Historical city space drives theological study and positive social change


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Erica RakowiczThe Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) in Detroit aims to provide, in an urban context, a multi-confessional Christian theological education. The seminary also promotes interfaith engagement in order to expand learning and broaden horizons.


ETS is located at 2930 Woodward Ave. in Detroit and it used to be home to one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in the area.


“We’re at the epicenter of what’s going on here- all of this shift and change of Detroit,” said Stephen Butler Murray, reverend, professor and president of ETS.


The seminary’s approach creates leadership through spirituality by way of personal change, social responsibility, critical reflection and academic studies.


When students leave ETS as graduates, they are prepared to lead communities across the globe while sharing compassion through many different contexts.IMG_7927


Social justice, gentrification and the city or the suburbs argument are all subjects discussed intelligently by students of different faith, Murray said.


“There’s a radical sense of hospitality,” Murray said of ETS.


The seminary also hosts different community forums as topics come up in current events, like police brutality, gentrification and more.


“It’s an opening of this safe and sacred space where people can speak together and cry together,” he said.


As where many seminary institutions are based within a certain denomination, ETS’s approach is to have arms wide open, where students of different denominations can study together and learn together.


“You end up with a much more cosmopolitan and compassionate view,” he said.


Since the student population is so diverse at ETS, the seminary aims to address questions of spiritual nature as well as of social justice nature, while including traditional confession and cross-cultural innovation.


The courses at ETS combine both academic work as well as field experience.


Students can work toward the following degrees and certifications at ETS:


Doctor of Ministry
Masters of Arts in Pastoral Ministry
Muslim Chaplaincy Program
Masters of Divinity
Urban Ministry Diploma
Certificate of Theological Studies
Commissioned Ruling Elders’ Program


Most students that come through the different programs offered are venturing into their second, third or fourth career, but many also bring their undergrad degrees to ETS to further their spiritual academic exploration.


Murray came from Boston and the team who hired him wanted him to know what he was getting into in terms of moving to the area since Detroit and Boston differ pretty largely. He was taken on a tour, including a tour of urban blight, and it was a pivotal moment for his decision, he said.


“The tour kind of sold me. Here it felt like it was so relevant,” Murray said of the mission and work he surrounds himself with.


This year, there are about 100 students enrolled at ETS.


ETS operates in attempt to change the low number of ordained ministers in southeastern Michigan by providing quality, through coursework and experience to take women and men of vision and shape their knowledge with some of the best theological educators to work toward positive growth.


Read about the different principles that drive ETS’s mission and find out more about the degree programs by visiting etseminary.edu.

Author: Erica Rakowicz

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