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PCTS exists to galvanize interdisciplinary theological research and dialogue by engaging the broad, evolving theological enterprise in creative critical interaction as it encounters the always newly emerging crises of our cultural and social world.

History of PCTS

The first meeting of PCTS was in October 1939 and was unprecedented in that theologians from different Christian denominations rarely got together to talk. Discussions focused on how each of their perspectives did their work, what they had in common, and ways in which they were dramatically different.

Durwood Foster (PSR emeritus) recalls:

This group did not initially include the Roman Catholic schools—Dan O'Hanlon paved the way for this interaction some time after 1959. To begin with, there were no easily reached agreements about how to go about finding topics on which they could exchange views—Durwood reports that they were completely and thoroughly flummoxed about how to manage for a while.

The group met at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for years and some found it highly anglicsized in general. There were also controversies. Jim McClendon sponsored Jim Smith who was at Fresno and who felt that Atheism and Logical Positivism were the only way to go, and a good deal of controversy was generated by that perspective; and Bob Lee was eager to have the Society do more Sociology of Religion, and that produced discussions about a need to include a range of perspectives vs. the view discussions of the Christian perspective was the most valuable and vital exchange that the gathered could engage in.

Hugh Vernon White, who Durwood replaced at PSR in 1959, served as a bit of an "end of an era" figure for the Society. Other people who played important roles in the development of the Society were Ben Resist, Christian Becker, Sam Garrett, Dennis McGregor from So. California, Jim Robinson, Georgia Harkness, John Cobb, and John Dillenberger. There was also a German whose name Durwood did not remember. Later contributors who made contributions to the overall ambiance and significance of the Society over time include Claude Welch, John Cobb, David Griffin, and Ninian Smart.

In a number of ways, PCTS was the petri dish in which the Graduate Theological Union was conceived. PCTS served as a laboratory that explored the interactions of interreligious perspectives and Christian positions, that considered the connections between the data that the Sociology of Religion produced and congregational life and theological positions, and studied the implications for theology of the advances made by medical and physical science.

The GTU library has copies of most of the PCTS papers as well as an early history of PCTS.


Two-day meetings are held in the fall and the spring each year at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.


PCTS gives the Patricia Codron Memorial Award to the West Coast author of the book that best reflects the overall purpose of the Society. The prize is generally given annually.