The increasing suspicion that God has something special in store is epitomised by the transformation that has occurred at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology (WEST) in the last couple of years. As EN has previously reported, the theological college has received an enormous boost as the huge SaRang Community Church in Seoul, South Korea, has come alongside and begun to support and promote the College worldwide.
Now a new and very exciting development is imminent. WEST is entering into a unique alliance with another enterprise with a rapidly expanding reach and vision, the Porterbrook Network. Both are involved in providing training for contemporary, Reformed church leaders. The new arrangement between the two organisations is designed to provide a flow of training for church planters for projects in the UK, into Europe and beyond.
The home base of WEST is in Bridgend, South Wales. But the initial intention of the ‘marriage’ is to develop WESTPorterbrook campuses in Sheffield and London (offering a full raft of courses), as well as Porterbrook training sites further afield in other parts of the UK, Europe, Asia and the United States.
Porterbrook Learning and Seminary courses will be re-branded under the name WESTPorterbrook and Steve Timmis, Tim Chester and Jonathan Woodrow of Porterbrook will be appointed to the WEST Faculty for September 2013. Steve and Tim are widely read authors both in Britain and the US, with such titles as Total Church and the recently published Unreached: growing churches in working class and socially deprived areas. WEST Porterbrook are pooling resources in order to deliver an entirely new training track for church planters and those already involved in ministry.
Sensing the Spirit
Jonathan Stephen, Principal of WEST, told EN: ‘All of us at WEST have sensed the clear direction of the Holy Spirit. As WEST and Porterbrook became increasingly aware of all we share in doctrine, ethos, vision and true Christian friendship, there seemed almost an inevitability about the process. In fact, at times we have felt like mere spectators as the Lord has opened up the way’.
Porterbrook’s Steve Timmis agrees: ‘These are exciting developments. The prospect of partnering with WEST to further gospelcentred discipleship and church planting around the world is a blessing and opportunity for those of us leading Porterbrook and the 45 Learning Sites globally which will benefit. There’s nothing quite like partnership in mission to give a glimpse of what being God’s people is really all about!’
Alongside this major step forward, God has provided for expanding the number of faculty at WEST in other ways too. First, Cornelis Bennema, a Dutchman, currently Head of New Testament at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India, is joining in June this year. Also a new Pastoral Theologian, Phil Hill, a native of Wales, has been appointed for September. At present he is serving among Arab churches in Israel and as Dean of Students at Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary. Both of these appointments add to the sense that the Lord is opening up a worldwide influence for the new WESTPorterbrook alliance.
But as international horizons open for this new initiative, Wales itself is not being forgotten. WEST is co-ordinating a team which is launching a major new church planting initiative into the needy areas of the Welsh Valleys. Originating in a vision of Dai Hankey, Wales Co-ordinator of Acts 29Europe, the project rejoices in the name of ‘Valley Commandos’. The aim is to place ‘Valley Commandos’ in every valley in South Wales. Jonathan Stephen told EN: ‘It’s time to take back the ground we have lost!’
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