Our History

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.”

In 1944 the Board of Trustees acquired the present five-acre campus in Portland, Oregon. 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 has also established two degree-granting campuses in Northern California. In 1985, the San Jose location launched, followed by the Sacramento location, founded in 1991.

Western Seminary’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 (an alumnus who served the seminary in both faculty and administratively from 1987-2008 and as president from 2008-2021). Our current president, Dr. Chuck Conniry, is committed to continuing the legacy of doctrinal fidelity and educational innovation that has been entrusted to him.

That willingness to find new and better ways to fulfill its educational mission has manifested itself in a variety of ways. For example, Western Seminary 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 Western Global. More recent innovations include the Center for Leadership Development, which provides affordable non-credit training for lay leaders, the Women's Center for Ministry, which provides women with numerous fellowship and equipping opportunities, the Center for Pastoral Flourishing, which nurtures and supports the long-term wellbeing of pastors in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, and one of the few seminary-based Christian coaching programs, which is Christ-centered approved by the International Coaching Federation.

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