The University of Chicago Divinity School is a private graduate institution at the University of Chicago dedicated to the training of academics and clergy across religious boundaries. Formed under Baptist auspices, the school today lacks any sectarian affiliations.
It is ranked number one in the field of the study of religion according to the National Research Council's measure of faculty quality in its survey of all doctoral granting programs in religious studies.
The scholarly work of the School is organized through the work of three faculty committees, each of which is further subdivided into areas of study. PhD students concentrate their work in one of the eleven areas of study. Students in the various master's programs combine study in these areas with courses specific to their programs. All students are taught by the same faculty.
A distinguished Semiticist and a member of the Baptist clergy, Chicago's first university president William Rainey Harper believed that a great research university ought to have as one central occupation the scholarly study of religion, to prepare scholars for careers in teaching and research, and ministers for service to the church. He brought what was then the Baptist Theological Union seminary to the University, making the Divinity School the first professional school at the University of Chicago.
The Divinity School is located in Swift Hall, on the main quadrangle of the University's campus in close proximity to the Divisions of the Humanities and the Social Sciences for interdisciplinary work.
The University of Chicago Divinity School grants Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Arts (M.A.), and Master of Arts in Religious Studies (A.M.R.S.) degrees. It offers several dual-degree programs with other schools at the University of Chicago.
Candidates for the Ph.D. choose among 11 areas of academic focus:
The Faculty are organized into three Committees of Study:
The Committee on Religion and the Human Sciences
The Committee on Historical Studies in Religion
The Committee on Constructive Studies in Religion
The vision of establishing an institute for the advanced study of religion at the University of Chicago came from Joseph M. Kitagawa, the Dean of the Divinity School from 1970 to 1980. Martin E. Marty, a historian of modern Christianity, worked closely with Dean Kitagawa to formulate the purposes and operation of the institute within the context of the Divinity School's general mission of teaching and graduate research. The Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion officially opened in October 1979, with Professor Marty as its director. Subsequent directors have been Bernard McGinn (1983–1992), a historian of medieval Christianity; Frank Reynolds (1992–2000), a historian of religions who specializes in Buddhist studies; W. Clark Gilpin (2001–2004), a historian of American Christianity and theology; Wendy Doniger (2004–2007), a historian of religion who specializes in Hinduism and mythology; and William Schweiker, who works in the field of theological ethics. In 1998, the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion was renamed the Martin Marty Center, to honor its founding director for his singular distinction as historian, author, and commentator on religion and public life.
A number of faculty in the Divinity School and the humanities departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC), East Asian Languages and Civilizations (EALC), History, and Art History participate in an interdisciplinary program in the study of the Buddhist Traditions. Degrees are offered through matriculation in one or the other of these programs. The program sponsors workshops and seminars throughout the academic year. Affiliated faculty include Daniel A. Arnold, Steven Collins, Paul Copp, Matthew Kapstein, James Ketelaar, Gary A. Tubb, and Christian K. Wedemeyer.
Completed in 1926, Swift Hall was designed by Coolidge and Hodgdon in the collegiate Gothic style of architecture. It contains lecture halls, seminar rooms, faculty offices, a student-run coffee shop, a commons, and administrative offices. The lecture hall was formerly the home of the Divinity Library, before its holdings were consolidated into the central research library, the Joseph Regenstein Library.
Southwest of Swift Hall and connected to it by a beautiful stone cloister is the Joseph Bond Chapel. Both Swift Hall and Bond Chapel were designed by the architects Coolidge and Hodgdon at the end of the Gothic revival period in America. The Chapel was given by Mrs. Joseph Bond in memory of her husband, a former Trustee of the Baptist Theological Union, the predecessor institution of the Divinity School. Mr. and Mrs. Bond's daughter, Elfleda, married Edgar J. Goodspeed, a member of the university faculty noted for his translation of the New Testament. After her death in 1949, Mr. Goodspeed donated the stained-glass windows in her memory.
The cornerstone of the chapel was laid by Mrs. Bond on April 30, 1925, and the chapel was opened in October, 1926. In 2012-13, the Chapel was renovated and its organ was replaced by the Reneker Organ. Inspired by instruments built in northern Germany in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Reneker Organ was built by Canadian master organ builder Karl Wilhelm in 1983 for Graham Taylor Hall at the former home of the Chicago Theological Seminary. It was dedicated in 1984 in honor of the late Robert W. Reneker and Betty C. Reneker, and was moved to Bond Chapel in the autumn of 2012. The cloister connecting Bond Chapel to Swift Hall was reconstructed in 2014. A cloister garden is due to be installed between Swift and Bond in 2015.
As a Divinity School chapel in a major university, its main function is to provide a sanctuary for reflection, worship, and community gatherings. It is used extensively for weddings, funerals, mid-week Divinity School worship services, other religious services, theater presentations, and musical events performed by the University's smaller musical groups, such as Collegium Musicum. It seats about 300 persons.
Several publications associated with the university: