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A New Assignment

Many of you have learned that I will be leaving Regent College this summer to start teaching this fall at Crandall University. The announcement of my new appointment is here.

Some have asked about the rationale for this move. I have enjoyed teaching at small Christian colleges before (Wheaton, Northwestern), but moving back to that kind of situation, according to the conventional hierarchies of higher education, may seem hard to understand.

I confess that I cannot claim to understand this move fully myself. But I didn’t understand the move to Regent, either, back in 1998. I went into this profession to teach on the campus of a secular university, and I did that—but for only eight years, at the University of Manitoba. And the very year I was promoted to the rank of Professor at Manitoba, Regent and I started talking, and a year later I was in the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair, which it has been my privilege to fill these last 17 years.

Still, I thought that if I ever left Regent, it would be to return to the secular university. And instead I’m going to another Christian institution on the other side of the country.

I came to Regent mainly because of the character of the college (which I had studied for my doctoral dissertation and first book) and because of the energetic and ambitious vision set out for me by its president, Walt Wright. I am headed to Crandall for similar reasons. President Bruce Fawcett, along with his estimable Vice-President for Academic Affairs, James Rusthoven (a former medical school professor and researcher now dedicated to advancing Christian higher education in his second career), is properly aspirational for Crandall: to see it grow, and especially spiritually and academically. I like working alongside such people—capable, well motivated, wise, and welcoming of others’ talents. And I like helping good places get better.

I have two friends on the faculty there already: Prof. Keith Bodner, a brilliant Old Testament interpreter (with whom I have previously taught in China), and Prof. Sam Reimer, a fine sociologist of religion (with whom I have collaborated on previous research). And I have become acquainted with other faculty members—particularly Steve Dempster, Ted Newell, and Dan Goodwin—and recognize that they are people with whom I will be glad to work.

I am also delighted to be the first incumbent of the new Samuel J. Mikolaski Chair in Religious Studies at Crandall. Dr. Mikolaski and I have only corresponded, not met, but we have several points of contact beyond his having been the president of Crandall back when it was Atlantic Baptist College and the president under whom it received its charter as a university.

He and I share keen interest in the intersection of theology, ethics, and church life, and I have enjoyed some of his acute and eloquent essays over the years. He was the first professor of theology at Regent College ‘way back in the 1970’s. And he concluded his career in the chair of theology at Carey Theological College, down the street from Regent, that was later filled successively by my friends Stan Grenz and Jonathan Wilson. So it is an honour to bear his name.

Of course I will miss my friends on the Regent faculty. I will miss them a lot. Regent has some fine scholars in its ranks, yes, who are also fine people. It has been a special privilege to work with them these many years. I’ll also miss friends among the staff as well who have worked so faithfully and effectively to support the faculty in the work of the College as a place of scholarly formation. Until the last while, I had intended to play whatever part I could in helping Regent move forward from strength to strength in these challenging days, and I leave Regent not without considerable sadness. It continues to have a crucial mission in the world, and I will always say prayers for its flourishing.

I am yet convinced that God has graciously directed me to Crandall University, and I could not have been given a warmer welcome by its leaders and my new colleagues. I look forward to more “professoring” as teacher and researcher, and also to mentoring and encouraging my colleagues in their scholarship in my new role as Dean of Faculty Development.

I have received my new orders, therefore, and I am thankful. And since Moncton is in the centre of a beautiful area with an airport providing direct flights to many major eastern cities in both Canada and the USA, I hope to see more of those of you on that side of the continent than I have, whether coming to your city or welcoming you to my new one.

UPDATE: I notice that I didn’t happen to say that I will miss, along with members of the Regent faculty and staff, the students at Regent. Clearly, I was “blocking,” as some counsellors say. The pain of leaving Regent students—consistently, I expect, among the most interesting, motivated, honourable, insightful, creative, and hilarious student bodies in the world—is evidently too much yet for me to face.

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