History of the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary
Named after Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, Sr. (September 8, 1864 - November 17, 1961), one of the most prolific and influential religious leaders in the twentieth century, the Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center is the Official school for graduate theological education in the Church of God in Christ. Located at a cooperative, nonpartisan theological educational venture known as the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) in Atlanta, Georgia, the Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary is part of a consortium of five seminaries and an interdenominational Christian fellowship from different Protestant denominations. The fact that the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary is connected to the Interdenominational Theological Center makes it the only fully accredited, African-American Pentecostal Seminary in America.
The Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary shares classroom buildings, a faculty, library, and an administration with four other constituent denominations and an ecumenical fellowship. These Seminaries and their church affiliation are the following: Gammon Theological Seminary (the United Methodist Church Seminary at the ITC); Morehouse School of Religion (the Baptist Church Seminary at the ITC); Phillips School of Theology (the Seminary of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church at the ITC); Turner Theological Seminary (the Seminary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church at the ITC); and the Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship, a group of students who are not from the six constituent denominations named above. There also is a Lutheran Center on the campus of the Interdenominational Theological Center. Other Seminaries and Graduate Schools are in Atlanta, and students at the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary may cross-register for classes at these institutions, namely Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Columbia Theological Seminary, and Morehouse School of Medicine.
Initial plans for the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary began in 1965 when Senior Bishop Ozro Thurston Jones, Sr., convened a planning committee to explore the possibility of the Church of God in Christ organizing a seminary and it becoming an affiliate of the Interdenominational Theological Center. He also invited Dr. Harry V. Richardson, President of ITC, to Memphis, Tennessee, to meet with that special committee assembled to discuss the idea of the Church of God in Christ establishing a Seminary on the campus of the ITC. In the fall of 1968, the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ approved a new Constitution, which authorized a new administrative infrastructure. This administration, headed by then Presiding Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson, Sr., and a Presidium called the General Board, made the idea of the Church of God in Christ having its own Seminary one of its priorities. Bishop Patterson convened another planning committee led by Bishop D. A. Burton, General Secretary of the Church, and Bishop Roy L. H. Winbush, President of the Publishing House. This committee finalized plans for organizing the Seminary and its entrance into the Interdenominational Theological Center.
In April 1970, the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ authorized opening the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary and its becoming a Constituent Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center. Our current Presiding Bishop, Charles E. Blake, Sr., was elected the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary, while Dr. Leonard Lovett was chosen as the first President-Dean. The Seminary officially opened in the fall of 1970. Bishop Dr. Oliver J. Haney, Jr., served as President-Dean of the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary from 1974 until his retirement in June 2004. Elder Arthur F. Mosley served as the interim President-Dean from 2002-2005. Dr. Harold Bennett is the current President-Dean, and he was selected to lead the Seminary in 2005.
The Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary, on the one hand, provides opportunity for students to study with faculty, who have PhD’s and have published books, articles, commentaries, and other scholarly literature on the Bible, Hermeneutics, Theology, Ethics, Church History, Missions, Church Administration, and other subjects in Religious studies. Noteworthy is it that members of the faculty from the Interdenominational Theological Center are members of the Society of Biblical Literature, the American Academy of Religion, The Society for Pentecostal Studies, The Society for the Study of Black Religion, and a host of other professional associations related to the study of and examination of Religion and Theology. As it was said above, students who attend the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary at the ITC study with faculty who received their PhD's in Religion and Theology from Vanderbilt, Yale, Harvard, Emory, Boston University, Duke, and other major research and graduate degree granting institutions here in the United States.
The Charles Harrison Mason Theological, on the other hand, provides opportunity for students to interact and receive instruction and training from current leaders and officials of the Church of God in Christ on major social, historical, theological, and ethical issues that affect the Christian community in general and the Church of God in Christ in particular. This type of instruction takes the form of forums, lectures, presentations, and other methods of exposure made possible by the introduction of technology in the classroom. What is more, the Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary sponsors conferences, symposia, dialogues, and other types of formal meetings, which examine specific issues in the life of the Church of God in Christ and in Pentecostal studies.
The overall charge of the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary, the official school for graduate training in theology and religious studies in the Church of God in Christ, is to educate men and women for ministry and other forms of service in the Church of God in Christ, and for careers in religious education in the global community. The Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary seeks to position men and women to advocate for a liberating and transforming spirituality, where the Baptism of/in the Holy Spirit and the life of the mind intersect.