In the late nineteenth century, a movement began that has had a profound influence on evangelical Protestantism.
Its impact has been felt in every part of the world, producing a large percentage of North American evangelical missionaries
and serving as a primary educational enterprise for local church development. This religious development was the Bible
institute movement, which later evolved into the Bible College movement.
From the humble beginnings of the Missionary Training Institute(Nyack College) in New York City in 1882 to the launching of such schools as Moody Bible Institute in 1886 and Toronto Bible School (Tyndale University College & Seminary) in 1894, the Bible college movement has proliferated throughout North America.
More than 120 years after the first Bible school was started, there are more than 1200 Bible schools and colleges in the United States and Canada. Approximately 200 of these institutions have a relationship with the Association for Biblical Higher Education, either through accreditation or affiliation. Many of these institutions still bear a resemblance to their forbears. For example, the current curriculum of undergraduate institutions accredited by ABHE still include a core of biblical and theological studies, along with general studies (liberal arts) and professional studies. Course work is supplemented with ministry field education and service learning opportunities through which students apply what they have learned in the classroom. Furthermore, the ethos of these institutions can still be described as academically respectable, evangelical, disciplined, and focused on spiritual and ministry formation.
Most institutions of biblical higher education offer programs in biblical studies, pastoral ministry, Christian education, cross-cultural missions, and music. Many also provide programs in elementary and perhaps secondary education, youth ministries, urban ministries, and business administration. Others offer specialized programs in such areas as deaf ministries, social work, aviation, and other technology-oriented fields. Increasing numbers of biblical higher education institutions offer curricula across a broad spectrum of academic and professional disciplines.
Increasing numbers of institutions out of the Bible college tradition have earned various forms of accreditation or (in Canada) provincial university-recognition. Many of the longer-standing institutions now hold membership with the Association for Biblical Higher Education, as well as one of the six U.S. regional accrediting associations. A growing number of these institutions have also established their own seminaries and graduate divisions. Their library holdings have expanded. Their administrators and faculty have earned appropriate graduate degrees, engaged in research and writing, and participate in professional associations in their designated fields. In short, institutions of biblical higher education have achieved widespread and growing credibility and currency within the larger academic community.
One of the most significant developments in the growth of the Bible college movement was the founding of the Accrediting Association of Bible Institutes and Bible Colleges in 1947. The name was shortened in 1957 to the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges. It was changed in 1973 to the American Association of Bible Colleges before being changed back to the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges in 1994 to more accurately represent the geographic purview of the Association that included institutions in Canada, the United States and related territories. In 2004, the name was changed to the Association for Biblical Higher Education in order to reflect its expansion of scope with graduate education accreditation and programmatic accreditation and in order to address its expansion of services to include affiliate institutions. Adoption of a new Constitution and Bylaws in 2009 designates the organization’s present name as: The Association for Biblical Higher Education in Canada and the United States.