History and Relationships

Palmer Theological Seminary is part of an educational tradition that reaches back over three centuries to Bristol, England, where in 1679 Baptist training for ministry formally began. From that beginning to the present, Baptists have been concerned about issues of faith and order, such as a vital relationship with Jesus Christ, a believers; church, voluntary religious associations, and religious liberty. The visible church, institutional life and expressions of faith have all helped to shape this great tradition, which forms a context for the theological nurture of ministry and leadership.

The Seminary was founded on March 19, 1925 during a period of social, intellectual and spiritual unrest. Its twelve founders were committed to conserving the great historic evangelical beliefs within a strong denominational commitment to what was then the Northern Baptist Convention. At the same time the original professors agreed to a rigorous and progressive curriculum that would ensure academic and theological integrity.

Through an intensive strategic planning process, the Seminary has strongly reaffirmed its theological heritage and its central commitment to the preparation of sound, effective pastoral leadership as well as to a diversity of other Christian ministries.

Palmer Theological Seminary continues to pursue the course set by its founders and summarized in its motto, "The Whole Gospel for the Whole World." Each year the faculty and trustees affirm the doctrinal basis of the school drawn up in 1925.

Associated Ministries
Palmer Theological Seminary is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, USA. While the Seminary's primary relationship is with the churches and agencies of this denomination, it prepares persons for ministries in the whole Church. Within an evangelical context, the Seminary is broadly ecumenical in spirit and practice. The Board of Directors is interdenominational, with up to 25% of its membership being non-Baptist. Approximately 40% of Palmer Theological Seminary's students come from Baptist churches, while others represent numerous denominations.

Both historically and programmatically, the Seminary is related to Eastern University, located eight miles west in St. Davids, Pa. Some faculty members serve both schools. The Seminary also currently networks or is developing affiliations with a number of organizations.

Accreditation and Authorizations
Palmer Theological Seminary is fully accredited by the following organizations:

  1. As part of Eastern University, the Seminary is accredited by The Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (3624 Market Street, 2nd Floor West, Philadelphia, PA 19104; 267/284-5000).
  2. As a professional school, the Seminary is accredited by The Association of Theological Schools (10 Summit Park Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15275-1103; 412/788-6505) for the Master of Theological Studies, the Master of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry.

The Seminary is also approved by the United Methodist Church for the training of United Methodist ministerial candidates and is a member of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education.

Palmer Theological Seminary is approved for Veterans Education under the provisions set forth by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Seminary is also approved for attendance of non-immigrant students under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Palmer Theological Seminary is committed to the policy of providing equal educational opportunities to all qualified students regardless of their economic or social status, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, national or ethnic origin.

The Seminary also adheres to the Educational Rights and Privacy Act of l974 (Revised Edition 1995).

Philadelphia: Urban and Suburban Context
Palmer Theological Seminary is located on the edge of one of the nations major industrial and cultural centers. With nearly 1.5 million people, Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania, the second largest on the East Coast and the fifth largest in the country. The greater metropolitan area is home to nearly 4 million people.

Founded in 1682, Philadelphia is obviously one of the nations oldest cities, though its populace is younger (with a median age of under 35 years) than the national average. It is located within a few hours of other major U.S. cities including Washington, D.C. and New York City. Also close by are many varied recreational opportunities, including the Pocono Mountains to the north, historic Lancaster County to the west, and beach resorts on the New Jersey and Delaware coasts to the east and south.

A cultural hub, Philadelphia is considered to be among the nations top three cities in theater and classical music and number one in architecture. Eighty-eight colleges and universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, are located in the area, as are numerous historic sites such as Valley Forge National Park and Independence Hall. Among the fine arts and science centers located in the city are the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute, Fels Planetarium, the African American Historical and Cultural Museum and the Academy of Music.

The Seminary's proximity to the city allows students easy access to hands-on ministry opportunities in an urban context. Philadelphia's rich ethnic diversity gives it the feel of an international federation of neighborhoods. Historically, the city has a heavily German, Irish, Polish and Slavic base. However, African American, Jewish, Italian, Latino and Asian communities are also strong and distinct, and lately an increasing number of Russian immigrants have been settling in Philadelphia.

The area is rich with religious diversity as well, with a spiritual history dating to the 17th century. Most church denominations are represented in the Delaware Valley. Area churches range from large urban and suburban congregations to small, city store-front churches.

Baptists constitute the largest Protestant group, with most of them belonging to the National Baptist or Progressive National Baptist Conventions. The Philadelphia Baptist Association, the oldest Baptist association of churches in the U.S., was formed in 1707. Affiliated with American Baptist Churches, USA, this association consists of some 127 churches with an aggregate membership of over 46,000.