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Faculty of Divinity


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 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. 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:

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 program, and today means that Trinity and the University of Toronto conjointly award masters and doctoral degrees upon approval by the TST. 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.

In 2006, Trinity College built further on its heritage of ecumenical engagement by extending hospitality to Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christian students and offering new courses in Orthodox theological studies. In the intervening years, the Orthodox community at Trinity has grown considerably, and the Faculty of Divinity now offers full concentrations in Orthodox and Eastern Christian Studies for the MDiv, MTS, and CTS programs.

Faculty of Divinity: Institutional Purpose

The Faculty of Divinity of Trinity College, mindful of the resources available to it in the University of Trinity College, the Toronto School of Theology, the University of Toronto, and the Anglican Church of Canada, is committed to a threefold mission of:

  • Providing – within a classical Anglican tradition* engaged with contemporary society –for the theological, spiritual, and professional formation of persons called to lay or ordained ministries in their many and emerging forms; and
  • providing opportunities for deepening and enriching the understanding of Scripture, Christian theology, Church and society; and
  • providing scholarship as a critical resource to Church and society by supporting doctoral education within the Toronto School of Theology and through faculty commitment to research, publication, conference presentations, and public lectures.

 Approved by the Council of the Faculty of Divinity, March 7, 2012

* We identify the classical Anglican position as that described in the Solemn Declaration of the First Canadian General Synod, meeting at Trinity College, 1893, and based on the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the ecumenical Creeds as defined by the undivided primitive church and the undisputed Ecumenical Councils, The Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, all received and renewed within the life of the Communion of Anglican churches throughout the world. These living standards and the works of those who defended them, such as Richard Hooker, the Caroline Divines and Frederick Denison Maurice, describe Classical Anglicanism.

Faculty of Divinity: Milestones

1837-40: Representatives of the United Church of England and Ireland in Upper Canada correspond with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel about support for fellowships to enable the local education of clergy.

1841: SPG having promised support, Bishop John Strachan requests his Chaplains, Reverend Henry James Grasett and Reverend Henry Scadding of St. James’ Cathedral and Reverend Alexander Neil Bethune, Rector of Cobourg, to prepare a plan for a systematic course in Theology for those to be admitted to Holy Orders. The three chaplains recommended that all candidates, including those being prepared by the Reverend Featherstone Lake Osler in Tecumseth, should be sent to Cobourg to be instructed by Bethune.

1841: November 21. Bishop Strachan announces that he has appointed Bethune, who had studied under Strachan at Cornwall and later at York, Professor of Theology in the Diocese of Toronto and that, in the future, candidates for Holy Orders will be required to take “Regular prescribed courses of theological study” and to be examined by one of the Bishop’s Chaplains before admission.

1842: January 10. First lecture given at the Diocesan Theological Institution at Cobourg, two students being present to hear the lecture. Further support requested from SPG. Eight students were enrolled by the start of the next term and thirteen by midsummer. By January 1852, when the work was transferred to Toronto to become the Faculty of Divinity in the new Trinity College, sixty-nine of the Cobourg Institution’s seventy-seven students had been admitted to Holy Orders. The Debating Society, precursor of the Trinity College Literary Institute, founded in Cobourg and brought to Toronto by the continuing students. The theological course lasted three years and included the Greek Testament, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, Evidences of Christianity, Old Testament History, Liturgics, Church Government, Ecclesiastical History, and the Greek and Latin Fathers. Students were required to write sermons, which were read by the other students and commented on by Mr. Bethune, and to undertake mission work in the parishes. 

1843: First lectures given at King’s College in Toronto, Bishop Strachan President until 1848. A few of its graduates were ordained. King’s was secularized in 1850 by the government of the Province of Canada and was renamed the University of Toronto.

1851: August 2. Trinity College Act passes legislature, with considerable opposition. The cornerstone of the new College building on Queen Street had been laid April 30, 1851.

1852: January 15. Official opening of Trinity College, Toronto, with three professors and thirty students, including fifteen from the Cobourg Institution who had not yet completed the program there. Reverend George Whitaker, M.A., of Queen’s College, Cambridge, the first Provost and Professor of Divinity. Royal Charter given July 16, 1852, ordaining that Trinity College “shall be a University and have and enjoy all such and the like privileges as are enjoyed by our Universities of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” The University of Trinity College will eventually grant degrees in six faculties.

At the opening of Michaelmas Term 1852, thirty-six students (thirteen in Divinity, eighteen in Arts and five in Medicine) are enrolled at Trinity, five Divinity students having now completed their course begun in Cobourg. The Divinity course required two years, or six complete terms, in addition to three years in Arts. Among other things, students were required to master one book of the New Testament in Greek, Scripture History, Paley’s Hora Paulinae, Blunt’s Undesigned Coincidences, St. Augustine’s City of God, Book X and Proctor’s History of the Book of Common Prayer.

1877: Foundation of the Protestant Episcopal Divinity School at St. James Cathedral Schoolhouse, which became Wycliffe College in 1882, and moved to the University of Toronto campus.

1881-1994: Charles W.E. Body, MA, Fellow and Lecturer in Theology, St. John’s College, Cambridge, the second Provost and Professor of Theology. In 1882, a second chair in Divinity is established, after an international appeal for supplementary endowment. As Keble Professor of Divinity, John Charles Roper, MA, Keble College and Brasenose College, Oxford, later Vicar of St. Thomas’s Church, professor at General Theological Seminary in New York, and Bishop of Ottawa, occupied this chair from 1886 to 1888. Theological and Missionary Society is formed January 1884 and develops considerable interest in foreign missions, particularly in Japan.

1895-1899: Edward Ashurst Welch, MA, King’s College, Cambridge and Vicar of the Church of the Venerable Bede at Gateshead-on-Tyne, the third Provost of Trinity College, and Dean of Divinity.

1900-1921: Thomas Clark Street Macklem, MA, St. John’s College, Cambridge and Rector of St. Simon’s Church, Toronto, the fourth Provost of Trinity College.

1904: October 1. Federation of the University of Trinity College and the University of Toronto comes into effect. Provision is made in the legislation that Trinity retain its right “to order religious instruction and worship for its own students as it may deem proper”. Trinity College agrees to hold in abeyance its powers to grant degrees, except in Divinity. The University of Toronto assumes responsibility for instruction in the other professional faculties and in the science subjects.

1910: Committee appointed to induce closer relationship between Wycliffe College and Trinity. Despite inducement of very substantial gift offered for a satisfactory and workable union, the plan was unsuccessful.

1912-1916: T. Stannage Boyle, Trinity ’98, the first Dean of Divinity apart from the Provost.

1919-1947: Miss Gertrude Morley, teaching New Testament Greek, the first woman faculty member in the Faculty of Divinity.

1922: First annual meeting of the Conference of Clerical Alumni, later called the Divinity Associates. From 1923, the Dean Starr Lectures delivered at the Annual Conference, first lecturer Bishop Charles H. Brent, ’84, commemorated March 27.

1925: Trinity College removes to its new buildings on the University of Toronto campus at Queen’s Park.

1926-1945: Francis Herbert Cosgrave, MA, BD, Trinity College Dublin, Provost of Trinity College. Provost Cosgrave had been appointed Lecturer in Hebrew in 1907, Professor 1909, and second Dean of Divinity in 1916.

1938: The Faculty of Divinity of Trinity College is a founding seminary of the Association of Theological Schools.

1933-1939: John Lowe, Trinity ’21, later Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity.

1940-1944: Kenneth C. Evans, later Dean of Montreal and Bishop of Ontario, Dean of the Faculty of Divinity.

1943: Together with Emmanuel, Knox and Wycliffe Colleges, the Faculty of Divinity forms the Toronto Graduate School of Theological Studies, a co-operative teaching and examining body for graduate theological studies and the precursor of the Toronto School of Theology.

1944-1962: Charles R. Feilding, Acting Dean then Dean of the Faculty of Divinity. During this period, Faculty of Divinity becomes involved in clinical pastoral education, with Emmanuel College and McMaster Divinity, one of the first theological faculties in Canada to do so. In 1944, the theological program was extended to three years.

1951: The curriculum in Divinity is revised and expanded, leading to the degree of Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.).

1954: Blanche Murphy Donovan, Helen Milton and Mary D. Rendell the first women to obtain a divinity degree from Trinity. From 1942, students at the Anglican Women’s Training College had pursued theological studies at Trinity College. Several of these women, including Gertrude Morrison and Constance Purser in 1952, had received the title Scholar in Theology (S.Th.) from Trinity College under the provisions of the Board of Examiners of General Synod.

1957-1972: Derwyn Randolph Grier Owen, BA ’36, MA, PhD, University of Toronto and Professor of Philosophical Theology, Trinity College and Wycliffe College, Provost of Trinity College.

1960-1983: Howard W. Buchner, ’47, Canon of Edmonton, Assistant Dean (1960), Acting Dean (1961), then Dean (1962) of the Faculty of Divinity and Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology.

1960: Faculty of Divinity, previously housed in classrooms and offices at 99 St. George Street, moves to Gerald Larkin Building.

1969: The three Roman Catholic faculties request membership in T.G.S.T.S. The Committee on Cooperative Theological Education in Toronto is created and, through assistance from the American Association of Theological Schools, moves to establish the Toronto School of Theology. The Faculty of Divinity joins with six other theological institutions, including Wycliffe College, to form The Toronto School of Theology, with a shared calendar and common academic standards for both basic degrees and advanced degrees. The S.T.B. is renamed Master of Divinity. The Toronto School of Theology will become the largest ecumenical consortium of theological schools in the world.

1978: The Faculty of Divinity joins in the Toronto School of Theology Memorandum of Agreement with the University of Toronto. Henceforward, earned degrees in Divinity to be awarded conjointly by Trinity College and the University of Toronto, and all conjoint degree diplomas will bear the seal and signature of the college, University of Toronto and TST.

2000: Trinity College theological library collection and Wycliffe College Library merge in the Theological Collection of the John W. Graham Library.

October 2002