JTS History


Theological Seminary (JTS) had its beginning with Shorter College in 1886 and shared many of Shorter’s physical facilities and programs.  The Seminary is named for the late Dr. Thomas Henry Jackson who served as President 1895-1900 and Dean of the Theological Department 1904 – 1912.  Dr. Jackson is a graduate of Wilberforce University.  He entered Wilberforce at the age of 14, graduating with the first class, in 1870.  In 1865, he was converted and entered the active ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, thus serving 56 years.      
Jackson Theological Seminary is owned and operated by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The Seminary is a valid Servant of the Church.  Since the first graduate, Reverend John March Murchison in 1903, the Seminary has been an effective guide to those aspiring to be useful and great.  Jackson Theological Seminary (JTS) played a major role in providing theological and religious education to clergy and lay students in the 12th Episcopal District. In order to more adequately serve its basic purpose of educating and training Christian Ministers and Lay Leaders; several Extension Centers were authorized in Arkansas and Oklahoma. At least 30 hours earned in the Extension Centers could be applied toward the 90-hour course providing other academic requirements were met.
JTS offered Bachelor and Master degrees for students who completed their Associate of Arts degree from Shorter College. While the school was not accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, the administration and faculty modeled the seminary after those that were accredited in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The leadership of JTS was recognized alternately as either the President or Dean of the seminary.  

Some of the individuals who served as Deans during the period of 1960 to 2011 were:  

  • The Reverend J.M. Watkins

  • The Reverend Rufus King Young, Sr.

  • The Reverend Nathaniel Irving

  • The Reverend Dr. Colin Lambert

  • The Reverend James R. Hooper

  • The Reverend Clarence H. Guy

  • The Reverend Clarence V. Boyd, Sr.

Jackson Theological Seminary held classes and taught courses in Theology, Christian education, Pastoral leadership and preaching continuously from 1960 to 2010. In the spring of 2009, JTS entered into an off-campus distance learning partnership with Florida Center for Theological Studies. The Florida Center for Theological Studies was an accredited seminary and using tele-conferencing technology Jackson was able to offer students the opportunity to take graduate level courses from an accredited school. The partnership lasted four semesters and ended when Florida Center for Theological Studies merged with another school that discontinued the distance learning program.  Jackson discontinued holding classes after the 2011 school year because of a need to focus more attention on Shorter College. 

Any objective evaluation of its status should include the primary concern of the original intent and historical mission.  The African Methodist Episcopal Church decided to establish, maintain, and develop an institution for the Theological Education of both Ministers and Laymen. The African Methodist Episcopal Church takes pride in the fact that it produces most of her leaders.  JTS is a positive expression of the vision and determination to sustain this heritage in a relevant and responsible manner. 
Seeing the need to provide a theological education to Clergy and Lay person, the 12th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, decided to reopen Jackson Theological Seminary and pursue Accreditation Status through TRACS, offering a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies and a Master of Divinity Degree.  Under the leadership of the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Bishop Michael Leon Mitchell, and the President Cecil L. Williams, Jr. in June 2018 Jackson Theological Seminary opened its doors to a brand-new facility for the continued purpose of educating and preparing clergy and lay for ministry from a theological perspective. Jackson Theological Seminary is in the process of submitting its application for Accreditation.