Canadian Bible Institute (Toronto, Ont.)
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15 September 1924 - July 1929
“We recommend the encouragement and expansion of regional . . . schools.” So reads a motion adopted by the 1920 Annual Meeting of the C&MA. In response, A. W. Roffe, superintendent of the District of Canada, urged the District to open a national training school in Toronto. By the summer of 1921, the District of Canada Committee had begun to lay plans. Paul Rader, president of the C&MA, got wind of them and informed the Committee that neither he nor the C&MA’s Board of Managers approved of the project, since Toronto already had a good Bible school (the Toronto Bible School, see sidebar). Then, at its Annual Meeting of May 1922, the C&MA unexpectedly approved the project.
Walter M. Turnbull, dean of the C&MA’s flagship school, the Missionary Training Institute (Nyack, N. Y.), advised the Committee to seek the blessing of Principal McNicol of Toronto Bible School. Rev. Oswald J. Smith, pastor of Christie Street Tabernacle, and Lionel Watson, Roffe’s assistant, made the visit to McNicol, who deemed the venture “a very wise and timely move.” Planning then began in earnest, with a September 1922 opening date in view. However, the Committee was unable to find a principal for the school, and so its opening was delayed for another two years.
Finally, in May 1924, a board of governors was formed, with Walter Turnbull as chair. Turnbull’s brother, John, a C&MA missionary on furlough, agreed to serve as principal. That same month the C&MA purchased land next to the Tabernacle on which to build a 50’ x 50’ educational facility (which was to include “appropriate stairs for the sexes”). Canadian Bible Institute (CBI) opened on 15 September 1924 with 29 students. Within weeks, another Canadian C&MA training school, Great West Bible Institute (GWBI), began educating leaders for J. H. Woodward’s Edmonton-based Great West Mission.
The following year the principalship of CBI passed to E. Ralph Hooper, the former dean of the C&MA’s Boston Bible Training School. He ensured that the school’s curriculum followed that of the Missionary Training Institute, which had become all but inaccessible to Canadian students because the U.S. had recently implemented a more restrictive immigration policy. Things went smoothly at the new school, and it turned out a steady stream of leaders (21 in 1928, 11 of whom were women) until July 1929, when the Board of Managers decided to close six of the C&MA’s nine training schools, including CBI and GWBI, to offset a movement-wide decline in revenues.
All attempts to reopen CBI during the 1930’s were quashed by the leadership of the C&MA. Finally, pastors Willis Brooks (a CBI alumnus) and George Blackett (a former board member) took matters into their own hands. In October 1941, with the blessing of Gordon Skitch, superintendent of the Western Canadian District, they “re-established” Canadian Bible Institute in Regina. Convinced that the initiative would be rejected if they went through normal channels, they consulted neither the Eastern and Central Canadian District nor the Board of Managers. As a result, the school had to wait another four years for official recognition. It was also required to change its name to Western Canadian Bible Institute (WCBI).
In 1944, the Eastern and Central District received approval to establish a school in Toronto, but the project foundered for lack of leadership and proper facilities. Two years later, the Glen Rocks estate came up for sale. The District concluded that it needed a Bible camp and conference centre more than it needed a training school, and so it sold off the Institute building to help pay for Glen Rocks. In 1956, WCBI (later, Canadian Bible College) was declared to be the national school for the C&MA in Canada.
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Canadian Bible Institute was the official ministerial training school for the Canadian churches of The Christian and Missionary Alliance from 15 September 1924 until its closure in July 1929
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