"Shrinking To Grow" — What Happened at Newbold College?

May we all be encouraged to earnestly pray for wisdom and discernment for the leaders and also for staff members and students and additionally considering any affected - may the good Lord strengthen and revive, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Friends, what Newbold needs the most at this time is our unsolicited, generous support and solidarity. The college has shaped our lives in so many more ways than our academic accomplishments. Could I kindly suggest that we don’t succumb to cynicism and negativity with our comments and/or feedback. Everyone, whether individuals, churches or institutions, goes through mountaintop- and valley-moments in life. C’est la vie. There may be uncertainty and uneasiness in the valley, but there’s also resilience and resolve. Let’s focus on what is positive and yes, old-fashioned as it may seem, let us pray for all decision-makers as well as current staff and students! Julian Kastrati (1995, 1996-1999, 2003-2005, 2017-2021).

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I hope nobody mistook criticism of aspects of Newbold that some of us have made in the above comments for cynism. I apologise if that was my tone. It is true that cynism is precisely what I have often seen at Newbold towards some of my slightly more conservative fellow students and even some teachers. But that is not what I wish to perpetuate. I just wish for Newbold to realise what a precious opportunity it now has to address some of its shortcomings and transform into an institution that combines faith and academic excellence. If it’s just the former, I can get that at church. If it’s just the latter, frankly, there are tons of better universities in the UK where I’d want to pursue it. But Newbold has the potential to truly bring the two together instead of simply reproducing the gap between them, as is usual in our culture at large.

Newbold’s teaching staff is brilliant and more than capable for such task. I truly hope none of the teachers will leave, but I do hope they will sincerely reassess their approach, retain what is good and discard what isn’t. Criticism goes both ways - one cannot just continually give it and never receive it. It is true that change hurts, as Arnoud had noted, but as the adage says, “No pain, no gain.” If the current process is to be a prelude to future growth, it needs to be accompanied by more than shrinking and name changing (in fact, I prefer the old one, as CMM doesn’t do justice to the academic nature of Newbold’s theological training that, I hope, will be retained). It needs to be accompanied by a genuine re-evaluation of the prevailing culture and approach, not because TED said it, but because of the much greater impact Newbold could have on the Adventist presence in Europe if it truly realised the possibilities of combining critical thinking with Adventist faith.

My prayers go out for you, and I think more of us should join in that ‘old-fashioned’ effort for this precious institution that the Lord has raised. Nobody can rejoice at the troubles it is facing. May this be a new beginning rather than the end. :pray:

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Quite honestly, I probably should not be surprised by the many comments from the scholarly community and the people who attended Newbold with all their precious memories. I went to La Sierra, but could not afford a year abroad, like so many of the folks making the comments above.

But I am surprised. I wonder if any of the above respondents ever ran a business. The school is a business. And apparently, it was economically infeasible to continue to operate the school in the way they had previously done. How many of you teary-eyed alumni have made significant, sacrificial annual contributions to the institution, given the remarkable value it brought to your lives?

In further support of Dr. Bruinsma’s report, I am almost ebullient over the description of a ‘PROCESS’ which was employed to establish the current plan. Process is so often sidestepped or ignored completely in the church and its educational institutions.

As an example of another education institution which faced a crisis of relevance, I remember going out to teach at Holbrook SDA Indian Mission in the late 1960’s. The curriculum was college prep and almost totally irrelevant…and it had been that way since the school was established in 1946. Most students did not finish school and went back to the Reservation to care for the sheep herds. And they never left. I am still friends with a woman who was one of my students there. She lives on the Reservation to this day.

Recognizing the disconnect, and through the implementation of a process, the faculty was supported by the governing church administrators to bring in practical courses, in addition to the accredited curriculum, such as nursing, animal husbandry, welding, agriculture, etc.

The school still goes strong today, and students are graduating from the 12th grade. And they are prepared to take whatever road they chart for themselves in the future. Particularly if they choose to go back to the Reservation.

I salute the folks at Newbold and wish them the best.

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Incidentally - only ONE comment from the current Newbold community itself - from emeritus Mike Pearson. Perhaps the responses is not just about Newbold and precious memories (I certainly have those), but about a the paradigm shift of our understanding of education within the church.

Some of the most frustrated people criticizing the developments come from a business - they may not be visible here on SPECTRUM … but they are there.

I beg to differ! Within the Adventist system our schools - just like the medical “arm” are integral part of the Adventist mission. In fact - if we think of our medical and educational as businesses, we might as well close all of them down. Now, having said that … I do realize that without calculating the cost and reasonable business practice even the best mission will fail. It is exactly there where criticism needs to be put forward in this particular case: educators (in theology, mind you) were supposed to resolve the business problems, while administrators took over the task of educators… There is something wrong in that equasion.

Absolutely… Especially in this case. At least this is the information I get from insiders and you will be able to read it on and even more so between the lines of the article.

So do I … though it may sound a little cynical, considering that most of them will be made redundant and only a few will be rehired to a completely new concept, developped by administrators for them.

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I was not simply referring to scholars who are presently on faculty…Larry Geraty is one of the finest scholars I have known, and chose to comment.

Thank you for this clarification…but how would I have known this? You must be more familiar with the respondents than I.

Actually, I remember when, in the late 1960’s the SDA Health System made a conscious decision to stop putting former pastors in charge of our hospitals and instead, chose men who had real business backgrounds for those leadership positions. My former father-in-law was one of those…and in order to recruit talent with business experience, compensation plans were brought into line with market conditions for similar healthcare institutions. So while I understand your point, perhaps the healthcare industry should be excluded from your analysis of this issue.

And without any rancor, I cannot fathom how theological educators should be tasked with the responsibility to ‘resolve the business problems’…at least not without the help of those with stronger backgrounds in business.

But in the end, if you are right and this is a big over-reach on the part of administration, I hope it all comes to light.

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@ TC_TAN Thank you. I am in total agreement. I have tried suggesting this over and over. Then the pastor might know something about real life and it’s struggles.

My father, Jack Mahon, was helped in his attendance of Newbold College by having worked on the land as a conscientious objector in WWII which gave him a government grant for his ongoing education. When the war ended he worked on the farm at Newbold Revel then at the newly acquired campus in Binfield in 1947 where he studied theology and entered the UK ministry after graduating in 1949. My father was raised in a family that was quite poor but blessed with strong aspiration, good brains, a love of music and wholesome food. The appeal of Adventism and its effect on the family was strong and enduring with Dad and two of his siblings giving lifelong service to the church, in Dad’s case with posts in Beirut, Lebanon and Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire as well as in the UK.

I read Reinder Bruinsma’s article with a mix of sadness and fulfilled expectation. I attended Newbold for a diploma of theology in 1974, graduating in 1976 and entering the UK ministry as an intern. I endured working for the church for 2 years before recognising that I was not cut out for the role and chose to step into a positive layman’s role in my local congregation near to Newbold. For 25 years my wife Penny Mahon and our two kids lived in the close vicinity of Newbold in the centre of Binfield. Penny worked at Newbold for the best part of those years becoming Chair of the Humanities Department. I think it’s safe to say we had a fair understanding of the institution’s strengths and weaknesses at close quarters.

In my father’s twilight years when he was suffering from the loss of his beloved wife and mild dementia I started unpacking his photographic archive and scanning and repairing a multitude of images that he had captured and/or that had been passed to him when he ‘broadcast’ his project to research and write up the history of Adventist Missions with a close focus on Africa. Dad was old school and probably blind to global post-colonial politics and even in retirement his passion was to support the practical humanitarian mission of ADRA.

I have very little care for, or interest in, contemporary Adventism but retain great fondness for my Adventist friends. My eyes are open to the huge existential wave that Adventism achieved in the early and middle years of the 19th century in the UK, largely thanks to the very large cohorts photographed in Newbold’s history in the ‘30s-‘50s. I don’t wear rose-tinted spectacles however and I would guess that Newbold acted as a Western European hub for socially constrained young people, many of whom came to the college to find their life partner and set out on their mission for life. My father met my mother on a Glasgow tram in 1949 and, persuaded by him and Adventism, found herself a student at Newbold whilst training as a nurse. Newbold bred enthusiasm, conviction and loyalty in its students as well as an enduring world-wide social network of believers.

My theological training at Newbold comprised a serious amount of Adventist nonsense, camouflaged by ‘the Spirit of Prophecy’. Surely Adventism’s primary dynamic value at the outset was the courage to think differently and be motivated by a sense of urgency to do God’s work. But any consideration of the millennialism that gave it birth and the fundamentalism that has kept many of its members on a narrow gauge railway have doomed it to being a bureaucratic self-replicating and narcissistic institution. Adventism is crippled by its own version of ‘manifest destiny’ and for me that meant I grew up thinking my beliefs and I were better than those of my fellow men, from whom it was wise to keep a safe distance…

Reading between the lines from Bruinsma who was a good friend to my Dad, I see the latest developments at Newbold as highly retrogressive and driven by outdated views of balance sheets. Dr Baildam is an educator of the highest order for whom I have total respect and is no doubt endeavouring heartily to deliver the aims of Newbold’s governors (who historically have a lot to answer for). My reservation is the ethos at the heart of the church that sees its core message delivered through a priesthood that may be strongly versed in biblical theology but lacks the rounded skills, experience and delights, (possibly intelligence) that equip them to be wise mentors and leaders to guide and inspire ‘normal’ people in a complex modern society. The unspoken challenge in the spiralling downwards of Newbold’s offering and viability can be summarised as migration. Where are the generations represented over the last 70 years? Many brought up like me as faithful Adventists in the UK have abandoned the church that still holds dear memories because its theology is existentially AWOL and the joy and release of Jesus can only be expressed (if I understand rightly) in happy clappy worship or constrained eschatological thinking and restrictive beliefs. Do the maths: where have all the migrants gone, where have all the migrants arrived from?

Newbold cannot free itself from responsibility for its own (in my opinion) decline as it failed significantly to provide the social and spiritual leadership needed for generations in the ‘80s and ‘90s especially earning an anecdotal reputation for a lack of empathy with Britain’s growing black Adventist population.

Nonetheless it’s gratifying to see in this thread the accolades for Newbold’s profound influence on the lives of individuals. As an institution offering a unique rite of passage for young Adventists its work and benefits should not be underestimated but it’s clear that these are viewed as soft benefits by a reactionary leadership who are focused on the top-down dynamics of what is more a corporation than a movement.

I write this post more for my Father than for myself though his opinions would not necessarily coincide perfectly with my own. I am confident that in addition to my views, those that knew him would agree that he would view the narrowing of Newbold’s curriculum, cohort and mission as hugely disappointing; however the trends he witnessed in his twilight years would have removed any great surprise at these events, especially given the repeated failure of minister-managed and overseen institutions here in the UK.

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Like some others responding to Dr. Bruinsma’s article, I was a student back in the 70-ies and 80-ies, and I am deeply thankful for how lecturers challenged me to see spirituality, faith, and religion in new ways; learning to live with unanswered questions and find a hopefully honest platform where faith and doubt sometimes meet. I have also had the privilege of being part of the Department of Theological Studies (DTS) staff for a seven-year period that ended 2 years ago. I was a member of the Newbold governing board for 11 years before starting to teach there. Changes in the operation of the college is probably 10-15 years overdue. The concerns over declining numbers of students, and the financial consequences of that, have been pressing for a long time. The pandemic brought the situation to a point where decisions had to be made. It is a sad reality to face, but also an opportunity for starting a new chapter.

The article and the comments leave me with questions and concerns. Having talked to several of my former colleagues over the last months, I sense a deep frustration and feeling of being left out of the picture and of the discussions about the college’s future. Although I hesitate to make any judgements as I am not part of the process, I recognize the sentiments from Michael Pearson’s and Tom de Bruin’s comments.

Something I miss from Bruinsma’s article is the whole discussion of merging higher educational institutions in Europe. Throughout the two divisions in Europe there are multiple local theological seminaries that all compete to attract students. There seems to be little will to streamline this. For post-graduate studies it is mainly Friedensau in Germany and Newbold that compete. The present crisis seems to be the perfect opportunity to look at alternatives. There are several additional reasons why merging or cooperating with e.g. Friedensau would have been beneficial: Firstly, having a campus with theology students only, do not seem to be a desirable option. Having students in multiple fields of studies widens the perspectives of all. Secondly, after Brexit, Newbold might find it even more difficult to attract European students. Thirdly, the combination of countries in the TED makes it almost impossible to run a college with other programmes than theology. The Nordic countries have free education even at university level, which makes a rather expencive stay in UK less attractive. Many of the central and eastern European countries have soft currencies and the church cannot afford to send their students to the UK. That leaves Newbold to a large extent with the UK SDA church market where the mainly coloured membership often are hostile to – or at least negative to the college.

The cry from Union presidents for a more practical pastoral education is understandable but still causes concern. The principles governing academic freedom and honesty are important in European education, for Newbold staff and for the SDA Church. Critical analysis and open discussions are necessary to prepare pastors to reflect on faith and spirituality in their dialogue with a European population that has been trained in the framework of these principles. Having been part of multiple “MinTAC” (Ministerial Training Advisory Committee) meetings in the TED, I have observed how Union leaders together with TED and College staff have agreed that growing a “mature” pastor takes 8-10 years. 5 of those years would be academic training and 3-5 years would be field experience with a well-structured internship programme in place. The DTS is giving a largely theoretical and academic platform, whereas the practical training in the internship gives experience needed for development into maturity. Most leaders in the TED will admit and acknowledge that the internship programmes in most Unions are either non-existent or largely failing. The responsibility for a possible lack of practical training lies as much with the unions as with the college. There are some very positive initiatives made in the restructuring to improve both the “placement programme” that students are engaged in throughout their studies, and the internship planned for students starting to work in the “field.”

The initial comments made by HerMjstsTaxCollector, even if it might be an exaggeration, is a cause for concern for college and TED leadership. As a former head of the DTS, I can recognize this kind of comments coming from students. The task of being academically open and honest, be true to one’s own convictions and present Adventism in a favourable light, is at times a challenge in academia. The pastoral concern and responsibility for students who face multiple new and challenging issues, demands maturity, balance, and a high level of loyalty to the SDA church.

I know that a very thorough work is being done by the college and TED leadership to find a new and better way forward for the college and for the education of pastors. We ask the guidance of the Holy Spirit for that.

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you hit the nail on the head …" progressive Advent-ism is an oxymoron " i was raised a catholic and really embraced the … the Adventist faith as an adult pushing 40 … the beautiful teaching of forgiveness from God through Jesus our savior …the hope of the second coming and life in Eden restored with our family and loved ones .Adopting a healthy lifestyle . the wonderful books written by Ellen white … ALL good and life changing … Then as i got older i decided to become a vegan vegetarian and believed that the Bible was speaking to me about living a life like Jesus lived … a life of VICTORY over my passed sinful life … that is when the persecution started … not from the world but from my own liberal thinking – worldly loving Adventist brethren … Fortunately i have had the privilege of leading dozens of people to Christ and it greatly encourages me to see the Holy Spirit working to bring souls to Christ kingdom and to His remnant church … it also produces in me a desire to be more like Jesus in spite of my world loving brethren … keep looking up and moving forward Jesus IS coming again … lets be ready to meet HIM … blessings , james John 16:33

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