A History of Taylor
The early years
Taylor College and Seminary represents over sixty-five years of the community of North American Baptist churches responding faithfully to the changing educational demands of the church and society. The establishment of Taylor is rooted in a large number of local area "Christian training institutes" established in 1923 that were widely dispersed across the western prairies. These institutes appealed to the many rural young people who were idle during the long prairie winters and provided trained lay leadership for the local churches, as well as opportunities for young people to utilize their time wisely. Sessions held in various local churches engaged a number of area pastors as teachers and attracted young people from the surrounding area who attended these sessions for periods of one to six weeks.
Several earlier attempts were made to establish a more permanent residential school for North American Baptist churches, but these failed to come to fruition due to organizational difficulties, problems of transportation, long distances, lack of financial support, and the lack of qualified teachers and facilities. Finally, at the annual sessions of the Northern Conference meeting at Olds, Alberta, in June of 1938, a committee was appointed to plan and direct building facilities. The Northern Conference churches (Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) of the North American Baptist Conference endorsed this project in July of 1939.
The school began with the financial support of and volunteer labour from individuals within the Northern Conference Churches. Dr. and Mrs. Wahl also contributed $2,000 received from an insurance policy when their son was killed in a car accident. (You can read more about the remarkable life of Dr. E.P. Wahl here.)
Under the leadership of Dr. E.P. Wahl, the founder of the school, the cornerstone was laid at 10810 - 78 Avenue in June of 1939. The first building was constructed at a cost of $13,700, plus volunteer labour. The first classes were held in January of 1940. Due to the rapid growth of the program, a second building was constructed in 1947, and an administrative, classroom, and dormitory building was added in 1965.
Christian Training Institute was originally administered by a Board of Trustees elected by the Northern Conference and functioned under the supervision of the Northern Conference Missions Committee. This system of administration was revised in 1949, when the school became one of the affiliated societies of the North American Baptist Conference (NAB Conference).
The growth of the NAB Conference, particularly as the result of a large influx of immigrants during the post-war period, necessitated a number of key changes in the curriculum of the school. A high school program providing senior matriculation training began in 1949 and was recognized by the Department of Education in the province of Alberta in 1952. This provided an opportunity for individuals sensing the need for further education, but unable or unwilling to return to local high schools because of inadequate educational backgrounds or advanced age, to secure this necessary training in an "Adult Privilege High School." In response to changing demographics and educational needs, along with declining enrolments, this program was discontinued in 1972.
In 1958, another key change in program and curriculum took place with the initiation of a theological division to train pastors. Until this time, the school functioned as a lay leadership training institution, providing basic courses in Bible, Christian education, music, youth work, and also providing training in effective Christian living. The decision to introduce this new course of study resulted from there being a lack of pastors for Canadian NAB churches, particularly those who were capable of serving in a bilingual capacity, since at that time a substantial number of Canadian NAB churches carried on their ministries in the German language. Since that time, the need for German-English bilingual ministries has greatly decreased, while the need for trained pastors has increased. The NAB Conference officially recognized North American Baptist College (NABC) as the undergraduate training institution for the entire denomination in 1967.
Emergence of the college
In 1963, the Alumni Association spearheaded the drive for a new campus when they adopted the project of raising $100,000 for a relocation program. This was supplemented in 1967 by a commitment of the Northern Conference to raise $125,000 for the relocation program. The Alumni Association purchased the land for the new campus and donated it to the NAB Conference. At the NAB General Conference sessions in Detroit, Michigan in 1967, the relocation project received denominational approval. Construction began on February 28, 1968, and the doors to the new campus opened to students on September 1, 1968. The total cost of the new facilities consisting of the Administration Building, two dormitories, the Student Union Building, and the Services and Storage Building was $1,000,000.
The move to the new campus also signalled the change of the name from Christian Training Institute to North American Baptist College (NABC). In 1969, accreditation was secured with the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges. As the enrolment grew, campus development continued with a Multi-Purpose Building in 1972, the apartment/dormitory in 1974, and the beautiful and functional library in 1980. The college, and later the seminary, attracted a growing number of students from approximately twenty denominations.
A pre-seminary program of studies was introduced in the fall of 1970 in consultation with the North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This four-year preparatory program of Bible, theology, and general education was designed to prepare students to go on to seminary studies. Because the school was prohibited by law from granting a BA degree in Alberta, this program did not develop great appeal, and students usually transferred to other schools to complete their BA degree. After a great deal of effort and correspondence with the provincial education department, the college gained the privilege of granting the Bachelor of Arts in Religion (BAR) degree in 1976. This program was expanded and stabilized, and continued to have wide student appeal. A number of non-accredited schools in Alberta, however, began using this degree nomenclature, with the result that the provincial Department of Advanced Education reviewed the use of this nomenclature in light of the Universities Act. Subsequently, it was necessary to change the name of this degree to Bachelor of Religion (BR).
Movement toward university affiliation
Based upon the BR degree, and in response to the needs of many students who wished to continue their education in a university setting, an articulation agreement was established with the University of Alberta in 1977, which provided for twenty-four semester hours of General Arts courses to be transferred to the university. In 1984, an additional six hours were approved as a part of this transfer arrangement. In response to the request for additional transfer credits in 1987, the university suggested that the college seek affiliation in order to expedite the entire arrangement. Following a site visit by university representatives in the spring of 1988, an official agreement was signed on July 29, 1988.
In order to facilitate students who desired to begin at the college, and then transfer to the university or other Christian colleges to complete their BA degree, the Associate of Arts in Religion (AAR) degree program was added to the curriculum in 1985. Students completing this two-year program could complete their BA degree in another two years in selected Christian colleges, including Tabor College in Kansas, Judson College in Illinois, Bethel College in Minnesota, and Sioux Falls College in South Dakota. Students were also able to transfer a total of two years to the University of Alberta.
Emergence of the seminary
The concept of a graduate program leading to a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree was first proposed to the Board of Trustees in March of 1973. The recommendation was endorsed by the board, and recommended to the General Council of the denomination, where it also received approval for introduction in the fall of 1974. Because of concerns expressed by the seminary in Sioux Falls, the possibility of a joint M.Div. program in cooperation with the seminary was discussed. This possibility became a reality in the fall of 1975, with the introduction of the inter-campus M.Div. program. Students in the inter-campus program were required to take the first two years of their training at the college, and then the final year at North American Baptist Seminary in Sioux Falls.
This inter-campus program proved difficult, primarily due to the problems of transferring in the middle of a program of study. Due to increased interest in and concern for graduate theological training in a denominational context in western Canada, in 1978 the Board of Trustees formed a task force to plan the implementation of the entire M.Div. program in Edmonton. This program began in the fall of 1980 with the establishment of North American Baptist Divinity School. In order to avoid duplication of pastoral training programs, the Bachelor of Theology program was transferred from the college to the divinity school, and the Master of Theological Studies was added.
In 1990, the name of the divinity school was changed to Edmonton Baptist Seminary and a specific section of the library building was designated as the administrative centre for the seminary. In 1995, a new building provided the seminary with a home of its own on the same campus as the college. After fifteen years of preparing persons for vocational ministry, the seminary began the process of accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). In June 1997, accreditation was granted.
In 1998, the vision for an intercultural studies program was approved by the board, and communication began with select groups of alumni and friends. The effort resulted in the establishing of an endowed professorship for intercultural studies, the first within NAB schools. Additionally, the NAB International Missions department provided three years of start-up funding to add a second professor (August 2003). In January 2000, ATS granted the seminary permission to offer an MA in Intercultural Studies. Alberta Learning did not object to the use of the MA nomenclature. This degree was patterned after program standards for MA programs.
In response to the "Leadership Center" development within the NAB Conference and the need for greater flexibility in curriculum delivery, the seminary partnered with North American Baptist Seminary and Providence Seminary in Winnipeg to establish the Education Consortium of Contextual Learning (ecCL). On-line courses were offered for the first time in January 2005. Taylor Seminary also developed a Distributed Education Model, providing greater flexibility in on-campus curriculum offerings.
Movement towards offering university degrees
The college applied for degree program accreditation with the Private College Accreditation Board (PCAB) of Alberta (now Campus Alberta Quality Council), beginning the process in May 2000. After an extensive three-stage evaluation process, the Accreditation Board approved the application in May 2001. On July 24, 2001, the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Alberta signed an Order in Council granting us the right to offer provincially accredited three- and four-year Bachelor of Arts programs in the areas of Religion and Theology, English, and General Studies. With the approval to offer accredited university degrees, the university affiliation with the University of Alberta was discontinued in June 2003.
Program development and initiation continued, with three-year programs in Psychology and Social Science starting in fall 2002, a four-year BA in Psychology in 2004, and a four-year BA in English the following year, in 2005. Additionally, a three-year Sociology degree was approved. The initiation of programs has required an expansion of university college faculty.
In Canada, the use of words, "college" and "university" have different meanings. Colleges offer two-year, technical diplomas, while universities offer degrees. Alberta and some other provinces (e.g. Ontario) use the nomenclature "university college" to describe not-for-profit private colleges that offer accredited university degrees. The U.S. context refers to these as Christian liberal arts colleges.
The Board of Trustees commissioned a task force to consider changing the name of the schools in the fall of 2000. It was determined that the use of the word "university" was important to provide greater clarity to prospective students about the type of degrees we offered. It was also determined that the college and seminary should have a common name, and that adding "university" to the existing name would make the name too long (North American Baptist University College and Edmonton Baptist Seminary). There was also recognition that to thrive in the future, the college and seminary would need to increase enrolment from the greater evangelical population.
For the next fifteen months the name change committee considered 500-600 names. Constituents were invited to suggest names. Outside consultants were retained in the process and conducted focus groups on the short-listed names. After a thorough process, the name "Taylor University College and Seminary" was adopted on April 27, 2002. The name "Taylor" comes from J. Hudson Taylor, one of the most recognizable names in evangelical history. His life and ministry exemplify the strong beliefs and values North American Baptists have always held out to their students:
. a commitment to service;
. obedience to God's call;
. unwavering belief in the transforming power of the gospel;
. a life of faith;
. a priority on prayer and study;
. sensitivity to culture as part of communicating Christ to others; and
. a vision for the world.
The new name symbolically demonstrated that we were defining ourselves broadly, just as the original name "Christian Training Institute" suggested.
The Closure of Taylor University College, Continuation of the Seminary
As reported in other areas of this website, a long decline in enrolment and rising costs forced the closure of the university college (announced in December 2008). This led to a painful process of downsizing, including layoffs, but it is important to note that Taylor Seminary is continuing to thrive, and Taylor is working hard to preserve and strengthen the educational ministry that began almost 70 years ago. The launch of the E P Wahl Centre has been exciting to watch, with many new opportunities to learn and grow being experienced by students from the full spectrum of church affiliations.
Partnering with students
Educational institutions always require partners to come alongside students to assist in both operating and capital costs. Alumni, friends, trustees, churches, and the NAB Conference have played a significant role in funding the school throughout its history. These partners have given generously: first, to establish the original campus, and then, to establish the current campus with additional buildings in the '70s, '80s, and '90s. The General Council of the NAB Conference discontinued educational subsidies to its schools at the end of 2002. Limited undesignated giving was the primary reason for this decision. For the college and seminary, this loss of revenue amounted to $250,000 annually. In the 2004-2005 fiscal year annual fund giving exceeded $1million. Giving to financial aid and operating endowments has grown, increasing the endowment to $3.1 million.
The sale of surplus lands and buildings in 2010 further strengthened Taylor's institutional endowment, providing a secure source of funding for future operations.
Establishing educational partnerships
Taylor continues to develop significant partnerships within the evangelical and higher education communities. These partnerships include North American Baptist churches, NAB Leadership Centers, North American Baptist Seminary, Carey Theological College, Education Consortium for Contextual Learning (ecCL), Network of Evangelical Seminaries (NETS) in Western Canada, Young Life, and the Baptist Union of Western Canada (BUWC). We are members of a number of educational groups, including Christian Higher Education Canada (CHEC) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC).
The seminary is also an affiliate member of In TRUST. In Trust seeks "to educate and inform those responsible for the governance of the graduate theological schools of North America." Additionally, Taylor has been a member of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce since 2000.
Focusing the mission and vision
Our mission is to develop Christ-minded leaders who make a difference in the world. Likewise, our vision is to be a leading evangelical centre of academic excellence and Christian character.
These statements focus the future direction of Taylor on leadership development, influencing the world, academic excellence, and the development of Christian character. The vitality of Taylor over the past seventy years is largely due our responsiveness to the changing educational needs of the church and society while remaining faithful to our founding values. The privilege to serve the high calling of preparing Christ-minded leaders who make a difference in the world is at the core of all we have done. The world is truly a better place because our alumni have faithfully served in a host of vocations around the globe. We pay tribute to all of those who have generously served as staff, administrators, faculty, and trustees over the past seventy years, and we look forward to the future.