Our History

Standing on a hill overlooking Cochrane, Alberta there is a statue of a cowboy on his horse. The statue is entitled "Men of Vision" and was erected in memory of those early pioneers who established the area as a ranching operation in the 1880s which continues to the present day.

 

On another hill overlooking Cochrane stands the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College. Although without a statue, the seminary is a living testimony to the vision of pioneer Canadian Southern Baptists who desired to have a place to train their future pastors and church leaders.

 

Officially opened in 1987, the history of the school actually begins much earlier. What follows is one attempt to trace the story of Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary & College from those early times to today. Truly, there were and are "Men of Vision" who prepared and sustain the dream of theological training for Canadian Southern Baptists.

 

In the early 1950s pastors and lay leaders of Regular Baptist churches of British Columbia met Southern Baptists from the Baptist General Convention of Oregon-Washington. They were impressed with educational materials produced by Southern Baptists that had a distinctly Baptist approach to missions and evangelism. Their desire for training was met initially through conferences, seminars and other short-term opportunities. However, something more was needed.

 

In 1963 the Canadian Southern Baptist Conference was formed. This development provided a framework for pastors and churches to work together. In the mid 70s, Canadian Baptist Theological College was founded in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan under the direction of Henry Blackaby, pastor of Faith Baptist Church. Drawing students mainly from Saskatchewan and Alberta, the college filled a need for basic theological training for the conference. Teachers in the college included pastors from the local area as well as pastors from distant cities who commuted to Saskatoon.

 

In the early 1980s a Theological Education Study Committee was formed to explore theological education needs for the Canadian Southern Baptist Conference. The committee reported to the conference annually.

 

In 1984 the Southern Baptist Convention encouraged Canadian Southern Baptists to form their own convention and voted to make its resources available to the new entity. As a result, in 1985, the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists was formed and a decision was made to establish a seminary offering graduate level theological training.

 

The new Convention asked the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to help. The offer was accepted. Resources were now available to meet the long-standing need and desire to train future pastors and church leaders in Canada. A date of 1987 was set for opening the new school. The first office of the school was located in the Crowchild Square Shopping Plaza in Northwest Calgary.

 

Two events made the 1987 start-up date attainable. First, a 149-acre parcel of land overlooking the town of Cochrane, Alberta became available at a much-reduced price. Ten years later, Cochrane would be the fastest growing community in all of Canada. Second, Foothills Christian College in Calgary closed and their 7,000 volume library, along with a variety of equipment, was purchased for the new seminary. Over the summers of 1986-87 a maintenance shop and main administrative building which housed classrooms, offices, chapel and library was constructed with volunteer help.

 

When the sod-turning ceremony for the administration building was held in April 1987, Rev. John Cunningham, retired pastor of Cambrian Heights Baptist Church in Calgary, was present. One of the early pioneers in Canadian Southern Baptist work, Pastor Cunningham wept for joy as he helped turn the first shovel of dirt. He rejoiced to see the fulfillment of a 30-year dream and added his own personal library to the seminary as a sincere gesture of gratitude for the ministry of the school.

 

The International Mission Board (IMB) provided most of the funds for these purchases of land, buildings, books and equipment. Through the first nine months of 1987, the FMB contributed $821,000. James Teel, fraternal representative of the IMB, moved to Canada in March 1987 with the assignment to coordinate start-up activity for the school. A fund-raising campaign, Come Share the Dream, among the churches of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists raised $180,000 dollars. This was a remarkable amount from a new convention consisting of only 85 churches with approximately 5,000 members. An example of the enthusiasm and sacrifice in support of the offering for the school was given by 4-year-old Mark Graham of Vancouver who gave $92 (with his parents' help).

 

The first CSBS&C president was Dr. Clint Ashley, hired in 1986. A former missionary to Brazil and pastor in Pullman, Washington, Dr. Ashley had served earlier on a liaison committee of the Baptist General Convention of Oregon-Washington and Canada and was familiar with the quest for theological education in Canada.

 

In the summer of 1987 the first two professors arrived: Drs. Wayne Cook and Mike McGough. The seminary opened in August 1987 with 20 students: 16 men and 4 women. Since the main administrative building was not complete, classes began in the maintenance building. Chapel services were conducted there also, with an overturned, empty trash can serving as a pulpit. The first four classes taught were New Testament Survey, Beginning Greek, Preaching and Systematic Theology.

 

The next summer three more professors arrived: Drs. Bob Tucker, Broadus Hale and Duane Garrett. All five professors were IMB personnel.

 

Dedication of the school took place in November 1987 during the annual meeting of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. Dr. Russell Dilday, Jr., president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas delivered the dedication message. The ceremony was held in the main administrative building that had just been completed. Classes were conducted in this building from October 1987 to May 1996.

 

Advisory Council

 

James Teel initiated an Advisory Council for the school. This group, consisting of Canadians and Americans, has been a valuable friend of the seminary through prayer, promotion, fund-raising and fellowship. The group has fluctuated in membership through the years with an average size of 30.

 

Having served as the first president of the Council, Don Dilmore (from Texas) volunteered two years on campus as Director of Development (1993-95). Serving on the council in the early 1990s, Wayne Key (from Calgary, Alberta) became a student at the school in 1996, followed by Bob Spears, who has also served on the Council for many years. Alumni Darcy Cust (1990), Kevin Trick (1992), and Ross Lincer (1998) also serve on the Council.

 

The first graduation (May 1990) had six graduates, four of whom became pastors of Canadian Southern Baptist churches. With the placement of Canadian pastors, trained in Canada by Southern Baptist professors, the dream of those early pioneers became a reality.

 

Enrollment

 

Student enrollment at the school has gradually increased through the years. The 1990-91 school year saw 27 on-campus students. From 1991-1997 average enrollment ran between 30 and 40. In 2001-2002, 75 students enrolled at the Cochrane campus. In the fall of 2002, however, enrollment jumped by 30%. For the first time, enrollment surpassed the 100-mark, with 102 students studying, either on campus or via the Internet.

 

Off-campus courses in cities such as Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal provided theological training for several hundred students. Called Continuous Ministry Education (CME), this program provided valuable ministry training for many who could not otherwise take courses. Faculty members from Cochrane as well as on-site seminary extension faculty provided teachers for this program.

 

Trustees

 

Seminary trustees provide an important link between the seminary and churches in the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. Trustees are elected by messengers from the churches at annual meetings of the convention. They are elected for four one-year terms and have the responsibility for helping the school achieve its goals, policies and vision. Trustee boards consist of seven men and women. They meet twice annually and report directly to the national leadership board of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists. Six seminary graduates have served as trustees of the school.

 

Buildings

 

Buildings have been added to the seminary campus through the years. A maintenance building and main administration building were built in 1987. In October 1990 eight student apartments were completed. These residences were constructed by volunteers from Canada and the U.S. In the summers of 1995 and 1996, a new academic building was constructed by the Texas Baptist Men at a cost of 1.4 million dollars. Texas Baptist Men not only built the building but also raised the funds for the project. This building now houses all academic functions of the school except the library. With classrooms, student lounges, chapel/dining area, bookstore and faculty offices the academic building can accommodate up to 150 students. In 1998 eight student-housing units were constructed by Texas Baptist Men volunteers, and in 2000 an additional 12 housing units were built. In 2002, an additional 18 units were constructed, with 12 being completed for the fall 2002 semester, and 6 more for fall 2003. This will bring the total number of student residence units to 46.

 

In 1997 a new maintenance building was constructed next to the convention office building. As a part of this overall project, the former maintenance building was completely renovated and remodeled to house five guest accommodations: three one-bedroom fully furnished suites, and two efficiency units, all with the help of volunteers. While the 12 student apartments were being constructed in 2000, Texas Baptist Men volunteers constructed a woodworking shop adjacent to the maintenance building. Since that time, that shop has been used by faculty, staff, and students to build furniture for school offices, the library, and cabinetry for new student apartments.

 

Although not a separate building, the library is essential to academic life at the school. The library began with 7,000 volumes purchased from Foothills Christian College. In August of 1986, the late Dr. Keith Wills, retired director of library services of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, came to organize and increase library holdings. Through Dr. Wills' solicitations, several retired professors' personal libraries were donated. Augmented by these contributions and other donations and purchases, the library presently contains volumes and periodicals approaching 40,000 in number. Dr. Wills was assisted from the beginning by Mrs. Catherine Schmidt, who later became the school librarian. Mrs. Kathy Seidler (MLS) currently directs the library and in May 2003 graduated from the seminary with her Master of Divinity Degree.

 

Student Life

 

Student life beyond the classroom is diverse and directed toward fellowship and ministry. Having students from other countries and cultures has greatly enriched school life. The international flavor of Chinese, Korean, Brazilian, Haitian, Lithuanian, Arabic, Spanish, Filipino, British, South African, Kenyan, Singaporean, Ethiopian, Dutch, and American students has broadened the seminary's world view. A picnic at the beginning of the academic year helps the entire seminary community get acquainted. Weekly Friday fellowships have a focus on sharing of events going on within the seminary family. Chapel services are conducted twice a week with a focus on scripture exposition and prayer. The annual Christmas party is a feast of food, fun and fellowship for students and their families. (Journey groups allow professors to talk informally with students about real-life issues and concerns.) Held in conjunction with spring break, the annual Seminary Day emphasis in the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists gives students opportunities to minister in churches across Canada. Students also serve churches and other service organizations in a variety of ways on a regular basis in the greater Calgary and southern Alberta area. An interesting by-product of seminary life has been weddings. Thus far, ten single students have found life partners while studying at seminary.

 

Financial Aid

 

Financial aid for students is important. When the school opened in 1987 only two scholarships were available. The Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists scholarship provides a substantial tuition subsidy for each student who is a member of a Canadian Southern Baptist church. The Len Koster Memorial scholarship is awarded annually and gives preference to older students who feel God's call to share His word and establish churches in Canada or elsewhere in the world. Presently, the seminary has twelve scholarships that provide financial aid to students. These scholarships provide financial help to students ranging from First Nations students to those called to serve as foreign missionaries.

 

Post-School

 

As of May 2003 the school has 97 alumni, which total includes six Doctor of Ministry graduates. Currently 78 percent of the alumni serve in ministry vocations. Graduates have ministered in Canada from Vancouver Island to New Brunswick and in the United States. Alumni serve as pastors, church planters, university chaplains, college professors, foreign missionaries, convention staff personnel, national leadership board members, seminary trustees, and Advisory Council members. Alumnus, Bill Anderson (1992), graduated from the University of Glasgow, Scotland in the fall of 1997 with a Ph.D. in Old Testament studies.

 

Early pioneers in Canadian Southern Baptist life had a vision. Training God-called Canadians in Canada for Christian ministry was their hope and dream. The vision is being fulfilled in the lives of those who go out from the seminary to serve in churches in Canada and in foreign lands.

 

The reach of "Men of Vision" begins in the foothills and coulees of Cochrane, Alberta and extends across Canada and into the nations of the world. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

Recognized by the Province of Alberta. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).

CONTACT US

200 Seminary View, Cochrane, AB,

T4C 2G1, CANADA

Phone: (403) 932-6622 • Fax: (403) 932-7049

Email: info@csbs.ca

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