History of the Odessa Theological Seminary
Historically, Protestant educational institutions have seldom existing in the Russian speaking world. Even before the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, the state-sanctioned Russian Orthodox Church blocked measures to create a Protestant system of education. After the revolution, Bible courses were offered for a short time in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These courses were met with great enthusiasm and growth but were soon quashed by the militant atheism of the day. The next attempt at protestant education was made in 1969 with the founding of the Bible Correspondence School of Moscow. However, the enrollment was restricted to only 50 pastors.
Next, in 1989 new freedoms allowed Bible schools to open in the various regions of the Soviet Union. One of the first schools, the Odessa Bible School, was opened in August 1989. Dr. Sergei Sannikov, a teacher in the Moscow program, a local pastor in Odessa, Ukraine, and a professor at the Odessa State University, became the first director. More than 180 members of Evangelical Christians - Baptists churches of Moldova and Ukraine began their studies at the Odessa Bible School. After four years of non-residential work, these young preachers and Sunday School teachers graduated from the school with a Diploma in Church Ministries. They were appointed as pastors and deacons in various key cities such as Kiev, Kishinev, Odessa, and Yalta. In these cities they began the first preaching ministries and the first Sunday school programs of the post-communist era.
In January 1991, the school was reorganized and renamed Odessa Theological Seminary. The opening ceremony was held in Moscow at the Evangelical Christians - Baptists Union headquarters. Part of the reorganization was the addition of a four-year residential Bachelor of Theology program. The seminary received over fifty applications for this program from all over the Russian-speaking world. From these applications, nineteen men were selected to begin studies in the first residential Protestant theological program of the post soviet era.
Very early in its existence the Seminary was active in research and publishing. In 1990 the school began publishing the theological journal “BOGOMYSLYE”. This was the first evangelical theological journal for Russian-Ukrainian Evangelical Christian-Baptists. The seminary also started to translate and edit theological books, methodological guides and research papers about the history of Baptists in Ukraine and Russia. Odessa Theological Seminary soon became one of leading centers of theological researches in Ukraine.
In 1999 Dr. Volodymyr Pavlovych Shemchyshyn became the president of OTS. From 1986 to the present he has served as the pastor of Illichevsk Baptist church. From 1995 to 2000 Dr Shemchyshyn served as Senior Pastor of Odessa Association of Baptist churches. From 1998 to 2006 he was vise-president of All-Ukrainian Union of Evangelical Baptist churches for Southern Ukraine. Finally, in the spring of 2006 he was elected vice-president of the Ukrainian Baptists Union. Dr Shemchyshyn brings rich pastoral experience to the seminary. Because of his pastor’s heart, Dr Shemchyshyn stresses practical issues as part of training students for ministry in churches.
During the last several years, the Seminary has actively enlarged campus facilities. In August of 2002 we dedicated a new kitchen and dining room, in 2004 – new office and chapel facilities we added. Currently the seminary is constructing a new classroom and dormitory building. This building will provide offices, classrooms and housing for both single and married fulltime students.
Housing has always been a limiting factor in student acceptance. However, it has become an issue of special significance to married students. In the past, the seminary has not been able to provide housing for married students. Married students typically have rented off site apartments during the time of their studies. Nevertheless, the current high price of rental apartments often prohibit married students from studying at the seminary. This new facility will provide space for married students and allow them to continue their theological education. We hope to finish all construction of the facility by the end of summer 2007.
Odessa Theological Seminary has grown into one of leading Christian schools in Ukraine. We offer seven different academic programs and attract students from many Russian-speaking countries. We praise God and believe that the Lord's hand was in the founding and development of this school, the first Protestant seminary in the former Soviet Union.