First Southern Baptist seminary—1859, Greenville, SC

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The first Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was founded in Greenville, S.C., in 1859. The school moved to Louisville, Ky., in 1877 and is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year. The heart of the school was the calling and commitment of James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) and John Albert Broadus (1827-1895).

Boyce was the heart of the endeavor and served as the primary fund raiser and denominational spokesman. Boyce came from a South Carolina family of means and was educated at Charleston College, Brown University and Princeton.

Broadus was a native Virginian and just a few days younger than Boyce. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia and served as pastor of the Charlottesville Baptist Church from 1851 to 1859. According to a day book that Broadus kept, it was at Charlottesville that he baptized a young girl he referred to as “Lotte.”

This young convert was Charlotte “Lottie” Moon (1840-1912) who served as a Southern Baptist missionary to China from 1873 until her death in 1912. In 1918 Southern Baptists named their annual foreign mission Christmas offering after the young “Lotte” that had so impressed pastor Broadus.

The first four professors elected at Southern were James P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly, Jr. (1825-1892) and Edwin Theodore Winkler (1823-1883).

Upon election to the faculty, Broadus and Winkler declined.

Mrs. Broadus died October 21, 1857 and left Dr. Broadus with three little girls and a thriving pastorate. Broadus remarried in January of 1859 and then changed his mind about seminary teaching.

Broadus and Boyce were the dearest of friends and Dr. Boyce was elated to have Broadus among the first four professors. Winkler had the opposite problem. Broadus did not want to leave a flourishing pastorate and Winkler could not in good conscience leave one that was floundering.

The heart wrenching decisions of both of these men are at the heart of Southern Seminary dedication and commitment. Actually Winkler twice declined a professorship at Southern and found faithful service in the pastorate, missions and publishing. William Williams (1821-1877), at age 38 and a native Georgian, was chosen to replace Winkler.

Boyce, Broadus, Manly, Jr. and Williams were uniquely qualified to lead this initial endeavor of the convention in ministerial education.

In the first session in 1859 at Green­ville, S.C., the school had 26 students. The school grew to 36 students but had to close from 1862-1865 due to the Civil War. The school moved to Louisville, Ky., in 1877 due to the financial hardships in South Carolina and in ten years the school enrollment grew to 157.

Some of the finest names and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention have been connected to Southern Seminary. Every preacher educated in any of the six Southern Baptist seminaries can trace their theological roots to that vision of faith that started Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is the current president of Southern Seminary and the nine presidents have been

James Petigru Boyce (1888),

John Albert Broadus (1888-1895),

William Heth Whitsitt (1895-1899),

Edgar Young Mullins (1899-1928),

John Richard Sampey (1929-1942),

Ellis Adams Fuller (1942-1950),

Duke Kimbrough McCall (1951-1982),

Roy Lee Honeycutt (1982-1993),

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (1993-).

This Southern Baptist flag ship seminary has as its motto “For the truth. For the church. For the world. For the glory of God.”

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