A group of men, representing different Bible schools met in Atlanta, Georgia in the fall of 1952, to discuss the possibility of organizing an accrediting association. The original purpose for this association was to provide accreditation for Bible institutes, colleges and seminaries, the same as afforded by other national and regional agencies, through a program of biblical, general and professional studies that would help to develop the students physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.In 1954, the Southern
Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, Institutes and Seminaries (SAABC) was officially chartered in the State of Georgia as a domestic non-profit organization. In addition, SAABC would develop as a venue to assist its member institutions with obtaining access to various educational financial programs, like veterans’ benefits, for their prospective students. All disciplines offered would maintain emphasis on biblically-based curricula such as those offered by Bible institutes, colleges and seminaries that were situated in the southeastern United States.
However, as regional and national accreditation developed an increased secularization of the accreditation guidelines, SAABC began a transitional process to provide standards-based certification for educational ministry of local churches (church-based schools) and other independent programs to provide a greater level of accountability. The membership grew internationally and in June, 2003, the name was unanimously changed to the International Association of Bible Colleges and Seminaries (IABCS). Thus IABCS furnishes a basis for fellowship and mutual helpfulness among Christian institutions of higher education, operating in a biblical field.
The first president of SAABC was Dr. William G. Studer. He was affiliated with the Immanuel Baptist College and Trinity Bible Seminary, both in Atlanta. Other presidents who have served the Association following Dr. Studer were: Dr. John V. Ray, Dr. W.D. Hungerpillar, and Dr. William H. Carter who became President of the Association in 1962 and served until his departure to be with the Lord in the spring of 1981. Since his departure, Dr. Daryl Merrill, Dr. Charles Travis, and Dr. Ron Cottle have served as President for the Association. It was during Dr. Ron Cottle’s tenure in 2003 that the Association transitioned fromSAABC to IABCS. He was succeeded by the current President, Dr. Ben Thornley, CFO, Vice-President and Academic Dean for Kingsway Christian College and Theological Seminary in Norwalk, Iowa.
Dr. William D. Hungerpillar, affiliated with Carver Bible Institute, was the first Secretary/Treasurer of this Association, followed by Cornelius VanderPloeg, Dr. Kader F. White who served in the position for 24 years and in 2005, was followed by Dr. George Siemer, Dean of Faith Theological Seminary and Christian College in Tampa, Florida. Dr. White was unanimously selected to be recognized as an honorary emeritus member of IABCS.
In the beginning, SAABC annual meetings were held in Atlanta, Georgia. Later, a decision was made to meet at other schools to become familiar with their campuses as well as continue and increase opportunities for fellowship. For several years, meetings were held at Trinity Bible College in Dunedin, Florida. In 1970, SAABC began to meet at the Holiday Inn Airport, Atlanta, Georgia which had been the site of the Annual Conference until 2006. It was unanimously decided to revisit the idea utilizing the different locations of its members to furnish opportunity for additional fellowship and mutual helpfulness among member institutions to fulfill another of IABCS’s purposes.
In 2006, IABCS applied for a name change with the State of Georgia Corporations Division and was informed that, due to USDE regulations, the request could not be approved due to the use of the term “college” in the new name. Even though the registered name is acceptable because of its longevity, a new name utilizing the word “college” could not be done. So IABCS remains actively registered and recognized as the SAABC, the Southern Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges, but will be doing business as IABCS and is currently applying for that status.