Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Story of the Baptist Theological College (Part 1)

Baptists came to South Africa with the 1820 Settlers and the first Baptist church was established in the Salem/Kariega area near Grahamstown. They elected William Miller, one of their number, to be their pastor. When forced by economic circumstances to move to Grahamstown to work there as a carpenter, he ministered to the few Baptists there.
German settlers arriving about 1859 also contained a few Baptists, and soon there was a flourishing German Baptist church in the area between Stutterheim and Berlin. German and English Baptists combined to form the Baptist Union (BU) in 1877.
Pastors for the Baptist churches had to be obtained from overseas. Of the 52 pastors coming between 1877 and the 1930s, 29 of them came from Spurgeon’s College.
A serious shortage of pastors for the growing number of churches resulted in the BU making a variety of efforts to train and equip local men for the ministry. But by 1918 only 15% of Baptist pastors were South African and only one of them trained in South Africa.
In 1925 the Ministerial Education Committee (MEC) was commissioned to provide a 4 year course of ministerial studies for pastoral candidates. By 1937, 27 of the 59 Baptist pastors were South African (44%). Prior to World War II, the MEC was able to provide training for about 10 students a year, but this was still not enough. The Rev Ernest Baker started a Baptist Bible School in 1927 with three students. One of them was J D Odendaal. But it ceased to operate in 1931.
Throughout the 1940s there were many calls for our own college, until finally the 1950 BU Assembly voted to establish a College inviting the Rev S F Winward from England to be its first principal. In the first bilingual Temporary Prospectus, the aim of the College was stated “to follow the evangelical and fundamental traditions of the Protestant Church and of the special Baptist emphases that have so enriched its witness and its heritage.” Though Winward declined the invitation to be principal, the College opened with C M Doke acting as principal. Initial students were A Dennisson, R Goetze, J Large, N MacIntosh, J Patrick, P Steyn and D Wilcocks Vorster. A Miss A Amos was also accepted for missionary training.
Written by: Kevin Roy

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