October 2, 2020

Newbold College Addresses Urgent Need to Renew Focus on Ministry and Mission

David Neal, Trans-European Division News

For almost 120 years, Newbold College of Higher Education (NHCE) has faithfully served the Trans-European Division (TED), preparing ministers and other workers to serve the region and far beyond.

Ever sensitive to the needs of both society and the church it serves, Newbold has never lost sight of its mission and identity. Regeneration of the college has been high on the agenda of the Board of Governors and management for many years, Newbold principal John Baildam noted. “But now more than ever, in these challenging and fast-changing times, we are considering how best to remain relevant to the needs of the 14 TED constituency units we serve,” he said.

With this lead, the Newbold Board of Governors met for an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, to best determine how the school can urgently adapt and restructure.

Before this meeting, there were many hours of deliberations between the TED leadership and stakeholders, including a September 15 group conversation of field presidents, with the division president and board chair Raafat Kamal affirming Newbold’s continuing importance to the territory’s members.

“Most notable in our conversation,” Kamal said, “was the consensus that Newbold exists first and foremost to train pastors and other church leaders to serve TED members — and now is the time to urgently renew this focus.”

A New Center for Ministry and Mission

The Newbold Board of Governors voted a new 10-point “Framework for Operation” at its meeting on September 30. At its core, the “Framework for Operation” commits to a new Centre for Ministry and Mission, giving sole focus and strategic direction to the education and preparation of ministers, evangelists, frontline church planters, leaders, and theologians. This is to be in place by September 2021, in time for the commencement of the 2021-2022 academic year.

“The significance of this action cannot be overstated,” said Ian Sweeney, the board’s vice chair and president of the British Union Conference. He continued, “The decision to have Newbold concentrate its focus on its original purpose of ministerial education and equipping is an exciting one. The intent is that students who pass through Newbold’s doors will leave better able to fulfill the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, with well-rounded, mission-focused, well-educated pastors and workers.”

“This is Newbold’s core business,” agreed Norwegian Union Conference president Victor Marley. “Sometimes, we need to take care of the basics to build again for the future.” South-East European Union Conference president Dragan Grujičić concurred. “With Newbold becoming more mission-centered, it is making a decisive step for the church in the TED to grow.”

How will Newbold adapt to meet this new paradigm shift? The “Framework for Operation” is based on an initial enrolment of 80-100 students, with a mixture of on-campus intensives and online classes as the new standard model of delivery. The former regional pastoral training programs in such centers as Belgrade, Budapest, Riga, and Warsaw will be restarted and expanded to other areas throughout the TED.

“With the UK so far away from our field,” said Baltic Union Conference president Ivo Käsk, “the plan to concentrate on offering online and intensive classes changes everything for us. It brings ministerial education closer to home; it is less expensive, and, best of all, the educational focus is towards frontline mission. I know this action will energize our youth.”

How the academic and curricular changes pan out has yet to be seen, but, under this plan, Newbold is committing to maintaining its reputation for delivering theological education of excellence and delivering pastoral and evangelistic education to an equally high standard.

The use of campus land and buildings will be reconfigured, including the development of an investment masterplan. Included in this core commitment is an ongoing promise to review the “Newbold Culture,” to ensure a safe and welcoming experience for every student.

For the Newbold senior leadership team and staff, this is a time of major transition.

“With this in mind,” Kamal said, “I want to thank John Baildam for his outstanding and ongoing leadership and ministry, and to thank each staff member for their sacrificial commitment and contribution to the college. I am praying for every member of the Newbold family.”

Day of Prayer for Newbold on October 10

With the urgent need for this once-in-a-generation change, we also wish to pray for God's guidance and counsel. As Newbold renews its focus on ministry and mission, Kamal and the Trans-European Division leadership team are designating Sabbath, October 10, as a Day of Prayer for Newbold.

“We are inviting all TED members,” Kamal said, “and the wider world church family to lift up Newbold in prayer on this day, because we believe the leading of the Holy Spirit on this action is critical.” He added, “It is critical because on the TED frontline of mission are almost 1,400 communities of disciples, each Christ-centred and modeled after its maker: Jesus. Disciples live the faith, grow the faith, and share their faith. Critical to their success are their leaders — pastors, teachers, and evangelists, joining them on their spiritual journey. Critical to the growth of the Trans-European Division, both spiritually and numerically, is the role of the Spirit-filled pastor who leads each community of disciples in the local church.”

It is the reason why Adventist higher education is essential for the lifeblood of the Adventist Church, Kamal said.

“I believe that Newbold’s renewed focus on ministry and mission will produce a new generation of leaders with theological depth and conviction, which constantly stirs their call to serve Christ, and to grow disciples for Him in these expectant times.”

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.