Our Baptist Identity

Baptist Roots

When Abilene had been a town for only 10 years, a group of visionary Baptists in the area came together in 1891 to found Abilene Baptist College because they knew how essential it was to have Christian higher education in this part of the world. From the beginning, the school has valued the interconnection between education and the Christian faith. Nowhere is that commitment more evident than in the words etched on the tombstone of James B. Simmons, a Baptist minister from New York, whose generous financial investment saved the new school from collapse even before the first building, Old Main, was finished. Simmons, his wife Mary, and their son, Robert, are buried in the heart of the HSU campus. The inscription on the east side of their memorial reads, “Even Their Ashes Witness for Christian Education.”

Thousands of students, faculty, and alumni have walked past those markers through the generations, all of whom are the beneficiaries of James Simmons’ foresight, generosity, and courage. Simmons was a leader among Baptists in his day and an exemplar of the Baptist principle of liberty. While pastor of First Baptist Church of Indianapolis, Indiana, he put his own life on the line to denounce slavery from his pulpit and publish abolitionists appeals. In 1858, Simmons was threatened with a coat of tar and feathers for preaching against slavery, and later the building of First Baptist Church Indianapolis was burned. Out of his deep commitment to Christian education, after the Civil War he helped found seven colleges in the heart of the South to serve freed slaves, alongside his work as a founding benefactor of the new Abilene school, which was named Simmons College in his honor.

James B. Simmons set a standard of excellence for what we now know as Hardin-Simmons University, a commitment that remains central to the ethos of our school. His example encourages us—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to lead lives of service through active involvement in church, culture, and world.

Service to the Church

From its founding, Hardin-Simmons University has been fulfilling one of the goals of its original creators “…to prepare young men and women for Christ, to teach them of Christ, and to train them for Christ.” All HSU students participate in University Chapel and other spiritual formation experiences while on our campus. Logsdon School of Theology provides all undergraduate students with coursework in scripture and the spiritual life. The School of Theology also provides a baccalaureate major for individuals intending careers of service in and through the church.

Relationship to Texas Baptists
(The Baptist General Convention of Texas/BGCT)

In 1941, after 50 years of offering excellent Christian education in a Baptist tradition, HSU became affiliated with The Baptist General Convention of Texas as a partnering institution. We share a common goal of supporting the work of Texas Baptist churches across the state, and we are committed to providing these churches with spiritually mature members and well-prepared ministers within the Baptist tradition. BGCT serves the university by electing 51% of the HSU Board of Trustees, providing some operating funds, and offering generous scholarships to ministry students who are involved in BGCT churches. Texas Baptists also serve the university by providing a Director of Baptist Student Ministry for our campus, who fosters the Christian growth of our students.

The Broader Baptist Community

Through the years, Hardin-Simmons University has been closely connected to Baptist missions around the world. A central founder of the school and early president was Dr. Owen Clinton Pope, a late 19th century missionary to the frontiers of Texas. HSU is also the alma mater of remarkable Baptist mission leaders such as Drs. Bill and Dellanna O’Brien, Mrs. Helen Jean Parks, and Dr. Elmin Howell. Another giant of Baptist missions in America, Dr. Jesse C. Fletcher, served as the 12th president of the school.

HSU and Logsdon also enjoy connections with other Baptist entities such as the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Baptist World Alliance, the Baptist Joint Committee, the New Baptist Covenant, and the Baptist History and Heritage Society.