History of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary
For the last six decades, Faith has been providing men with advanced theological training in preparation for pastoral and missionary ministries. See the faithfulness of God through the history of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary, as written by Don Anderson, Th.M.
The roots of Faith Baptist Theological Seminary go back to 1962 when the college, then known as Omaha Baptist Bible College, added a five-year Bachelor of Theology program to the standard four-year program. The fifth year of study was designed for men who could not attend seminary but wanted to pursue additional coursework to better equip them for pastoral or missionary ministries.
Early Seminary Discussions
Faith had many graduates from the Th.B. program, and the additional training met a need for many years. Eventually, however, many pastors desired graduate-level training and many churches began to expect a higher level of education for their pastors. Sensing that expectation and desire, President David Nettleton formed a Seminary Committee in the mid-1970s to explore the possibility of starting a seminary.
The discussions of the Seminary Committee eventually led the college in 1982 to discontinue the Bachelor of Theology program and offer a graduate-level Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree under the direction of Dr. Robert Domokos.
The new M.A. program had its first graduates in 1983. That year three men graduated, one of whom was Mark Lounsbrough, who now serves as the chair of the Missions and Evangelism Department at Faith. In 1985 the college added two more Master of Arts programs—Biblical Studies and Theological Studies.
The Decision to Open the Seminary
The Master of Arts programs met a great need in providing advanced training for pastors and Christian leaders. However, the administration and board of Faith came to the conviction that Iowa needed a fundamental Baptist seminary. To do that, Faith had to add the Master of Divinity program.
Dr. Robert Delnay, the founding dean of the seminary, shared this recollection, “In 1985 we discussed the possibility with Dr. Shipp [Faith’s president] and at some point, he told us to discuss it with Dr. David Boylan [the chair of the Academic Committee of the Board]. One noon shortly after that four or five of us drove up to Ames and met Dr. Boylan in the Union, where he treated us to lunch and heard us out. When we finished, he said, ‘Well men, as I see it, this is not the time to start a seminary. But it will never be the right time. So let us trust God and go ahead with the project.’”
Based on the growing desire of several faculty members and the encouragement of Dr. Boylan, the Faith board voted in September 1985 to move to a complete seminary program with a Master of Divinity degree starting in the fall of 1987.
In the fall of 1985 and the early part of 1986, the Lord brought another circumstance into the picture that had bearing on the proposed seminary. During those months the boards and administrators of Faith and Denver Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary began merger discussions. Dr. Gordon Shipp, Faith’s president, and Dr. L. Duane Brown, Denver’s president (and father of Dr. Doug and Dr. Dan Brown, current FBTS faculty members), led these deliberations. These discussions led to both boards voting in January 1986 to merge the two institutions in the fall of 1986. Since Denver already had a full M.Div. program with students needing to complete their degree, FBTS moved its opening to the fall of 1986, one year ahead of the projected date.
After extensive planning and the merger of the two institutions, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary opened for classes on September 2, 1986. The new seminary offered four degree programs: Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies, Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, Master of Arts in Theological Studies, and Master of Divinity. The Master of Arts in Religion program was added in 1987 for students who did not have a Bible college background.
That first year 30 men enrolled in the new seminary with 10 of them coming from Denver. In 1987 we had our first M.Div. graduates—four men who had started in Denver and finished at Faith. In 1989 we had our first M.Div. graduates from students who began in the new seminary in 1986. One of them was John Hartog III who would later serve as dean of the seminary.
The Lord was also at work in building the faculty of the new seminary. All the faculty members needed were already serving on the college faculty:
- Dr. Robert Delnay was appointed the seminary dean.
- Dr. Gilbert Braithwaite became the director of the Biblical Studies program.
- Dr. Myron Houghton was appointed the director of the Theological Studies program.
- Dr. Robert Domokos remained on the college faculty but continued as the director of the Pastoral Studies program.
Interestingly, both Dr. Delnay and Dr. Houghton once taught at Denver Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, which strengthened the ties between the two seminaries.
Right from the beginning, in fact, before the beginning, FBTS began publishing the Faith Pulpit to address significant matters of theological and ministerial interest. We published the first issue in January of 1986, eight months before the seminary opened. Dr. Delnay shared this recollection about the first Faith Pulpit. “The board decision must have come on January 14. I seem to remember printing the first edition of Faith Pulpit, and that afternoon passing it out to the board members. I remember Dr. Shipp with a friendly growl saying to me, ‘You boys don’t waste any time, do you?’”