Holy Light Theological Seminary is very closely related to the Free Methodist Church. One could say that only because there were Free Methodist missionaries is there a Holy Light Theological Seminary today.

The history of the seminary may be traced to 1920 when Rev. James H. Taylor II took over the Kai-Feng Bible School in Kai-Feng, Honan in China. The Sino-Japanese war broke out in 1927 and Rev. Taylor moved westward to Shaanxi in 1940. With the cooperation of the China Inland Mission, a Northwest Bible Institute was established in the same year in Feng-Hsiang, Shaanxi.

After the Communists took over Mainland China and missionaries were forced to leave, most of them went back to the United States. After the Communists released Miss Geneva Sayre from imprisonment, she came to Kaohsiung in 1951. She saw a piece of property on the south bank of the Little Love River near the train station and had a vision for its use. She went back to the United States to plead with the Free Methodist Mission Board to buy the property. The Board officially sent her to Taiwan in 1952. The land was purchased to start the Free Methodist Mission work on the island. In 1953, Rev. and Mrs. James H. Taylor II came to join the work in Taiwan.

The Free Methodist Church preaches the doctrine of holiness. Early missionaries realized that if the Free Methodist Church wished to build her work in Taiwan with an emphasis on holiness, she must train her own workers. With their experience in training Chinese Christian workers inChina, Rev. and Mrs. James H. Taylor II decided to again start a Bible institute on the same site where Miss Sayre started the Free Methodist Mission inTaiwan.

The first classes of Holy Light Bible Institute began on September 5, 1955. Three years later, they purchased more land and property on the north bank of the Little Love River to accommodate a larger student body. Because there was a continued growth in enrollment, a new building project began in the fall of 1963 and a three-story structure was completed in April 1966.

With the implementation of a credit system, the institute then evolved into having theological and graduate programs and in 1968 with the approval of the Free Methodist World Mission in the United States and the Board of Trustees of the school, the name was changed to Holy Light Theological College on January 1, 1969.

As the overall climate of Christian enterprise in Taiwan improved, so the demand for Christian workers increased. Larger facilities and a good reputation attracted even more students to the school. Soon the seminary found itself taking in students other than Free Methodists. Today the seminary has a student body that includes many different denominations and local churches.

By the late 1970’s, people felt the need to enlarge the facilities once again. On graduation day of 1983, the Board of Trustees announced the plan for rebuilding. Five years later, an eight-story building plus a full basement (totaling about 79,000 square feet of floor space) was formally opened in October 1988. In the same year, we formally added a graduate program (M.Div. and M.Min. and M.A.M.).

Because of continuing increases in number of students since 2001, the current space has become rather tight. In the period of 2005-2010, there has been a change in Taiwan's laws. For the purpose of training clergymen and religious persons and conferring religious degrees, school legal persons may apply to the Ministry of Education (MOE) for permission to establish religious schools. To this end, in June 2006, the Holy Light Theological Seminary Board of Trustees passed a resolution to purchase a piece of land in Shanlin District, which is about 44 km away from the current campus. This 8.2 hectare (20 acres) of land will be the site of the seminary’s future school. And in addition in November of 2007 the purchase was completed and registered. In order to meet the filing requirements, the Free Methodist Church (our “mother church”) met to discuss this matter. In 2006, the Annual Conference, accepted the proposal to set up a separate “board of trustees” (i.e. the entity which must be recognized by the government in order to register with the MOE). In February 2010, the formal access for government approval was established.

As of 2009, obtaining an education at the university level is much easier in Taiwan. After serious consideration and assessment and with our limited resources, we have found that it is very hard to maintain both a four year college program and a three year master level program. To this end, the seminary is re-planning the academic programs to focus on: the three-year Master of Divinity (M.Div.), a two-year Master of Arts in Christian Studies (M.C.S.), and a two-year Master of Arts in Biblical Studies (M.B.S.). In addition there is a one year Certificate in Christian research (Graduate Certificate in Christian Studies, C.S.S.). The new curriculum gives students greater flexibility in course selections, and improves the proportion of required and elective courses. All students must first pass the entrance exam in order to take classes. This includes part-time students. Courses however are taught as day time, evening and intensive courses. Students may select courses according to their convenience in order to complete the academic requirements.

In 2011, we started a M.C.S. evening program in Taipei; and in 2012, the same program in Tainan. Also, in 2012, we started a M.Div. program in China.

In addition to construction and growth and changes of the academic program, twenty-five years ago the organization also began to increase in support for the seminary from overseas. In 1979 the “American Overseas Chinese Committee in Support of Holy Light,” was established as a support group in Oregon, USA. And in 2009, the “North American Board of Regents” was established. Through the operation of these organizations, more people in the United States have an understanding to support the seminary’s ministry.