The history of Cummins Memorial Theological
Seminary is very long, rich and continuously evolving. It was founded and formed in 1876 by the Rev.
Peter Fayssoux Stevens. The purpose of
the school was to train and educate freemen who were former slaves and sons of
former slaves for the ministry of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the
South. Through the succession of many
leaders, the school became formally charted as a seminary in 1939 and changed
its name to the Cummins Memorial Theological Seminary.
For over 50 years, the basic purpose
of the seminary had never changed. This
narrowed focus proved to be a partly responsible for the decline in students at
the seminary. The world was rapidly
changing and the seminary remained unchanged in its primary focus and student
reach. Drastic reduction in student
enrollment led to the suspension of classes between the years of 1966 and
1979. However, with changing times and
new leadership, 1980 marked a new area for Cummins Memorial Theological
Seminary. It was moved to its current
location and began the slow and tedious process of trying to reinvent itself.
The new era for the seminary ushered
in an attempt to update the school’s purpose.
“Raising the Bar of Excellence in Ministry” became the working
purpose/mission statement for the seminary.
While it proved to be a necessary attempt to become relevant, the vague
statement provided little specificity to help guide the strategic plans of
Cummins. The purpose/mission statement
has been the banner of the institution from 1980 until 2015. Coincidentally, those years also mark varied
attempts at trying to bring life to the seminary which often failed. Outside of a very narrow need and response
from the immediate Reformed Episcopal Church, the seminary has been unable to
gain significant relevance in its surrounding geography.
As the seminary prepares for the
prospect of accreditation, the Board of Trustees recognized the need to rebrand
and provide clear mission, vision and values to guide the process. To that end, in March of 2015, members of the
board, faculty and student community met for an all-day retreat to re-envision
a new pathway forward to reestablish this great institution.
Nestled in the heart of Summerville, SC