Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)

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Ontario Mennonite Bible School (Mennonite Church), located in Kitchener, ON, was an outgrowth of the Bible conference movement. The first extended Bible study class was conducted in 1907 for one week by Samuel Frederick Coffman and Lewis Josephus Burkholder, with an attendance of 50-60. The Ontario Conference in 1909 appointed the Bible Study Board to have charge of these classes. The Bible Study Class (later called Bible School) met annually, with sessions originally lasting one or two weeks and later four weeks or more. In 1918 a course of study was arranged covering the entire Bible, as well as training in Sunday school and Christian work; the course extended over a period of six years and required an annual session of six weeks. This more regular form of study increased attendance and interest in the work. In 1929 the course was rearranged to increase the class periods to twelve weeks and shorten the cycle of study to three years. That same year an annex was built to Kitchener's First Mennonite Church for the Bible school. Previously the classes had been conducted in the church or in rented quarters in the city. A further addition to the church in 1950, the costs of which were shared by the church and the Bible School, created space for a library and additional classroom and office space. The early years of the Ontario Mennonite Bible School were marked by the strong leadership of S. F. Coffman, Oscar Burkholder, Clayton Freed Derstine, Jesse Bauman Martin, Merle Shantz, and numerous other board and faculty members.

Before 1951 an advanced course was offered to Bible school graduates and others which led the Bible School Board to recommend to Conference the launching of the Ontario Mennonite Bible Institute. It was the conviction of church leaders that there was a need for a Bible course shorter than the regular college Bible course, but more thorough than the Bible school could offer in three months, to meet the need of mature young people who could not attend college. The first session of the Institute was held in 1951-52 for five months, two months before Christmas and three months following. The School continued to function alongside the Institute, the two programs sharing the same principal, board, and faculty. Extension courses in surrounding churches were also offered. In 1965 a pre-university year was added to give high school graduates the opportunity to complete one year of Bible study before entering university.

The Ontario Bible School and Institute was well known in Western Ontario and the border states and attracted students from across Canada and the United States. The Bible School enrolment reached its peak in the 1930s, with about 224 students attending in 1939. Attendance at the Institute fluctuated between 23 and 60 students. Declining enrolment and increasing deficits in the 1960s forced the faculty and board to re-evaluate the direction and future of the School and Institute. Furthermore, faculty members, most of whom were pastors, were facing increasing demands in time and energy from their congregations. Although numerous changes in program and emphasis were considered and some adaptations were implemented, the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute, on recommendation of its Board, closed in 1969.


Gingrich, Newton L. Mission Completed: History of the Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Ontario Mennonite Bible Institute. Kitchener, Ont., ca. 1971.

Records at Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Additional Information

Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute Principals

Principal Years
S. F. Coffman 1907-1947
Oscar Burkholder 1948-1955
Roy S. Koch 1955-1957
Jesse B. Martin 1957-1966
Newton L. Gingrich 1966-1969

Author(s) Oscar Burkholder
Date Published 1955

Cite This Article

MLA style

Burkholder, Oscar. "Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1955. Web. 13 Dec 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ontario_Mennonite_Bible_School_and_Institute_(Kitchener,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=76664.

APA style

Burkholder, Oscar. (1955). Ontario Mennonite Bible School and Institute (Kitchener, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 December 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Ontario_Mennonite_Bible_School_and_Institute_(Kitchener,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=76664.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 66. All rights reserved.

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