Macalester was founded in 1874 as a Presbyterian-affiliated but nonsectarian college, making it inclusive by the standards of that day. The belief of early campus leaders was that the campus should be a place to foster spiritual growth among people of many religions and that belief is reflected in the variety of religious offerings at the college today.

Macalester College and the Presbyterian Church (USA), through the Synod of Lakes and Prairies, signed a covenant in 1983 that speaks of the historic relationship between the church and the college. During the 1960s as its student body became increasingly diverse, the college “broadened its relationship beyond the state of Minnesota and beyond the Presbyterian Church into the entire nation, the world, and the larger religious community.”

A new Covenant, developed and ratified in 2004, reaffirms the creative and intentional relationship between the church and the college. The covenant establishes a framework for working together to address significant social and faith issues in ways that result in growth and benefit for the synod, the college, and the wider community.