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EFAC Australia

Bishopdale College, Diocese of Nelson, New Zealand

Tim Harris was Adelaide's Archdeacon for Mission, Evangelism & Church Growth and Senior Minister of the Kensington-Norwood Anglican Team Ministry. But he's now the newly appointed Dean of Bishopdale College. The editor, Wei-Han Kuan, interviewed him about this move.

WH: Tim, I read on their website that you've just been appointed to Bishopdale College. What can you tell us about the College?

TH: Bishopdale Theological College emerged from a vision shared by the Diocese of Nelson, NZ for a clearly Anglican and evangelical theological college addressing the needs for ministry formation in that diocese, but also available more broadly to Anglicans and those of other denominations throughout NZ (and beyond!). The College was authorised by the diocese in 2006, and is now up and running.

WH: OK, so what will your new job involve?


Tim: My role is to be the first Dean of the College, to build on a great start and minister with the growing team in taking the College to the next stage of operation. It is as much about shaping culture and community as it is providing services and options for theological education. All this is in the context of a clearly evangelical diocese and supportive diocesan leadership led by Bishop Richard Ellena.

WH: It's obviously a big move and a big decision to make! Could you comment on your decision making process? What were some of the main considerations for you and your family?

Tim: At one level it is a massive move and decision - one that has ripple effects for many others, especially within our immediate family, half of whom will be staying in Adelaide (our married son and his wife, and our youngest daughter who's at Adelaide University). Yet we have felt great peace of mind in approaching this move, and it is one in which Fiona and I have moved through together. God prepared us wonderfully.

Late last year we sensed after 12 years it was time to move on from our present ministry; a few months later we discerned in prayer that the next stage was to be a change of direction, and most likely in the area of theological education - we just didn't know where!

Later in the year my path crossed with some of those from the Diocese of Nelson (while attending an Anglican consultation in Oxford) - some seeds were sown. Later the position at Bishopdale was advertised, and a number of friends emailed me with a 'this looks a lot like you' note. Then when arriving in Nelson for the interview process I had strong sense of God saying 'this is it', and growing excitement. The invitation from the selection panel and the spirit in which it was expressed comes with a strong sense of God's call and guiding hand.

I must say that the warmth of Nelson Diocese and especially Bishop Richard has been exceptional - a very generous expression of evangelical conviction. There is a gospel vision there that I share with excitement and wholeheartedly. Being a born and bred kiwi, I have always had special heart for the people of my homeland, so in that sense the decision has been easier.

WH: So, it's a really a homecoming for you! You've been in Australia for awhile now, and you've played a significant part in evangelical leadership here. What can you say about the current state of Anglican evangelicalism in NZ?

Tim: The Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia is culturally rich and diverse. It is unique in many ways, but also shares in very real terms the tensions being experienced throughout the Anglican Communion - probably more so than Australia. It is well served by the extensive ministry of the Bible College of NZ (with whom Bishopdale is in partnership), but also facing a future with significant challenges and opportunities. There are vibrant and impressive pockets of Anglican ministry throughout NZ, but the Diocese of Nelson is the one clearly evangelical diocese.

WH: What can you tell us about the Latimer Fellowship?

Tim: The Latimer Fellowship grew out of the amazingly fruitful postwar generation of evangelical ministry in NZ (especially William Orange in Christchurch), and is very similar to EFAC Australia. It is a significant focal point for encouraging evangelical thought and comment for Anglicans throughout NZ.

WH: And what will be your main early challenges at Bishopdale?

Tim: There will be many realities to address in an operational mode, but I am particularly keen to get out and spend time with people - other key evangelical leaders and stakeholders, the Bishopdale team that depends much on goodwill and wider support, and especially students – 'How can we serve and work together on meeting common goals?'. So I am keen to listen, but also share my enthusiasm for the Bishopdale vision of God honouring, quality, innovative theological education aimed at making disciples.

WH: How can EFAC Australia partner with Latimer and Bishopdale?

Tim: I am struck by Archbishop Peter Jensen's reading of the challenges of our times - that we are facing decades of realignments and challenges, not just the present 'crisis times'. We need each other, and I think we need to intentionally work at a stronger sense of partnership and the value of meeting together and networking of our ministries and resources. How can we encourage, support, mentor, share a vision for the growth of gospel ministry and witness across our region?

Australian evangelicalism has many strengths and is well placed to the north and west, including south and east Africa. The NZ church is well placed in terms of the Pacific and Polynesia. Together we provide a powerful platform for this part of the globe. I think it is time to pray, plan and share dreams for further honouring the great commission in our part of the world - and I think evangelicals have - potentially - the right relationships and shared gospel commitments to ministry training especially to provide a platform for generations to come.

WH: That's a great Gospel vision for the future! Finally then, how can we pray for you, your family, Adelaide and NZ?

Tim: Please pray that God in his grace would guide us and keep us faithful to the ministries he calls us. As a family, please pray that Fiona and I will find new ways of keeping in contact and growing into a new era of family life- and especially for our care of Jonathan (who is 23 and has an intellectual disability) - that he may flourish in a new environment in Nelson.

Do pray for Adelaide as a new generation of evangelicals establish themselves, and for the diocese as it explores new approaches to ministry and church planting in particular.

And finally pray that the people of NZ and Polynesia will hear and respond to the good news of the gospel, faithfully proclaimed and lived by God's people renewed in faith.

WH: Thanks Tim, I'm sure the EFAC Australia community will wish you well and remember you through those prayers.

The Harris family makes the move in mid-May 2008.

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