San Francisco Theological Seminary

San Francisco Theological Seminary
Type Private
Established 1871
Affiliation Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
President James L. McDonald
Location San Anselmo and Berkeley, California, United States
37°58′11″N 122°33′56″W / 37.96972°N 122.56556°W / 37.96972; -122.56556[1]Coordinates: 37°58′11″N 122°33′56″W / 37.96972°N 122.56556°W / 37.96972; -122.56556[2]
Campus Suburban, 14 acres
Affiliations Graduate Theological Union University of California, Berkeley

The San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS) is an American graduate school affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) located in San Anselmo, California. The seminary was a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, the largest consortium of graduate schools and seminaries in the United States.

Through its membership in the GTU, SFTS students have access to the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library and enjoy many opportunities to learn from and engage with religious traditions outside of the Reformed tradition. Additionally, students at SFTS are privy to the academic resources at the University of California, Berkeley.


San Francisco Theological Seminary

San Francisco pastor William Anderson Scott opened two Presbyterian schools in his churches in the mid-19th century, the second of which became the San Francisco Theological Seminary.

In 1871, SFTS began with four professors and four students meeting for instruction at the Presbyterian City College located in what now is Union Square. Six years later, the seminary moved to its own building next to the City College building on Haight Street.

The seminary moved in 1890 to a 14-acre (57,000 m2) hilltop site in Marin County about 15 miles (24 km) north of the Golden Gate Bridge. A new charter issued in 1900 gave the seminary power to grant degrees, and jurisdiction over the seminary was transferred from the synod to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1913.

In the post World War II era under its president, Jesse Hays Baird, SFTS enjoyed unprecedented expansion, with enrollment increasing to more than 300 and new buildings rising all over the San Anselmo campus.

SFTS joined in 1962 with neighboring graduate schools and academic centers in founding the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. The GTU developed joint M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in cooperation with the graduate school at the University of California Berkeley.

In 1990, SFTS opened its second campus in Pasadena, which was housed in the Pasadena Presbyterian Church. Due to seminary budget cuts, the board of trustees voted to close the Pasadena campus in February 2011. However, despite the announced closure, the seminary is considering alternative opportunities to expand their programs in Southern California.


The Rev. James L. McDonald is the 11th president in the San Francisco Theological Seminary's history. An ordained Presbyterian minister, for around 13 years he worked for Bread for the World, a faith-based advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. that urges national legislators to end hunger. He managed day-to-day operations, spearheaded fund-raising, and focused on advocacy and strategic efforts to build a broad movement against hunger and poverty. With a PhD in international relations from American University, McDonald led efforts to secure debt relief for the world's poorest countries. After receiving Bachelor of Arts and Master of Divinity degrees from Princeton University and Union Theological Seminary in New York, respectively, McDonald worked in pastoral ministry for 15 years. He was associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Bloomington, Indiana, and then served Tabernacle United Church in Philadelphia from 1980 to 1990. Throughout his career, McDonald has shown a deep passion for education that makes a difference. He was an adjunct faculty member at American and George Washington universities for nearly a decade, teaching courses on world politics, foreign policy and Latin America.

Current faculty

Jana Childers, Dean of the Seminary and Professor of Professor of Homiletics and Speech Communication

Virstan Choy, Associate Professor of Ministry and Director of Advanced Pastoral Studies

Wendy Farley, Professor of Christian Spirituality and Director of the Christian Spirituality Program

Laurie Garrett-Cobbina, Shaw Family for Clinical Pastoral Education and Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care and Education

Elizabeth Liebert, Professor of Spiritual Life

Gregory Love, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology

Christopher Ocker, Professor of Church History/ Affiliated Professor at the University of California Berkeley

Yolanda Norton, Assistant Professor of Old Testament

Eugene Park, Dana and Dave Dornsife Professor of New Testament

Scott Sullender, Associate Professor of Pastoral Counseling

Annette Weissenrieder, Professor of New Testament and associated faculty in the Jewish Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley

Academic affiliations

Graduate Theological Union Berkeley: Through GTU schools and centers, SFTS students can relate to wider communities within Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism. SFTS students enjoy free and open cross-registration with all GTU member institutions.

University of California Berkeley: Through Graduate Theological Union agreements, SFTS students enjoy free cross-registration for UC Berkeley courses and the use of the university’s research and performing arts centers, its nearly 100 library collections and approximately 80 museum collections.

Academic information

Degree programs at San Francisco Theological Seminary include:

SFTS offers graduate-level diplomas:

SFTs also offers certificate programs:

In conjunction with the Graduate Theological Union and the University of California Berkeley, students can also earn the following degrees:


Field Education - The Department of Field Education and Integrative Studies assists M. Div students in finding their place of ministry. From the Introduction to Ministry taught in the first year, through year-long supervised internships, students experience first-hand, practical applications of theoretical learning.

Program in Christian Spirituality – PCS offers diploma programs in spiritual direction and spiritual formation; a doctor of ministry degree in spirituality; a spirituality concentration in the master of divinity program; plus pastoral renewal opportunities.

Program in Advanced Pastoral Studies - APS provides experienced ministers and laypeople additional training at an advanced, or doctoral, level. This includes the Doctor of Ministry, Diploma in Advanced Pastoral Studies, Diploma in Executive Leadership, and summer continuing education courses.

Some SFTS graduates

Chung, Chin-Hong, DST, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Professor of Phenomenology of Religion at Seoul National University.

Yvette Flunder, D.Min, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Founder the City of Refugee and Chair of the San Francisco Inter-religious Coalition on AIDS.

Steven Johnson, Ph.D Claremont Graduate University; M.Div, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Professor and Chair of Religion Department at Lyon College

Musimbi Kanyoro, Ph.D, UT Austin; D.Min, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Director of Population Program, The David And Lucile Packard Foundation

Carolyn S. Leeb, BA, MIT; M.Div, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Professor in Theology at Valparaiso University.

Herb Long, BA, Stanford; BD, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Th.D, Harvard; Former Dean of Students at Harvard Divinity School.

Clarice Martin, M.Div, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Ph.D Duke University; Jean Picker Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Colgate University

Joan Carter, Ph.D, Graduate Theological Union; M.Div, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Dean of Olivet College of Art and Design of Olivet University

Neal D. Presa, M.Div., San Francisco Theological Seminary; Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, M.Div, San Francisco Theological Seminary; Moderator of the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

George Thompson Dir. of Faith & the City/Professor; Leadership & Ministry Practice at Interdenominational Theological Center

Notable faculty members

David Noel Freedman Gray Professor of Old Testament Exegesis at San Francisco Theological Seminary (1961–1964); Endowed Chair in Hebrew Biblical Studies at the University of California, San Diego (1986–2008).

David Alexander Professor of Old Testament and Theology at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and President Emeritus of Pomona College

John Dillenberger Dean of the Faculty at San Francisco Theological Seminary; Professor Emeritus, Graduate Theological Union Berkeley; Chair of the Program in History and Philosophy at Harvard University


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