Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Highland Theological College

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Highland Theological College”
First Published: March 5, 2002

Many of you have become interested in the work of the Highland Theological College (HTC) in Scotland, a ministry supported by our congregation. Well, HTC has just celebrated another milestone in its development, with the opening of ‘The Alexander Murray Building’ on Friday 22nd February. The building was opened by Colin Mackay CBE, chairman of the UHI Millennium Institute (UHI) and an elder in St Vincent Street Free Church in Glasgow. In the evening, there was a Thanksgiving Service at which the preacher was a longstanding friend of the college, Sinclair Ferguson, minister of St George’s Tron Church in Glasgow. Apart from the blizzard outside, I am told, it was a tremendous day!

Having begun life in a hut in the grounds of a large college in Elgin in 1994, HTC moved to Dingwall, in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland, in 1999. HTC purchased a large property consisting of two buildings linked together, a purpose-built office block dating from the 1960s and the most impressive former National Bank building, dating from 1837. The office block was refurbished immediately and has been in full use since HTC moved to Dingwall. Now the old bank building has been restored to its former glory.

HTC is reformed, evangelical and non-denominational. Among its governors and trustees are Eric Alexander, John Blanchard, Doug Kelly and myself. It is in the almost unique position of being an independent theological college with its own Board and yet, at the same time, one of the thirteen constituent academic partners of the UHI Millennium Institute. UHI is a federal, collegiate institution, which is en route to becoming ‘The University of the Highlands and Islands’, following its ‘designation’ by the Scottish Parliament in April 2001. Because of this unique status, most students pay no tuition fees, since UHI receives support from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

A great deal has been accomplished in the eight years of HTC’s existence. Students have come from Japan, Korea, the USA, Canada, Poland, Switzerland, Romania, Ukraine, Portugal, Australia and the Republic of Ireland as well as from all over the United Kingdom. Already a number of BA graduates are serving Christ in various parts of the world. One recent graduate has gone with his wife and young family as a missionary to the Comores Islands with Africa Inland Mission. Another has moved to Derbyshire to a post as a youth worker with a church there. Yet another has accepted a position with a Christian counseling service for alcoholics, while another has moved on to further training for the pastoral ministry of his denomination. Several have gone on to postgraduate studies.

The first PhD student to have been supervised to completion by HTC staff was our own Derek Thomas.

One of the most exciting aspects of belonging to UHI is the opportunity to deliver courses at a distance. Since UHI has academic partners literally all over Scotland, it has invested heavily in modern technology, not least in a wide-area network. This provides state of the art telephony, e-mail and video-conferencing facilities and access to web delivery for courses. HTC is at the forefront of these developments. Already, the first year of the BA degree in Theological Studies is available by web access and years two and three by distance learning. All full-time academic staff have completed a Learning to Teach On-Line course with Sheffield College in order to support this new mode of delivery.

HTC recognises that none of the above would have been possible but for the providential action of a gracious God, to whom they give all the glory and to whom they look for continued favour and blessing. If you’ve been a prayer supporter of this ministry, join me in praising God with them.

Your friend,
Ligon Duncan

[editorial note: you may visit their website here: http://www.htc.uhi.ac.uk/]

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