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 H. Mason Theological Seminary at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) is the Official school for religious studies and graduate theological education in the Church of God in Christ. Located at a cooperative, ecumenical theological educational venture known as the ITC in Atlanta, Georgia, the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary at the ITC is part of a consortium of five seminaries and an interdenominational Christian fellowship from different Protestant denominations.
The Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary shares classroom buildings, a faculty, library, cafeteria, online teaching and learning platforms, a Building and Grounds crew, 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); Morehouse School of Religion (the Baptist Church); Phillips School of Theology (The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church); Turner Theological Seminary (The African Methodist Episcopal Church); and the Richardson Ecumenical Fellowship (Nondenominational). There also is a Lutheran Center on the campus of the ITC. Other Seminaries and Graduate Schools are in Atlanta, and students at the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary may enroll for classes at these institutions, namely Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Clark Atlanta University, Columbia Theological Seminary, Morehouse School of Medicine, and McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University.
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 ITC. He also invited Dr. Harry V. Richardson, President of ITC, to Memphis, Tennessee, to meet with the special committee assembled to discuss the idea. In the fall of 1968, the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ approved a new Constitution, which authorized a new governance infrastructure. This administration, headed by the 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 School for the training of its clergy and laity for ministry in the Black Pentecostal tradition one of its priorities. Presiding Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson, Sr. convened another planning committee led by Bishop D. A. Burton, General Secretary of the Church, and the then Elder, now Bishop, Roy L. H. Winbush, President of the Publishing House. This committee finalized plans for organizing the Seminary and its entrance into the ITC. In April 1970, the General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ authorized the Charles Harrison Mason Theological Seminary becoming a Constituent Seminary of the ITC. The fact that the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary opened its doors in September 1970, and the fact that it is a constituent of the ITC means the following; (a) the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary is the oldest fully accredited Pentecostal Seminary in America; and (2) the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary is the only fully accredited African-American Pentecostal Seminary in the United States.
The Founding Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary was Bishop, Charles E. Blake, Sr. Dr. Leonard Lovett, the first clergy person in the Church of God in Christ to receive a PhD in Religion from a top-tier research institution in the United States was the first President-Dean. Elder, now Bishop and Doctor, 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 H. Mason Theological Seminary, on the one hand, provides opportunity for students to study with faculty, who have PhD’s and published books, articles, commentaries, and other professional and scholarly literature on the Bible, Hermeneutics, Theology, Ethics, Church History, Missions, Church Administration, Pastoral Care and Counseling, and other subjects in Religious studies. It is noteworthy that members of the faculty from the ITC 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 and professional practice 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 top-tier research and graduate degree-granting institutions.
The Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary, 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 H. 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 Pentecostal studies.
The first class to graduate from the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary in 1972 was the following: Dorothy Webster Exumé, Calvin D. Kinsey, Isaac Richmond, and John P. Ruth and, since its inception, the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary has graduated forty-six classes. Moreover, alumni of the Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary are Bishops, Pastors, and Superintendents in the COGIC, and Chaplains in Hospitals and Prisons. Charles H. Mason graduates are administrators and faculty at Colleges, Universities, and Graduate Schools across the United States. Our graduates also are authors, conference speakers, musicians, public school teachers, and Chaplains in the military, hospitals, hospice centers, and in other institutions.