René Frey, ed., SEMBEQ: 40 years. Celebrating the Faithfulness of God, trans. Daniel Henderson (Montreal, QC: SEMBEQ, 2014), 61 pages.
Early Anglophone Baptist missions to Quebec from the 1930s to the 1960s, led by men like W.S. Whitcomb, Murray and Lorne Heron, Bill Phillips, W.-H. Frey, Yvon Hurtubise, and Tom Carson (the father of D.A. Carson), struggled against great odds to plant evangelical Baptist churches. They especially faced an entrenched Roman Catholicism that controlled the province spiritually and politically and that had given the province the “reputation of being a cemetery for missionaries” (p.17). During the 1960s and 1970s, though, the political changes in Quebec known as the Quiet Revolution changed everything: the province started down a path of secularization that has made modern Quebec the least religious region of Canada. The power of the Roman Church was broken, and evangelical causes, especially those of the Baptists and the Brethren, began to spring up all over the province. As Jacques Alexanian notes in the first chapter, it was “a time of refreshment and heavenly rain” (p.16). The church in Quebec knew a genuine touch of revival.
The critical question, however, was this: pastors were needed to enable these young believers and churches continue to flourish and grow, but where would they be trained? There were no suitable Francophone seminaries in North America. The solution in God’s good providence was Séminaire Baptiste Évangélique du Québec (The Evangelical Baptist Seminary of Quebec) in Montreal, known more simply as SEMBEQ. Crafting a curriculum to fit the unique needs that the fledgling Baptist churches faced in Quebec and enlisting the help of both Anglophone professors (who were translated simultaneously as they taught) as well as French teachers (among them men like Roger Nicole), SEMBEQ has flourished beyond the dreams of its founders. In the last forty years, it has played a central role in the equipping of leaders and has demonstrated again and again the vital importance of theological education of pastors and leaders called to ministry by the churches.
This booklet overview of the history of SEMBEQ tells the truly exciting story of this school and the men and women who God raised up to make the vision of its founders a reality.
Michael A.G. Haykin Professor of Church History The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary