Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Type seminary
Established 1986 (1986)
President Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.
Location Greenville, South Carolina, United States
34°55′13″N 82°17′39″W / 34.92028°N 82.29417°W / 34.92028; -82.29417Coordinates: 34°55′13″N 82°17′39″W / 34.92028°N 82.29417°W / 34.92028; -82.29417

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a theologically conservative Presbyterian seminary in Greenville, South Carolina, United States. Founded in 1986, Greenville trains men for Christian ministry using a curriculum with a focus on the biblical languages, expository preaching, and an emphasis on Reformed Christian heritage. The school is seeking to reestablish the theological convictions of Princeton Theological Seminary in the late 19th and early 20th Century. It teaches the authority and doctrinal integrity of the Westminster Confession. It is not affiliated with a specific denomination, but its alumni commonly minister in denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The current president of the seminary is Joseph A. Pipa, Jr.

Degrees offered

In addition to a low tuition rate,[1] the seminary offers a waiver program that allows men from approved churches to pursue a Bachelor or Master of Divinity degree tuition for free.

The school is seeking to be accredited by the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries.

Institutional history

Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary was founded in 1986 with a firm commitment to Strict Subscription to the Westminster Standards and for the purpose of training ministers of the gospel to perpetuate the tradition of Old School Presbyterianism. Although the desire to establish such an institution in South Carolina had been strong in Calvary Presbytery since the founding of the Presbyterian Church in America in 1973, attempts by that body in 1976 and again in 1981 failed to result in any progress toward the goal. It was not until some years later that interest was once again raised when an independent group took up the cause.

In January 1985 Inter-Term and the Fall academic semester 1985, then Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly Stated Clerk, Dr. Morton H. Smith, taught courses on Old Testament Bible Survey and the Theology of the Westminster Standards at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri as an Adjunct Professor. In addition to inculcating in the students the importance of Strict Subscription to the Westminster Standards and the Old School Presbyterian interpretation of the same, preliminary discussions concerning the possible establishment of a new seminary in the Washington, DC area for this Old School position were referred to. News of this prospect soon reached Ruling Elder J. Ligon Duncan, Jr. and Teaching Elder Paul G. Settle of Second Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina, since their church sponsored four candidates for the ministry at Covenant during this period. In response to the possibility of a new seminary beginning outside the Upstate of South Carolina, these officers of Second Church requested that two of their sponsored students prepare a comparison of "The Uniform Curriculum" adopted by the PCA and all the seminaries then serving that denomination. The fruit of this study was presented to these officers and Dr. Smith at the Duncan home on February 26, 1986. The need for an Old School seminary and the advantages that the Greenville area offered for such were discussed in detail by these ordained officers.

A steering committee was then formed consisting of Teaching Elders Paul G. Settle, John C. Neville, Jr., and Morton H. Smith and Ruling Elders J. Ligon Duncan, Jr. and C. Stuart Patterson. They first offered the new President of Covenant Theological Seminary the option of having the intended Old School seminary as a branch of Covenant Seminary, but he declined. Undeterred, this group assumed the responsibility of seeing to the actual organization and establishment of such a school. In March 1986, Rev. Settle, acting on behalf of the Steering Committee, sent a letter to selected Ruling and Teaching Elders of the PCA announcing the establishment of the James Henley Thornwell Seminary. During the first year of operation, Duncan Rankin was asked to return to South Carolina and complete his ministerial internship while serving as Administrative Assistant to the Board and reporting to Rev. Settle. On October 2, 1986, a Presentation Banquet, at which Dr. James I. Packer was the featured speaker, was held to celebrate the establishment of the Seminary. The Seminary was incorporated under the laws of the State of South Carolina under the name James Henley Thornwell Theological Seminary, but the use of this name was protested by officials of the PCUS’s Thornwell Orphanage in nearby Clinton, SC and, as a result, the Steering Committee changed the name of the institution to Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Dr Smith was appointed Dean of the Faculty and Administrator, in which capacity he continued until January 1, 1998, when Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. was appointed as the institution’s first President, in which office he serves today.

In spite of the gala send-off in late 1986, it appeared in early 1987 that the fledgling institution might never see its first class. At that point, the decision was made to offer some evening classes to the public under the auspices of an “Evening School of the Bible” in order to serve the Christian community and acquaint a wider audience with the new institution. These classes were taught over five nights in March and April 1987. Then during May 14–16, 1987 the Board of Directors sponsored a Spring Bible Conference on “Reformed Preaching,” with Drs. Jay E. Adams, Sinclair B. Ferguson, and Douglas F. Kelly as the speakers. This venture was so well received that it proved to be just the impetus needed to encourage the Committee to take the step of faith and launch the school’s first year in the Fall of 1987. Thus the first Convocation was held on September 1, 1987 and classes began immediately thereafter. The first Commencement took place on September 7, 1991 with three men receiving degrees.

When classes began in 1987, the Directors of the institution reconstituted themselves as the Board of Trustees and elected Mr. William H. Huffman as Chairman. He served in that position until succeeded, in 1997, by Mr. John H. Van Voorhis. Both of these men were ruling elders in the PCA.

In the early years, offices and classes were housed in the facilities of the Augusta Street Presbyterian Church in Greenville. As enrollment and faculty grew over the years and the ownership of the facility changed hands, the Board undertook a study of the needs of the institution and began a search of the area for a facility that would meet her needs for some years to come. After investigation of a number of alternatives, the decision was made in January 1998 to purchase the building that had housed Community Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. (a nearby suburb of Greenville). Thus the institution began 1998 in new facilities and under the leadership of her new President.

Over the next five years the seminary experienced significant growth and it became quite clear that the facilities at 418 East Main St. in Taylors would soon be unable to house all of the new students and staff. In 2003, therefore, the seminary purchased the Old Taylors High School (less than a quarter of a mile away) and began to raise the funds necessary for its renovation. On a cold day in February 2007, the seminary officially broke ground. A building that was once at the heart of Old Taylors, but which had been severely neglected, now began to take on a new look, reminding many of the transformation that Christ brings to His people. In January 2008, the seminary moved into its new facilities; and the building was officially dedicated at the 2008 Spring Theology Conference in March. The new facilities have given the seminary a more professional look, but we realize that it is our theological, philosophical and educational commitments that have truly helped us grow over the years, even during times of great difficulty and scarce resources. Therefore, as the seminary continues to expand its work, it is still our desire to uphold an “Academy Model” of education that is focused and affordable, fosters a family atmosphere by maintaining a close student/faculty ratio, expects the students to worship and work in the local churches, and encourages accountability to our supporting churches and presbyteries.

Mission and vision

The mission and vision of the Seminary are set forth in the Catalog in a series of purpose statements adapted from Princeton Seminary when it was established in 1872. These purposes are:

Theological distinctives

1. The seminary strictly adheres to the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms and to the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. In any perceived tension between the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity, the Westminster Standards are considered to be the final interpretation. The seminary's commitment to what it calls its "theological distinctives" is spelled out in the following words taken from the current Catalog:

“Believing that the Church is constantly in need of a sound ministry, committed to the Bible and the Confessional Standards of the Church, Greenville Seminary is dedicated to the following distinctive principles:

‘Belief in the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture resulting in an inerrant Word as it was originally given by God, and that it is, therefore, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. As a seminary that takes God’s Word seriously, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is committed to instructing men in the original languages of Scripture, so that they can read the original text of the Word. The Seminary emphasizes the proper rules of biblical interpretation. Along with this emphasis, attention is given to the study of textual criticism, so that the student can learn to make sound judgments about the original text of the Word.

‘Belief in the Reformed Faith as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Seminary stands firmly on these historic standards as they set forth the biblical faith. Full subscription to the whole of these Standards is the Seminary’s position.

‘Belief that the biblical form of Church government is Presbyterianism, which is essential to the well-being of the Church, though not necessary to its being.

‘Belief in the Great Commission as the one and only mission of the Church. Christ gave but one Great Commission to the Church, namely, to evangelize the world and to teach all things that He taught. The Christian, individually and in association with others, has obligations to function in all spheres of life by developing and practicing the full implications of the Christian world and life view in every human relationship and in all aspects of life and society under the Lordship of Christ. The Church, on the other hand, should not presume to enter into spheres of activity where it has neither calling nor competence.’”

Annually all members of the Board of Trustees and all active faculty members, including adjuncts, take the following vow:

“Believing that there is but one, the living and true God, and that there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory, and with solemn awareness of the accountability to Him in all that we feel, think, say, and do, the undersigned engages in and subscribes to this declaration:

‘All Scripture is self-attesting, and being Truth, requires the human mind wholeheartedly to subject itself in all its activities to the authority of Scripture complete as the Word of God, standing written in the 66 books of the Holy bible, all therein being verbally inspired by Almighty God, and therefore without error in the original autographs.

‘Reformed Theology as set forth in the Westminster Confession of Faith & the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as adopted by the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, is the system of doctrine taught in Scripture, and therefore is to be learned, taught, and proclaimed for the edification and government of Christian people, for the propagation of the faith, and for the evangelization of the world by the power of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘And I do solemnly promise and engage not to inculcate, sanction, teach or insinuate anything which shall appear to me to contradict or contravene, either directly or implicitly, any element of that system of doctrine.

‘Now, therefore, the undersigned, in the presence of God, states and signifies that he consents, agrees, and binds himself to all of the foregoing without any reservations whatsoever, and that he further obligates himself immediately to notify in writing the Board of Trustees should a change of any kind take place in his belief and feeling not in accord with this Statement, Amen’”

2. All theological instruction is governed by the Westminster Standards.

3. Students are required to memorize either the Westminster Shorter Catechism or the Heidelberg Catechism.

Educational distinctives

1. The seminary employs what it calls the "Academy Model" of instruction, a significant aspect of which is expressed in the following statement:

"Since the Church is the Christ-ordained means for the spiritual growth of God’s people, the Seminary believes it can best serve as an arm of the Church. As an academy closely related to the local church, the Seminary can assist students’ growth in grace. The Seminary does not view itself as having any ecclesiastical authority over the personal life of the student. That falls under the jurisdiction of the church. This is not to suggest that the Seminary will not be deeply involved in assisting men to grow in grace, but it is the recognition that this growth is properly under the pastoral care of the church. Every student is expected to be a member or at least an associate member of a local church, so that when there are pastoral needs for the students, the governing bodies of the church may be informed”.

2. The school's philosophy of instruction is spelled out in the following words from its catalog:

“The Seminary primarily prepares men for the gospel ministry through the Divinity Program, but offers other opportunities for study also. The Master of Arts is offered to those who are neither ordained nor seeking ordination but who desire a general biblical and theological education. The Master of Ministry for Ruling Elders is for ordained Ruling Elders seeking further education and other men approved by their church leadership. All Programs emphasize personal piety, knowledge of the Word, and application of the Word.

“Personal Piety: Without personal piety study is futile. The Seminary expects students to have daily devotions and family worship, led by the head of the household. Such tools as M’Cheyne’s Calendar of Daily Readings and the 1647 Directory for Family Worship of the Church of Scotland are given to the students to encourage them in these exercises of piety.

“Knowledge of the Word: All instruction in the Seminary is based on the conviction that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. Since the curriculum is to ground the student firmly in the Word, the study of the Bible in the original languages is central to all instruction. In the M.Div. program, the student is trained in the grammar of Biblical Greek and Hebrew, and is expected to be proficient in these languages upon completion of the program. M.A. and M.M.R.E. (master of ministry for ruling elders) degree candidates are not expected to learn these languages as part of their program of study, but they can expect that what they are taught reflects the use of them. In addition, the Seminary expects the student to read through a translation of the Bible each year.

“Application of the Word: It is the desire of the Seminary not only to produce knowledgeable and godly men, but men of action and discernment. Since the Scriptures are ‘profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,’ the curriculum shows students how to apply the Word of God. There is special emphasis on how to recognize, avoid, and remedy whims and fads that often sweep through the church to its detriment.”

3. Greenville Seminary maintains a close faculty-student relationships for the purpose of mentoring. Each student is assigned to a faculty advisor. The seminary is committed to capping its enrollment at 100 students to maintain these relationships.

4. The seminary works with a number of denominations and congregations to provide local- and foreign-mission internships.


1. The seminary is approved by the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. The Reformed Church in the United States has formally adopted the seminary and placed a member on the Board of Trustees. The seminary seeks ecclesiastical relationships with sessions (Sponsoring Sessions) and Presbyteries (Oversight Presbyteries). Currently a number of sessions have entered into the Sponsoring-Session relationship, and one Presbytery and one Denomination have adopted Oversight roles. The seminary sends special reports to these ecclesiastical bodies, seeks their advice, and invites them to participate in accreditation visits. Increasingly, members of the Board of Trustees are selected from Sponsoring and Oversight Courts.

2. A number of professors are members of the Evangelical Theological Society.

Principal constituencies served

The seminary principally serves the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. It also has graduates in The Reformed Church in the United States, The United Reformed Churches of North America, the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and a number of smaller Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist denominations.


The seminary is seeking accreditation in the Association of Reformed Theological Seminaries because it believes in the need for academic and pedagogical accountability. According to its 2010 accreditation report, "We believe the ARTS grants this in a context of sympathetic, doctrinally homogenous schools. We desire to learn from others how to do our job better and to contribute to the advancement of Reformed ministerial training. We have been involved in the formation of ARTS and desire to play an active role in whatever areas our help may be needed. The process gives us opportunity to step back and take a look at our program and to have others join us in the process of evaluation. We believe we shall be a stronger school because of this process."


The Smith-Singer Library contains approximately 10,000 printed volumes, mainly focused on the Reformed tradition, and serves as the backbone for the research of the students and faculty. Seminary students are also granted library privileges at the local Bob Jones University Mack Library, which holds approximately a quarter million volumes and supports several graduate programs. Also, the libraries at Furman University are available nearby. Volumes not immediately available at local libraries can generally be obtained through interlibrary loan via the Mack Library at Bob Jones University.

For students studying by distance, video conferencing technology is available to enable them to participate interactively in classroom lectures. MP3 audio of all class lectures is available for the use of all students (either for those unable to take classes live by video-conferencing or for those that want to review a class or missed a class due to illness, etc.). MP3 audio of chapel sermons and special lectures is also available to all of the students.

Approximately 12% of the library's collection is reference, 25% is focused on biblical studies, 28% is focused on historical theology/church history, 14% on systematic theology, and 10% on practical theology.

One librarian works full-time, overseeing the library and doing the work of acquisitions and cataloging. The librarian also oversees the work of the bookstore and the seminary press and has occasional help from students and volunteers for the work in the library itself.

The library's catalog is available in electronic format and is available remotely. It does not have the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Religion Databases, but students have full access to ATLA, JSTOR, and other databases at the Bob Jones University Mack Library located nearby. Library computers and a wireless connection are available for student use. Several electronic databases and utilities have been installed on the library’s public computers (including the Theological Journals CDs published by Galaxy software; Logos, Bibleworks, etc.). We also have a number of audio tapes that are not cataloged.

Circulation Statistics: Approximately 630 copies circulated during the 2009-2010 school year. Approximately 750 checkouts were registered.

Since January 1995, the library has added approximately 6,000 volumes, or approximately 400 volumes per year, most through the regular budget, some through grants. Most of the grants have been for equipment or expensive reference items.


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