While the eternal and transcendent might be considered the proper preoccupations for an academic theologian, Sean Winter says his new role is in keeping with a much more grounded approach that has been forged in constant change.
Dr Winter will next year become director of synod’s Education & Formation for Leadership team, which will encompass his current roles as acting head of college and academic dean at Pilgrim Theological College.
The Education & Formation for Leadership team will be part of eLM, the new unit designed to equip leadership within presbyteries and congregations to engage in mission.
As part of this reform eLM will assume responsibility for activities previously carried out by the Centre of Theology and Ministry, the Commission for Mission including the Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit, the work of the Board of Mission and Resourcing and the administrative support for the Placements Committee.
Dr Winter said the organisational change, which has happened in accordance with synod’s strategic framework, was not a radical departure but rather an evolution in the way educational resources, courses and pathways for those engaged in ministry would be developed and delivered.
He believed the new structure would better integrate education and training with synod’s wider activities and thus create room for innovation.
“What I am really excited about is the idea that I can have more space and time to be in the right conversations about how the work that we do at the college, and the work of the leadership and education team, actually integrates and connects with people’s experiences,” Dr Winter said.
“It seems to me that whatever it is the church is doing, whether it be advocacy, whether it be the life of congregations, whether it be involvement in social justice, the question of education is at the centre of how the church needs to approach those issues.
Dr Winter said that theology, far from being an abstract pursuit, should always be grounded in the reality of changing cultural circumstance and church life.
Conversely, the church needs to be theologically aware in all that it does.
“Theology always flows through the church, the question is whether it’s good theology or bad theology,” Dr Winter said.
“What this change helps us to do is to recognise that the work of theologians and the work of the college continues to be central to the way the church thinks about those issues.”
Dr Winter said that since he arrived in Melbourne from the UK to teach New Testament studies in 2009 he has seen numerous changes.
“The days when theological colleges and theological education could assume a fairly settled pattern of existence, I think those days are gone,” he said.
“We plan to be responsive to a changing environment both culturally and within the life of the church.
“All theological colleges today need to be flexible and light on their feet, not in terms of what the core task is, the core task is the same. It’s about the importance of theological reflection and research and education within the life of the church and the way in which we go about making that possible.”
Information about 2018 courses at Pilgrim Theological College and the Under 35 scholarships can be found here.