History (from the 2011-2013 Catalogue)
Throughout its history the Cumberland Presbyterian Church has supported theological education. As early as 1821, one of its founders, the Rev. Finis Ewing, established a school in his home at New Lebanon, Cooper County, Missouri, for candidates for the ministry in McGee Presbytery. This is believed to have been the first theological school west of the Mississippi River. About 1824, the Rev. David McLin established a similar school for candidates for the ministry in Illinois.
In 1852, The General Assembly of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church established a Theological Department at Cumberland University as Lebanon, Tennessee. Shortly before this action was taken, a Theological Department was established at Bethel College, then located at McLemoresville, Tennessee. The Theological Department at Bethel continued in operation until interrupted by the Civil War. The endowment of the Theological Department at Cumberland University became the basis of the reorganization of this seminary in 1908.
In order to meet the need for an institution of education of the ministers of the Church, the General Assembly, in 1907, appointed a committee of five to negotiate with the trustees and faculty of Bethel College, then located in McKenzie, Tennessee, to establish a temporary theological school in connection with the college. In July 1908, arrangements were completed for such a school, and the Rev. P.F. Johnson was elected Dean. On May 5, 1911, The Board of Trustees of the Theological Seminary was duly incorporated.
In 1922, the three boards concerned with the educational interest of the Church and the Board of Education, the Board of Trustees of Bethel College, and the Board of Trustees of the Theological Seminary – were merged into one board known as the Cumberland Presbyterian Board of Education. From 1923 until 1956 the seminary was a department of Bethel College. In 1956, The General Assembly made the Cumberland Presbyterian Theological Seminary a separate institution and placed it under a new Board of Trustees.
In 1962, the General Assembly approved a recommendation of the Board of Trustees to relocate the seminary to Memphis, Tennessee. In 1964, the Assembly changed the name of the Cumberland Presbyterian Theological Seminary to Memphis Theological Seminary of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. The relocation was effected during the summer of 1964, and the seminary opened its doors in Memphis in September 1964. In 1988, Cumberland Hall was dedicated as additional space for faculty offices, classrooms and lounge areas. Then in the fall of 2003 the carriage house was remodeled allowing for additional office, and conference space and a newly remodeled student lounge. The carriage house was named the Brown – Shannon Hall in honor of Mr. Ed Shannon and Dr. Paul B. Brown.
During its first years in Memphis, the seminary steadily enlarged the area of its service to the Church and the Memphis community. The seminary has continued to grow in enrollment, size of and diversity of faculty and staff, library holdings, facilities and financial resources, and has gained an increasingly wider recognition of its program of theological education.