Eden Theological Seminary was established in the summer of 1850 at Marthasville, Missouri. It was established because a European education was not adequate to prepare pastors for Evangelical churches on the North American frontier.
From its beginning, Eden has embodied an ecumenical spirit. Its first graduating class included six Evangelicals as well as a Methodist and a Mennonite.
The first class had the discipline of both study and work as the institution was self-maintained. So the Seminary grew just west of present-day Saint Louis,
serving frontier congregations which in turn supported the Seminary.
In 1883, the Seminary moved to Wellston, Missouri, on the outskirts of Saint Louis,
where it acquired the name Eden. The move was to orient seminary education to the increasing urban character of American life.
In 1924, another relocation brought the Seminary to its present location in Webster Groves, Missouri. A 20-acre campus was acquired and six buildings were erected. Since that time, three apartment buildings have been built. A library building was completed in 1969. Conference and administrative centers were added in 1990, which expanded the campus to 22 acres.
In 1934, Eden Theological Seminary completed a merger with Central Theological Seminary and Oakwood Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio, which was one of the first fruits of the formation of the Evangelical and Reformed denomination.
Conversations held at the Eden campus that included Samuel D. Press, the seventh president of Eden, gave rise to the formation of the United Church of Christ. Dr. Press and the Reverend Truman Douglass, pastor of a Saint Louis Congregational Church, began the talks in an ecumenical discussion group. The Evangelical and Reformed denomination and Congregational-Christian churches merged to become the United Church of Christ in 1957.
Eden admitted its first African American student in 1933. In 1965, the late Joseph Cardinal Ritter of the Saint Louis Archdiocese became the first Roman Catholic Cardinal to address a graduating class in a Protestant seminary. Today, students from many different denominations are engaged in theological education at Eden. Eden remains committed to educating faithful and effective leaders for church and society. The seminary counts among its distinguished graduates Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr and Walter Brueggemann.
Eden Theological Seminary is committed to the study of theology in the context of the ecumenical Christian community and the contemporary world.
Three facets of Eden’s history deserve special mention.
There has always been a confessional quality about Eden’s life. Faith commitment and church involvement have been assumed on the part of the faculty. The Seminary exists to educate church leaders that God may be glorified and that the world may be transformed.
Eden affirms that Christian faith and critical scholarship are compatible and that dedicated discipleship is neither alien nor hostile to the truth of love. Faith is nurtured and openly affirmed at Eden.
Eden is an ecumenical place. The inter-denominational character of its original student body is still characteristic of the school. Today, Eden participates fully and richly in ecumenism, both through cooperative endeavors with educational and service institutions in the Saint Louis area, and through the influence and impact of graduates serving in various denominations. While a school of the Church in a particular faith tradition, Eden is a community inclusive of many traditions.
1995-1997 David P. Harkins, John M. Bracke, and A. Hale Schroer