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A History of Taylor
The early years
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 $10,000 received from an insurance policy when their son was killed in a car accident.
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
The move to the new campus also signalled the change of the name from Christian Training Institute to North American Baptist College. 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
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
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
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, and an expansion of university college faculty became an obvious requirement.
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:
Partnering with students
In May 2005, the Alberta legislature approved provincial funding for Taylor University College, to be used for operating expenses, not capital (capital funding continued to be provided from donors). This decision affirmed the important educational role that Taylor University College was providing to the broader society. The distinctive mission of Taylor provides choice to students. In June 2009, when the university programs were discontinued, this provincial funding ended.
The end of Taylor's university degree programs is not the end of Taylor College. Taylor remains committed to the re-emergence of a post-secondary experience that is strongly rooted in Bible study, spiritual formation, and ministry preparation. The possibilities are for short-term intensive courses and possibly one-year or two-year programs, as well as transferable courses for credit towards a degree at another institution.
Emergence of the E P Wahl Centre
As part of a visioning process that began in 2007, the Board of Trustees directed the establishment of a centre that would directly address some of the training needs of our constituent churches and individual believers. There are many areas of educational need that don't fit into an academic program, but which could be addressed through short-term programs (eg., seminars, workshops, certificate programs, etc.).
To this end, the E P Wahl Centre has been established to address these needs. The vision for this new educational ministry includes a commitment to collaboration and partnerships with churches and other organizations, moving forward with a kingdom mentality while maximizing the people and resources that are available.
Establishing educational partnerships
Taylor 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." Taylor has been a member of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce since 2000.
Focusing the mission and vision
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 this institution over the past sixty-five 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 sixty-five years, and we look forward with excitement to the future.