History

The Journey since 1960

In 2020, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated 60 years in His service. The Seminary began in 1960 in rented facilities in Beirut but soon moved to its current location in Mansourieh, el Maten, a suburb of the city. Its roots as a Baptist institution, however, go back to 1893, when a young Lebanese Baptist named Sa’eed Juriedini began ministry in the region. Two years later, a Baptist church was founded in Beirut.

Over the next several decades other Baptist churches were established in Lebanon and neighboring countries, as well as hospitals and schools. Increasingly, the need was felt for a seminary that would form pastors, evangelists and other workers. Modest but important initial efforts to provide such a formation came from Finlay Graham, a missionary who had moved from Jordan to Beirut in 1948. He, alongside others, wanted to establish a Baptist seminary that would serve the Arab world as a whole, a desire that came to fruition with the establishment of ABTS in 1960, with Finlay Graham as its first president.

Since its inception in 1960, the Seminary has graduated several hundred students from Algeria, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia. More than another 300 have benefited from short-term and other non-degree programs. In addition to students of Baptist background, other denominations represented include Anglican, Assemblies of God, Evangelical Free, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of God, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Pentecostal, and Presbyterian.

The great majority of these graduates are now actively engaged in ministry in the Arabic-speaking world. ABTS offers both formal degree- or certificate-based education, as well as less formal training opportunities. Instruction is in Arabic and is contextualized to meet the needs of the Arab world. An ABTS education emphasizes the development of personal spirituality, effective ministry to the majority Arab religious community, knowledge of the history and particularities of Christian minorities in the Arab world, and sensitivity to special areas of Eastern spirituality.

After Finlay Graham’s tenure as president, he was succeeded by Dr. Emmett Barnes.

Dr. Ghassan Khalaf became ABTS’s third president in 1993 and was the first Lebanese to hold this position. June 2008 marked the end of a fruitful season and the start of another in the life and ministry of Rev. Dr. Ghassan Khalaf who resigned having felt called by God to focus his time and energies on writing and encouraging the church.

In 1998, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary came under the legal umbrella and leadership of a local body, the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) - also known as the Lebanese Baptist Society.

In August 2008, ABTS' Board of Trustees appointed Provost Elie Haddad, a Lebanese-Canadian, as President of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. Elie Haddad continues to serve in this position to-date.

In February 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Lebanon, leading ABTS leadership to make the decision to have students return home and finish out their year studying from a distance.

Having already begun work on developing and adapting the residential curriculum to suit a hybrid learning approach since the establishment of the Online Program in 2015, and catalyzed by the pandemic, ABTS faculty worked tirelessly throughout 2020 to transition the curriculum to the new Integrated Theology Program, bringing theological education and biblical formation to key church servants and leaders in their own ministerial contexts throughout the Arab world.
1893Sa’eed Juriedini, a young Lebanese Baptist, begins ministry in and around Beirut after his conversion and baptism in the United States
1895A Baptist church is founded in Beirut
1917End of the Ottoman Empire
1920The borders of contemporary Lebanon are established via the Treaty of Sèvres
1926France forms the Lebanese Republic—a constitutional democratic republic with a parliamentary government
1943Lebanon gains independence from the French government
1948Finlay and Julia Graham move from Jordan to Beirut with the International Mission Board. Finlay is a British national and Julia is American.
1953Dr. Graham begins teaching theological classes in his home in north Beirut; there are three students.
1960Dr. Graham begins the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in a rented apartment in Mousaitbeh, Beirut. There were approximately 21 students from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt
1961ABTS classes move to the newly-constructed campus in Mansourieh, El Maten, in the Lebanese hills overlooking Beirut.
1963The first graduation ceremony of ABTS; 15-18 students graduate
1963Dr. David King begins teaching at ABTS; he would be Dean of ABTS and remain for over a decade
1975Beginning of the Lebanese Civil War
1975 – 1977Worship services are held in Mansourieh for those who the war might prevent from getting safely to their churches; Baptist Publications moves from west Beirut to the ABTS campus; Mansourieh Baptist Church is organized and meets at ABTS
1977Dr. Emmett Barnes becomes the second President of ABTS, succeeding Dr. Graham
1985-86ABTS begins to offer a Bachelor of Theology
1986-87ABTS begins studies specifically designed for laypeople
1987-90Challenging times as all Americans are forced to leave Lebanon upon decision of the American government
1990End of Lebanon’s Civil War
1993ABTS management is transferred to a regional board of trustees
1993Dr. Ghassan Khalaf becomes the third President of ABTS, succeeding Dr. Barnes; he is ABTS’s first Lebanese president
1998ABTS comes under the local umbrella of local leadership: the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD, also known as the Lebanese Baptist Society)
2001The seminary building is remodeled
2003The Institute of Middle East Studies (IMES) is established
 IMES holds the first Middle East Conference, which became an annual event
 Martin Accad became Academic Dean, until 2008
2008ABTS’ Board of Trustees appointed Provost Elie Haddad, a Lebanese-Canadian, as President of ABTS
 A new conference center is constructed and added to the guesthouse
 Hikmat Kashouh became Academic Dean, until 2010
2009ABTS began a new and innovative curriculum, under the leadership of professor Perry Shaw.
2012The first cohort of graduates in the new curriculum graduates
 IMES launches the Master of Religion in Middle Eastern and North African Studies, an English language graduate program.
2015ABTS launches the Online degree program
 The European Council for Theological Education accredits ABTS degrees
2016The Middle East and North Africa Association for Theological Education (MENATE) accredits ABTS degrees
 Martin Accad becomes Chief Academic Officer and serves until December 2020
2019The European Council for Theological Education accredits our Online program
2020COVID-19 reaches Lebanon
Residential students are sent home to finish out the academic year through distance education
ABTS’s residential program is modified to the Integrated Theology Program
Walid Zailaa becomes Academic Dean
Bassem Melki becomes Dean of Faculty