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 campus launched on the grounds of Calvary Church in Los Gatos, California and later moved to a Santa Clara location in 2010. The campus will relocate to a church site in Milpitas during the summer of 2016. The Sacramento, California campus, founded in 1991, recently moved to a new site in Rocklin. In the fall of 2014, we opened a new teaching site in Seattle, Washington.
Western’s presidents have often been noteworthy and innovative leaders in theological education, including Dr. Earl D. Radmacher (president from 1965-1989) and Dr. Bert Downs (president from 1998-2008). Our current president, Dr. Randal Roberts, is a Western alumnus who has served the seminary in both faculty and administrative roles since 1987. He 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 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 Online Campus. More recent innovations include a dual-track approach to learning the biblical languages; Spurgeon Fellowship gatherings that provide edification and encouragement to church leaders in the Pacific Northwest; 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 20% of the over 270 ATS-accredited seminaries in North America.