During the nineteenth century, several theological colleges in Montreal became affiliated with McGill University. In 1912, they formed a joint board for the academic study of Theology, leaving each denominational college to provide its own professional training for Christian ministry. This relationship between the colleges and the University led naturally to the creation, in 1948 of a Faculty of Divinity which assumed the academic functions of the Joint Board. In keeping with this goal, the Faculty offers the Bachelor of Theology and several graduate degree programs.
The original Faculty of Divinity taught theological courses for ordinands and also engaged in teaching undergraduates in other faculties a selection of courses of more general interest, such as philosophy and psychology of religion, and comparative religion. This selection grew over the years into the present BA Honours, Major and Minor programs in Religious Studies within the Faculty of Arts. In 1970, the name of the Faculty was changed to the Faculty of Religious Studies in order to reflect the new emphasis on the academic study of religion. In 2016 The Faculty of Religious Studies was repositioned as the School of Religious Studies in the Faculty of Arts.
The School is located in the William and Henry Birks Building. This structure, known as Divinity Hall until 1972, was originally owned by the Montreal School of Theology and was built between 1929 and 1931 by Harold Fetherstonhaugh, a student of Percy Nobbs. In addition to usual classrooms, offices, and common rooms, this building accommodates the Birks Heritage Chapel and Birks Reading Room.