In 2010, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated 50 years in His service. The Seminary began in rented facilities in Beirut but soon moved to its present site in Mansourieh el Maten, a suburb of the city. Its roots as a Baptist institution, however, go back to 1893, when a young Lebanese Baptist named Sa’eed Juriedini began ministry in the region. Two years later, a Baptist church was founded in Beirut.
Over the next several decades other Baptist churches were established in Lebanon and neighboring countries, as well as hospitals and schools. Increasingly, the need was felt for a school that would form pastors, evangelists and other workers. Modest but important initial efforts to provide such a formation came from Finlay Graham, a missionary who had moved from Jordan to Beirut in 1948. He and others wanted to establish a Baptist seminary that would serve the Arab world as a whole, a desire that came to fruition with the establishment of ABTS in 1960 – with Finlay Graham as its first president.
Since its inception in 1960, the Seminary has graduated several hundred students from Algeria, Egypt, India, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia. More than another 300 have benefited from short-term and other non-degree programs. In addition to students of Baptist background, other denominations represented include Anglican, Assemblies of God, Evangelical Free, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of God, Lutheran, Methodist, Nazarene, Pentacostal, and Presbyterian.
The great majority of these graduates are now actively engaged in ministry in the Arabic-speaking world. ABTS offers both formal degree- or certificate-based education, as well as less formal training opportunities. Instruction is in Arabic and is contextualized to meet the needs of the Arab world. As the Seminary catalogue notes, an ABTS education also emphasizes the development of personal spirituality, effective ministry to the majority Arab religious community, knowledge of the history and particularities of Christian minorities in the Arab world, and sensitivity to special areas of Eastern spirituality.
Beginning in 2001, the Seminary building was extensively remodeled and now provides its students, Faculty and staff with a spacious, comfortable and well equipped facility to accomplish its mission. Although the Seminary is housed in its own building, it shares the site with Life Source Publishing (also known as Baptist Publications) and the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development, the body which owns and operates ABTS.
After Finlay Graham’s tenure as president, he was succeeded by Dr. Emmett Barnes.
Dr. Ghassan Khalaf became ABTS’s third president in 1993, and the first Lebanese to hold this position. June 2008 marked the end of a fruitful season and the start of another in the life and ministry of Rev. Dr. Ghassan Khalaf who resigned following feeling called by God to focus his time and energies on writing, and encouraging the church.
In 1998, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary came under the legal umbrella and leadership of a local body, the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD) - also known as the Lebanese Baptist Society.
In August 2008, ABTS' Board of Trustees appointed Provost Elie Haddad, a Lebanese-Canadian, as President of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary.
Elie Haddad continues to serve in this position to-date.