Reflections on Going to Southern & Leaving Ontario

This past spring I made the decision to accept the offer of a full-time position at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. I am thrilled but also deeply humbled by this opportunity that divine providence has placed before me. I am biased, but I think Southern to be the finest seminary in North America at this point in time. Yet, leaving Ontario, where I have taught in the field of theological education for twenty-five years, has not been easy. It is hard to believe that it was twenty-five years ago this very month that I began teaching at Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto and then Gormley, where I was from 1982-1993. I thoroughly loved my time at Central . I have very fond memories of serving under Ted Barton, George Bell, and John Wilson, and labouring with men like Stan Fowler, Richard Mitchell, and Hugh Rendle. I was immersed into Fellowship Baptist life and I grew to love this body of churches.

But financial problems intervened and forced a merger with London Baptist Bible College and Seminary (LBBCS) and the resulting entity became Heritage Theological Seminary. At first Heritage was located in London from 1993-1995, and I made the commute initially to London. And then, from 1995 onwards it has been located in Cambridge, where the school bought over the old Encyclopedia Britannica building (actually a very new building). I especially loved going to London, one of the most beautiful cities in southern. The university feel of the town, some of the great bookstores and eateries made my time there a delight. Through this time it was a privilege to serve under Marvin Brubacher, still a good friend.

From January 1999 to December 2002 I was very much part-time at Heritage, though, as I was the full-time Editorial Director of Joshua Press (JP). When the financial situation at JP, though, necessitated a move, I went to Toronto Baptist Seminary from 2003-2007 and have been Principal from July 2003. Here again it has been a joy to serve with devoted faculty and keen students.

Thinking of a move, as I have noted above, has not been easy. I love Ontario and I know, after twenty-five years of teaching in this province, the great need we have for solid theological education. In a word, the churches need a school that is deeply committed to orthodoxy, yet fully in touch with the culture. Not an easy thing to be.

All too often, it is one or the other: conversant with the culture and out of step with Scriptural realities, or rooted in biblical orthodoxy but fighting old battles that most people no longer remember. As Luther is reported to have once said: if we are fighting and skirmishing where the enemy is not attacking, we are failing to truly fight the war.

And more than ever I believe we need to be committed to networking and the need to labour alongside those who stand for the same core truths that we love. The absolute independency that some in this province prize is, in my opinion, the high road to impotency. To be sure, if we need to stand alone when others are caving in to theological error and the passing fads of theologia, then stand alone we must. Dare to be a Daniel, as we have long sung. But all too often this translates into a pettiness and a refusal to work with others unless they see utterly everything our way. Without sacrificing theological integrity we need to find essentially like-minded brothers and sisters and labour side by side.

Then, we have to be willing to show genuine humility and consider others’ needs. The time is long past when we could fight turf wars in our churches when all around us people are going to hell! If changes must be made to ecclesial structures for the sake of the Kingdom, then let’s make them.

Finally, we need genuine vision for what God can do here and so move beyond the malaise of Canadian character that all too often afflicts the churches here and is slow to seek greatness: expecting great things from God, we must attempt great things for his Kingdom.