1979-1983 / BCNZ Diploma; ACT BTh; ACT MTh
I planned one year maximum at College, and that under sufferance, but that was the minimum requirement of the Mission Agency so we could serve in cross-cultural mission. I finally ended up leaving after sixteen years, better equipped for all that has followed.
The small 1979 cohort of which I was a member through my first year of the Australian College of Theology (ACT) BTh studies created a strong supportive environment within which I could learn and grow in my faith. This, along with the stimulus of the lectures—Bill Osborne opening up new perspectives on the Old Testament; Murray Harris helping me to read very familiar parts of the New Testament through new eyes, and the challenge of doing that from the Greek text; Bob Glen bringing church history to life; Max Liddle providing a framework clarifying what I really believed; together with the additional input on areas of personal growth and development from a range of lecturers—all stirred me to change my thinking about how long I needed to study, from one year maximum to three.
After three years of immersion in an environment that challenged a lot of my understanding of what mission is all about, and encouraged in me a passion for a holistic approach to it, stimulated by Ian Kemp's enthusiasms, I was encouraged to explore that further through the ACT MTh programme. Along with this study I also had an opportunity to be involved in a small way with teaching some New Testament courses – all new territory and a great opportunity for growth. So, one year became three, and then five.
After completing my MTh, and while looking at options for finally pursuing ministry in mission, David Aitken announced his retirement, leaving a vacancy for the role of Dean of Studies. Out of the blue, David Stewart asked me to consider that role, alongside more teaching. That was a long way from what I had ever thought of, but once it was confirmed that this would be right for me to take on, I accepted. That coincided with the establishment of NZQA, which provided the opportunity for BCNZ to offer its own degrees and diplomas rather than needing to rely on ACT. Lots of pioneering work was needed since the College was the first non-university institution to apply for, and in due course be granted, accreditation to offer a NZ-accredited degree. That was a real highlight of my years on the faculty. It was also especially rewarding to be able to share from our experience with other Christian colleges seeking accreditation, and to enable them to gain accreditation for their programmes.
Rather than starting from scratch to develop a new degree programme, our BTh degree mirrored and built on the ACT BTh. Our credibility was no doubt enhanced by our long experience with both the Melbourne College of Divinity (MCD) in earlier years, and then ACT in equipping students at that level of study. In addition, through ACT and in conjunction with Bible colleges in Australia we were also developing a more practical ministry-focused degree that led to the BMin, for which we were also granted accreditation.
Through that whole journey I was being challenged to think about the purpose of theological education, and especially why our programmes were structured in the way they were. I was also stimulated to explore ways in which they could become more effective in achieving their intended outcomes. Using accumulated study leave I was able to begin pursuing this topic, leading into PhD studies through Griffith University in Queensland. It
was a privilege to be able to do this under Professor Royce Sadler, a leading scholar in education, and, as a bonus, a committed Christian who understood my topic. I benefited enormously from his input and support. It was during this period of study that it became clear that it was time for me to move on from BCNZ, and in due course to pursue my passion for cross-cultural mission and begin another chapter in my journey.
My time at BCNZ was, in one word, expansion. It was a time of growth and development. This is true of my understanding and application of the Scriptures, my theological framework for shaping my faith, my awareness of the scope of God's mission in the world, and my capacity to work with others as they travel on their spiritual journeys.
When I finally ended up in cross-cultural mission after my longer-than-planned stay at College, it was not primarily focused on using my civil engineering qualifications and experience in development projects as I had originally expected. Rather, I was called to work in a country with a very young church in Central Asia. Training and equipping leaders and pastors was still at a very basic level. It was a real privilege to be able to contribute in such a formative way in strengthening the church, and to contribute to developing a well-rounded and strong biblically based two-year study programme. Young Christians, eager to learn. What more could you ask for?
After ten years in that country when our visas were no longer renewed, we then spent a couple of years in South East Asian country in a mentoring role.
Currently I am 'retiring', doing more of my own writing, and continuing to mentor others on their own personal journey as opportunities emerge. This includes regular contact online with two of the Indonesian foundation team members, one a national, the other now working in development work in Europe. And I’m enjoying the journey of retiring.
I will always be grateful for the faculty and staff at College through my years there. Rod and Helena gave of themselves in helpful pastoral support, something I was very aware of and thankful for through my third year of study when I was the men's student president. Many others also contributed so much to my spiritual formation and personal growth and development through my years studying and also while working there. I’m grateful in particular for David Stewart, who was Principal when I began my studies and through most of my years there. He saw potential in me and what I could offer, and then opened opportunities for me to grow and develop in my ministries. Also to John Hitchen - who, by the time I moved on from College was the National Principal - for the support he gave to me.
I am also grateful for the biblical and theological foundation that was established for my faith journey through those who taught me, and for my fellow staff and faculty members whose lives interacted with mine, and all contributed to rubbing off some of the rough edges.
In my journey through the years since I moved on from College, I am grateful for the constant reminders that whatever the external factors, the Lord is still there with me.