If you read my post from last week, then you know that before coming to Claremont we were the school of Religion at USC for nearly sixty years! When we embedded at the end of the 19th century, the USC was also a Methodist institution. However, in the middle of the 20th century USC moved away from its methodist heritage creating a litany of financial issues for the School of Religion that was still firmly Methodist.
I spend a great deal of time reading through letters between the USC president and the dean of the school of religion. It was clear that there was no bad blood between the institutions, rather there was simply a divergence in the priorities and connection with the Methodist Church. This meant that the school of religion had to shift gears in order to stay afloat and that took the form of an entirely new endeavor, the Claremont Project!
Our first president in Claremont, Ernest Cadman Colwell, was heavily involved in brainstorming the move and also largely responsible for bringing in our faculty in those early years. Before he began the president of The School of Theology at Claremont (STC) he was serving as a dean at Emory, and he was enlisted to develop a plan for the future of the School of Religion.
Under that plan, Colwell helped to pioneer a new understanding of theological education and he used STC as the ground upon which to build his new vision. His new conception of theological education is rooted in his “Ten Commandments for a Theological School”:
- Thou shalt not become a monastery or a hermitage. Thy walls shall be siding doors and thy classrooms freeways through which flow traffic of the world’s fears and hopes and needs.
- Thou shalt open wide thy doors to the highest reaches of the intellect whatever the risks to tradition and present practice.
- Thou shalt open the eyes of thy students that they may see and their ears that they may hear what the fine arts reveal of man and of God and of their works.
- Thou shalt educate for the professions men who remain amateurs — men who work for love and not for pay or position, for thou canst not serve God and Mammon.
- Thou shalt not kill the intellectual life of thy students; neither by over-teaching, nor by triviality, nor by too much outside work howsoever noble it be!
- Thou shalt not remember thine own goodness and forget God, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in Vain; therefore, thou shalt root out the sickly weed of religious pride and plant the healthy grain of humility eager to be ground into bread for any man.
- Thou shalt not imagine that thou art the Church, for this is to imagine a vain thing! Let the Church be the Church! Ant the Seminary, a School!
- Nor shalt thou separate thyself from the Church; for the River of Life flows from the Church to thee, and without it thy studies shall be dull and dusty indeed!
- Remember that their vocation is to help the churches increase love of God and love of neighbor; so shalt thy days be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
- Remember that worship belongs to God and not to the work of man’s hands! Therefore, thou shalt not bow the knee to the nation nor to Reason, to Creed, nor to Confession; thou shalt not tremble before Government of Bishop or Board, but only under a divine judgment. For Freedom Christ hath set thee free; be not enslaved again then under a yoke of bondage!
Ernest Cadman Colwell
This was the ground upon which the Claremont School of Theology was formed, and has greatly impacted our current orientation towards a model of theological education that prizes diversity, innovation, and the questioning of the norms of education.
I hope that you all have appreciated this small glimpse into the widely complex and interesting history of our school.