Skip to main content

About this collection

This collection includes images, texts, and other material related to the history of Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) and its predecessor institutions.


CTS traces its beginnings to 1855, when leaders of the Disciples of Christ in Indiana founded North Western Christian University in Indianapolis.  Committed to abolitionism, the school prepared both ministers and teachers for the common schools for what was then the frontier.  The first campus was located at the corner of 13th Street and College Avenue.


Re-located to the Irvington neighborhood and re-named Butler University in 1877, the school developed into a high-quality liberal arts college by the turn of the 20th century. Education for ministry was a part of the larger undergraduate curriculum.  Several attempts before the 1920s to establish a college of graduate theological education at the University, however, were short-lived because of a lack of funding and lukewarm reception among Disciples.  


Meanwhile, Disciples of Christ operated a graduate school to train foreign missionaries in Indianapolis between 1910 and 1927. The College of Missions was institutionally separate from Butler, but nonetheless shared many resources with the University, including some faculty and a library.


In 1924, Disciples of Christ minister and educator Frederick Doyle Kershner (1875-1953) founded Butler School of Religion (BSR).  The new school offered both undergraduate and graduate degree programs for the training of leaders for the church.  "Open to all students on an equal basis," BSR welcomed women, people of color, and students from widely divergent theological perspectives from the beginning.  In 1928, BSR joined the rest of the University on its new campus in Fairview Park, now part of the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood.


Though BSR struggled through the Great Depression, post-World War II Protestant revivalism accelerated the growth of the Disciples of Christ and BSR. The University built Robertson Hall in 1941 to accommodate the growth of BSR.  However, in 1959 BSR entered a "separation agreement" with the University and became a free-standing graduate school, re-named Christian Theological Seminary (CTS).  In 1966, CTS moved to a mid-century modern building located on Shooter's Hill, adjacent to Butler's campus to the southwest.


Since the 1960s, an ecumenically minded, theologically progressive, and social justice-oriented faculty has aligned CTS squarely with liberal, mainline Protestantism and the school maintains close ties with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Enrollment hit its peak in the mid-1990s, and since has declined like mainline Protestantism generally.  In 2017, CTS sold most of its grounds and all of its buildings to Butler University.  The seminary now leases back sufficient space for its operations in an arrangement similar to the one at the school's founding in 1924.


Blessed by a storied history, CTS remains generously equipped for and firmly committed to its mission: "to form disciples of Jesus Christ for church and community ministry to serve God's transforming of the world."


This collection is maintained by Dr. Scott Seay, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity and Archivist at CTS.  He can be reached at or by calling (317) 931-2347.


The Items in this collection are protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use these Items in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses, please contact Dr. Seay at the e-mail or number above to obtain permission for their use.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search