The Eastern Theological College (hereafter as ETC), as the premier
theological and training institution of the Council of Baptist Churches in
North East India, plays a leading role in promoting theological education in
the North Eastern region of India
Its history goes back to 1903 when the American Baptist missionary the Rev.
P.H. Moore, a graduate of Colgate University made a small and yet
significant beginning by starting the Assam Valley Bible School at Nowgong
(now Nagaon) with just three students .It ran for six months a year April
to September . Later the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (now the
Board of International Ministries BIM of the Baptist Churches in the
United States of America) decided to shift the Bible School programme to
Jorhat . Accordingly , on 12 January 1905 , the Rev. S. A. D. Boggs pitched
his tent by the side of the Tocklai river near the present College bridge.
After a year's Preparation the Bible Training Centre got started in April
1906 With 18 Students- 5 from the Nowgong Batch and 13 fresh ones. In this
pioneering work Boggs was ably assisted by the Rev. Henry Goldsmith since
the Nowgong days in 1904. The institution later grew into a group of schools
called the Jorhat Christian Schools which included the Bible School (1906),
a Middle English School, a Normal School and an Industrial School (all in
1907) and later a High school (1914).
Though the adverse circumstances of the period that followed made things
difficult for some of the school to prosper, others did well and were able
to cater the leadership needs of the nascent churches. But soon it was
evident to some perceptive leaders- missionaries and nationals- that the
Bible School and the High School training would not be enough in the years
to come if the churches in the region were to effectively meet the challenges of the fast
changing times. In 1944, the idea of College level theological education was
discussed seriously for the first time in a missionary conference. The
Proposal was accepted in principle, but it was not materialized till
of Baptist Churches in North East India (CBCNEI) was formed in 1950.
Therefore, in the fall of 1950 a historic step was taken when the Jorhat
Bible College was established with the Rev. J. W. Cook as its first
Principal. After the Second Word War and the advent of Indian independence
the High School faced a number of problems that resulted in its closure in
1955. when the High School and the English Medium Bible School were closed
down in 1955 and 1957 respectively, the College (then renamed as the Assam
Baptist Theological Seminary since 1953) occupied the land and the property
when ETC shifted to the high school campus, the building was transferred to
the local Assamese church. At the same time and to suit the changing times,
the name of the College was once again changed to the Eastern Theological
College as it is known today.
The College struggled during its early yeas due to low enrollment , meager
facilities, and J.W. Cook s resignation from the mission in 1952 was a
serious set back. Though classes continued under the Acting Principal of
Rev. M.J. Chance, significant development took place under the leadership of
Dr. J. Douglas Duffy who became the Principal in 1953 . During his
leadership the infrastructure of the College buildings were developed- the
Men s Hostels, the Dining Hall and the Womens Hostel and the enrolment of
the students was also increased. Following the departure of Dr. Duffy in
1958 Rev. James M. Wood was appointed as Principal. Wood stabilized the
finances of the college and prepared the way for important developments
during the 1960s under the leadership of Rev George W. Peck (1962-1963), Dr.
Frederick S. Downs (1963-1966) and Dr. Jonathan H. Thumra (1966-1987) who
became the first native principal.
Since 1957 the name of the College remains unchanged but not its status. As
stated at the beginning the growing needs of the churches necessitated the
upgradation of the institution several times to various levels . As a
College it started out with the Graduate of Theology (G. Th.) Diploma course
in 1950. Soon it was followed by the Bachelor of Theology (B. Th.) Diploma
course of its own together with the Certificate in Biblical Studies (CBS)
course until 1963-64 academic year. From July 1964 the College was
affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College (University), Serampore, West
Bengal, for the Licentiate in Theology (L. Th.) Diploma course and from
1970-71 session it was upgraded to the Bachelor of Theology (B. Th.) Degree
course of the same University. Then upgradation was at the Bachelor of
Divinity (B.D.) Degree level of the Senate of Serampore College (University)
in July 1980. This was another milestone in the history of the College and a
significant step to meet the changing needs of the churches for higher and
better trained ministry. At the same time the B. Th. Degree course too
continued to cater to the needs of smaller and younger churches up till 1995
when the last batch of B. Th. Students passed out leaving the field free for
the B. D. and other higher programmes. Fittingly the same year (1995) also
witnessed the inauguration of Tribal Studies and Postgraduate Programme with
a view to develop a contextual theology relevant for the North East India.
The M. Th. Programme started during the year 1996-97 in the field of
Christian Theology specifically relevant to the region. The M. Th. Degree
course in the field of the History of Christianity was also added during the
year 1997-98 and the New Testament field was also added during the year
2006-07. Now M. Th. In Christian Ministry Department from 2008 academic
session has been started. ETC also co- ordinates the Doctor of Ministry (D.
Min.) a professional degree course of the senate of Serampore College.
Besides the formal degree programmes of the College, ETC also co-ordinates
external studies of Dip. C. S. and B.C.S. of the senate of Serampore
There is also a constant development in another front. Over the years a
faculty development programme has been going on and today ETC has 23
teachers of which 11 are doctorate degree holders. Today ETC can boast of
having fully qualified teaching Faculty.
The qualitative growth of the College described above has been constantly
matched by a quantitative growth as well the table below shows the
numerical growth of the student population who year after year passed out
from the College and the yearly average beginning from the 1950s through the
Beginning from the low figure of 5 students passing out successfully in
1953, it has gone up to 90 in 1998 . Altogether over two thousand successful
candidates of various diploma and degree levels have gone out to the field
and are now serving in the churches in various capacities including very
many key positions in the CBCNEI and other sister church organizations in
the region, nationals and in international levels.
The College has celebrated 100 years of its existence on the 13th February
2005 with the theme: Advancing with Christ and coincidentally hosted the
Convocation of the Senate of Serampore College on the 12th February 2005.
For the welfare of the College, the CBCNEI has introduced new structure in
which, for the first time, in the history of ETC, the post of President is
installed on May 11,2010.