I am a Christian academic theologian, writer, and preacher, and a father of five young children. In March 2023 I was fired by the evangelical college where I had worked for almost seven years for posting a tweet (from my personal account) which expressed a Biblical view on sexuality, a view held by the vast majority of Christians throughout the world. Due to the public nature of the incident, my academic career in higher education is now severely threatened.
Just one week after my dismissal, we were coincidentally served notice of eviction by our landlord and have been told we have 8 weeks to vacate our home. I was the only lecturer who lived within walking distance of the college, a decision we made as a family so we could welcome students into our home for meals, prayer, and fellowship, which we've done for the last seven years. However, this also meant we could never afford to buy a home on one income - an issue now exacerbated by having no income at all. The timing of the eviction following the dismissal makes this an especially challenging time for us as a family.
We know that whatever happens (and however little/much money we happen to raise here) God has a plan for us, He has us in His hands, and He won't let us go.
Vision for Funding
My call for funding is to support myself and my family for at least two years as I seek to write, network, and speak into the deeper issues which underlie the silencing of Christian free speech in an increasingly anti-Christian society. Significant changes within western culture are increasingly affecting what Christians can and cannot say based upon their Biblical beliefs.
Whilst this is an issue of free speech in general, the greater problem for the Church is that continual silencing of Biblical convictions over time eventually softens or erodes those convictions. This has already led many churches towards Biblical unfaithfulness in their efforts to please the world, avoid persecution, and generally stay out of trouble. Whilst we should not seek unnecessary trouble (1Thess. 4:11), Jesus warned his disciples "you will have trouble" (John 16:33) and we must be willing to say what needs to be said even it costs us our reputations.
I plan to build towards more faithful ways of enabling theological education that will strengthen the Church and its leaders to be a stronger light in the challenging times ahead. In such times the Church must not "shrink back" in timidity (Heb. 10:39) but must reclaim her God-given "confidence" in God's truth (Gal. 5:10). We must "continue" to believe "what we have firmly believed" (2Tim. 3:14). We must learn not only to speak God's truth with "wisdom toward outsiders" (Col. 4:5) but to "declare it boldly, as we ought to speak" (Eph. 6:20), as those speaking not from our own authority but "the very words of God" (1Pet. 4:11).
Having completed a first class BA in English Literature from the University of Liverpool and two Master's degrees in both theology and literature from the University of Chester, I completed my PhD in systematic theology from the University of Aberdeen in 2014, where I also worked part-time as a Teaching Fellow in practical/political theology and as a tutor in historical theology. In July 2016 I accepted a full-time position as MA Programme Lead and Lecturer in Theology, Preaching, and Mission at Cliff College in Derbyshire, UK. Before and during my time at Cliff I published numerous academic publications including two monographs, one major co-edited book, and fifteen peer-reviewed articles in respected academic journals. I completed much of this work at Cliff College alongside my primary tasks of lecturing, tutoring, module leadership, doctoral supervision, administration, and programme visionary oversight. In 2020 I completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Higher Education (Distinction) at Sheffield Hallam University. I am also the external examiner for three different UK Bible colleges, each of which is validated by different UK universities.
For over twenty years I have been involved in various mission and ministry work within local churches and evangelistic ministries, including leading, preaching, pastoring, evangelism, church planting, and even street preaching...
Whilst much of my ministry work has been with churches within movements like Newfrontiers, I also had experience working within other denominational contexts including congregationalist, Pentecostal, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Anglican. Alongside UK-based mission and ministry, I have also been involved in various cross-cultural teaching and mission projects in Tunisia, Ukraine, Albania, and Nigeria.
As part of my preaching and teaching ministry, I co-lead a men's ministry within my church in Sheffield, and I co-host the popular podcast Pod of the Gaps with Dr Andy Bannister, the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity.
The Trouble with Biblical Free Speech
My dismissal by Cliff College in March 2023 was based on the charge of having brought the college into disrepute due to my tweet. As I explained in a follow-up thread at the time, I believe the tweet was misrepresented and I cannot in good conscience apologise for it, not least at the behest of a Twitter mob. I believe the language, tone, and content of that tweet was appropriately informed by the language, tone, and content of the New Testament, particularly when speaking about issues of sin, holiness, and the Gospel within the Church. The reason such a stance now causes such offence even to some Christians is evidence of just how far removed many modern Christians are from the content of the Bible in their speech and practice.
For many years now in both academic and popular forums I have argued that it is especially important to speak boldly and clearly on key issues of Christian belief within contemporary post-Christian society. I believe the Church's reticence to stand firm in holding to and speaking out its beliefs will have a devastating impact upon its own faithfulness and health as well as the health of the wider culture to which the Church is called to be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16).
Free Speech in Theological Education
The vast majority of western institutions of theological higher education are linked into complex systems and partnerships of denominational funding, university validation, and public recognition. These relationships have often served Christian institutions well. However, given the increasingly negative light in which Christian beliefs are interpreted in western society today, many such relationships now risk drastically impairing and inhibiting the ability of Christian institutions to maintain a faithful Biblical stance longer term. This will have a major effect on the theological, pastoral, and missional training of the very Christian leaders the Church needs to fight the good fight of our faith in the coming years.
I am planning towards a fresh approach to institutional and networked theological education which aims to ensure that theological education may be:
1. Shamelessly Biblical
2. Theologically Wise
3. Missionally Awake
4. Ecclesially Faithful
5. Evangelistically Courageous
Much more may be said about the posture of theological education but attending to that first point fully and faithfully is the foundation Christ calls us to build upon (Matt. 7:24) and from which all else should follow. If theological education is to serve the Church faithfully and fruitfully in our time, it must be not merely "apologetically" Biblical but "shamelessly" Biblical. Nothing less will do if we really mean to stand our ground for Christ in a generation in which His Word and His people will be increasingly ridiculed and maligned by the world.
Plan for Funding
My intention is to gather likeminded theological and missiological voices and leaders across the Church, to fundraise for potential institution-building, and to write both popular and academic books to serve this end of awakening the wider Church towards faithful mission in these challenging times. In order to plan effectively towards these projects I have targeted funding to help us settle as a family in a home, and to help me do what is required over at least the next two years. During this time I will also continue to speak in numerous forums as invited, whilst hoping to complete existing writing projects which are currently at various stages of planning/completion, and establish future writing projects, as outlined below.
Current Writing Projects
- Is Jesus the Only Way to God?: The Case for Christian Exclusivism (Fearn: Christian Focus publications, Big Ten series, forthcoming 2024)
- That Good Fight: Recovering the Call to Christian Confrontation (draft stage - seeking publisher)
- Why Preaching Can't Be Taught: A Theology of Christian Proclamation (proposal stage)
- 'Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Theology of Preaching' (final draft stage)
- 'How to Evangelise Vikings' (initial draft stage)
Future Writing Projects
- Mighty Men: Rediscovering Biblical Masculinity (proposal/initial draft stage)
- Boundless and Rooted: What It Means to Trust in the God of the Bible, and What Might Happen to You If You Do (draft stage)
- Male and Female He Created Them: Biblical Sexuality and the War of Authority (proposal stage)
- Shamelessly Biblical: A New (Old) Model for Theological Education
- Kierkegaard and Preaching: The Homiletical Shape of His Life and Thought (proposal stage)
- Theology Against Bureaucracy: Institutional Re-humanisation and the Slaying of the Mechanic Beast (proposal stage)
- Evangelism in the West: A Call for Missiological Boldness (proposal stage)
The long-term goal is to fundraise, network, and plan towards the founding of a new theological educational institution. This current crowdfunder is not necessarily to raise funds for that longer-term project, though it is aimed to enable me to plan and build towards it most effectively. However, people are welcome to get in touch with me about my plans for this or if they wish to offer support in any capacity: [email protected]
Thankyou and may God bless you with love, light, and courage to live out and speak out your convictions.