The formation of the seminary by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod reflected the church’s Scottish heritage and insistence on an educated ministry.
Erskine Theological Seminary originated with the 1837 incorporation of Clark and Erskine Seminary in Due West, later shortened to Erskine College. Around 1843 the theological seminary became an adjunct of the college. Erskine Theological Seminary was formally separated from the college in 1858 but continued under the same board of trustees. The institutions were reunited administratively in 1926, with the seminary serving as a professional school of the college.
The formation of the seminary by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Synod reflected the church’s Scottish heritage and insistence on an educated ministry. While the seminary adopted a three-year, postbaccalaureate curriculum after the model of Andover Theological Seminary, its relationship with the college gave it something of the character of a divinity school.
For generations the seminary played an important role in nurturing the cultural and theological cohesion of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church with its tight network of families centered in the South Carolina upstate. The seminary taught a moderate Calvinism that emphasized an ethic of simplicity, frugality, and a commitment to the life of the mind. Disruptions in the Southern Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in the United States) in the 1970s brought some of the church’s most conservative members to the seminary and challenged the old theological and familial cohesion of the institution and denomination. Since the 1980s the seminary has attracted students from a variety of denominational backgrounds, especially in its doctor of ministry program.
Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. Sesquicentennial History, Mainly Covering the Period, 1902–1951. Clinton, S.C.: Jacobs, 1951.
Ware, Lowry Price, and James Wylie Gettys. The Second Century: A History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterians, 1882–1982. Greenville, S.C.: Associate Reformed Presbyterian Center, 1983.