Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Chicago, Illinois, USA)

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Mennonite Biblical Seminary, a graduate school for the training of ministers, missionaries, and other church workers, was a school of the General Conference Mennonite Church administered directly by a Board of Trustees, nine in number, elected by and responsible to the General Conference. Additional members of the Board in an advisory capacity represented the three colleges of the General Conference and the alumni of the Seminary. The Mennonite Biblical Seminary was a continuation of former seminaries, particularly the Mennonite Seminary which operated as a department of Bluffton College 1915-1921 and the Witmarsum Theological Seminary into which the former was reorganized in 1921. This latter institution operated independently of the College until 1931 when it was provisionally discontinued. The board, however, continued to meet regularly and to plan for reopening of the institution. This was accomplished in two steps; first, the reorganization of the old board into a new board elected by the General Conference and the turning over of all assets of the former board and institution, and secondly, the opening of a seminary in September 1945 at a new location in Chicago under the name of Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

The Seminary as reopened was conducted in affiliation with Bethany Biblical Seminary, an institution of the Church of the Brethren, which conferred the degree. Under the affiliated program Mennonite Biblical Seminary provided a number of faculty members who joined the Bethany staff in teaching combined classes of students of both schools. The first president was Abraham Warkentin, who served from 1945 until his deatil in 1947. S. F. Pannabecker functioned as dean beginning in 1946 and continued as president after the death of Warkentin until 1957, also teaching in the fields of missions and church history. Other full-time faculty members during the first ten-year period were Don E. Smucker in the field of Christian social ethics, Jacob J. Enz in Old Testament, and Marvin J. Dirks in music. All of these were serving in 1954-55. A number of others assisted part time or for short periods. Besides the teaching faculty the staff included a librarian and a director of public relations as well as a business manager and a matron, the latter two serving on a part-time basis. The number of Mennonite students in the affiliated program varied from 15 the first year to as high as 45, with an average of 35.

While participating in the joint work of the affiliated program Mennonite Biblical Seminary had its own faculty and student organizations and its own physical plant located in the 4600 block on Woodlawn Avenue on the south side of Chicago. Here were provided student rooms and apartments, faculty apartments, business office, quarters for guests, library, and auditorium. Mennonite interests of the institution were centered at this location. Two projects incidental to Seminary activity became significant for the church. One was the provision for housing young Mennonites in the city studying in other institutions and tying them in with the Seminary fellowship. The second was the organization of the Woodlawn Mennonite Church, the congregation of which was based largely on Seminary residents but reached out into an active Christian effort in the local community. A third activity, stimulated in part by the Seminary but actually independent of it, was the mission center established by the General Conference in the same block as that occupied by the Seminary.

In 1955 Mennonite Biblical Seminary was completing its first decade in the Chicago location. During this period about $250,000 was invested in property for Seminary use. The number of students who have attended totaled 162 with 72 graduates as follows: Master of Theology 2, Bachelor of Divinity 53, Master of Religious Education 17. All degrees were given by Bethany Biblical Seminary.

A more recent movement was one for an inter-Mennonite cooperative program in ministerial education, in which the Mennonite Biblical Seminary and the Goshen College Biblical Seminary, with any other interested Mennonite seminaries or groups would participate in a project called the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries. This called for the relocation of the campus of Mennonite Biblical Seminary at the south edge of Elkhart, Indiana, and the erection of a new plant there ready for occupancy by September 1958, as well as reorganization of the academic program.


Pannabecker, S. F. Ventures of faith: the story of Mennonite Biblical Seminary. Elkhart, IN: Mennonite Biblical Seminary, 1975.

Author(s) S. F Pannabecker
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Pannabecker, S. F. "Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Chicago, Illinois, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 20 Sep 2021.,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=163784.

APA style

Pannabecker, S. F. (1957). Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Chicago, Illinois, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 September 2021, from,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=163784.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 589-590. All rights reserved.

©1996-2021 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.