Southeastern Bible College

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Southeastern Bible College (SEBC) was a four-year evangelical college located at 2545 Valleydale Road in northern Shelby County. First known as the Birmingham School of the Bible, the college was established by Edgar J. Rowe in 1935 as a training institute for fundamentalist Baptist and Presbyterian lay leaders. It grew to become an important center for non-denominational fundamentalism in the state, serving numerous independent congregations. Financial shortfalls led the institution to suspend operations in June 2017.

History

The idea for the institute was inspired by Harry A. Ironside, a representative of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He spoke at a conference attended by Rowe and his wife at which he outlined the importance of training lay leaders in the church. Rowe spent the next few years drafting a prospectus which was well-received by a group of pastors who proceeded to nominate an executive committee to establish the new school. Members of that committee included Rowe, Henry Anderton, W. T. Berry, Wick Broomall, Jr, C. E. Gibbs and Walter Heasty. They appointed the first board of directors, which hired Broomall as the first dean.

When classes began on May 1, 1935 the institute held evening classes for Sunday School teachers at Alverson Business College. Like its fundamentalist predecessors, the Moody Bible Institute and the Dallas Theological Seminary, the Birmingham School of the Bible taught the study of the English Bible rather than ancient languages. Specifically the institute taught with the Study Bible edited by Cyrus Scofield, which applied a "dispensational premillenialist" analysis to Biblical history and prophecy. Practical courses included training in evangelism, mission service and teaching. The curriculum also stressed the importance of the "spiritual life" espoused by the Dallas seminary's founder, Lewis Sperry Chafer. Spiritual growth was emphasized over academic rigor and was supported by daily chapel services and supervised service activities such as distributing Bibles and witnessing at jails and rescue missions.

In 1937 Harold Cook, pastor of Porter Baptist Church took over for Broomall. A day school program was added in 1940 under the direction of William C. Bennett. Three years later, at Bennett's suggestion, the name of the institution was changed to Southeastern Bible School. Bennett was succeeded by William Mooney for a year before Charles Seidenspinner came to Birmingham in 1945.

During Seidenspinner's tenure the institute began making the transition toward becoming a degree-granting college with a focus on preparing high school graduates for careers in Christian ministry and education. The school took possession of the Frank Nelson residence on Pawnee Avenue in 1947. The three-year basic course was expanded to a four-year degree program in 1948. The college was given the power to grant secondary degrees by the Alabama legislature in June 1950 and took its current name in June 1952. By 1958 the School had an enrollment of more than 500 students and employed 17 faculty members

In 1962, under long-time president Alden Gannett, SEBC earned its approvals from the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges and added programs in elementary education to serve independent Christian schools that blossomed alongside the Civil Rights Movement to integrate public schools.

In 1988, after years of declining enrollment, the school relocated to the former site of Briarwood Presbyterian Church, a 10-acre campus near the intersection of U.S. Highway 280 and Cahaba River Road in Mountain Brook. The sale of the Southside property to a condominium developer gave the institution a much-needed infusion of cash, and enrollment increased to around 200 students by 1995.

In 2004 the school moved to the former Valleydale Baptist Church, which had relocated to a new facility across Valleydale Road. The 22-acre campus was in Shelby County's Indian Valley, between Hoover and Indian Springs. Two dormitory buildings were constructed for full-time students.

President Don Hawkins hosted a nationwide call-in program called "Life Perspectives" from the SEBC campus. In 2016 the college announced the creation of an athletics program, beginning with a basketball team called the "Sabers" which would play as a provisional member of the National Christian College Athletic Association. Bill Ivey was hired as director of athletics and athletic scholarships were offered.

In 2017 financial difficulties led the school to suspend operations effective June 1. By that time most of the faculty and staff had already left. The 140 or so remaining students were assisted with transfers to other schools so they could complete their degrees.

Presidents

Degrees

SEBC awarded Bachelor of Arts degrees in Bible/Theology. Other majors included Biblical studies and elementary education, church education, or music education. Through the college's department of Biblical studies students could pursue minors in biblical studies, Christian ministries, pre-seminary and world missions. Through the department of Education minors were available in children's, youth, and counseling ministries as well as church music and music education for Christian schools. A department of arts and sciences offered minors in apologetics, biology, English and history.

SEBC offered an adult education program in leadership ministries called "ACHIEVE".

Student activities

SEBC's music department sponsored the Audience of One worship ensemble and the Southeastern Bible College Chorale, both of which scheduled numerous public performances around the region.

In addition to SEBC's intercollegiate men's basketball team , intramural sports offered included baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, table tennis and volleyball.

References

  • Waldrep, B. Dwain (March 3, 2008) "Southeastern Bible College". Encyclopedia of Alabama (beta version) - accessed April 29, 2008
  • Waldrep, B. Dwain (January 1996) "Fundamentalism, Interdenominationalism, and the Birmingham School of the Bible, 1927–1941." The Alabama Review. Vol. 49, pp. 29–54
  • Wagner, Neal (April 7, 2010) "SEBC celebrating 75 years." Shelby County Reporter
  • Garrison, Greg (June 1, 2017) "Southeastern Bible College suspends operations." The Birmingham News

External links