Vancouver Bible School


CVA 790-0634 - 1601 West 10th Ave

(Crop of CVA 790-0634 – 1601 West 10th. 1985?). This was the campus of the VBTS, built at 10th and Fir (Fairview); it opened in September 1923 nearly debt-free. Because of its slightly peculiar, long and tall shape, it was known affectionately as “the Ark” by VBTS students over the years. By the time this photo was made ca1985, it had become home to Columbia College. I don’t know when the building was demolished, but there is no building currently at this location; just a green space adjacent to an apartment block.

The Vancouver Bible Training School (VBTS) was a child of the Vancouver Evangelistic Movement (VEM). Among the goals of VEM was the establishment of a Bible training school. The school was, accordingly, started in 1918. The raison d’etre of the school was to be an interdenominational evangelical school which had as its focus the training of the layperson to work in local churches. In this regard, it was an early predecessor of Regent College (at UBC).

The first principal of the interdenominational school was Anglican minister, Rev. Walter Ellis (1883-1944).¹ The first home of VBTS was VEM’s downtown office at 121 West Hastings. Within a year or so, it moved to a rented facility at 356 West Broadway (near Yukon). By autumn 1923, however, they moved into their own building shown above at the NW corner of 10th and Fir. Following Ellis’s death in 1944, the principal of the school was mainline Baptist minister, Rev. J. E. Harris.

CVA 400-1 - Vancouver Bible School - 1930-1931. 1930. R. A. Spencer photo.

CVA 400-1 – Vancouver Bible School – 1930-1931. 1930. R. A. Spencer photo. Note: First Baptist’s future long-time secretary, Edith Spain, appears above to the left of the calligraphic “1930-31”. The redoubtable Miss Spain served FBC as its secretary from the mid 1950s until her retirement in 1975. She died at age 100 in 2005.

The school was able to sustain itself as an interdenominational institution until 1956. It was then taken over by the Baptist General Conference (Swedish) denomination and the school’s curriculum became more narrowly defined and the name of the school changed at some point to become the Vancouver Bible Training Institute (VBTI).

VBTI wrapped up operations at this site by the mid-70s, I believe. It then moved to Surrey where it finally closed in 1977.


¹Historian, Robert K. Burkinshaw is the source of most of the material in this post. He has written about the Bible Training school and its influential principal, Rev. Walter Ellis, here. He also devoted the better part of Chapter 3 to VBTS and Ellis in his excellent volume, Pilgrims in Lotus Land: Conservative Protestantism in British Columbia, 1917-1981.

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