CBS through the Baptist General Conference of Canada (connected historically to Converge USA) has Swedish Baptist Pietist roots that date back to the late 19th century in the USA and Canada. Pietism is a religion of the heart. Influenced by and parallel to the Puritans, the Pietist movement of the 17th and 18th centuries grew into a torrent of spiritual renewal that influenced the Moravians, the Methodists, the great awakenings, and global evangelicalism as we know it today. As a Bible-based movement, it combines orthodox doctrine with heart-felt devotion to Jesus Christ (piety) through personal conversion evident by fruits of a living and experiential faith. Pietism stresses a practical Christianity--the regenerate life--marked by a love for God and neighbour expressed in the evangelistic and cultural mandate of the gospel. CBS seeks to cultivate "biblical minds and burning hearts" for Jesus Christ and his mission and ministry.
A Brief History of Canadian Baptist Seminary
“Faith seeking understanding” is a powerful phrase first coined some 950 years ago by Anselm of Canterbury to express this desire we find in our hearts as Christians to grow in our understanding and appreciation for the Gospel and what God has revealed in the Bible. It was this ambition and appetite that prompted some Vancouver businessmen in 1914 to begin praying for three particular concerns:
God generously granted all three requests and this led to the birth of the Vancouver Bible Training School. The first Principal was Rev. Walter Ellis and classes began in September 1918. Rev. Ellis was a man who strove to position the school to serve the churches and to equip its students with a heart for God and a mind for study. Strong linkages and interactions with China Inland Mission, operating in another house less than one block away, also helped shape and mold the tone and direction of the school with a steady stream of missionaries preparing for China. As the first trans-denominational Bible school in Western Canada, VBTS proved to have an influence out of all proportion to its size (Burkinshaw, Pilgrims in Lotus Land, 1995, p. 69).
History has its own way of shaping people and institutions and around 1950 the school name was changed to Vancouver Bible Institute. In the mid 50’s, declining enrolments led to the cancellation of classes and a decision by the directors of VBI to offer the assets of the school to three groups. This offer was taken up by the Baptist General Conference and Rev. Leroy Gager served as the first principal for this next chapter. He was followed by four other principals as VBI served many people and churches for another 20 years in Surrey, B.C. In the late 1970’s, facing once again the challenge of declining enrolment, Vancouver Bible College closed. The college then lay ‘dormant’ for about ten years before it re-emerged as Canadian Baptist Seminary.
A heart and passion and determination to train leaders for our churches was vital in the new direction that became known as Canadian Baptist Seminary (CBS). Dr. Barrie Palfreyman was the first Dean of CBS. In a partnership with Northwest Baptist Seminary and Trinity Western Seminary of Trinity Western University, CBS became a charter partner in what became known as ACTS Seminaries (Associated Canadian Theological Schools). ACTS offered its first classes in the fall of 1988 with around forty students. Today, student enrolment hovers around 350 students.