Phillips School of Theology
The Phillips School of Theology was founded on May 30, 1944, by the action of the Lane College Board of Trustees, Jackson, Tennessee, and the leadership of Bishop J. Arthur Hamlett and Bishop C. H. Phillips. While the formal Founders’ Day Service was on December 12, 1944, the school’s academic program began on January 2, 1945, with the enrollment of eighteen students and seven professors. The purpose of the school was to train ministers and other religious workers for the Christian (then known as Colored) Methodist Episcopal Church and other religious bodies. Dr. Joseph A. Johnson, Jr., (elected in 1966 as the 34th Bishop of the CME Church) was elected dean of the school in 1945 and served until 1954. The 1950 General Conference of the CME Church decided to make Phillips School of Theology a connectional school. This placed Phillips with the other five CME schools in the sharing of the general Church’s educational financial appropriations.
When Dr. U. Z. McKinnon was elected the Executive Dean of Phillips School of Theology in 1954, he added an extension program to the curriculum. Extension centers were established in Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. Classes in Christian Education, theology, homiletics and administration were held and, occasionally, special workshops or institutes in missionary work and community and family life planning were conducted.
In August 1959, the school was moved to Atlanta, Georgia, to become a part of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). This was accomplished by the leadership of many CME Church educators, including the late Bishop B. Julian Smith. Bishop Smith served as the first chairman of the Phillips Board of Trustees in its affiliation with ITC. Also, in 1959, Dr. M. L. Darnell was elected Dean of Phillips and was a contributor to Phillips becoming a part of the Interdenominational Theological Center. Under his administration the Phillips Dormitory and office building on the ITC campus was constructed. Dr. Darnell passed on November 12, 1973.
On July 20, 1974, Dr. A. L. Dopson was elected by Phillips Board of Trustees as Dean of Phillips. Accomplishments made at Phillips during his administration included a new roof on the building and the redecoration of the downstairs lounge and classroom. Dean Dopson passed on December 5, 1979. The interim administration of Phillips was by Bishop J. C. Coles, Jr., the Chairman of the Phillips Board of Trustees. Bishop Coles was succeeded as Chairman of the Board of Trustees in 1983 by Bishop William. H. Graves.
When the Board of Trustees met in January 1980, it elected Dr. William. C. Larkin, Dean of Phillips. Dr. Larkin began his administration as dean on February 4, 1980. Some achievements made under his administration include the liquidation of a $90,000 indebtedness, the refurnishing of the upstairs lounge, the establishment of the Phillips Voice newspaper and the Phillips Bookstore, the purchase of Graves’ House for PST female students and students with families, the establishment of the PST Honor Society, and a computerized record keeping and production system for the bookstore.
On May 27, 1990, the Reverend Dr. Thomas L. Brown, Sr. (elected in 2006 as the 54th Bishop of the CME Church) was elected Administrative Dean. The Board of Trustees officially elected Dr. Brown as dean in February 1991 and served until 2006. The Pastors’ Conference is one of his many achievements during his tenure in that role.
On July 1, 2006, Dr. Marvin Frank Thomas, Sr. was elected Interim President/Dean of Phillips School of Theology. The Board of Trustees selection of Dr. Thomas as President/Dean, in January 2007, is bearing fruit beyond compare. In the past six years, the Seminary has experienced continued growth in the area of student enrollment and in 2012 liquidated the seminary building mortgage. Dr. Thomas is committed to preparing persons to engage in creative ministry for their respective calls to meet the theological challenges of this age. Dr. Marvin Frank Thomas, Sr. was elected in 2014 as the 62nd Bishop of the CME Church.
Dr. Paul L. Brown, Sr., was named interim Dean on July 4, 2014 and elected the 8th President/Dean of Phillips School of Theology on January 10. 2015.
The above history is exerpted from the Phillips School of Theology history webpage.