In September 1981, the University of Denver (DU) and the Iliff School of Theology jointly inaugurated a program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy in Religious and Theological Studies. The University of Denver is accredited as a doctoral degree-granting institution by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association. The Iliff School of Theology is accredited by both the HLC of North Central Association and the Commission on Accrediting of the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Although planned and staffed initially by the faculties from Iliff and DU's Department of Religious Studies, the DU/Iliff Joint Doctoral Program attracted faculty from the Graduate Schools of Professional Psychology, Social Work, Education, and International Studies, as well as faculty in the departments of Anthropology, Economics, English, History, Political Science, and Philosophy, the School of Art and Art History, the Creative Writing Program and the Gender and Women's Studies program who became involved over the years, reshaping the JDP into a highly interdisciplinary enterprise.
In 2007, management of the program shifted from Iliff to DU, while continuing to offer students the full resources of both institutions. Shortly thereafter the degree changed its name from Religious and Theological Studies to the Study of Religion. The program was organized around four concentrations: Biblical Interpretation, Religion and Psychological studies, Religion and Social Change, and Theology, Philosophy & Cultural Theory. Students came to identify so strongly with these concentrations that they sometimes list them as the title of their degree.
Between 2013 and 2015, revisions made the JDP more responsive to contemporary movements by capitalizing on its interdisciplinary strengths, while uniting students into a single program focused on the study of religion.The curriculum now features a combination of six required courses for all students in the program and a great deal of flexibility and permeability between the subject areas making up specialized spheres of inquiry. The revised structure, with a solid core of electives and independent study, gives educational breadth as well as opportunity for specialization. In 2015, the JDP adopted its current mission statement: "Drawing broadly upon the resources of both institutions, the DU/Iliff Joint Doctoral Program prepares globally minded scholar-teachers through dynamic, interdisciplinary training in the study of religion as theorized and lived."
In 2016-17 a pre-existing Latina/o certificate was formalized as a certificate in Latinx Studies, with a core faculty that includes four former HTIC fellows and a growing number of other Latinx scholars. A certificate for future faculty in religion was added to strengthen opportunities for students preparing to teach in universities, colleges, seminaries, and religious institutions. Currently, the program has a three-year grant from the Wabash Center to explore broader training opportunities that will lead toward non-traditional and hybrid professional careers for the teaching of religion.