The Baptist theological college in Victoria, Whitley College, is looking for a new Principal.
This is an exciting opportunity for the Baptist community in Victoria, as well as for one auspicious applicant.
There is an elephant standing a few blocks from the famous Melbourne Zoo, and one which can’t be ignored: The name ‘Whitley College’ conjures up a long history of theological liberalism, and with good reason. The sad reality is, there are very few statements in the Baptist doctrinal basis that are not rejected by one or more of Whitley’s faculty and adjunct teachers. One cannot assume that penal substitution or the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ are necessarily affirmed or taught as Bible truth. Ideas such as universalism, modalism, affirming homosexual practices, are all to be found in teachings among the faculty.
I understand there are some Victorian Baptists who have a positive relationship with the College, but there is no escaping the fact that many churches (perhaps the majority) will not currently send their people to Whitley, because of radical deconstruction of the evangelical and baptist faith that swirls around its Colosseum looking building.
For two generations Evangelicals have overwhelmingly stayed away from Whitley (except for ordination studies), and have trained at other Bible Colleges in Melbourne, and even interstate.
That being said, there is a growing desire to see reform, and to see our college move forward.
Letters from various Whitley Board members have been circulating this year, aghast at the idea that Baptists are expressing concerns over the college’s orthodoxy, but the reality is, these concerns have been present for decades. For the most part people have been afraid to speak up, and when they have, no one has been listening, until now. In several public forums this year, including May’s Gathering, numerous concerns were raised regarding the teaching and training emanating from Whitley, communicating that the Churches want change.
Please refer to the formal job description. In addition, I can speak for some Victorian Baptists who are keen to see the following attributes in the College Principal:
- We are looking for a Principal with strong Evangelical convictions and who affirms the doctrinal basis of the BUV.
- We are looking for a Principal with a pastoral heart.
- A strong leader and visionary for the future of training Gospel ministers.
- A character that fits with the qualifications described in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus ch.1
- A Principal who can effectively engage with Victorian Baptist Churches
The College Principal is an important position, and provides a significant opportunity for the future of not only the College, but also for the Baptist Union of Victoria.
Perhaps you would like to join with many of us in praying for this process. Anyone interested in applying should follow the above link (applications close August 22nd)
32 thoughts on “Advertising: Principal of Whitley College”
Gday mate. Which classes did you study at Whitley? Who did you study under?
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I’m one of many Victorian Baptist Pastors who didn’t study at Whitley, but who have interacted with Whitley teachers over the years in a variety ways and who are keen to see the best person appointed to this important role.
You were just so negative about the college I thought you surely must have first hand experience of being in a Whitley classroom. My mistake.
And so in your interactions with certain staff over the years you were able to ascertain their un-orthodoxy?
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Does one need to have sat in class with Barth or Calvin or whoever in order to gauge their theological views? The views I have expressed come from engagement and they are held by others, including some who have studied there. I am not sure whether you have participated in recent BUV Gatherings and meetings, but concerns have been notable.
No one does not have to be in a class with Calvin or Barth, because they left us mountains of their very carefully articulated theological perspective in their writings. This is where we come to develop our understandings of their theological perspectives. From their writings. Even then I am certain that many many people have misconstrued the teachings of both over the years. This happens all the time, the misunderstanding and the misconstruing of what is being said doesn’t it. Its hard to not do this because we always here things through our own bias.
This to say, have you read volumes of theological writings by any of the Whitley staff seeing as you have not been in their classes to therefore come to your conclusions about their theological perspectives?
What specific engagement did you have with someone that made you came away thinking- well that person is a modalist heretic as your writing speaks of above?
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Whitley College’s proclivity toward liberal theology is no mystery or shock to most Baptists around the country. These kinds of issues have been raised over the years, so it’s unnecessary to start reproducing a catalogue of materials here.
If you’re still wanting, why not go to the library and read some of the books and articles, and ask questions of the lecturers and students.
The point of the post is not to get bogged down in those debates, but recognise the desire to see change and to communicate that we have an opportunity to move forward and embrace positive changes in the college for the sake of the broader Union. It’s a great opportunity, I’m sure you agree.
I am a graduate of Whitley College . I heard all the talk of the college being “liberal” and so was wary i about applying to the college. I considered going to Western Australia. J D Williams persuaded me to appply at Whiitley and it was the best decision I have made. I had a rich three years studying. Many Baptists want a college with a fixed doctrinal view that is seen as “Baptist” whereas is a college that encourages its students to search to establish their own theology. My three was a rich theological journey where I wrestled May to a faith that I own without conforming to some doctrinal set of statements of faith. The Bible came alive for me out of this journey
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I’m curious. When you wrote your poem, “The Confession” (https://youtu.be/7d-Hg5h3rMo), did you go around to every preacher, every other person that you “apologise” for in that? That poem is your not-very-thinly-veiled criticism of certain facets of the Church. I wonder if, in your pursuit here for Murray to offer some kind of retraction (presumably), you will retract your criticisms contained in that poem? While I may think you tar people with a very broad brush in that poem, that at times I think is a little unfair, that’s not my point here. I might suggest that you probably shouldn’t retract that poem at all – because even where those things you criticise there aren’t your experience, and aren’t some other Christians’ experience, they are somebody’s experience that you’ve heard from. It’s also part of your offering your perspective to the conversation, something that as Baptists we uphold as part of our heritage and identity. May I gently offer that you, surely, can offer Murray the same courtesy? Thanks. 🙂
Thanks for the response Matthew. I think if I had specifically mentioned a church or a specific bible college within my poetic apology then what you are saying would be totally fair. The only specific church I did speak of would be Westboro baptist and I did indeed talk to Megan-Phelps Roper about this poem and sent it to her.
I realise you and I did not commit many of these things. This is why I finish the four-part series of that poem saying- “Now I know it may not have been me that pulled the trigger on all these things, so you may say that I do not need to say sorry. But I am more than just me. More than just individuality. I am one with humanity. The good and the bad it can all be found in me. So in behalf of humanity back to humanity. I AM sorry.”
And to give you some background- It was also not written as a ‘thinly-veiled-criticism’ of the church. It was a heart-wrenching, heart-breaking, tear-soaking apology from me about the body of Christ throughout the ages and in the present and I did not write that lightly. I wrote that broken. I wrote that to my dear muslim friends. I wrote that to my dear gay friends. I agonised over it and It was about the hardest thing I have ever written. And thankfully it has led many many people to re-think their position toward Christianity.
Away from the poem itself though, I absolutely agree that everyone bringing their perspective to a conversation is paramount. In fact, this is one of the reasons why a college like Whitley, or like Tabor Mlb, the previous college I worked at, is crucial to have. Because we need different perspectives and ideas and thinking on how we follow Jesus in this world. My fear of what happens with a college like Whitley is that because they present different perspectives as options that they are then given the title LIBERAL and told to ‘get-in-line’ with traditional baptist thought around universality, sexuality, heaven and hell or whatever it may be. This goes against the ‘offering of different perspectives’ which as you said sits at the foundation of Baptist thought. I hope we have colleges who in their pedagogy are not just teaching people what to think, but teaching people how to think. This is what academic institutions are all about. This is what I see happening at Whitley in all my engagements with the lecturing staff there. Of course you will have previous students who didn’t like that way of thinking and so tell people that Whitley is Liberal. Exactly the same happens at Tabor too. My loaded questions to Murray were not about having him retract his perspective. Not at all. Rather I hoped he would think about where his perspective came from. Too much tongue-in-cheek in my response- probably. Sorry about that Murray. But I still uphold what I was getting at- please don’t just dump a label like Liberal or un-orthodox on a college, or a church, or whatever. I think this is what we often do so we don’t have to listen to perspectives different from our own.
So I plead with him and with you and with others to PLEASE uphold the ‘offering of different perspectives’ when it comes to how we follow Christ. This means not perpetuating dis-unity through saying that Whitley is somehow engaging in a silencing campaign through ‘fear and conformity’ as is said below. No one at Whitley wants Baptist churches to conform to a particular set of Whitley doctrines that must be believed. I am sure all of the lecturers at Whitley if they had time would be happy to sit and talk (as Jason has offered in this thread) and I am sure there would be a bunch of different perspectives on different theological beliefs that would come up in those conversations. And as you say- this differing of perspective and still fighting for unity not in conformity but in learning and growing from each others perspective- this is a GREAT THING- but this is not what I was reading in Murray’s blog. I was not reading a fight for unity- I was reading of someone who wants to shut down different ‘un-orthodox’ perspectives and thinks its a great time to do so- to get a principal who will- sign on the dotted line of the BUV doctrinal statements and not be seen to have differing perspectives. I for one do not want a Whitely principal like that. I want a principal who follows Jesus with his whole life, who loves people with his actions, who teaches students to think and engage in lots of different perspectives, who rigorously challenges himself to grow in his thinking and his faith and challenges others to do the same.
Frank Rees, the stepping-down principal of the college is a great man who exemplifies all of these things. I think he should be honoured for the work he has done and the many lives he has changed through his work at the college. From Murray’s blog he does not think so. This is his perspective and he can absolutely share it. But please let that perspective come from many personal conversations with Frank Rees and the other lecturers at Whitley, not from heresay and rumours or even others who went to Whitley throughout the years. This is what I am asking for.
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What about women applying?
Hi Mary, I can’t see anything in the job description that would prevent qualified women from applying. You can double check if you like
As a quick follow up:
Past and present students have contacted me over the past 2 days, expressing a similar line of concerns as those raised in this post.
Pressure has been applied on some Victorian Baptists, not to share this post. This only reinforces the culture of fear & ‘conformity’ that many churches are crying out to see changed.
That’s not my impression of things, Murray. If you’re interested, I shared these here: https://jasongoroncy.com/2016/05/03/ten-impressions-of-whitley-college-one-year-on/
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thanks Jason. I remember reading it at the time.
You don’t know me, but my name is Ian Dicks. I am a new lecturer at Whitley College in the area of Intercultural Studies and Mission.
Someone directed to me to your blog yesterday and I was saddened by what I read since it is not my experience of the college or the staff. Nor is it a true representation of who I am, what I believe, or what I teach; or, as far as I am aware, of what any of my colleagues teach.
Before coming to Whitley I worked with Global Interaction for 20 years in Malawi sharing the hope that I have in Jesus with our Muslim friends. These were very costly years for me and my family, in terms of health and hardship. I suffered from malaria more times than I care to remember. I had my life threatened on more than one occasion and went without many of the usual things that family, friends and colleagues take for granted in modern western cities. I don’t say this as a boast, but rather to emphasize that my wife and I only persevered with this because we believe in the core of our beings that Jesus is Lord, that he died, that he rose again from the grave and that he is the light and the life and the way of salvation for all people who believe.
Moreover, in my ministry with Global Interaction I have travelled extensively throughout Australia and have been welcomed into many Baptist Churches and given the opportunity to preach and teach without once someone ever suggesting that I don’t hold firmly to the essentials of our faith or that I have strayed somehow from the truth, except now in your post. I find your post upsetting, and a misrepresentation of my colleagues and their beliefs.
Murray, I don’t think that it is helpful to talk about the college or the staff in the way that you have. Especially as what you have said is hear-say, which as we both know is not the Biblical way to conduct ourselves, especially between brothers and sisters of the faith.
If you want to have a strong college, which it sounds like you do, a college that will equip Baptists and others to share our hope in Jesus, to serve and lead in the increasingly diverse world we live in, then I suggest that you pray for us, and I invite you to come and get to know each of us better. I for one would like to get to know you, but not through reading these misrepresentations of me and my colleagues that you have shared on your post.
Lecturer in Intercultural Studies, Whitley College
Cross-cultural worker Global Interaction
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Thank you for your comments. I appreciate them.
First of all, I don’t think what I have written suggests that these things are true of every person teaching or studying at Whitley. What I said is that there is a perception of liberal tendencies in the college, one which has warrant. I understand you are relatively new to the college, and I was not thinking of yourself when writing; that would have been presumptuous of me.
Second, I acknowledged there are folk who have had a positive experience of Whitley. What I have said is that this is not the case for everyone, and many Victorian Baptists are not sending students to Whitley at this point in time, because of reasons such as those that I’ve raised.
Third, I don’t see how it is hearsay. Concerns over the college have been verbalised at recent Gatherings and BUV consultations. In private, past & present students have expressed to me similar concerns. What I hear, as well as what I’ve read over the years by lecturers themselves, gives credence to the concerns that are being raised by the broader baptist family.
I don’t think burying our heads in the sand is a helpful strategy; perhaps if years of concerns from baptists hadn’t been dismissed or ridiculed, we wouldn’t be in this situation today.
G’day Murray and Ian,
As you know Murray, I am one of the pastors who has spoken to you about my concerns; I would not send an aspiring pastor to Whitley with a great confidence that they were going to come out the other side with a robust confidence to minister from a platform that the gospel we get from scripture alone is sufficient to redeem us from the power of sin and maintains us in our struggle against it and fit us for the kingdom of God. That was simply not my experience of Whitley, and that was disappointing and I know I am not alone in that experience. I had planed to write to my experience but I agree that a slinging match is not helpful. However, I also agree that the ongoing lack of attention to this conversation that swirls around about the concerns that some pastors have based on experience and observation of Whitley just continues to create an unaddressed divide.
I had many good experiences at Whitley and formed what I hope are some life long partnerships. However, I would not send someone to Whitley as their primary or sole place of theological and doctrinal training in its current environment.
I think Murray has raised a good conversation here at a time of opportunity.
Grace and Peace,
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hi Mason, thank you for sharing.
Hi Mason. Thanks for sharing. I’d love to hear more about your experience of Whitley, and how . Shall we grab a coffee sometime?
(Hit the post button too early, so I’ll try again). Hi Mason. Thanks for sharing. I’d love to hear more about your experience of Whitley, and how you judge that the college might have served you better in your ministry of the Gospel. I’d welcome the opportunity to grab a coffee sometime. Best, Jason.
I can do a coffee, I’m in Chelsea let me know when you want to roll in to town. I can send you my contact details.
Grace & Peace.
Hi Mason. That sounds good. I don’t have your email, but mine’s email@example.com. Let’s set something up that way. Cheers, Jason
Whether the reputation is warranted or not, it’s certainly widespread. And it’s simply a fact that the college does not have the confidence of large segment of the denomination. I wonder whether some dialogue between the college and churches might help with this problem? Perhaps this could be the first job for the new principal.
Great idea. I think a lot of churches would be keen for that. Thanks Tim
Just to share my testimony on this. In 2001, I began exploring going to theological college with the intention of becoming a pastor in the BUV. I was told that unless I went to Whitley College, I would not be accepted into the ordination stream – and that if I went and did my MDiv at any other college (be it Ridley, the then BCV, whatever), I would be forced to do further study at the end of it at Whitley anyway. On one hand, I could see the point of that, given the importance of our Baptist distinctions. However, I also had heard the kind of concerns that Murray has raised here. I’ll also say, I didn’t hear those from hearsay – I heard them from my pastor at the time. He was a recent Whitley graduate, who basically said the only thing he’d learned while there was how to do apologetics – because he’d had to argue against the unevangelical views posited by his lecturers the entire time. Since I didn’t feel that such a path was useful for me, I started looking at other avenues.
Ultimately, in order to hold my Baptist convictions, I moved to Adelaide in 2003, to study at the evangelical Baptist college that existed here at the time, Burleigh College.
Hear me – I moved interstate, to study away from family, friends, and my church community, just so I wouldn’t have to go to Whitley College.
Now, in God’s mysterious providence, I didn’t end up being a pastor, but have since become a lecturer at a theological college myself. And, I want to stress, my story has nothing to do with where Whitley is now – I leave that to others to assess, others who still live in Victoria, and are part of our movement. The only reason I’m saying this, is to: confirm that these concerns have indeed been around for a long time; that they led to the Baptist Union losing a potential pastoral candidate (albeit such as I would have been); and that this was caused not by hearsay, but by somebody who had sat in Whitley classes for their BMin.
I pray for God’s hand upon this whole conversation: I would hope that His light shines throughout, allowing honest and authentic dialogue throughout.
As a pastor and Whitley faculty member whose commitment to theology and to theological education is a fruit of a deeper commitment to the God of the gospel and to communities constituted by and for service of the gospel, let me extend my invitation (offered first here to Mason) to meet up with anyone engaged in gospel ministry (or not) and to talk together about how I and/or our church’s College might better serve you, the communities of which you are a part, and the communities which you are trying to serve. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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I’m happy to echo Jason’s invitation and commitment. As both a pastor and as Academic Dean I share this passion and commitment. We are eager to serve, to relate, and to learn. My email is email@example.com
Have they appointed a new principal yet?
This is the comment from Rev. Daniel Bullock – Director of Mission & Ministries in a recent contact with Pastors.
Whitley College Principal update
At the upcoming May Assembly (Delegates Dinner), the BUV Union Council and Whitley College Council are pleased to bring the joint nomination of Rev. Dr René Erwich as Principal of Whitley College. This nomination is the result of an extensive search process and I wish to thank the search committee for their diligence and commitment over the past year: Jenny Ward, Merrill Kitchen, Jo Bradshaw, Bill Brown (and myself). Thanks also to those who have been praying for this significant appointment.
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As a current student, who was encouraged to attend Whitley by a number of adherents to the Baptist denomination, may I respectfully suggest that your comments, based on second hand hearsay are inappropriate. Come and talk to the people whose lives are enriched by those very people you have virtually libeled here.
It would also be nice if the board of the college would consult with existing students about what is going on (as was promised before the sale of the residential side), instead of hiding behind closed doors and refusing to respond to correspondence sent directly to them.
Half the academic year is almost over, and we still await a new principal.
Perhaps we don’t need one.
The whole fallacy in this debate is the all members of congregations of the BUV are theologically and biblically literate. In my time since the 60s I have been in enough churches who have had a very vocal group of conservative fundamentalist inerrancy proof texting members who without any knowledge but with much vitriol would label Whitley College as “liberal” without one shred of evidence.
These people have influenced poor theological decision making at Assembly attempting to prevent change. In the case of Athol Gill it even involved senior pastors, a senior mission administrator who tried to stage a coup in Assembly.
It’s time we curbed the behaviour of these people, it’s time the BUV put its support behind Whitley College.
In college I took a hard view and considered that students coming in the back door through BCV should be required to start at the beginning
In the early days of course many were annoyed that they couldn’t unseat Mervyn Himbrey as they tried with athol
I remember in both of the introduction subjects: Intro to NT and Intro to OT the classes were quite large at the beginning (close to 30 students). At the end of the semester they’d dwindled to maybe 8 people still attending. I remember one poor girl saying to Mark Brett in class to paraphrase “all your theories are great (referring to his wholesale embrace of the largely rejected speculative 19th century German higher critics work on the pentateuch and the rest of the Hebrew bible) but when are we gonna learn about the bible”. Another of my classmates, a male student seeking ordination said “I can’t wait till this is over so, like my pastor, I can burn all these materials”. The first thing Keith Dyer attempts to achieve in Intro to NT is to persuade his students that the Bible is full of errors. At least this was the first part of his lecture in Intro to NT. He presents it as merely a dogmatic position he holds to and the students themselves ought also agree with rather than any clearly explained, evidence based position. One never saw any indisputable errors demonstrated, beyond mentioning Bart Ehrman’s difficulty in understanding how Mark 2:26 might not actually actually contradict 1st Samuel 22:17-19. There are two articles on the subject in the reader students are given, but neither present particularly good arguments from either side. One would hope an academic lecturer would offer the best arguments of their opponents. Of course offering the best arguments from evangelical theologians doesn’t seem to be the modus operandi of Whitley. Mark Brett just assumes his 19th century theologians untested Hebrew bible speculations are based in fact and so needn’t discuss the great many errors in their views, nor that they are largely rejected by the academy as a result of recent archaeological and manuscript evidence providing direct refutation of these 19th century vacuous faith statements.
I guess the largest concern of most of the students is they were seeking an evangelical Baptist education. They didn’t realise, and the website of Whitley fails to indicate, that the lecturers views are indistinguishable from that of Pilgrim theological college (the Uniting church college).
They wished to learn what the text of the scripture means, especially as it was understood by its authors and initial audience, instead of the cognitive dissonance pushed by many of the lecturers who feel that somehow the scripture is “truth-y” even though it’s not actually true. Although it is interesting that some of the lecturers do believe some of the text is real history, though it’s never explained why. Unless they are receiving personal revelation from some divine transcendent force that reveals to them which texts can be trusted and which can be cast aside as errant, one would presume that their belief in the reality of certain verses amongst the canonical texts aligns with the personal views of the lecturers themselves.
Of course the irony in all this, is that some of the respondents to Murray Campbells post seem to indicate a belief that truly being a “Christian” comes merely from self-identification. Even the far left World Council of Churches doesn’t take that as a legitimate means of truly identifying who actually is and isn’t a Christian. The WCC requires member churches to at least affirm and proclaim belief in the 3 historical creeds of the universal church. They created this objective test so as to exclude cults like the Mormons, Moonies, or the Watchtower and Tract Society from gaining membership.
If one holds to the principles of free-market capitalism (eg without competition and a profit motive, an economy will not function nor will quality products at lower prices be manufactured to compete for the money of consumers) then one is, by definition not a Marxist. Yet, many people wish to take the irrational position that it is narrow minded or lacking in intellectual inquiry to question the value of exploring questions such as “Can one be a Marxist without being a socialist?” In the same way, it makes no more sense to say, “I’m a Marxist, I just don’t believe in socialism” as it is to say, “I’m a Baptist, I just don’t believe Baptist teaching.” Thus, it’s little wonder most people don’t bother sending their kids to Whitley. Why waste your time and money on an institution whose many theological viewpoints render being a Baptist as meaningful as being a part of the Lions Club or the Rotarians? Be a Rotarian if that’s your thing… they have nice get togethers and fellowship times, and you get to help the community. And unlike being a Baptist, Rotarians get to sleep in on Sunday mornings…..
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