2.4 History and Government

2.4 History and Government


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Theological education in the United States was originally available only to students who were tutored and mentored by able ministers. In the eighteenth century, a number of pastors were widely known for their willingness to take students under their oversight and guide their reading. Often a single minister mentored many students at a time. 

When formal theological seminaries were organized, one of the first was the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church at Princeton, New Jersey, where instruction began in 1812. Founded by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, the seminary held to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as its doctrinal standards.

Princeton excelled under the leadership of distinguished teachers who devoted themselves vigorously and effectively to the development, propagation, and maintenance of the Reformed faith. Among those best known as teachers of the great scriptural system of theology set forth by Princeton’s first professor Archibald Alexander were Charles Hodge, J. A. Alexander, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen. But eventually a movement surfaced to end Princeton’s adherence to scriptural theology, and in 1929 Princeton Theological Seminary was reorganized under modernist influences.

Among the Princeton faculty who loved the Reformed faith were Robert Dick Wilson, J. Gresham Machen, Oswald T. Allis, and Cornelius Van Til. Almost immediately after Princeton’s reorganization, these four men founded Westminster Theological Seminary, and, with others who were invited to join the teaching staff, continued the exposition and defense of the Reformed faith. Over the years, Westminster has prospered as we have maintained the infallible Scriptures as our foundation.

John Skilton, John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, Cornelius Van Til, R. B. Kuiper, Paul Woolley, E. J. Young, and Meredith Kline

The Seminary is governed by a self-perpetuating board consisting of at least fifteen but not more than thirty trustees, of whom at least one-half but not more than three-fifths must be ministers of the gospel. Each member of the board is required by the charter to subscribe to a pledge of a character similar to that required of the Faculty (see section 4), and is required to be a ruling or teaching elder in a church that shares the Seminary’s commitments and Presbyterian and Reformed heritage. The President of the Seminary is charged with administrative responsibility and serves as moderator of the Administrative Council. Acahidemic policies are established by the Faculty, subject to review by the board; three members of the Faculty, chosen by the Faculty, sit with the board in an advisory capacity.

For a list of current members of the Board of Trustees, see section 2.12 or visit the Seminary Board webpages.