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Christian Theological Seminary at 42nd and Michigan Road

With a not-so-subtle tie-in to this week’s What’s in a Name, we travel up Michigan Road, across the street from the north gates of the Indianapolis Museum of Art for a quick stop at the Christian Theological Seminary.

As the nation grew with westward expansion in the 1800s, colleges and universities popped up nearly as frequently as new towns and cities. Often, these fledgling institutions of higher learning had religious affiliations, created both to serve a public good but also to create new leaders within the communities. Catholics had a foothold around Lake Michigan with Notre Dame. Quakers catered to Richmond and nearby Ohio with Earlham College and Methodists led the farmland southwest of Indy with DePauw. Leaders of the Disciples of Christ looked to establish their own center for religious studies, intending for it to serve the whole of the Northwest Territory, a hefty region indeed.

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Ovid Butler, who donated the land near his northside home for the North Western Christian University.

With that goal in mind, they named it North Western Christian University and set up shop at 13th and College Avenue in 1855 on property donated by prominent lawyer and abolitionist Ovid Butler. NWCU would soon outgrow their (old) Northside digs, however, and accepted an invitation by a young community east of Indianapolis. As they relocated, the board of directors voted to rename the school after their largest benefactors. Thus, in 1875, Butler University was established in Irvington.

Postcard depicting Fairview Park, current home of Butler University

Postcard depicting Fairview Park, current home of Butler University

As Butler grew in Irvington, its focus broadened to that of a more secular nature. In spite of this fact, the School of Religion made the move with the rest of the University when Butler relocated yet again to its current location, on the former site of Fairview Amusement Park. Under founding Dean Fredrick Doyle Kershner, the Butler School of Religion became a melting pot for educators and students of all races and denominations, establishing itself as a progressive religious institution.

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Further growth and a desire for independence led the School of Religion to break free from Butler University in 1958. Eight years later they settled at their current home, along the south bank of the White River just south of Butler, now reestablished as the Christian Theological Seminary. Its modernist campus caters to slightly over 200 students and continues to serve a variety of denominations in spite of its primarily Disciples origins.

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2 responses to “Christian Theological Seminary”

  1. Mark says:

    Thanks for featuring this great little seminarian college that many have probably never seen or heard of.

    The architect of CTS was Edward Larabee Barnes (1914-2004). His other work (locally) includes the IUPUI campus masterplan (including the design of the library), as well as an addition/renovation to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

    Regarding Sweeney Chapel at CTS, it is one of the most amazing acoustical and visual spaces in Indianapolis. It uses minimalist design and dichroic glass to create an ever-changing pallete of color and light that is truly stunning. I highly recommend visiting the chapel in the afternoon on a sunny day when light is pouring through the western windows.

  2. phillip kent sampley says:

    My grandfather william jasper evans went to this Christian theological seminary

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