Our History

Our History


First year graduating class.Through the efforts of Walter B. Hinson, the Portland Baptist Bible Institute was organized in the winter of 1925. In 1926, efforts began to replace the Bible Institute with a graduate-level seminary to provide more adequate theological education in the Northwest. As a result, Western Baptist Theological Seminary was officially dedicated on October 4, 1927.

The purpose of the infant institution was reported by the Board of Trustees:

“Looking across the years... we saw coming out of Western Baptist Theological Seminary, men and women schooled to preach and teach the eternal truths of God’s Word and the redemptive love and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw pupils of sound teachers occupying pulpits and mission fields around the world.”

Female GraduateIn 1944 the Board of Trustees acquired the present five-acre campus in Portland, OR. Classes at the new site convened in the fall of that year. To make residential seminary education accessible to key cities on the West Coast, Western established two degree-granting sites in Northern California. In 1985, the San Jose site launched on the grounds of Calvary Church in Los Gatos, CA and later moved to Santa Clara location in 2010 and Christ Community Church Milpitas in 2016.  In 2023, the site was moved to Westgate Church South Hills Campus in San Jose. The Sacramento, CA campus was founded at Arcade Church in 1991, moved Creekside Church in 2014, and later to Bridgeway Christian Church in 2022. In 2023, the Sacramento site was closed and Northern California operations were consolidated to San Jose. 

Western’s presidents have often been noteworthy and innovative leaders in theological education, including Dr. Earl D. Radmacher (president from 1965-1989), Dr. Bert Downs (president from 1998-2008), and Dr. Randal Roberts (2009-2021). In 2021, Dr. Chuck Conniry was selected as the 12th president of Western. He is committed to continuing the legacy of doctrinal fidelity and educational innovation that has been entrusted to him.

history-70sThat willingness to find new and better ways to fulfill its educational mission has manifested itself in a variety of ways. For example, Western was one of the first schools to offer the Doctor of Ministry degree. In 1981, it launched an innovative video instruction program which quickly expanded to serve hundreds of students per year; today that program has become the Global Campus. More recent innovations include a unique approach to learning the biblical languages; establishing the Center for Leadership Development to provide affordable non-credit training for lay leaders; the Women's Center for Ministry that provides women with numerous fellowship and equipping opportunities; one of the few seminary-based Christian coaching programs; and increased scheduling and delivery system flexibility to make quality theological education more accessible to students whose circumstances require creative accommodation.

In terms of student head count, Western is today in the top 10% of the over 270 ATS-accredited seminaries in North America.

As we train men and women for effectiveness in present and future ministry, we are continually grateful for an impactful legacy under the Lord's leading. We are committed to affirm that same crucial gospel-commitment that birthed this school so many years ago.