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Charles Jubilee Rolls

NZBTI Superintendent, 1922-1930

Once the decision was made in July 1921 to establish the NZ Bible Training Institute, the search began for teaching staff. The growing work of the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle demanded most of Rev. Joseph Kemp’s time. Someone to superintend the new NZBTI needed to be found if this new venture was to succeed.

During a special campaign Rev. Kemp was conducting in his church he noticed a tall stranger of rather striking appearance. At the close of the service the stranger introduced himself to Kemp. But he had already been recognised, though the two had never met. The visitor was Charles J. Rolls. [1]

While a pastor in Edinburgh, Rev. Kemp conducted a weekly Bible correspondence course. Numbered among his 5,000 students was a missionary in India, the brilliance of whose papers had so impressed Kemp that he had written asking for a photograph. And now before him stood its original.

Ten years of missionary experience in India, and many years of intensive study of the Bible, gave Mr Rolls an unusual approach to the Scriptures and a unique grasp of its contents. At the invitation of the NZBTI Directors, he became the Institute’s first Superintendent at age 34, commencing on 1 January 1922.

Mr Rolls (later Dr Rolls) shouldered the main burden of Bible teaching in the early years of the Institute. A man of great diligence and mental discipline, his work usually began at 4 am. He was extremely versatile and possessed considerable artistic gifts as well as more practical skills.

Not all students appreciated the over-abundant employment of alliteration in his lecture notes. However, they could not emerge from his lectures without a profound respect for the Scriptures as the inspired word of God – Christ was central in his teaching. [2]

Charles Rolls remained Superintendent of the Institute until he resigned in 1930. As a mark of the esteem in which he was held by the NZBTI Directors, he was presented with a wallet containing gold at the 1930 Graduation Ceremony. Deep appreciation was expressed for all that he had contributed to the success of the Institute.

Moving to the USA, Rolls conducted a preaching and teaching ministry. While in the States, he assisted in founding the Kansas City Bible College. In 1936 he was appointed the Home Director of the Sudan Interior Mission for NZ and Australia and moved to Sydney. In 1937 he became the Dean of the Missionary and Bible College, and in 1942 helped found the Sydney Bible Training Institute where he served as Dean from 1942-1949.

He later retired to the United States and continued a writing and preaching ministry, largely in the USA and Canada. Amongst the books he wrote was a five-volume set on the names and titles of Christ.

Dr Rolls passed away in 1983 at age 95.

[1] Charles Rolls was named after one of his forebears, the Honourable Charles Rolls, who in 1906, with Frederick Royce, founded the Rolls-Royce company.

[2] The story of Charles J. Rolls’ appointment as Superintendent is told by J. Oswald Sanders in Expanding Horizons: the story of the New Zealand Bible Training Institute (Institute Press, Auckland) 1971, pp 10-12

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