Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond (BTSR) was born in 1989 in celebration of historic Baptist values, as Baptist life in the South moved sharply toward a narrow theological perspective. The seminary welcomed its first students in 1991. Birthed by the Alliance of Baptists and nurtured by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Baptist General Association of Virginia, BTSR has always valued historic Baptist freedoms, as outlined in its Mission Statement and Covenant.
BTSR’s unique ethos has found expression in several ways. The seminary’s founders envisioned a distinctively Baptist seminary in a racially diverse and ecumenically inclusive setting, and partnered with two other schools in the Richmond Theological Consortium: the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University, a historically black Baptist institution, and Union Presbyterian Seminary, whose outstanding theological library was a great asset to the young school.
In addition, from the start, the curriculum has stressed excellence in academics and a grounding in ministry. At the core of all we have done are three emphases: spiritual formation, global mission immersion, and a practical ministry focus. It has been the goal of BTSR to equip every student with both the practical and theological tools needed for ministry.
Cooperative relationships have enlivened the seminary’s programs and broadened students’ options. Over the years, BTSR grew its network of learning experiences, including online learning and academic partnerships with Virginia Commonwealth University, Averett University, Eastern Mennonite University, and the Religious Freedom Center at the Newseum Institute. Cooperative degree programs have enabled students to pursue specific interests, from chaplaincy to social justice to business.
But at the heart of all of these programs has been a single focus: service. A towel and basin have been the central symbols of the seminary, following the example of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (John 13). Over the past three decades BTSR has sent more than 750 graduates out to be servant leaders all around the world: in local congregations, social service agencies, educational institutions, in chaplaincy, on the mission field, and beyond. The evening before their graduation, students traditionally have been presented with a personalized towel, a symbol they can take with them throughout their ministry to remind them to embrace a servant’s heart in all they do.