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Philosophical Roots        Our Unique Mission        Core Theological Beliefs    
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Pilgrim Theological Seminary is in many ways a continuation of the work begun in the late 1800’s by Rev. John Heyl Vincent, a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was one of the earliest pioneers of what is today called distance education. Bishop Vincent and several colleagues established the Chautauqua College of Liberal Arts and the Chautauqua School of Theology allowing students to study in their own community through a rigorous program of directed self study. He and Lewis Miller also founded Chautauqua Institution which still flourishes today in Western New York as a center for arts, religion, and culture.

We have built upon Bishop Vincent’s belief that the opportunity for life-long education should be available to everyone. We believe that it is the right and duty of every individual to perfect their God given talents and to have access to the kind of education that will enable him or her to do so.

Furthermore, it is our belief that the door to higher education, especially theological education, should be a wide open door. We reject the corrosive concept that higher education must be thought of as a high priced commodity to be bought and sold rather than as a precious inheritance that one generation passes on to the next.

The times in which we live and the future vitality of the Church demand that Christians everywhere have access to convenient and affordable theological education. Such opportunity must be available to all of God's people, not just to persons of means or to those unfortunate souls willing to be burdened by years of barely manageable debt at the end of their higher education experience.

The seminary does not charge tuition to take part in our program, thus making the opportunity for quality theological education available to as many people as possible. It is our belief that a person should be limited in the pursuit of theological education only by their desire and ability. We encourage men and women from all Christian traditions to take part in our program.


While it may come as a surprise to some, prisons are really communities. Many of them are larger than most small towns in America. And inside each of these prison communities the Church is present through the believers in that place. We call it the “church-behind-the-wall”.


The church-behind-the-wall has the same responsibilities as the church everywhere.  It is mandated by Christ to proclaim, to teach, to serve and to be the maternal caregiver for all in its midst who are hurting. While it is deeply appreciated that the church-outside-the-wall is engaged in ministry with incarcerated persons, it must not be forgotten that the primary responsibility for ministry in any prison belongs to the believers who live within that prison community. They best understand the language and culture; they are the ones who are there day and night with the opportunity and obligation to transform and win their community for Christ.


The church in prison might look quite different from churches elsewhere. By outside standards it might appear to be somewhat unorganized and it is oftentimes under equipped. But the Lord promises that when two or more are gathered together in his name, he will be with them. This is surely true and through the strengthening and empowerment of the Holy Spirit the believers in prison persevere, often in the most difficult of spiritual circumstances.


Pilgrim Theological Seminary is committed to helping equip the church-behind-the-wall for more effective ministry and service by providing tuition free theological education. The seminary is currently blessed with over 1,800 incarcerated students from 395 prisons in 41 states who have been admitted to our program and who are looking forward to beginning their theological education early in 2014.


All theological education programs are based upon certain core beliefs. Such foundational beliefs influence the selection of faculty, the development and delivery of programs of study, and the overall educational mission of any institution of higher learning. Pilgrim Theological Seminary adheres to the historic beliefs of the Christian faith community found in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds.

The seminary's statement of theological foundations is as follows:

GOD - We believe in the one true, holy and living God, Eternal Spirit, who is Creator, Sovereign and Preserver of all things visible and invisible. He is infinite in power, wisdom, justice, goodness and love. His mercy is over all his works and his will is ever directed to his children's good. We believe that the one God reveals himself as the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct but inseparable, eternally one in essence and power.


JESUS CHRIST - We believe in Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man, who is the gift of the Father's unfailing grace, the basis for our hope, the promise of our deliverance from sin and death. In Christ the divine and human natures are perfectly and inseparably united. He is the eternal Word made flesh, the only begotten Son of the Father, who was born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. As ministering Servant he lived, suffered and died on the cross. He was buried, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and will come again to Earth. He is the Savior and Mediator, who intercedes for us, and by him every person will be judged.


THE HOLY SPIRIT - We believe in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from and is one in being with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit convinces the world of sin, righteousness and judgment and leads men and women through their faithful response to the gospel into the fellowship of the Church. He comforts, sustains and empowers the faithful and guides us into all truth.


THE HOLY BIBLE - We believe that the Holy Bible, Old and New Testaments, reveals the Word of God so far as it is necessary for our salvation. It is to be received through the Holy Spirit as the true rule and guide for faith and practice. Whatever is not revealed in or established by the Holy Scriptures is not to be made an article of faith nor is it to be taught as essential to salvation.


THE CHURCH - We believe that the Christian Church is an inclusive community of all true believers under the Lordship of Christ. It is the redemptive fellowship in which the Word of God is faithfully preached by those divinely called, and the sacraments are duly administered according to Christ's own appointment. Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit the Church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the conversion and redemption of the world.


THE SACRAMENTS - We believe that the Sacraments, ordained by Christ, are symbols and pledges of the Christian's profession of faith and of God's love toward us. They are means of grace by which God works invisibly in us, enlivening, strengthening and confirming our faith in him. We believe that the act of baptism signifies entrance into the household of faith. Baptism symbolizes repentance, inner cleansing from sin, new birth in Christ, and is a mark of Christian discipleship. We believe that the Lord's Supper, or Eucharist, is a sign of our redemption, a memorial of the suffering and death of Christ, and a token of love and union that Christian's have with Christ and with one another. Those who rightly, worthily, and in faith participate in Holy Communion partake of the body and blood of Christ in a spiritual manner until he comes.


CONCERNING HUMAN SINFULNESS - We believe humanity is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and is inclined to evil. Unless a person has a spiritual change of heart, he or she cannot see the Kingdom of God.


RECONCILIATION AND SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST - We believe God was in Jesus Christ reconciling the world to himself. The offering Christ freely made on the cross is the perfect and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, redeeming humanity from all sin. We believe that salvation is a free gift of God's grace and is received through personal faith in Jesus Christ. In him all those who believe have eternal life, a perfect righteousness, adoption into the family of God, and the spiritual blessings needed for life.


JUSTIFICATION AND REGENERATION - We believe that no person is accounted righteous before God through his or her good deeds or merit, but that those who are truly sorry for their sins are justified before God only by faith in Jesus Christ. We believe that regeneration is the renewal of humanity in righteousness through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. By this new birth the believer becomes reconciled to God and is enabled to serve him with heart, soul, mind and strength. Although we have experienced regeneration, it is possible to fall into sin; yet even then we may be renewed in righteousness by the grace of God.


GOOD WORKS - We believe that good works are the necessary fruits of faith that follow regeneration. They do not have the ability to remove our sins or to enable us to avert divine judgment. We believe that good works, which are pleasing and acceptable to God, spring from a true and living faith. Through and by our actions our faith is made evident.


SANCTIFICATION - We believe that sanctification is the work of God's grace through the Word and the Spirit, by which those who have come to faith are cleansed from sin in their thoughts, words and deeds, are enabled to live in accordance with God's will, and to strive for holiness in their daily lives. We believe that this experience does not deliver us from the infirmities, ignorance and mistakes common to all men and women, or from the possibility of further sin.


CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE - We believe that Christian marriage is a holy union of one man and one woman in which they commit, with God's help, to build a loving, life-giving, faithful relationship that will last for a lifetime.


THE JUDGMENT AND THE FUTURE STATE - We believe all people stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ, both now and in the last day. We believe in the resurrection of the dead; the righteous to life eternal and the wicked to condemnation.


PUBLIC WORSHIP - We believe divine worship is the duty and privilege of humanity who, in the presence of God, bows in adoration, humility and dedication. We believe divine worship is essential to the life of the Church, and that the assembling of the people of God for such worship is necessary for Christian fellowship and spiritual growth. We believe the order of public worship need not be the same in all places but may be modified by the Church according to circumstances and the needs of the people.


We are pleased to extend to you an invitation to pursue theological education through Pilgrim Theological Seminary. Our academic program is designed to help meet the educational needs of men and women who:

  • wish to develop a deeper understanding of the Christian faith in order that they may become more committed and effective followers of Jesus Christ for the sake of his Church and the world.
  • wish to pursue theological study but who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to avail themselves of traditional campus based programs.
  • wish to develop knowledge and skills conducive to servant-leadership in the church, or in Christian charitable and social service organizations.
  • wish to develop specialized knowledge and skills in specific areas of study such as Christian education, evangelism, church planting, servant leadership, or other similar fields.
  • wish to develop knowledge and skills conducive to helping people ravaged by the difficulties of life rebuild their lives.
  • wish to take courses in theology to augment and inform their studies in other disciplines.
  • desire a convenient and inexpensive way to continue their theological education.


One does not need to be a degree seeking student to participate in the seminary's program of studies. Under our special student category a person may take up to 30 credit hours which may be applicable to a degree program should a person wish to enroll at a later time.


Pilgrim Theological Seminary seeks to help our students:


  1. evidence spiritual growth in their Christian faith.
  2. interpret Scripture accurately.
  3. model servant leadership in his or her own life and in relationship to others.
  4. define theological concepts with clarity.
  5. articulate the truth of the Christian faith, especially in light of competing points of view.
  1. develop biblical perspectives on current issues facing the Church.
  2. lead in Christian worship with reverence and relevance.
  3. develop competency to teach and lead others.
  4. care for and guide others as valued persons who are loved by God.
  5. understand and make use of the basic documents of faith found in the Scripture, creeds, and traditions of the Church.
  6. think and reason theologically.
  7. understand in theological terms the various aspects of the culture in which the Church ministers.

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