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Making a difference

Christopher Stead provides an update on the impact donations to the Mike Ovey Fellowship fund have made in supporting his teaching and research at Oak Hill College to help students prepare for gospel ministry.

One of the dangers of deep and wide-ranging theological study is that one can, if not careful, find oneself loving theological formulations more than the God about whom those formulations are made."

I remember Mike saying this on a number of occasions, and it has been a helpful point to which I’ve returned several times during the course of my time as the Ovey Fellow so far. Thankfully, with this warning ringing in my ears, and by the grace of God, I don’t think I have fallen foul of the danger, despite the many examples of beautifully expressed theology I’ve had the opportunity to read. 

On the PhD front, I have continued to roam through centuries of Christological writings, and taken some deep dives into some key thinkers. For those I’ve not spoken to about my research, I am interested in the issue of the impeccability of Christ, the guaranteed sinlessness of God the Son incarnate. It is widely accepted across many traditions and times in the church, but also across a wide range of reasoning. I want to think about how the frameworks in which the Church has chosen to speak about the person of Jesus Christ best permit us to speak of a last Adam who couldn’t fail to save us. 

An opportunity arose this year to do some thinking on the topic from a slightly different angle: I was accepted onto and attended a two-week workshop in California hosted by the John Templeton Foundation and Fuller Seminary, which brought together theologians and psychologists to see how much service modern psychological science could provide in doing Christology. Some of the insights generated here will have an on-going impact on my research, and the Templeton funding which made that possible has also resourced a future project that I am working on with a couple of other UK-based theologians.

I am now in the process of finalising my chapter outline and narrowing in on the particular thread I want to pull. As my former congregants, and now my students, well know, I tend to adopt a more fulsome approach to content; having had the delight of reading so many great pieces of theology, it is a hard task to lay aside some great stuff in order to focus in, but I think I’m getting there.

Responsibilities at College have also allowed plenty of opportunity to spend time engaging with and working hard at biblical truths, and learning more about God and the gospel in the process. The students in my modules, as always, provide thoughtful insights into the theology we’re going through, and it really is a privilege to approach the task together. I have also written three of the core theology modules for the new curriculum which begins in September. It has been a daunting process to put those together, both earlier in skeleton form and now with flesh on the bones, but I can’t wait to get going in the new academic year. 

A final, and particular, joy in college ‘duties’ is found in my fellowship group, seeing them pursue the godly character, skills, and competencies that gospel ministry requires, alongside forming good and lasting friendships with each other. Plus, we eat a lot of pizza.

COVID-19 has, of course, had a serious impact on everyone, in every sphere. We have found it hard to be distanced from our church family at St John’s Downshire Hill. I am on the ministry oversight team there, and it is sobering to look ahead at the continuing effect that the pandemic will have for quite a while yet on church life. Wider church involvement has also been affected; I managed to keep up with external teaching opportunities before lockdown, but various other opportunities have had to be postponed.

Life at Oak Hill carries on with the same gospel-hearted vigour as always, even if in a slightly different mode, and the same Lord Jesus Christ is present with us by his Spirit even as we are currently not able to be present with one another. I am grateful for the prayers, and support, that attend this fellowship, and continue to be astounded at the immense privilege my position affords me in the Lord’s work in the UK.’

Thank you to everyone who has given to the Mike Ovey Fellowship fund to enable this.

If you would like to learn more about the Mike Ovey Fellowship fund that financially supports Chris with his work, or would like to donate, visit our giving page.

To learn more about Chris, visit his profile.


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