Queens University and Presbyterian Theological College

It was with sadness that I read about Queens University withdrawing their theological course from the Presbyterian College.  Among the reasons given was that the course at UTC was ‘taught almost entirely from a particular theological and religious perspective.’  Given that the main purpose of UTC is to train people for the Presbyterian Church’s ministry and that they have been following essentially the same course for many years, this seems a very weak arguement for abandoning the course. There was of course also the ‘gender issue’ with Queens being critical of the fact that there was a “lack of diversity in staffing and the curriculum” and bemonaing the fact that there was no action plan to recruit mor full-time female lecturers.

Whilst these were the main reasons given for the decision by Queens University, one wonders if perhaps the Prebyterian Church’s decision earlier in the year to refuse membership and participation in the sacraments to homosexual couples, might lie behind this move?  Could it also be, as some of the UTC representatives have suggested, that in today’s academic society there is no place for a Christian college that is closely linked to an academic institution such as Queens?

Perhaps the Presbyterian church needs to take the decision that our own denomination took many years ago, namely to train our own prospective pastors for ministry and to award them an academic qualification which, whilst it is not regarded in academic circles as being as prestigious as a degree, is nevertheless perfectly suited to the needs of the ministry that pastors will face.  None of themen who graduate from the Reformed Thelogical College earn a degree as a result fo their three years of study despite the fact that the demands of the course are as rigorous as any degree based course.  However the purpose of a theological college is not primarily to award academic certificates and recognise academic achievement but to suitably train men for the work of the Christian ministry.

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Pastor of Ballenon and Ballylane Reformed Presbyterian Churches in Northern Ireland. Been a pastor since 1990.

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