AFPT: A Brief History

The Anderson Forum for Progressive Theology has a long, rich history, beginning in 1960 with the founding of the Anderson School of Theology for Laymen by a 35-year-old Presbyterian minister. Rev. Glenn Dorris, a native of Georgia and a graduate of Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia, was called to be the pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Anderson, S. C. Rev. Dorris had been diligently studying Biblical Theology and believed the New Testament model for the church was something which could be seriously considered by Christians in today’s world. He felt the new model of the church needed to have laity and clergy sharing the responsibility for the ministry of the church. He also believed that there was a profound need for responsible education of clergy and laity. This, he felt, should be done on an ecumenical level. Thus, within a year of arriving at his new church, he presented his lay leadership with his design for this new educational venture.

In early September of 1960, an informational meeting was held to share the design and scope of the School with the people of Central Presbyterian Church and the wider Anderson community. Over 300 people attended that meeting a more than 200 signed up for the first quarter of sessions. Dr. Elton Trueblood, one of the theologians Rev. Dorris had been studying, came to give the first presentation on Sunday evening, September 11, 1960. Beginning the next Sunday night, seven courses, each meeting on successive Sunday nights, began. Courses were taught each of the next four quarters of the year including a well attended summer Sunday evening session which began in June and lasted through the 3rd Sunday in August!

The Anderson Forum for Progressive Theology (formerly the Anderson School of Theology for Laypersons) has never been a “bricks and mortar” school, but a group of interested laity and clergy who meet to hear lectures on various theological topics. Quarterly sessions ran for several years before the school began meeting for presentations on successive nights of one week and then further changing to a present form where two or three lectures are presented during a weekend.

The AFPT is governed by a Board of Directors who meet on a quarterly schedule and make decisions about speakers, the times and locations of the presentations, and other related matters. A majority of the funds needed to support the School come from individuals who wish to support our ministry. The sessions are open to everyone.