The Faculty of Divinity of Trinity College traces its origins to 1841 and the desire of the Diocese of Toronto of the Church of England to take the education of its clergy into its own hands. The result was the creation of the Theological Institution in Cobourg, Canada West, then expected to emerge as the leading city in the section of the Great Lakes which is now included in the Province of Ontario.
Trinity College appeared ten years later, in 1851, in Toronto, the urban area rising to hegemony in the region instead of Cobourg. The new College incorporated the Cobourg Institution as the basis of its Faculty of Divinity. The College was the handiwork of lay people and clergy in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, acting under the leadership of the Honourable and Right Reverend John Strachan, first Bishop of Toronto. They intended it to be the Church of England university in Upper Canada, the new name for the southern portion of today's Ontario. In 1852 the College received a royal charter from Queen Victoria, raising it to the status of a university with the right to grant degrees. It became known as the University of Trinity College. The occasion of Trinity's founding was the secularization of the University of King's College, which had been the first attempt to establish a Church university and which became the University of Toronto on 1 January 1850.
Trinity played an important role in the intellectual, social, and religious life of the region as an independent university until 1904, conferring degrees in seven faculties--Arts, Divinity, Medicine, Law, Music, Dentistry, and Pharmacy. In that year, in response to the movement to provide more adequate educational facilities and resources for a growing population, Trinity College federated with the University of Toronto. Trinity ceased to give instruction in faculties other than Arts and Divinity. Under the terms of the federation agreement, degrees in Arts are conferred by the University of Toronto. After 1904, the College has continued to exercise the rights of an independent university with respect to its Faculty of Divinity. Trinity provides for the instruction of its theological students, and confers its own degrees in Divinity.
From 1944, Trinity has cooperated at the advanced degree level with other theological institutions in the Toronto Graduate School of Theological Studies. The success of this enterprise led Trinity to participate in establishing the Toronto School of Theology in 1969. The resources of nearby theological colleges which were federated or affiliated with the University of Toronto became available to the students and professors of Trinity at both the basic and advanced degree levels. The Toronto School of Theology continues today as a federation of seven colleges representing different Church traditions:
- Emmanuel (United Church of Canada),
- Knox (Presbyterian),
- Regis (Roman Catholic, Jesuit),
- St. Augustine's (Roman Catholic, Archdiocese of Toronto),
- St. Michael's (Roman Catholic, Basilian),
- Trinity (Anglican), and
- Wycliffe (Anglican, Evangelical).
Six of these colleges are located within walking distance of each other on the main campus of the University of Toronto.
The TST offers a common curriculum and timetable, as well as open access for the students of all colleges to all courses. Thus 1994 marked a half-century of ecumenical higher education in Toronto and a quarter century of the Toronto School of Theology.
In 1978, by a "Memorandum of Understanding", Trinity and the other colleges of the Toronto School of Theology entered into a closer relationship with the University of Toronto for the purposes of higher education in theology. The arrangement brings added resources to the programme, and today means that Trinity and the University of Toronto conjointly award the degrees of M.Div., Th.M., and Th.D., upon approval by the TST.
In addition to the shared resources of the colleges and the university, other centres are available to Trinity students. These include the Ecumenical Forum, the Toronto Institute for Pastoral Education, and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Many students take their Field Education under ecumenical auspices, either in clinical settings or in urban and social training.
Through the Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto, Trinity students and professors enjoy the resources of one of the most important centres of theological education in North America.
Since 1938, the Faculty of Divinity of Trinity College has enjoyed accredited membership in the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. Through that body the College helps to define the standards of theological education throughout the continent and to participate in evaluating the quality of theological studies.
Trinity College honours its ongoing Anglican tradition in theological education. The Faculty of Divinity of the College, the presence of an Anglican Chapel with a full-time chaplain, the membership of the Anglican bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario in the governing Corporation, and many other features of the College all assist in fostering creative expressions of Anglican ethos and practice in the midst of a modern, secular university.
At the same time, the College values its independence in the pursuit of truth, acknowledges no direct ecclesiastical control, and places no religious tests upon its students. The College seeks to work out continuously beneficial relationships with the Church, the university, and society for the lasting good of theological education.