The Candler School of Theology, part of Emory University in Atlanta, is one of thirteen schools of theology affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The school’s mission is “to educate—through scholarship, teaching, and service—faithful and creative leaders for the church’s ministries in the world.”
Southeastern Methodists founded Candler in Atlanta in September 1914 in response to tensions within the Methodist Episcopal Church, South; the need for more clergy in the South; and community boosterism. Reacting to the denomination’s loss of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier in the year, a Methodist General Conference Education Commission, supported financially by Asa Candler, the founder of the Coca-Cola Company, assembled a faculty of distinguished pastors and scholars from around the South. The commission appointed Bishop Warren Akin Candler, Asa’s brother and the former president of Emory College in Oxford, as chancellor.
Having established the theological school, the commission turned to founding a university. Emory College offered its resources to the fledgling operation, and in January 1915 Emory University received a charter in DeKalb County. A new building was constructed for the university in Druid Hills, an Atlanta neighborhood, and was completed in time for the beginning of the fall 1916 school year. In 1919 Emory College moved from Oxford to join the theology school on the university’s 600-acre Druid Hills campus.
As of 2004 the Candler School of Theology employed forty-four full-time faculty teaching in the areas of Biblical Studies, History and Interpretation of Christianity, Christianity and Culture, and Church and Ministry. Candler awards four advanced degrees: Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Theology, and Doctor of Theology in Pastoral Counseling. The school is home to the Pitts Theology Library, the second-largest theological collection in North America. The library was endowed by the William I. H. and Lula E. Pitts Foundation.
Candler students have access to various Emory-related institutions, including the Aquinas Center, Carter Center, Michael C. Carlos Museum, and World Methodist Evangelism Institute. The university setting also opens the door to various interdisciplinary and interschool possibilities, such as the Law and Religion program. Students may elect courses at other Atlanta Theological Association schools—Columbia Theological Seminary, the Interdenominational Theological Center, and the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University.
The diversity of the student body at Candler is essential to the quality of the education it provides. Although more than half of Candler students are members of the United Methodist Church, the annual enrollment, which was 539 in 2004, also includes men and women from more than 30 other denominations. In 2004 Candler’s student body represented 30 states, 10 foreign countries, and 150 undergraduate institutions.
Guided by a mission statement that grounds the school in the Christian faith and the Wesleyan tradition of evangelical piety, ecumenical openness, and social concern, the Candler School of Theology is embedded in Christian tradition, committed to the highest standards of theological and intellectual integrity, called by an ecumenical vision of the Church, passionate for social justice, celebrative of diversity, and defined as a community by formative practices of worship and study.