In October, Rev Emeritus Prof Bill Loader was appointed as the new Principal of Perth Theological Hall. His term will run till the end of 2015. For Bill, this is a return to the Hall where he taught from 1978-2005.
Bill sees his return as coming at an exciting time of change and renewal in the church concerning theological education both for lay people and for those preparing for ordained ministry.
“We are beginning to see new forms of being church and a key role will be to support and resource these so that they continue to be rooted in the faith of the church and its traditions as they seek to bring them to fresh expression,” Bill said.
At the national level talks are underway to transform the way theological education is coordinated and resourced across the synods with new and promising possibilities of much closer collaboration, especially in professional formation. In WA there has been an important review process looking to the future shape especially of formation for ordained ministry. It is likely to lead to new ways of doing things at a number of levels: from ways of assessment, deployment of staff resources, engagement of local UCA expertise, to development of a wider range of methods of delivery including intensives.
Bill expressed his commitment to the principle of deploying staff strategically according to their strengths and responding creatively to the changing needs of the church and to visions of how it might look in the future. That includes the likelihood that the default setting for ministers of the Word will be increasingly to be educators for the many congregations which in future will depend on teams of lay leaders.
One of the other areas of change is in the new offerings which the churches’ partnership with Murdoch University now provides. People can enrol in a BA in Religion which not only includes the usual Christian theology subjects theology but also the opportunity to gain an understanding of other religions, an area of increasing importance in our multicultural world. Graduates can now choose to study Theology for a Graduate Certificate, Diploma or Master of Divinity, or the specialised Graduate Diploma in Chaplaincy. Increasingly ministers and teachers in church schools are taking advantage of these professional opportunities to develop further knowledge and expertise.
Bill succeeds Rev Dr Geof Lilburne who was acting Principal and before him Rev Ken Williams, former moderator. His role as principal will be largely administrative and honorary role and sits beside two others which he currently fills. Nationally he is Chair of the Australian Academy of the Humanities Section on Religion and internationally he is coordinator for the Society for New Testament Studies of four regional committees dedicated to the enhancement of New Testament scholarship in developing countries across the world. Bill’s commitment to theological education has been best known in recent time through his weekly on-line commentaries on the lectionary. We wish him well as he takes up his new role.