United Church of Religious Science has provided formal education for ministerial students since 1972, originally through Ernest Holmes College School of Ministry. In 1996, that function was assumed by a new entity, Holmes Institute, A Graduate School of Consciousness Studies. And then, in 1997, the Institute began offering a three-year master of consciousness studies degree. In 1999 the Institute name was changed to Holmes Institute of Consciousness Studies.
In February of 1995, the International Board of Trustees for United Church unanimously passed Proposal 1118, a proposal for the “Establishment of Holmes Institute: A Graduate School of Consciousness Studies”. Dr. J. Robert Gale, then Dean for Ernest Holmes College and Chief Operating Officer for United Church of Religious Science, presented the proposal. The vision of the proposal was threefold: (1) to provide higher academic and professional standards in the accomplishment of the College’s mission, (2) to give the College higher visibility and greater acceptance by the public and educational community, and (3) for United Church of Religious Science to provide a presence at the highest level for fostering its ministerial education process.
Prior to the passage of Proposal 1118, Ernest Holmes College operated under the auspices of several regional colleges. Although United Church offered general guidelines for the quality of the academic program and faculty, each college operated with its own calendar, faculty and regulations. The administration and direction of the colleges rested primarily with the independent regions. Over the years, the curriculum shared by the regions had become stagnant and it was clear that the curriculum did not adequately prepare graduates for the future leadership of member churches.
The leadership within United Church determined that it was time for the curriculum utilized in the education of Ministers to be revamped. This mission was accomplished within a cohesive academic structure with a more contemporary approach to ministry. Moreover, it was felt that the answers lay, in part, in strengthening the admission requirements of the College, the addition of uniform academic standards across the regions, creating a cohesive “team-oriented” administration to uniformly apply those standards, and by preparing and qualifying for accreditation.
To bring about the desired changes discussed above, three important steps were undertaken by United Church. In 1995, the first step was to initiate Proposal 1118, unanimously passed at the time by the International Board of Directors of the United Church of Religious Science. The second major step, undertaken in 1996 and completed in 1997, was to reinvigorate the ministerial training through the creation of a curriculum in Consciousness Studies. Dr. Robert Gale, the former Dean and Chief Operating Officer, through consultation with the Philosophical Research Society and its President, Dr. Obadiah Harris, initiated discussions for a licensing partnership agreement to create 20 new courses which would be composed of a state-of-the-art, interdisciplinary graduate program dealing with science, theology, psychology and philosophy, education and leadership. The collection of disciplines was termed Consciousness Studies.
It was decided that the new curriculum would be organized in two components: the distance delivered courses would be authored by and taught by a graduate level faculty who were well respected in their fields, published authors, and trained researchers and scholars, presenting the leading concepts and work being published in these fields; the regional education program would continue to be taught by local ministers using curriculum that is standardized throughout the nation. The College would now have its first graduate program and faculty who could, as a cohesive group, fulfill the new academic and ministerial standards.
Holmes Institute grants a Master’s Degree in Consciousness Studies that has been a DETC accredited degree since June 2003. At that time of the first accreditation, the Institute was located in Los Angeles. In July 2008 Holmes Institute moved to Golden, Colorado. The SITE visit in October 2008 for its first reaccreditation by DETC was held in Golden, Colorado.
The change in location was driven by three factors: The best economic interest of its parent organization, the United Church of Religious Science; a centralized location was selected as the best location; and, to establish a permanent home by purchasing a building.
In July 2008 Holmes Institute had a new management team that has remained the same until recently. Rev. Gregory Toole is the president of Holmes Institute. Rev. Dr. Lynn Connolly was the Director of Holmes Institute until April of 2013. Rev. Dr. Christina Tillotson is the Distance Education Dean. Rev. Dr. Kim Kaiser is the Academic Dean. The staff of Holmes Institute that has offices in Golden includes Rev. Gregory Toole, Rev. Bob Deen who became the Director in November 2014, and Maureen Thurston, the Administrative Registrar for Holmes Institute.
On March 1, 2012 the United Centers for Spiritual Living (dba the United Church of Religious Science) and the International Centers for Spiritual Living completed a statutory merger; and, these two organizations combined to become The Centers for Spiritual Living. The official paperwork for this statutory merger was filed with the DETC earlier this year. From the late 1920’s until the mid 1950s there had only been one organization, and about 60 years ago, a split occurred that resulted in the two organizations. It was in 2012 that this split was resolved and the two organizations decided to merge back into the one, original organization.
Holmes Institute has its Administrative Office at the Headquarters Building for the Centers for Spiritual Living.
In 2012 with the statutory merger of the two previous organizations, United Centers for Spiritual Living and International Centers for Spiritual Living, combining to become the Centers for Spiritual Living.
In 2013, as recommended by the Distance Education and Training Council, the Holmes Institute deleted the regional education program from the Homes Institute Master’s Degree in Consciousness Studies program. The Holmes Institute now offers a Master’s Degree Program in Consciousness Studies that consists entirely of the distance education academic program administered through the Holmes Institute Administrative Office in Golden, Colorado.