Queen’s closes theology programs

School of Religion pledges to preserve memory of theology at Queen’s

Theological Hall was built in 1879 and is the third oldest building on campus. It houses the School of Religion.
Theological Hall was built in 1879 and is the third oldest building on campus. It houses the School of Religion.

After nearly 175 years in existence, Queen’s has closed the doors on its theology programs.

During a meeting on Nov. 3, the University Senate voted to end theology programs in the School of Religion, including the Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.), Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.).

Theology will be the first program to be closed under the Queen’s Program Closure Policy, which was revised in 2014. 

Theology programs have been a part of Queen’s curriculum since the late 1830s, when Kingston Presbyterians presented their plans to educate ministers and youth on theology, literature and science to the 13th Parliament of Upper Canada. 

In October 1841, a royal charter issued through Queen Victoria made these plans official, and Queen’s University was born as a Presbyterian religious institution. 

Jill Scott, vice-provost (teaching and learning) and chair of the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD), says the historic importance of theology won’t be forgotten.

“The University is really very much aware of the historic importance of this program. It is the foundation of our university, and so this decision was not taken lightly,” she said. She added that the University took their time while closing the program, which made it a “successful and smooth process”.

“Even in the years leading up to 2012, they have made really, I would say, heroic efforts to find students.”

According to Scott, only two part-time students remained in theology programs after enrolment was suspended in 2014. Suspension of enrolment — which may not exceed two years — is a mandated step in the Program Closure Policy. 

Scott said provisions have been made to help those students transfer to other programs, where all of their coursework will be recognized.

As for professors in the theology programs, Scott says all of them are qualified to teach in the Department of Religious Studies, and they’ve been transitioning to Religious Studies for some time already. 

Following the closure, the School of Religion has pledged to preserve its theological heritage.

“The School of Religion has taken it upon themselves to ensure that there’s really a living memory of this program and that its legacy is not forgotten,” Scott said.

The School’s plans include the development of a centre to celebrate the intellectual life of theology at Queen’s and the reassignment of theology endowments to aid students in other programs. According to Richard Ascough, the director of the School of Religion, the School will also hold public events focusing on the subject.

“The School intends to promote public engagement with religion and theology through non-programmatic public events open to the wider community,” Ascough said. He said the events will include lectures, colloquia, conferences and workshops.

He added that Senate procedures helped the School move through the process of closing the programs clearly and transparently. 

Moving forward, Religious Studies will have a “rich and vibrant future” at Queen’s, Ascough said.

“The undergraduate and graduate programs in Religious Studies at Queen’s are flourishing,” he said. 

“We will be able to expand our offerings in Religious Studies as we go forward.”

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