Rooted in Spiritual Movements
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 expansion and development. This phenomenon came to be known as the Bible institute movement and, later, 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.
Still Making Spiritual Waves
More than 130 years after the first Bible schools began, it is estimated there are more than 1000 Bible schools and colleges throughout Canada and the United States. Approximately 200 of these institutions have a relationship with the Association for Biblical Higher Education, either through accreditation or affiliation. In most essential ways, today’s biblical higher education institutions still bear substantial resemblance to their forbears. For example, the current curriculum of undergraduate institutions accredited by ABHE still requires a core of biblical and theological studies, along with a substantial distribution of general or liberal arts studies, and a core of professional studies. Ministry field education and service learning opportunities complement course work. The ethos of today’s biblical higher education institutions can still be described as academically serious, gospel-centered, and discipleship-oriented, fostering spiritual and ministry formation.
Multiplying Study Opportunities and Options
Most institutions of biblical higher education offer programs of study in such areas as biblical studies, pastoral ministry, Christian education, cross-cultural ministry, and music. Increasing numbers 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. A growing number of ABHE institutions offer curricular programs across the entire spectrum of academic and professional disciplines. Thus, you might say today’s biblical higher education institutions offer programs of study not necessarily leading exclusively to church occupations but in all cases intended to foster gospel pre-occupation regardless of one’s future vocation.
Establishing Excellence, Earning Recognition
A growing percentage of ABHE members have earned accreditation not only with ABHE but also with one of the six U.S. regional accrediting associations or the applicable Canadian provincial government or university recognition system. Many institutions’ professional programs have also sought and received accreditation by the relevant specialized/professional accrediting agency (e.g., NCATE, CACREP, NASM). A growing number have also established seminaries and graduate divisions. Library holdings and learning resources have expanded. Administrators and faculty have earned terminal degrees, engage 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. Research consistently substantiates the claim that biblical higher education institutions produce educational outcomes comparable or superior to other highereducation peers.
Connecting and Resourcing Today’s Biblical Higher Education 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 once again altered, this time 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.