About Trinity College at Glasgow
Established in 1856
Trinity College is the Church of Scotland’s College at the University of Glasgow.
It serves the mission of the church through research and education, including the education and training of those preparing for ministry.
It also seeks to build community and collegiality among those training for and working in ministry in the Church of Scotland, including alumni of the College.
The College is an independent charity, with its own trustees, whose relationship with the University is a customary one, expressed through a written concordat between the Church of Scotland, the College and the University. The University, originally a Christian foundation, continues to have a statutory obligation to provide for the education and training of Church of Scotland ministers and the College works to support the University in carrying out this obligation.
Trinity College has offices in Wellington Church on University Avenue, which are accessible from Southpark Avenue.
Principal Rev Dr Doug Gay and Clerk to the College Rev Dr Mark Johnston are based in Theology & Religious Studies, at 4 Professor's Square on the university campus.
Students of Theology and Religious Studies who are candidates for the Church ministry are under the special supervision of Trinity College through its Principal and the College Council. The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland appoints the Principal (who need not be a member of the University Staff) and the Presbytery of Glasgow inducts them. This is an unsalaried appointment.
Theology and Religious Studies
Presbytery of Glasgow
Church of Scotland
Graham Murray (Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie)
Trinity College Council
In Glasgow, as elsewhere in Scotland and in other parts of Europe, the study of theology in order to become an ordained minister, followed the old tradition of being offered in a multi-faculty university rather than in a separate seminary or Church college.
From 1451 to 1567, theology at Glasgow University was linked to the requirements of the Roman Catholic Church, whose Pope had issued the founding charter in 1451. It’s most noted teacher and University Principal was the Scholastic theologian, John Major or Mair. After the Reformation in 1560, the provision of theological education was linked to the Church of Scotland (Reformed and Presbyterian). Some notable teachers were Andrew Melville, John Cameron, Robert Baillie, Gilbert Burnet, Francis Hutcheson (the philosopher-theologian), and John Caird.
In 1843, a schism within the Church of Scotland occurred resulting in the creation of the Free Church of Scotland. The Free Church established its own colleges or seminaries separate from the ancient universities for the education of its ministers, as well as for the theological education of female medical missionaries. The Glasgow College, which would become Trinity College, was established in 1856 and funded by local subscription.
This multi-disciplinary institution of considerable reputation existed outside of the continuing university Faculty of Divinity, through which Church of Scotland ministers continued to be trained. In 1930, following the 1929 reunion of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland and the merging of their theological teaching facilities, the Glasgow Church college was renamed ‘Trinity College.’ Some notable teachers in the pre-1930 College included Archibald B. Bruce, James Denney, Thomas M. Lindsay. George A. Smith, James Moffatt, Henry Drummond, James Orr. In the modern era within the reunited faculty, notable teachers have included John Macquarrie, Ronald Gregor Smith, William McKane, William H.C. Frend, Ernest P. Best, William Barclay, John Zizioulas, Robert P. Carroll, John Riches, John Barclay and Ian Hazlett. Belatedly, the academic life of the College was enriched by the appointment of women scholars across the range of disciplines including Heather Walton, Yvonne Sherwood, Julie Clague, Lesley Orr, Sarah Nicholson and Charlotte Methuen.
After the reunion of the main Scottish Presbyterian churches in 1929/30, the two teaching facilities in the University and the Church College were reintegrated, although the College remained a separate charity. After 1976, when the Church-owned Trinity College buildings at Park Circus were finally vacated, all teaching of theology took place within the University buildings on Gilmorehill. After 2002, the Faculty of Divinity became known as the ‘School of Divinity’ in the Faculty of Arts and from 2010, Theology & Religious Studies has become a subject area within the School of Critical Studies. In 2018, Trinity College re-established a physical presence for the first time since 1976, within Wellington Church.
In 1976, the extremely valuable library and archives of Trinity College were deposited with Glasgow University Library, although all valuable and rare items remain the property of the Church of Scotland.
Stewart Mechie, Trinity College Glasgow 1856-1956, London & Glasgow 1956.
W. Ian P Hazlett (ed.), Traditions of Theology in Glasgow 1450-1990, Edinburgh 1993.
D. Wright, ‘Trinity College Glasgow,’ in Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, Edinburgh 1991.
Rev Doug Gay is Lecturer in Practical Theology at Glasgow University and Principal of Trinity College (Glasgow)
Mark Johnston is the Pastoral Studies Tutor at Glasgow University. Formerly from NZ, theological and mission educator, Minister, community developer.