The Church has been enriched and well-served by the academic pursuits and achievements of the ordained, religious and students who studied graduate theology during the 40+ year history of the Washington Theological Union. From its initial founding by religious communities of men for presbyteral education, their vision expanded to include theological education for religious communities of women, deacons, lay men and women and other members of other faith traditions.
Over 4500 students have taken courses for credit, whether or not enrolled formally in a degree or certificate program. Of these, over 1500 students have received one of the several masters’ degrees offered by WTU and a number have received two degrees. Over 800 degree recipients have been ordained to the presbyterate in their role as members of the many religious orders of men that have been associated with the Union. Although the Master of Divinity degree is primarily pursued by those to be ordained, some 45 lay students (22 men/23 women) have received this degree as well.
Beyond the degree programs, our accredited Graduate Certificate program offered many students another option to furthering their theological education. Over 200 students received one of the several different certificates offered under this program, several pursuing one of the certificates as a companion to their degree program.
Another distinctive opportunity offered to many men and women religious was a special certificate program in ministry development that was pursued while they spent a year-long sabbatical at the Union. Almost 500 individuals were awarded this special certificate in recognition of the several courses they attended during the year.
The following summarizes other distinctive academic milestones. The Union awarded its first degrees (Master of Arts in Theology) to 10 students in 1972. The premier Master of Divinity degree was first awarded in 1975 to 4 students. The first religious woman received a degree in 1977 (Master of Arts in Theology). The first laywoman received a degree in 1980 (Master of Divinity); the first layman received a degree in 1985 (Master of Arts in Theology). Five bishops and archbishops from the US and other countries have either studied at or received degrees from the Union. The largest number of degrees awarded in a graduation ceremony was 52 (2000). As a capstone, the new Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Spirituality was first awarded in 2011 to a layman, four more were awarded in 2012, and sixteen in 2013, with 18 others to complete their DMin efforts by June 2015.
Our many graduates serve the “people of God” throughout the world in a variety of ecclesial positions: bishops, university presidents, national and diocesan officials, educators, church service organizations, chaplains, and in particular many as parochial pastors, leaders and lay ministers. So has been our objective in pursuing the challenge of the Second Vatican Council to serve the people of God.