Our History

A charter member of the Graduate Theological Union (1962), the American Baptist Seminary of the West (ABSW) was founded in 1871 and is the center of Baptist ecumenical theological education in the far western United States. The seminary is affiliated denominationally with the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. ABSW admits students from a variety of denominational traditions and unites national and international relationships with over a century of Baptist-related theological education.

absw-historical-photoABSW traces its lineage to the 1871 Charter of California College. As one of California’s earliest colleges, the school was first located in Vacaville and then moved to Oakland in 1887. In 1912 California College relocated in Berkeley, changing its name to Berkeley Baptist Divinity School. Three years later this school merged with the Pacific Coast Baptist Theological Seminary, which had begun instruction in 1890 at the First Baptist Church of Oakland and had moved to Berkeley in 1904.

From 1915 to 1968 the school carried the name Berkeley Baptist Divinity School. In 1968 the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School joined with California Baptist Theological Seminary, which had been founded in 1944 at Temple Baptist Church in Los Angeles and was moved to Covina in 1951. The new two-campus institution was renamed American Baptist Seminary of the West. In 1974 the Covina faculty joined the faculty in Berkeley, where together they could share in the resources of the Graduate Theological Union (GTU).

Today, as a member of the GTU, ABSW offers its students a myriad of resources through the largest partnership of seminaries and graduate schools in the United States. ABSW students may take advantage of the strength of Baptist traditions as well as interdisciplinary religious thought, study, and practice through cross-registration at other GTU seminaries. In addition, ABSW students have access to one of the finest theological libraries in the world, an uncommonly large faculty of distinguished scholars, and the resources of the University of California, Berkeley. Through the GTU, students can pursue ABSW degrees as well as the Ph.D., Th.D., and M.A., plus two joint Ph.D. programs with the University of California, Berkeley.