Bible Colleges and Institutes

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Bible Colleges and Institutes are training schools for Christian workers. Bible institutes usually operate on a lower academic level than do Bible colleges, have programs of shorter duration, and usually do not offer degrees nor have professional accreditation.

North America

The American Association of Bible Colleges, founded in 1947, defines Bible college training as education at the college level whose distinctive function is to prepare students for Christian ministries or church vocations through a program of biblical, general, and professional studies. Bible colleges also provide training for lay or avocational ministries and prepare students for more advanced studies at seminary.

The oldest Bible institute in Europe is St. Chrischona, near Basel, Switzerland, founded in 1840 by C. F. Spitteler. Bible institutes and colleges did not develop in Europe with the same rapidity nor did they have as great an impact as they did in North America.

The English antecedent to the first North American Bible training school was the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions founded in 1872 by Grattan Guiness. The purpose of the institute was to prepare missionaries, and, in its first 16 years, 500 young men completed their training to become workers at home and abroad. Guiness' school became a model for A. B. Simpson in establishing what became Nyack Missionary College, the first Bible college in North America (1882). From the first North American school with a score of students, the movement has grown to over 500 institutes and colleges in the United States and Canada.

Moody Bible Institute, which was to become the leading school in the Bible institute and Bible college movement, was founded in Chicago in 1886 by evangelist Dwight L. Moody, to prepare "gap-men" to stand between the laity and the ministers; men who are trained to do city mission work." In 1889 Baptist pastor and missionary statesman A. J. Gordon established the Boston Missionary Training School, whose aim was not only to furnish men and women with a thoroughly biblical training, but also to engage them in practical religious work in the neglected parts of the city. Toronto Bible College (later Ontario Bible College and Theological Seminary; later still Tyndale College and Seminary) was the first Bible college in Canada (1894). The aim of the school was to train men and women for Christian ministries at home and abroad.

The North American Bible institute and Bible college movement grew rapidly in the 20th century, and the schools became powerful expressions of the conservative Protestant movement commonly known as Fundamentalism. By 1930 the Fundamentalist weekly Sunday School Times endorsed more than 50 Bible schools, most of which were in major cities. In addition to Moody Bible Institute, Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School (founded by William B. Riley) and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (Biola, founded by R. A. Torrey) were very influential. In Canada, Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Briercrest Bible Institute in Caronport, Saskatchewan, and Prophetic Bible Institute in Calgary, Alberta, emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as leading schools. Large numbers of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ students attended these schools.

Among Mennonites in North America, the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (later Missionary Church) attempted to establish a Bible institute in Elkhart, Indiana in 1903, but this effort failed after a short time. In 1905 the Missionary Church Association established Fort Wayne Bible Institute (later Fort Wayne Bible College until 1989; Summit Christian College, 1989-1992, then part of Taylor University).

Grace College of the Bible was established in 1943 with six Mennonite conferences represented on the first board of directors. Located in Omaha, Nebraska, the school became an independent Bible college with board members representing several denominations.

Pacific Bible Institute was established by Mennonite Brethren in Fresno, California in 1944 to prepare students for Christian service at home and abroad. In the early 1960s the institute became a junior college and, by 1965, a fully accredited four-year liberal arts college (Fresno Pacific College, later Fresno Pacific University), rather than a Bible college.

Conservative Mennonite Bible School began in 1952 near Berlin, Ohio. It was relocated to Irwin, Ohio in 1964 and renamed Rosedale Bible Institute. It is owned and operated by the Conservative Mennonite Conference.

The Bible institute movement among Mennonites in Canada saw a proliferation of schools in its early history. In the first four decades of the 20th century more than 40 Bible institutes were established. Many were local Bible schools started by individual congregations. These schools were then merged into larger institutes. In 1998 there were 7 Mennonite Bible institutes or colleges in Canada and one in the United States.

Mennonite Bible Colleges and Institutes in Canada, 1998

School Location Affiliation Enrollment
Aylmer Bible School Aylmer, Ont. EMMC 14 FT
30 PT
Bethany College Hepburn, Sask. MB 165 FT
0 PT (1998)
Canadian Mennonite Bible College (now part of Canadian Mennonite University) Winnipeg, Man. GCM 136 FT
23 PT (1998)
Columbia Bible College Abbotsford, B.C. MB/GCM 161 FT
129 PT
Concord College (formerly MBBC, now part of Canadian Mennonite University) Winnipeg, Man. MB 55 FT
225 PT (1998)
Institut Biblique Laval (now École de Théologie Évangélique de Montréal) St-Laurent, Que. MB 6 FT
55 PT
Steinbach Bible College Steinbach, Man. Inter-Mennonite* 67 FT
6 PT
FT - Full-time students
PT - Part-time students
  • Operated by Evangelical Mennonite Conference of Canada, Chortitzer Mennonite Conference of Canada, Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference of Manitoba, Christian Fellowship Church of Steinbach (formerly Bergthal) and Steinbach Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church (now member of Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches).

The first Mennonite-related Canadian institution established as a Bible college, rather than Bible institute, was Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario. The school was operated by the Ontario Conference of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (Missionary Church) and was founded in 1940. Emmanuel is accredited with the American Association of Bible Colleges.

Canadian Bible Schools and Institutes 1900-1940

Date Place> Name Affiliation
1907 Berlin, Ont. Ontario Mennonite Bible School MC
1913 Herbert, Sask. Herbert Bible School MB
1913 Markham, Ont. Winter Bible School MC
1921 Didsbury, Alta. Mountain View Bible School Missionary
1925 Winkler, Man. Peniel Bible School MB
1927 Hepburn, Sask. Bethany Bible School MB
1928 Dalmeny, Sask. Tabor Bible School MB
1929 Gretna, Man. Elim Bible School GCM
1929 Coaldale, Alta. Coaldale Bible School MB
1930 Winnipeg, Man. Winnipeg Bible School MB
1930 Yarrow, B.C. Elim Bible School MB
1932 Glenbush, Sask. Glenbush Bible School MB
1932 Rosthern, Sask. Rosthern Bible School GCM
1932 Rosemary, Alta. Rosemary Bible School GCM
1932 Tavistock, Ont. Winter Bible School AM
1933 Steinbach, Man. Steinbach Bible School MB
1933 LaGlace, Alta. La Glace Bible School MB
1933 Gem, Alta. Bethesda Bible School MB
1933 New Hamburg, Ont. Winter Bible School AM
1934 Aberdeen, Sask. Aberdeen Bible School MB
1934 Winnipeg, Man. Mennonite Bible School GCM
1934 Wembley, Alta. Wembley Bible School GCM
1935 Springridge, Alta. Springridge Bible School GCM
1935 Coaldale, Alta. Mennonite Bible School GCM
1936 Abbotsford, B.C. South Abbotsford Bible School MB
1936 Crowfoot, Alta. Crowfoot Bible School MB
1936 Leamington, Ont. Leamington Bible School GCM
1936 Vineland, Ont Vineland Bible School GCM
1936 Swift Current, Sask. Swift Current Bible School GCM
1936 Didsbury, Alta. Menno Bible Institute GCM
1937 Vauxhall, Alta. Vauxhall Bible School MB
1937 St. Elizabeth, Man. St. Elizabeth Bible School GC
1938 Virgil, Ont. MB Bible Institute MB
1938 Sardis, B.C. Greendale Bible Institute MB
1939 Vineland, Ont. Vineland Bible School MB
1939 Coughlan, B.C. Bethel Bible Institute GCM
1939 Countess, Alta. Countess Bible School GCM
1939 Drake, Sask. Drake Bible School GCM
1939 Sardis, B.C. Mennonite Bible School GCM
1939 Yarrow, B.C. Mennonite Bible School GCM
1940 Kitchener, Ont. Emmanuel Bible College Missionary

The next two Mennonite Bible colleges in Canada were both begun in Winnipeg. The Canadian Mennonite Brethren Conference established Mennonite Brethren Bible College (MBBC) in 1944 (renamed Concord College in 1992), and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada established Canadian Mennonite Bible College (CMBC) in 1947. Concord, CMBC and Menno Simons College (formerly the Mennonite Studies Centre of the University of Winnipeg) formed Canadian Mennonite University in 1999.

More recently, two Mennonite institutions which achieved Bible college status are Steinbach Bible College, Steinbach, Manitoba (Steinbach Bible Institute until 1979), and Columbia Bible College, Clearbrook, BC (Columbia Bible Institute until 1985). Both schools are inter-Mennonite and are affiliated with the American Association of Bible Colleges for purposes of accreditation.

Steinbach Bible College is operated by five Mennonite groups: "the Evangelical Mennonite Conference of Canada, the Chortitzer Mennonite Conference of Canada, the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference of Manitoba, the Christian Fellowship Church of Steinbach (formerly Bergthal Church), and the Steinbach Evangelical Mennonite Brethren Church (Fellowship of Evangelical Bible Churches).

Columbia Bible College is owned and operated by the British Columbia Mennonite Brethren Conference and by the Conference of Mennonites in British Columbia, which is part of the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM). Columbia is a 1970 merger of the Bethel Bible Institute of Abbotsford (GCM) and the Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute of Clearbrook.

As noted earlier, most North American Bible colleges and institutes have, to varying degrees, been expressions of Fundamentalism. Down through the years many Mennonite and Brethren in Christ students have attended schools such as Moody Bible Institute, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Prairie Bible Institute, and Briercrest Bible Institute (College). This has left a marked influence of Fundamentalism on Mennonite and Brethren in Christ circles. Non-Mennonite Bible colleges and institutes have not generally adhered to Anabaptist theological emphases such as discipleship, the church, and the ethic of love and nonresistance.

The increasing drift of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ students to a wide variety of non-Mennonite Bible colleges and institutes stimulated Mennonites to develop comparable schools which would uphold an Anabaptist understanding of the Scriptures, Christian discipleship, and the church. Mennonite Bible colleges and institutes have now trained thousands of workers for leadership roles in church ministries around the world.

Asia and Africa

Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Bible training programs outside of Europe and North America are difficult to categorize as being either Bible institutes, Bible colleges, or Bible schools. Methodology in training leaders in these countries is fluid and experimental. There is a marked trend away from residential institutions to training while in service (theological education by extension [TEE]). Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, and Brethren in Christ in Japan have participated in a variety of Bible institutes, including the extension courses of the Eastern Hokkaido Bible School (Nihon Menonaito Kirisuto Kyokai Kyogikai [[[Hokkaido (Japan) |Hokkaido]]]), founded in 1965, and the Evangelical Biblical Seminary in Osaka (Nihon Menonaito Burezaren Kyodan), founded in 1957. Mennonites in Indonesia participate in several schools and seminaries, some of which are related to Christian universities. Mennonite Brethren in India have had a Bible institute at Shamshabad; Bihar Mennonite Mandli operated a Bible school at Chandwa for a time. In Africa programs range from theological education by extension to seminaries. Mennonite- and Brethren in Christ-related residential Bible schools have existed in Ethiopia (Dresser Bible School), Zaire, Tanzania, Zambia (Choma Bible Institute, BIC), and Zimbabwe (Ekuphileni Bible Institute [formerly Wanezi Bible School] at Mtshabezi, BIC). See articles on these countries for additional information.

Latin America

Mennonites migrating to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, and Uruguay in the first half of the 20th century brought with them a concern for proper training of preachers, missionaries, and other church workers. During the first decades of settlement, the struggle for survival did not allow for the establishment of full-fledged Bible institutes, but evening, weekend, or even weeklong Bible courses were conducted throughout the churches.

The Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MC), working in Argentina, took the initiative in 1926 by establishing the Bragado Bible Institute. In 1955 it was transferred to Montevideo, Uruguay, and renamed Mennonite Biblical Seminary of Montevideo. A considerable number of students from the German- and Spanish-speaking churches of the above-mentioned countries attended this school until its closing in 1975. In 1987 a Centro de Estudios y Retiros (Study and Retreat Center), located in the building used by the la Floresta congregation, was inaugurated. It offers a three-year certificate program through a series of evening classes.

The Konferenz der Mennoniten Brüdergemeinden (Mennonite Brethren Conference) in Paraguay started the Institito Biblico Asunción (Asunción Bible Institute) in 1964-65, with the aim of training workers for church and mission. Its emphasis and impact on mission work in Paraguay has been marked. Its enrollment in 1987 averaged about 45-50 students, and it offered several programs of study.

In Brazil, the German- and Portugese-speaking Mennonite Brethren conferences together have operated the Instituto e Seminário Biblico dos Irmçãos Menonitas (Mennonite Brethren Bible Institute and Seminary) since 1972, with an enrollment of about 100 students (1986). Regular extension courses in the local churches are also coordinated by this school, located at Curitiba.

In 1977 the library resources of the former Mennonite Biblical Seminary of Montevideo were transferred to Asunción, Paraguay. Under the auspices of the Conference of Mennonites in South America, a school by the name of Centro Evangélico Menonita de Teología, Asunción (CEMTA; Evangelical Mennonite Theological Center) was established. Initially it offered a three-year program in both theology and church music. Both programs of study were lengthened to four years in 1980. With an enrollment of ca. 65 students in 1987, CEMTA serves German-and Spanish-speaking Mennonite churches of Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay. See also Asociación de Iglesias Hermanos Menonitas, Colombia; Concilio de las Iglesias Evangélicas Menonitas, Venezuela; Iglesia Evangélica Menonita, Honduras; Convención Evangélica Menonita de Costa Rica; and Central America (Seminario Ministerial de Liderazgo Anabautista [SEMILLA], a TEE program. GNie


The conviction that it is important to uphold an Anabaptist understanding of the Scriptures, Christian discipleship, and the church led European Mennonites in 1950 to found the European Mennonite Bible School. Due to significant participation of North American Mennonites, the first courses took place in Basel until 1957 and after that at Bienenberg near Liestal, Switzerland. The bilingual school (German and French) is supported by the Mennonite conferences of Germany, France, and Switzerland; the Mennonite Brethren church in Europe (Bund Europäischen Mennonitischen Brüdergemeinden); Mennonite Central Committee; the Mennonite Board of Missions (MC); and Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MC). The course offerings include a two-year general course and various shorter courses on diverse subjects. The annual enrollment for the general course is approximately 70 students, coming from Europe and overseas. Half of them are from Mennonite background. Their average age is 25 and they are presently (1988) taught by four full-time and several part-time instructors.

European Mennonite Brethren cosponsor a nondenominational Bible school at Ampflwang in Austria (1984). In addition, the Haarlem Mennonite Church in The Netherlands has initiated a Bible school in 1988 in their own city. Finally, it should be mentioned that due to geographical, professional, and theological considerations, a number of European and South American Mennonites relate to non-Mennonite schools and seminaries as well, e.g., Bibelschule Brake and Bibelschule Bergstraße in Germany; the Freie Evangelische Theologische Akademie (Basel) and Bibelschule Sankt Chrischona in Switzerland; the Institute Biblique at Nogent-sur-Marne in France; and the school at Heverlee in Belgium.

See 1953 Articles on Bible Institutes and Bible Schools in Additional Information


Bender, Philip. "Reflections on Closing Elim Bible School." Mennonite Mirror (April 1988): 9-10, on the distinction between Bible colleges and Bible schools.

Bender, Philip. "What's Unique About the Mennonite Bible Institute?" Mennonite Reporter (18 October 1982): 15.

Epp, Frank H. Mennonites in Canada, 1920-1940: A People's Struggle for Survival. Toronto: Macmillan, 1974: chapter 10.

The Mennonite (13 August 1985): 381-83.

Toews, John A. History of the Mennonite Brethren Church, ed. A.J. Klassen. Fresno, Calif.: Mennonite Brethren Board of Literature and Publication, 1975: chapter 16.

Toews, J. B. "The Influence of Fundamentalism on Mennonite Brethren Theology." Direction 10 (July 1981): 20-29.

Wenger, J. C. The Mennonite Church in America. Scottdale : Herald Press, 1966: 210-12.

Witmer, S. A. The Bible College Story. Manhasset, N.Y.: Channel Press, 1962.

Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: the Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978: 284-317, 459-60.

Additional Information

These articles are included to preserve the historiographly significant article from the print encyclopedia. No attempt has been made to update the article.

Bible Institute (1953)

by Harold Bender, Mennonite Encyclopedia, I, 330-332

Bible Institute, a training school for Christian workers, usually on a lower academic level than that of the college and standard theological seminary, which has sprung up in the United States and Canada in large numbers in the last 50 years as a characteristic and powerful expression of the conservative Protestant movement commonly known as "Fundamentalism." The first such school, the Moody Bible Institute, founded at Chicago in 1886 by D. L. Moody, with the stated purpose "to raise up men and women who will be willing to lay their lives along side the laboring class and the poor, and to bring their gospel to bear upon their lives," was followed by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles founded by R. A. Torrey, former dean at Moody; the Philadelphia School of the Bible founded in 1914 by C. I. Scofield; the Northwestern Bible and Missionary Training School at Minneapolis founded in 1902 by Wm. B. Riley, long-time Fundamentalist leader, and others. Recently academic standards have been raised so that many Bible Institutes now require high-school graduation for entrance and are offering work of college grade. The name is now sometimes being changed to Bible college and advanced work of near seminary character is being added.

In these schools until recently scholastic requirements for matriculation, promotion, and graduation have either not been exacted or else have not been high; any mature person could attend. Thus large numbers of people unable to meet the requirements of college and seminary were able to get one to three years of Bible training. Thousands of students have graduated from these schools to enter the foreign and home mission fields as well as the pastorate in many denominations and in independent churches.

The institutes have also greatly extended their influence through correspondence courses (especially the Moody school), Bible conferences sponsored at widely scattered points throughout the country, and periodical organs such as the Moody Monthly, King's Business (Los Angeles), etc. The so-called "Scofield" correspondence course at Moody, and the James M. Gray "Bible Synthesis" course have been taken by thousands, including many Mennonites.

Mennonites early began to attend these schools. When the first Mennonites reached Moody's s is not known, but the first (old) Mennonite enrolled in 1893. Large numbers have attended the institutes in Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and more recently the Prairie Bible Institute at Three Hills, Alta. The Toronto (Ont.) Bible College has been attended by numerous (old) Mennonites from Ontario. In earlier days a few from this group went to Moody and Los Angeles, but otherwise few (old) Mennonites have attended the Bible institutes, most such students especially in recent decades coming from the General Conference Mennonites, Mennonite Brethren, Evangelical Mennonite Brethren, and other smaller groups of Russian Mennonite background, as well as Mennonite Brethren in Christ. Literally hundreds of young Mennonites have passed through these schools in the past 50 years, possibly several thousand. In the year 1948-49, for instance, a survey revealed that over 200 Mennonite students were attending four Bible institutes in the prairie provinces of Canada: 106 at Three Hills, 72 at Briarcrest. Three fourths of these were Mennonite Brethren.

In 1945, alarmed by the alienation of many young Mennonites from their church and its faith, conservative leaders established Grace Bible Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, as an all-Mennonite Bible Institute, which has grown to considerable size and influence, with General Conference leadership and students predominant. Earlier (1905) the Missionary Church Association had established the Fort Wayne Bible Institute, supported and patronized by many M.B.C. (UMC) and Defenseless Mennonites. An early attempt (1903) by the M.B.C. Indiana-Ohio Conference at Elkhart in the former building of the Elkhart (Ind.) Institute failed after a short time. In 1944 the Mennonite Brethren established the Pacific Bible Institute at Fresno, CaL, which grew rapidly in size and influence. Actually the Mennonite Brethren Bible College, established in Winnipeg in 1944, and the Canadian Mennonite Bible College, established by the General Conference Mennonites at the same place in 1947, are also very similar to Bible institutes, although having a somewhat higher academic standard. The latest Mennonite institution of the institute type is the (MC) Ontario Mennonite Bible Institute, the enlarged and renamed form of the Ontario Mennonite School, which operates a Bible school (3 months) and a Bible institute (5 months) together, whereas the O.M.B.S. had only a 3-month term. The only European Mennonite school of this type was the Bible school at Tchongrav, Crimea, Russia, conducted by the Mennonite Brethren Conference 1918-24. The Argentine Mennonite Mission has operated a school at Bragado (Pehuajo) since 1926. A school is planned for Montevideo, Uruguay, 1955.

There is no doubt that the Bible institutes have had a marked and in some cases decisive influence in certain Mennonite branches in the U.S.A. and Canada. In some years the total Mennonite attendance at these non-Mennonite institutions must have exceeded 300. Since the Bible institutes commonly are interdenominational, de-emphasizing denominational differences and loyalties, many of their Mennonite graduates have left the church of their fathers to work elsewhere. Also the total absence of teaching on nonresistance and even positive teaching against it, plus at times a surprising amount of militaristic feeling has contributed to a breakdown of nonresistant convictions in some Mennonite circles. Also, since most Bible institutes have a basically Calvinistic theology, teaching "eternal security" and other similar doctrines, these items have been imported into Mennonite churches, in which they were formerly foreign, and have made great inroads into some branches. Premillennialism and Dispensationalism (and even the Postponement Theory of the Kingdom) have been in many cases introduced and promoted largely through Bible institute influence, having practically captured a few branches altogether and become a strong influence in most.

In Europe schools similar to the American Bible institutes have developed, which have also had considerable influence on the Mennonite Church, particularly in Russia, Germany, Switzerland, and France, chiefly through patronage of young Mennonites preparing for the ministry. The oldest of these is St. Chrischona, near Basel, Switzerland, founded in 1840 by C. F. Spitteler, where Heinrich Rappard (d. 1915) was for long years the director. Almost every year since 1900 one or more young Mennonites from Switzerland, Germany, or France have been in attendance, some for a short term, some for the full four-year course. Among them were the late Elder Samuel Nussbaumer of Basel, Elder Christian Schnebele and Elder Emanuel Landes of South Germany, Elder Pierre Sommer of France, and more recently the Swiss elders Samuel Gerber (Jeangisboden) and Hans Rüfenacht (Langnau). A Mennonite from Russia, Heinrich Braun, taught here for a short time in the 1920's. In France the Institute Biblique de Nogent-sur-Marne (near Paris), a small school of 30-40 students with a three-year course, founded in 1920 by a Reformed pastor, Ruben Saillens, for a time under Baptist control but now independent and interdenominational, has been attended by a total of over 40 young French Mennonites since 1922 (in 1948-49 seven were enrolled). Of considerably less significance have been the French schools in Switzerland-—Emmaus at Vennes near Lausanne (leaders De Benoit and Rene Pache, founded about 1930) and the school of the Action Biblique in Geneva (founded by the Englishman Alexander), likewise the German language Beatenbeg School of Mrs. Wasserkrug on Lake Thun.

Germany has had fewer training schools of the Bible institute type. Schools of this character which were attended by Mennonites, chiefly from Russia, were: the Allianz-Bibelschule in Berlin (1905-18), founded by the Baptist Karl Mascher, the Englishman Broadbent, and others, and closely related to the Plymouth Brethren, attended by numerous Mennonites from Russia 1907-14, among them A. Braun; the Wiedenest Bibelschule, 1918-, successor to the Berlin school; the Wernigerode school operated by the missionary society Licht im Osten, of which Jakob Kroeker was director; the Missionshaus at Barmen; the Missionshaus at Neukirchen, Moers, attended by many Mennonites from Russia; and the Johanneum (founded in 1886 at Bonn, since 1893 at Barmen). Of a higher academic level were the Basel Predigerschule (1876-1914), attended by E. Händiges among others; the Theologische Schule in Bethel (founded by von Bodelschwingh in 1905 at Bethel near Bielefeld); and the Baptist Predigerseminar at Hamburg-Horn. These schools are more than Bible institutes but less than graduate theological schools of the German university type. German Mennonites preparing for the ministry have usually chosen either the university theological schools or St. Chrischona in Basel in preference.

An honest report of the influence of the Bible institutes must say that the influence has been mixed, sometimes helpful and sometimes harmful. Not having any interest in or responsibility for the historic heritage and particular doctrines and practices of the Mennonites, they have never promoted the Mennonite cause as such, have occasionally been the source of divisive and polemic influence, and have imported some foreign and even dangerous doctrines and emphases. On the other hand, they have often had a good influence in the promotion of spiritual awakening and increased evangelistic and missionary activity. In America they have brought some congregations and even whole branches into the orbit of a "Fundamentalism" which is foreign to the more simple, unpolemic, and untheological character of native Mennonitism. -- Harold S. Bender

Bible School (1953)

by Harold S. Bender, Mennonite Encyclopedia: I, 332-332

Bible School, a name commonly given among Mennonites in America to a more elementary type of school for instruction in the Bible and related subjects, for a shorter or longer term either for the general grounding of young people in Christian faith and experience or for preparation forpractical service as lay workers in the local congregation. Some Bible schools are of more advanced character and are called Bible institute or Bible college, while others are designed for children, even of the lowest age, usually conducted for 2 to 3 weeks in the summer and called summer Bible school or vacation Bible school, while still others are conducted in short terms of 2-6 weeks in the winter season for young people of high-school age and older, and are called winter Bible school. In some cases a 1-4 weeks’ school is conducted by a local congregation for all its members who may wish to attend and called simply Bible school. The name alone is no evidence of the exact nature of the school, since it is used to cover a wide range of educational operations, including even at times the Sunday school. The present article will deal under the title "Bible School" with schools of 5-9 months’ duration primarily for young people of 15-25 years of age.

Such Bible schools are most common among the Mennonites coming to North America from Russia, particularly those of the second great migration (1922-25) to Canada. A list of such schools with denominational affiliation, address, and date of founding follows:

Mennonite Bible Schools in North America arranged in order of establishment

Date Place Name Affiliation
1886 Mountain Lake, MN Mountain Lake Bible School Inter-Mennonite
1889-1902 Buhler, KS Buhler Vereinsschule General Conference
1900-1915 Whitewater, KS Whitewater Bible School General Conference
1907-1929 Inman, KS Hoffnungsau Bible School General Conference
1908-1918 Moundridge, KS Moundridge Bible School General Conference
1910-1917 Gotebo, OK Gotebo Bible School General Conference
1913 Herbert, SK Herbert Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1921-1938 North Enid, OK North Enid Bible School General Conference
1925 Winkler, MB Winkler Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1926-1943 Fairview, OK Hoffnungsfeld Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1926 Didsbury, AB Mountain View Bible School United Missionary
1927 Reedley, CA Immanuel Bible School Reedly Bible School merged 1941 Inter-Mennonite
1927 Hepburn, SK Bethany Bible School & Bible College Mennonite Brethren
1928 Frazer, MT Lustre Bibel School Inter-Mennonite
1928 Dalmeny, SK Tabor Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1929 Altona, MB Elim Bible School Inter-Mennonite
1929-1942 Winnipeg, MB Winnipeg German Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1929 Coaldale, AB Morning Star Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1930 Yarrow, BC Elim Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1932 Winnipeg, MB Mennonitische Religionsschule (Discontinued) General Conference
1932 Rosthern, SK Rosthern Bible School General Conference
1933 Gem, AB Bethesda Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1933 Wembley, AB Hoffnungsfeld Bible School (Disc.) General Conference
1933-1946 La Glace, AB La Glace Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1935 Yarrow, BC Yarrow Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1936 Swift Current, SK Swift Current Mennonite Brethren Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1936 Dallas, OR Dallas Bible School (Discontinued) Inter-Mennonite
1936 Swift Current, SK Swift Current Bible School General Conference
1936 Meade, KS Meade Bible Academy Evangelical Mennonite Brethren
1936 Steinbach, MB Steinbach Bible School Inter-Mennonite
1937-1941 Dinuba, CA Dinuba Bible School General Conference
1937 Didsbury, AB Menno Bible Institute General Conference
1938-1950 Munich, SD Bethany Bible School General Conference
1939 Abbotsford, BC Bethel Bible Institute General Conference
1940 Kitchener, ON Emmanuel Bible College United Missionary
1942 Virgil, ON Eden Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1942 Henderson, NE Henderson Bible School General Conference
1943 Abbotsford, BC Mennonite Brethren Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1947 Chilliwack, BC East Chilliwack Mennonite Brethren Bible School Mennonite Brethren
1950 Allentown, PA Berean Bible School United Missionary

The only one of similar character in the Mennonite Church (MC) is the Ontario Mennonite Bible School at Kitchener, founded in 1907 as a "Winter Bible School" of six weeks, lengthened to three months in 1932, and in 1951 lengthened to five months and rechristened a "Bible Institute" although the three-month curriculum is continued along with the five-month course.

Most of these schools combine some secular high-school subjects with Bible subjects, and a few offer a complete high-school course in addition to a Bible school course. (More recently Mennonite high schools have developed, which offer some Bible subjects along with a regular high-school curriculum.) These schools vary in size from 15 to 175 pupils or students, have a teaching staff of 1-5 teachers, and are supported by donations by local congregations or interested individuals. Some use local church buildings; others have substantial buildings of their own. Some are owned and controlled by conferences, others by congregations or associations of congregations, and some by special societies or associations organized for that purpose. See the articles on each of these schools for detailed information.

The early founding and the rapid growth of these schools among the newer (1922-25) immigrants from Russia in Canada reflects (1) the strong sense of responsibility of these groups for the education of their youth as practiced in Russia, (2) their determination to resist the secularizing influence of the surrounding culture, (3) desire to maintain the German language as long as possible, (4) a desire to retain Mennonitism over against disintegrating influences from the outside, and (5) the evangelistic and experimental emphasis, in part influenced by "Fundamentalistic currents." The latter influence is due in part to the fact that many Bible school teachers have secured their Bible training in fundamentalistic Bible schools since arriving in Canada (they usually could not meet the entrance requirements for regular college or seminary work) and that the textbooks and literature of these fundamentalistic sources were and are widely used by them. It is noteworthy that in the United States few such schools have been established by the much larger Mennonite population, where the influence of the non-Mennonite Bible institutes has been much stronger.

Undoubtedly the Bible schools have had a strong and generally very beneficial influence upon the Mennonites of North America.

In Europe Mennonite Bible schools are almost unknown. Elder Pierre Sommer conducted a small (6-10 pupils) four weeks’ school in 1929-1934 at Grand-Charmont and Montbeliard, France. In 1950 the International Mennonite Bible School was established at Basel, Switzerland, under a board of control consisting of representatives of the Mennonite churches of France, Switzerland, and Germany, and the Mennonite Central Committee, with a four-week term, an enrollment of 28 students from five countries, instruction in both German and French, and teachers from five countries. In 1953 the term was made 8 weeks, with Cornelius Wall as principal.

In Russia the Mennonite conference decided in 1887 to establish a theological school for the preparation of preachers, but all attempts throughout the remainder of Mennonite history in Russia to carry out this decision failed. However, other attempts were made. Cornelius Unruh conducted a Bible school in Friedensfeld (Zagradovka colony) from 1907 to his death in 1910. After World War I three "Bible schools" were attempted. One, the Mayak Bible School at Davlekanovo, Ufa (1923-26), was actually in full operation and graduated one class from a three-year course. Similar schools were started in Tchongrav (q.v.) and Orenburg about the same time. The school at Orenburg functioned from 1923 to 1926. An attempt to start such a school in Orloff in the Molotschna Colony about this time was frustrated by refusal of government permission and a later attempt to start the same school privately in Simferopol, Crimea, also failed.

In the Fernheim Mennonite Colony in Paraguay, established in 1930 by refugee settlers from Russia, a private Bible school was established in 1943 in Filadelfia under the leadership of Nikolai Siemens, attended by students from all groups. This is a six-week winter Bible school, usually held in August.-- Harold S. Bender


Dyck, Peter P. Orenburg am Ural. Clearbrook, BC, 1951: 75 ff.

Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft "Raduga", 1911.

Froese, L. "Das pädagogische Kultursystem der Menn. Siedlungen in Russland." PhD dissertaiton, Göttingen, 1949.

Harder, M. S. "Origin, Philosophy, and Development of Education Among the Mennonites." PhD dissertation, U. of Southern California, 1949.

Unruh, A. Kurze Notizen über Gründung, Bestehen, Bedeutung und Schliessung der mennonitischen Bibelschule zu Tschongraw, Krim, in Russland. Winkler, Man., n.d., ca. 1925.

Author(s) Walter Unger
Gundolf Niebuhr
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Unger, Walter and Gundolf Niebuhr. "Bible Colleges and Institutes." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 21 Mar 2019.

APA style

Unger, Walter and Gundolf Niebuhr. (1990). Bible Colleges and Institutes. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 March 2019, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 73-77. All rights reserved.

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