- About CDSP
- Alumni / ae
- News & Info
CDSP began in 1893 as a venture of faith on the part of its founding dean with a vision of training clergy locally for the Episcopal Church in the far west.
The Rt. Rev. William F. Nichols, second bishop of the Diocese of California, understood better than many the peculiar character of the frontier society springing up on the Pacific slope. Without a history of church establishment in the West, Nichols recognized the importance of earning one’s place through a patient pastoral presence animated by missionary spirit.
Wealthy businessman and devout Episcopalian George Gibbs donated a building and property in San Mateo so Bishop Nichols could build his “divinity school.” The original seminary, built in 1893 in San Mateo, was called Gibbs Hall. Later Gibbs’ widow, Augusta, would build a new seminary building next to Grace Cathedral after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. CDSP provided a traditional Anglican education in divinity for students from all over the West, as well as from outside the United States, including China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands.
Move to Berkeley
In 1924, CDSP’s by-laws were amended to provide for provincially elected trustees and the school was moved from its close association with the Diocese of California to Berkeley. There, benefitting from close relations with other Protestant seminaries already established in the East Bay, its deans and faculty began to build a graduate program of professional education in ministry.
Under Dean Henry Shires, CDSP was the fifth of the eleven Episcopal seminaries to be accredited by the Association of Theological Schools. In 1962, the promise of ecumenical cooperation that had drawn CDSP to the East Bay blossomed into the creation of the Graduate Theological Union, the fruits of which included a respected and growing program of doctoral studies.
Women in Ministry
CDSP helped to train women church workers through its close association with another provincial school, the neighboring St. Margaret’s House. CDSP was also the first Episcopal seminary to enroll women in the Bachelor of Divinity program (which later became the M.Div. program), awarding that degree to Ethel Springer in 1941. Local clergy and other bishops had long been adjunct faculty at CDSP, and in 1970 a field education program was begun.
In 1974, after decades of more informal arrangements, a concerted effort in continuing education emerged for clergy, church musicians, and other religious professionals. In 1990, building on these efforts, CDSP initiated the first seminary program in ministry development, which sought to provide theological education for lay leaders as well as clergy. Since 1995, the seminary’s Center for Anglican Learning & Leadership has forged an educational partnership with the wider Church, offering programs, including online courses and weekend seminars, that address the issues most critical to the ministries of both ordained and lay persons.
An International Center of Distinction
Although rooted in the West, CDSP has consistently reached beyond the confines of both geographical and ideological boundaries. From the beginning, one third or more of its graduates have served the Church east of the Rockies and in mission fields all over the world. Its online students engage CDSP faculty from nearly every state in the U.S.
Having never been captive to any one theological party or liturgical style, CDSP has offered a pioneering vision in such areas as the ministry of women and the ecumenical movement. At the same time, CDSP has remained committed to its Anglican heritage—respecting the past while adapting to the present, moving into its second century of cooperative ministry and service with equally courageous faith and commitment.