As far back as 1954, discussions began within Baptist churches in the Western Cape and within the Baptist Union of South Africa for a theological college to be established to meet the needs of churches in the Western Cape. After much investigation and debate, the 1972 Baptist Union Assembly, meeting at King William's Town, approved a motion that a Western Province branch of the Baptist Theological College of South Africa, be established in Cape Town, which would admit students of all races.
The Cape Town Baptist Seminary (formerly known as The Baptist Theological College, Cape Town) was founded in 1974 as a branch of the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa (Johannesburg). It started with four students in the hall of the Silvertown Baptist Church with Dr CW Parnell as the “lecturer-in-charge”. Within a few short years it grew in student numbers, expanded in staff, and gained autonomous status.
The Seminary commenced its first classes with four full-time and some part-time students meeting in the hall of the Silvertown Baptist Church in Athlone, Cape Town. Dr Parnell and various local Baptist ministers serving as part-time lecturers provided the tuition. A College Committee was soon appointed under the chairmanship of the Rev Roger Voke. This later developed into the College, which over the years has played a formative role in the growth and development of the Seminary. As student numbers increased, a more adequate home for the College acquired, by the purchase of a house in Brand Road, Athlone. This was adapted for tuition and lectures. By 1976 the student body had increased to ten and a full-time College Secretary was appointed.
As the College continued to expand, a two-and-a-half-acre site in Bridgetown, Athlone a Seminary Building was obtained at a nominal cost from the Cape Town City Council. Building operations commenced, with Dr Parnell assisted in this by Mr. Donald Waterson who has played a key role in most of the subsequent building operations at the College. A grant from the Baptist World Alliance covered the major share of the funds required and the new College building was opened on 16 February 1980.
Later in 1980, Dr Parnell retired and was succeeded by Rev Theo Pass who had previously served as a Baptist pastor in several congregations and as a missionary with the S.A. Baptist Missionary Society amongst the Indian community of Natal. Rev Peter Holness was appointed as part-time lecturer to assist the Rev Pass. In 1982, the Western Cape Baptist Theological College was granted its autonomy and was officially constituted as THE BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL COLLEGE, CAPE TOWN. Further building extensions were undertaken to provide additional lecture rooms as well as residential accommodation for students.
1985 to 1992
In 1985 Rev Peter Holness succeeded Rev Pass as Principal and the College developed significantly under his leadership. After 18 years on the Seminary staff, Rev Holness felt the need to return to the pastoral ministry and left the College at the end of 1992.
In 1993 the Baptist Union Executive appointed Dr Gerhard Venter as the new College Principal. From 1978 to 1992 Dr Venter gained experience in pastoring Baptist Churches: Randburg Afrikaans Baptist Church (ABK), Filadelfia ABK in Florida and the East London ABK. Under Dr Venter's leadership, the name was changed to Cape Town Baptist Seminary in keeping with the growth and mission of the Seminary. The Seminary has shown significant development with the establishment of a Distance Learning Programme (External Studies Department), with several hundred students in training at certificate level. In addition to the regular under-graduate and full-time programmes, an agreement was concluded with the University of Pretoria whereby students may complete a BA (Theology) and post-graduate degrees in theology.
In 1998 a new library was opened and the Seminary buildings expanded by the addition of new offices for faculty and staff. The entire campus was refurbished providing superb facilities to support its ministry. In 2002 the campus was expanded on to an adjacent property to include a laundry, gymnasium, storage, house for the caretaker and additional parking facilities.
In 2006 Cape Town Baptist Seminary appoints its first person of colour to the portfolio of Principal in the person of Rev Dr Linzay B. Rinquest.
From these humble beginnings, the Seminary now boasts a large campus with excellent facilities, 15 full-time faculty and staff members, and on average 120 students enrolled in a variety of full-time and part-time courses at Higher Education and Training (HET) level.
As a recognized academic institution in South Africa (see “Accreditation”), it is an official training institution for pastors and missionaries of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa, but also open to students from other denominations. More than 600 people have graduated from the Seminary and are now involved in various forms of ministry in Southern Africa and in foreign countries.