry. Hartford offers a limited selection of degree programs: a master of arts in interreligious studies, a master of arts in international peace building, a master of arts in chaplaincy, a Ph.D. in interreligious studies, and a graduate certificate in interreligious studies. It offers a traditional master of divinity degree — the backbone degree of Protestant seminaries — in partnership with Yale Divinity School, Boston University School of Theology, Drew Theological School and Chicago Theological Seminary. It also offers a pathway to Islamic chaplaincy.
Of the latest changes, a statement posted to the school’s website added: “We already operate more as an international university than a seminary, and our name should reflect that. The term ‘university’ is considered to be more academically rigorous. External research conducted with prospective students indicates that students overwhelmingly correlate ‘international university’ with a wide variety of programs and initiatives, more opportunities for global involvement, a better quality of educational experience, prestige and more marketable graduates.”
In 1902, Hartford Seminary became the first seminary in America to allow women to enroll. In 1990, it was the first nondenominational theological institution in North America to name a female president. The next year, the school achieved another first for a Christian seminary — hiring a Muslim to its core faculty.