New Book Highlights Bethel's History

August 9, 2010 | 3:55 p.m.

By the Office of Communications and Marketing

30 volunteer writers cover topics including the histories of BGC district ministries and missions.

Did you know that the historic Scandia Baptist Church now situated above the seminary in St. Paul was originally built in 1857 in Waconia, Minn.? There it was used until the 1960s and then moved to its current location in 1973. Did you also know that outreach to Hispanics is one of the largest cultural ministries of the Baptist General Conference (BGC)?

In a new book, 5 Decades of Growth and Change, numerous Bethel community members share these Baptist General Conference stories, and much more. The book begins in 1952, when the BGC was only a denomination of 366 churches, and ends in 2002, when it included 902 U.S. churches and 69 Canadian churches. This growth was mirrored at Bethel University and is written about by G. William Carlson, Bethel professor of history and politics, and Diana Magnuson, professor of history as well director of the archives. In 1952, 500 students attended the college, and 100 attended the seminary. Fifty years later, Bethel was comprised of 2,500 students in the College of Arts & Sciences, 650 in the Graduate School and College of Adult & Professional Studies, and more than 1,000 at three different seminary locations.  

Numerous Bethel stalwarts contributed: Virgil Olson, former BGC pastor, professor of church history and missions at Bethel Seminary, dean of Bethel College, and the executive secretary of World Missions for the BGC; Vic Winquist, former BGC pastor, director of missions for the Midwest Conference, and director of church planting for the BGC (currently director of prayer ministries for the Minnesota Conference); and Truett Lawson, executive minister of  the Minnesota Baptist Conference for 18 years, among others. The 30 volunteer writers spent nearly two years on their manuscripts and covered topics including the histories of BGC district ministries, missions, and the expansion into multi-ethnic communities.

The information was organized and edited by Jim Spickelmier, recently retired Bethel development officer, and his wife Carole. “We’re most happy that this history will not be lost, and we’re honored to have been so strongly involved in most of it!” says Jim. Carole served on the BGC World Missions Board and Jim on the Overseers as well as the Trustee Board. Jim was also on staff at Bethel for many years, pastored in three BGC churches, and spoke at many more.

Jim concludes the book by asking what’s ahead for Bethel and the BGC. “Of course, only God knows these things,” he explains. “But He continues to call us to be busy in his Kingdom’s work today, even as we ponder tomorrow."

You can purchase 5 Decades of Growth and Changein the Bethel University campus bookstore or online at