The Tennessee School of Religion, formerly known as J. L. Campbell School of Religion, and the Tennessee Baptist School of Religion, was founded in 1944 by a group of ministers namely, Reverends A.E. Campbell, L. R. Donson, A. H. Rice, A. J. Campbell, C. J. Gaston, C. H. Murphy, A. E. Freeman, A. L. Sadler, W. Herbert Brewster and James F. Estes, Esquire who withdrew from the Tennessee Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention and formed the Tennessee Regular Baptist Convention to settle the dispute of organizing a school of religion for training ministers and persons for church and religious leadership.

The aforementioned body politic set forth the purpose of conducting a general religious and education institution in the following order:

  1. To establish a religious educational college for the training of ministers, missionary workers, church laymen and laywomen
  2. To conduct courses of studies and give instructions in theology, youth work, counseling, religious organizations, church administration, church social work and church finance.  Other branches of study pertaining to a thorough religious education are offered.
  3. To institute instructions in academic education as required for an adequate foundation to enter college level work.
  4. To build toward completing necessary requirements for issuance of degrees in arts, science, theology, religious education and other related degrees.  Honorary degrees are authorized to be given upon appropriate merits.
  5. To hold, receive, transfer, bargain and sell real and personal property in the institution’s own name for the benefit of educational and religious purposes.

The school was named for the first President of the newly formed Tennessee Regular Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. J. L. Campbell, pastor of the St. Stephen Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.  The first President of the J. L. Campbell School of Religion was the Rev. Dr. Charles Epps, Pastor of the Gospel Temple Baptist Church of Memphis, Tennessee.  Rev. Dr. A. H. Rice followed Dr. Epps.  Under the leadership of Dr. Rice, the school was moved to a spacious building located at 40 S. Parkway E. in Memphis.  At that time the school awarded Certificates and Diplomas.

Dr. Rice was succeeded by Rev. Dr. C. M. Lee who added the bachelor program and effected the name change to the Tennessee Baptist School of Religion in order to give access to those who were not a part of the Tennessee Regular Baptist Convention.  A change in the charter was made to accommodate the new degree as well as allow the awarding of the Honorary Doctorate degree in Divinity, Humanities, and Humane Letters.

When Dr. Lee went to sleep with his fathers, the Board of Trustees selected the Rev. Dr. Reuben H. Green, Sr. to lead the School.  The name was changed to Tennessee School of Religion in order to provide a more ecumenical environment.  Dr. Green set out to strengthen the faculty.  One third of the faculty members have earned the doctorate degree in their respective fields.  Under the leadership of Dr. Green and the late Dean A. J. Campbell, the School strengthened its curriculum and a Master of Theology program was added.

In 1983 the School moved to the Central Baptist Church, Inc., for one year.  In 1984 a new Board of Trustees was formed with the view of moving the School from the Church to a new location on Cameron Street.  The School outgrew the facilities on Cameron and moved to Berean Missionary Baptist Church, 1666 E. Raines Road where it remained for three years.  At the invitation of the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association (under the dynamic leadership of the Rev. Dr. J. L. Payne), the school moved to 591 East McLemore Avenue.  In March 2009, the Memphis Baptist Ministerial Association facilities underwent renovations, and the school has relocated to Berean Missionary Baptist Church, 1666 E. Raines Road.

Dr. Green finished his earthly assignment in April of 2008.  At the Commencement on May 15, 2008 Dr. Edward Parker, Jr., officiated.  Dr. Parker, an alumnus of the Tennessee School of Religion and a faculty member since 1985, was elected to succeed Dr. Green as President on July 10, 2008.