A Berkeley Milestone

February 2, 2021

Winter 1971: What was going on at Berkeley Divinity School 50 years ago?  One year after the Berkeley Board had declared in 1970 that, due to its unsustainable financial status, Berkeley would have to either close or be merged with another institution, the seminary culminated an extensive planning process with a special meeting of Berkeley graduates. On January 12, 1971 approximately 100 graduates came to New Haven for a review of the options that had been developed to date. The input from that meeting, combined with advisory votes from current students, staff, and faculty, helped shape the final decision of the Board. On January 22, 1971 the Berkeley Board finalized and announced the decision that beginning with the fall semester Berkeley would be formally affiliated with Yale Divinity School. The school would retain its Dean, Board of Trustees, and endowments, and be accredited by the Association of Theological Schools as an Episcopal seminary. Its current students would be admitted to YDS, while faculty would have the option of a three-year appointment with YDS.  Thus, Berkeley became formally known at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

The early 1970s were a time of change for many Episcopal seminaries. In 1974, for example, Philadelphia Divinity School and the Episcopal Theological School merged to form Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, MA.  The formal affiliation with YDS, however, did more than salvage Berkeley’s situation, but rather combined the two institution’s respective strengths—YDS’s renowned scholarship and Berkeley’s well-developed practical formation for church leadership—which provided mutual benefit for both student bodies. 

Throughout 2021, we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Berkeley’s affiliation with Yale Divinity School, a relationship that has supported Berkeley’s longstanding and ever-evolving mission of providing church leadership that goes “into the regions beyond.”