My undergraduate studies at Tabor were in Ministry between 1998 and 2001. I was a distance education student, which gave me the flexibility to study from my home in Newcastle, NSW, with the benefit of visits to the Adelaide campus for intensive modules. The program was very practical, yet rigorous and stretching; the distance ed team were extremely supportive, and I still regard the experience as one of the best and most formative of my life.
So much so that after my B.Min, I continued with a Grad.Dip.Min. which I finished in 2003. Although the Grad Dip was also in Ministry, the program flexibility meant I could lean it towards a greater emphasis on my interest areas in theology, historical theology and world religions.
What did you appreciate about your time at Tabor?
The Tabor experience provided the opportunity to explore and discover my specific theological and ministry interests and strengths, which I’ve since been able to take further in other settings. Having served prior to Tabor in inter-denominational ministries, the non-denominational breadth of Tabor’s faculty and focus suited me well, and caused me to think through various doctrinal and ecclesiological positions carefully and openly. The practical posture of the ministry degree helped me to reflect on and consolidate my experiences prior to coming to Tabor as a mature age student, and prepare me for service and leadership afterwards. The academic strength of the program, and its theological foundations, also equipped me with the skills and basis for further academic studies since.
Beyond that, however, there was a spirit about the theological training at Tabor that was also very personally, spiritually formative: a positive, open and grace-filled sense about the place and the theology I came to embrace from the learning experience there. I hesitate to say it was the ‘culture’ of Tabor, though perhaps that is one word for it. However it’s described, it taught me that theological education done well, far from being dry and abstract, can profoundly deepen your faith and your appreciation of God and His grace.
What are you studying now (and how did you make your way to Aberdeen)?
Presently I’m in the final stages of a PhD in systematic theology at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where I am living currently with my wife Louise and two daughters, Bethany (7) and Emelyn (3). My research at Aberdeen has very much built on the foundations laid at Tabor, where I was introduced to the theology of the profoundly important twentieth century Swiss theologian, Karl Barth. My current project is using Barth’s theology to critically and constructively develop a theology of ‘child’ in relation to God, in dialogue also with the historical Christian tradition’s many and varied understandings of the child and its relation to God.
Before coming to Aberdeen, I completed a Master’s degree at the University of Nottingham in Theology and Religious studies, majoring in Islamic studies and Christian-Muslim relations (2004), and a Postgraduate Diploma in Mission Studies at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (2012). I have been privileged also to serve for ten years with Compassion Australia in various roles, most recently as the Executive Director of Advocacy, which among other things involved overseeing a very capable team working across government policy and grass roots advocacy and education initiatives, engagement with churches for advocacy, some writing and academic engagements, and representing Compassion to the national media. The training I received at Tabor certainly came into play in that role and others, and I remain extremely grateful for it.
What do you plan to do once you finish your studies?
With my head still buried in Barth’s mammoth Church Dogmatics, it’s still a little hard to conceive of life beyond this PhD! Based on experience to date I anticipate the future likely involves a blend ministry, with likely a greater focus on academic work – perhaps repaying my deep debts to my own teachers, by passing on what I’ve learned to others – as well as further research in my interest areas of child theology, disability theology, systematic theology, missiology and interfaith studies. But of course the life of faith is often a great adventure following God’s call into new places and placements, albeit at times with many challenges to bear and grow through. Regardless, one of the great truths I’ve learned from Tabor and Barth is that, whatever happens, God is, most fundamentally, for us, in Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit.