Faith-based institutions were pioneers in higher education in the United States. In fact, Harvard University — the oldest higher education institution in the nation — was established in 1636 by Minister John Harvard and was primarily responsible for training clergy in its early days. Since then, it has evolved into a private institution that teaches a variety of subject areas.
Many of the other early colleges were pioneered as the result of a need for formal education for ministers and other church officials. In particular, Yale University — which was known as Collegiate School during its founding — was founded by clergymen. Other schools, like Princeton University, the University of Philadelphia, and Columbia University, were all initially founded with faith affiliations. It was the founders’ mutual desires to promote education based on religious tradition that led to the establishment of the colleges — a mission for which the Christian colleges of today still strive.
Popular denominations during the early establishment of higher education included Puritans, Presbyterians, and Baptists. Members of these denominations were interested in developing an educational system that could meet the educational needs of the colonies that would soon become the United States of America. Without the help of Christian denominations through our nation’s history, the higher education system would not be what it is.
Today, there are many colleges and universities that embody the beliefs and traditions of the Presbyterian and Baptist Churches, as well as dozens (if not hundreds) of other bodies of worship. Here are some of the more popular ones:
Anglican denominations include the Christian Episcopal Church, the Anglican Orthodox Church, and the Reformed Anglican Catholic Church.
Sub-denominations of the Baptist Church include the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America, Free Will Baptists, and Southern Baptists.
Denominations include the Church of the Nazarene and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
Sects within the Latter-Day Saints include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ.
Subdivisions in the Lutheran denomination include the Church of Lutheran Brethren and Lutheran Congregations in Missions for Christ.
Methodist denominations include the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the Free Methodist Church, and the Bible Christian Church.
Catholic denominations include the Orthodox Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
There are also many religious schools that are non-denominational. These Christian colleges do not formally subscribe to a particular denomination, but they seek to adhere to general Christian principles and beliefs regardless. It brings together Christians who want to celebrate their love of God without declaring themselves members of a particular sub-group.
Other schools may consider themselves interdenominational or transdenominational, which is a label for schools or churches that bring together Christians of multiple denominations. The goal of these institutions is to foster an accepting atmosphere for members of various Christian sects to come and worship together despite their differences.
Though they may vary in how they celebrate and worship God, many faith-based institutions share similar values and ideals, despite differences in denominations. They hope to promote spiritual, academic, and moral development, while providing a safe atmosphere in which students can learn and worship.