Departmental History: Religion

This timeline tracks changes listed in the Catalogue of Courses for the Department of Religion and Religious course offerings at Illinois Wesleyan University from 1851-2000. Course catalogs from 1851-1954 are available online; the rest are available in print in the University Archives.


  • In the very first catalog, from 1851, there were only a few courses that were taken that were related to religion; Evidences of Christianity, taken during the first quarter of a student’s senior year, Natural Theology, taken during their junior year, and a few Greek and Mythology classes taken freshman year, and a Greek Testament course taken fourth quarter senior year. There were no mentions of any departments or course descriptions.
  • No records of catalogs from 1852-1856
  • From 1857 until 1859 there were only Natural Theology courses


  • 1860 and 1861 there were no religious courses in the scientific course study, but a course called Natural Theology for those in the classical course study.
  • From 1862 until 1865, there was only a Greek Testament course being offered
  • From 1866 till 1869, students in the scientific course study were required to take Evidences of Christianity, listed as an Ethical Sciences, and all students were required to attend a lecture called Relation of Natural to Revealed Religion, under the ethics category, where the lecture eventually disappeared towards the end of the decade.
    • It is noted in the Course of Study description that the Scientific course had been rearranged so that it was more similar to that of the Classical course, in order to make them more well-rounded.


  • Throughout the 1870s, the courses offered remained the same as they were in the previous decade
  • In 1874, the University offered to make special arrangements for those aspiring to join the Christian ministry, and offering to arrange a special theological course if needed.


  • Until 1883, there was only one class related to religion: Christian Evidences,
  • In 1884 students were still required to take Christian Evidences, but there was also the first appearance of the Department of Ethics and Metaphysics
    • In the description it reads that: “This department embraces a course of instruction in the external, internal and experimental evidences of Christianity”
  • In 1888 the department description changed. Instead of the previous statement, there is a description of the Evidences of Christianity
  • 1889 the description changed again to a professor giving instruction in Christian Evidences


  • From 1890 until 1893, the description and classes remained the same as it was from 1889
  • In 1894 there were sections under the Department of Ethics and Metaphysics called Philosophy of Theism and Christian Evidences
  • From 1895 until 1897,there was the Department of Ethics and Metaphysics (for philosophy majors), where there were sections called Theism and Philosophy of Theism
  • In 1898 Department of Ethics and Metaphysics included one section called Theism and Christian Ethics


  • From 1899 until 1907, there was the first sighting of a religion department, although it was grouped together with philosophy to make the Philosophy and Religion Department. Under the philosophy department, students still took a course on religion, Theism and Christian Evidences. Students were still required to take religion courses that varied depending on the year of the student, whether or not they majored in Philosophy and Religion. The number of courses offered under the department started out with very small and increased over the years.
  • In 1908 the Philosophy and Religion Department was combined with the education department, split into two parts
  1. Philosophy and Education
  2. Religion
  • In 1909 the department separated philosophy, education, and religion into three categories under one department.


  • The departments remained the same until 1914, where a new department was added called The Department of English Bible and Religion
  • In 1915, under the section, Graduation Requirements, students were required to complete four semester hours in the department of English Bible and Religion
  • In 1919 the four course hours of English Bible and Religion was changed to “four hours of biblical literature.” The Department of English Bible and Religion disappeared, and was replaced with two new departments: The Department of Biblical Literature and The Department of Religious education, where they shared the same courses. In the course descriptions, it states that there are classes in other departments that are related to this department, and that students would be required to take.


  • In 1920, the department changed to the Department of Religion
  • In 1923, this department was replaced with the department of Bible and Christian Missions, although the department of Education and Religious Education was still there
  • In 1929, the department returned to being called the Department of Religion, with the two subtopics being English Bible and Christian Missions.


  • These departments remained the same until 1931, where the two subgroups under the department of religion disappeared.
  • In 1932 the departments were broken up into divisions, where religion was grouped together with philosophy and psychology. The latter were grouped together under a subheading and religion was by itself. Under religion was also the subgroup religious education.
  • In 1933 the religion requirement for graduation was reduced from four hours to three hours
  • In 1935, religion was grouped under the division of the humanities, along with art, languages, English, music, philosophy and psychology, and speech.
  • In 1939, religion was still under the division of the humanities, but grouped together with philosophy.


  • The departments and divisions remained the same until 1946, where religion remained under the division of humanities but was separated from philosophy.
  • In 1944, a concentration is offered under religion that prepares young women for the church.


  • No changes


  • Churchmanship Training Program introduced; a program that trains students to become members of the church, gone by 1964.
  • No other changes
  • Pre-ministerial training is offered in 1963, a more detailed version of concentrating in religion and includes a half-tuition grant.


  • The departments and divisions remained the same until 1972, where there were no more divisions and the department of religion was an individual department


  • No change

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