Today the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) celebrates its 20th anniversary as a school, a unique Catholic-Protestant partnership in building a globally unique type of graduate education institution. On July 11, 1997, President Stephen V. Sundborg, SJ, who had just assumed his position as President of Seattle University, spoke compellingly of an unfolding vision for STM. Addressing a group of Protestant and Catholic leaders convened on the campus of Jesuit, Catholic university, Fr. Sundborg said:
“I believe that each person has his or her own unique spirituality which is important and life-giving to discover. I believe that it is on this level of spirituality that we are most one, united, genuinely ecumenical. On the level of spirituality, the grace of Christ is larger than and reaches across our denominational differences.”
The speech marked the beginning of the Institute for Ecumenical Studies (IETS) within the school, which signaled the official start of the school’s commitment to an “intentionally ecumenical” learning institution. Becoming a co-founder of STM, the celebration marked the welcoming of students from many mainline Protestant denominations into the student body, and the involvement of many Protestant bishops and denominational executives in a collaborative venture to create a unique theological school – one taking students deeply into their own faith tradition, and broadly into a shared spiritual heritage between Christians and Unitarians.
STM now has students from many religious traditions, but also a formal partnership with 13 denominations that are committed equally to the search for identifying and experiencing shared values in faith. Over the past 20 years, the School of Theology and Ministry has moved from educational start-up to building a national and international reputation as a place that educates students to build bridges across the differences between all religions, and all people of good will. Students have an opportunity to learn how to develop a spirituality of both-and, while sharpening their ability to live a robust life of faith that is committed to justice.
“The School of Theology and Ministry began 20 years ago as an educational institution seeking to swim against the tide of the divisions in the human race that cluster around religious ideas and practices.” Dean Mark Markuly said. “Our commitment remains. Over the past two decades, people of many other faith traditions have joined us at the school’s table to seek alone and together insight into how a person of faith can work to create more just and humane world.”