Berkeley School of Theology (BST) (1871) has served at the center of Baptist and ecumenical theological education in the far west of the United States for the last 150 years. BST is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches in the United States (ABCUSA) and is a founding school of the Graduate Theological Union (1962). Prominent American Baptist leaders in America include the founding father of Rhode Island, Roger Williams; businessman, John D. Rockefeller and educator, Laura Spelman Rockefeller; social gospel theologian, Walter Rauschenbusch; U.S. Presidents Warren Harding and Harry Truman; Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr.; U.S. Senator, Rev. Rafael Warnock; and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a member of the BST Board of Trustees. Though steeped in the historic “free church” heritage, BST board, faculty and students hail from a variety of denominational and religious traditions in the U.S. and around the world.
In the early 1840’s, while California was still a part of Mexico, the Baptist Home Missions Society (BHMS) sent its first mission-workers to the Bay Area with the specific mandate to inaugurate educational institutions. Those early dreams were waylaid until 1863 when the first educational convention of the new Baptist association was held in San Francisco. Berkeley School of Theology traces its lineage to this visionary spirit of BHMS that was also establishing Baptist educational institutions during the Reconstruction period in American history for men and women freed from slavery and Native Americans seeking education. Colleges like Morehouse, Spelman, Ottawa, and Bacone College, along with Berkeley School of Theology, were all established by BHMS in the spirit of liberty and justice for all. Indeed, an early president of Berkeley School of Theology was one of four ministers to preach at President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, while another Baptist educator would soon become the eighth president of UC Berkeley just down the road. The Sather Gates and land-mark Campanile (bell-tower) at the heart of the UC Berkeley campus speak to Baptist philanthropy, leadership and commitment to higher education in Northern California and at Berkeley School of Theology.
Berkeley School of Theology was chartered in 1871 as California College. The pioneering and innovative spirit of its founders has guided it through a series of mergers and transformations under seven different names throughout its 150-year history. The historic architecture of the main campus was designed by the famed Berkeley architect, Julia Morgan. Today BST, offers a wide range of programs from specialized certificates, several Masters degrees leading to the Doctor of Ministry or the Ph.D.
Berkeley School of Theology offers its students a myriad of theological and interreligious resources and classes through cross-registration in the largest partnership of seminaries, centers and graduate schools of theology and religion in the United States. In addition, BST students have access to one of the finest theological libraries in the world, and an uncommonly large faculty of distinguished scholars, along with the resources of the University of California, Berkeley. Studying at Berkeley School of Theology offers one of the greatest spiritual adventures of a lifetime, preparing our graduates to serve God, churches, and the whole world in a host of different ministry settings.