Rationale for a Federational Seminary
The Theological Education Committee of the Canadian Reformed Churches has summarized the reasons for a federational school in a document entitled Why do the Canadian Reformed Churches Have Their Own Seminary? This serves as a position paper in unity talks with the Committee for Theological Education for Ministers of the United Reformed Churches in North America.
The first Synod of the Canadian Reformed Churches, held at Homewood in 1954, already saw the necessity of a theological school for the churches in Canada, and decided "to ask the churches to take four collections a year for our seminary and to appoint delegates to take charge of the money and to be diligent concerning the whole matter of the theological training." Since then the training for the ministry became a matter on the agenda of each subsequent Synod.
Right from the beginning, two leading principles were that the training for the ministry should be provided by the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ and that the future ministers of the Word should receive a good academic training. Only those persons were to be admitted to the ecclesiastical examinations who held a Bachelor of Divinity degree.
The Synod of Hamilton of 1962 decided to set up a provisional training. A number of ministers were appointed to teach while they continued to serve their congregations. Synod also set the Bachelor of Arts degree or its equivalent as an admission requirement. It was further decided to establish a library for the benefit of teachers and students.
On Wednesday, November 20, 1968, the Synod of Orangeville decided to establish a full-fledged Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches and to appoint three full-time professors and two lecturers.
The following professors were appointed: Rev. Jules T. Van Popta of Cloverdale, British Columbia, (Dogmatology), Rev. Dr. Jelle Faber of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, (Old Testament), and Rev. Lubbertus Selles of Chatham, ON, (New Testament); as lecturers: the Rev. Hendrik Scholten, M.Th., of Smithville, ON, (Church History and Church Polity), and Rev. Gijsbertus Van Dooren, M.Th., of Burlington, ON, (Diaconiology). However, the Lord decided otherwise. Synod received the sorrowful tidings that Rev. J. Van Popta had passed away before he could be informed of his appointment. Synod therefore decided to fill the vacancy by changing Dr. Jelle Faber's appointment from the chair of Old Testament to that of Dogmatology, and to appoint in his place Rev. François Kouwenhoven, M.Th., of Toronto as professor of the Old Testament disciplines.
Synod also decided that a suitable estate should be purchased in Southern Ontario, close to a university with appropriate library facilities. On Wednesday, September 10, 1969, the "Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches" was officially opened at Hamilton, Ontario. During the opening ceremony the principal, Dr. J. Faber, gave an inaugural address entitled "The Catholicity of the Belgic Confession." Professors and lecturers signed a Form of Subscription.
Shortly after the opening, the new College suffered another heavy loss. On October 4, 1969, the Lord took to Himself Professor F. Kouwenhoven. Synod New Westminster 1971 appointed the Rev. Heinrich M. Ohmann of Dokkum, The Netherlands, in his place as professor of Old Testament. When Professor Ohmann was appointed to teach at our sister institution in Kampen, The Netherlands, some 10 years later, the Rev. Cornelis Van Dam,Th.M., of Surrey, BC, became the professor of Old Testament. In 1980 the Rev. William W.J. Van Oene, M.Th.,of Fergus, ON, replaced Rev. H. Scholten as lecturer in Ecclesiology. After he and Rev. G. Van Dooren had retired, Rev. Dr. Karel Deddens of Groningen, The Netherlands, was appointed Professor of Diaconiology and Ecclesiology. Since 1984, therefore, the Faculty is made up of four full-time professors.
In 1981 the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario adopted the Canadian Reformed Theological College Act. It empowered the Senate to grant, among others, the degree of Master of Divinity (M.Div.) which replaced the former Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) degree. The Master of Divinity degree is conferred to a person in possession of a Bachelor of Arts degree who has completed four years of study at the Theological College.
In the summer of 1985 the Theological College left the building it had occupied since 1969 and moved to larger premises that provided more space for its expanding library. The present building is located in a quiet residential area on Hamilton's West mountain. The purchase and renovation were made possible by a large grant from the Women's Savings Action and a special fundraising drive in the Canadian Reformed Churches.
In the year 1986, Professor L. Selles retired as Professor of New Testament and was replaced by Rev. Jakob Geertsema of Surrey, BC. On January 1, 1990, Dr. J. Faber retired. His successor as Professor of Dogmatology was Rev. Dr. Nicolaas H. Gootjes of Pusan, Korea. Dr. K. Deddens became Professor emeritus in June, 1990. His successor as Professor of Ecclesiology and Diaconiology was the Rev. Dr. Jacobus De Jong of Burlington, ON. In concert with these changes, it was decided to rotate the office of principal (as well as the other functions at the College) every third year. Prof. J. Geertsema retired in 2001. His successor as Professor of New Testament is Rev. Dr. Gerhard H. Visscher , of Burlington, ON.
In the spring of 2003, the College community was saddened when it became evident that a debilitating illness prevented Dr. De Jong from continuing to teach. His successor is Rev. Dr. Adriaan J. de Visser, of Pretoria, South Africa, who assumed his teaching responsibilities in September 2004.
The College community was once again saddened when Dr. Gootjes became ill and was unable to continue teaching or carrying out his responsibilities as Principal. Dr. Visscher was therefore appointed as Principal in 2008 and Rev. Jason VanVliet of Surrey, BC, was appointed as lecturer for the academic year 2009/2010. After receiving his doctorate in 2009, Dr. VanVliet was formally appointed by synod as professor. In 2010, due to the planned sabbatical of Dr. VanDam and his imminent retirement, Rev. Dr. Jannes Smith of Albany, Western Australia, was appointed as Professor of Old Testament.
Synod Burlington 2010 made another decision which signified the beginning of a new era for the College. While the official name of the College was not changed, the operating name was changed to the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary.