George & Pat Guthrie Are Moving to Canada
At the school’s Convocation on Friday evening, Regent College in Vancouver, BC announced my appointment as Professor of New Testament, to begin in the Fall term of 2018.
By the end of next year, Lord willing, Pat and I will have been privileged to carry out our ministries at Union University for twenty-eight years, and there have been many times that we have turned down opportunities to move elsewhere, not sensing the Lord’s permission. So, “Why now?” and “Why there?” are fair questions.
Why We Are Moving
Let me begin by stating clearly that we are not moving because of a rupture with our beloved Union University. I believe passionately in the good work of Union and will continue to be one of her most enthusiastic cheerleaders. Here you find robust higher education, integration of Christian faith and learning across the disciplines, and the fostering of real Christian community, and I have great joy in my students, my colleagues, and the context.
I consider Dub Oliver, Union’s President, to be a good and godly man, who has brought unique gifts to the institution for this time and has used those gifts with skill and Christian integrity. Dub, our Provost Ben Mitchell, and Nathan Finn, Dean of the School of Theology and Missions, are my dear friends and fellow-workers. As Pat and I have processed this move, they have communicated their disappointment (for which I am grateful!) but fully support our decision, understanding that the Kingdom and God’s calling must be our priorities. I love Union University for many reasons, but the school’s authenticity of Christian commitment and community certainly are near the top of the list. Here at Union I have been able to thrive in my ministries of teaching and writing, in church involvement, in family life, and in personal growth. I will be forever grateful for our years in this place. Of course, leaving is hard; we have so many dear, dear friends and family members in West Tennessee. But hard is made more doable when a sense of calling is clear.
Pat and I believe that we are being called unequivocally to a school we have long respected, Regent College in Vancouver, BC. You may be familiar with Regent through the writings of luminaries such as J. I. Packer, Jim Houston, Gordon Fee, Bruce Waltke, and Eugene Peterson. Our call to Regent, a graduate school with a unique voice and unique vision for theological education, has been in process for a long time. Let me explain.
A Bit of Background
When I was in seminary in the mid-1980s, if you had asked me what I thought I might end up doing, I would have answered, “I think God may be calling me to teach in an academic context internationally and mentor leaders of a nation.” About the same time, Pat served for a year in a church in Richmond, BC, just minutes from where we will be moving next year. She loved her time in Canada and the ministry there, and she wept when she left. When we met in 1987, we both were passionate about “missions” contexts and were very open to going overseas. Yet, as Ph.D. work was drawing to a close, we had the opportunity to come back to my alma mater, and we felt called by God to do so. That call to Union has stayed with us for almost three decades.
Roll the tape forward to 2006, when I started teaching in a variety of international contexts. Over the past eleven years, I have had the privilege of teaching graduate students and pastors in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, Germany, and Israel. I was on a flight from Beijing to Hong Kong in June of 2006 when it dawned on me: “I am now doing what I felt called to do all those years ago in seminary; only now, I have the ministry experience and academic platform (through my published works) for such a ministry.”
In 2013, while on a six-month research sabbatical in Cambridge, England, I finished my Baker Exegetical commentary on 2 Corinthians, but Pat and I also had a wonderfully rich time of ministry to Cambridge Ph.D. students and their families, some of whom continue as dear friends. That time changed us, and over the past three years, even as we have continued fruitful, meaningful work, we grew in anticipation that God was about to do something new in our lives.
How We Got to "Now"
Then, this past November, we went to the ETS/SBL professional meetings in San Antonio, TX. As we took our seats on the flight down, I turned to Pat and said, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if this week God filled in this ‘blank’ we have been feeling?”—and he did. During a publisher’s breakfast one morning, my friend Phil Long, who teaches Old Testament at Regent, turned to me and said, “Did you know that Rikki Watts is going back to Australia, and we are looking for a New Testament professor? . . . You wouldn’t be open to the position, would you?”
Not only was I open immediately, as Pat and I prayed about the possibility, we believed we had no option but to be open. It was more than clear, and that clarity has remained to this day. At every step—through long conversations by phone with the Dean, Paul Spilsbury, and the President, Jeff Greenman, through a Skype visit with the search committee, through a wonderful week of interviews on campus—we have sensed a tremendous “fit” between this move and who God has shaped us to be at this stage of our lives and ministries. Throughout the interview process I have been impressed with Regent’s combination of theological seriousness, intellectual hospitality, commitment to a high view of Scripture, and warmth of Christian community. The faculty are impressive (I am going to learn a lot from them) and wonderfully relational.
Our Vision & the Move
The school, which is located on the campus of the University of British Columbia in beautiful Vancouver, is unique among theological institutions, since it was founded specifically to offer graduate-level, theological training to laypeople in the arts, the marketplace, education, medicine, law, and other walks of life, as well as to those seeking ministry as a full-time vocation. As well as any place of which I am aware, Regent embodies Christian community, academic rigor for Kingdom purposes, integration of life and thought, and a missional vision for the world. Pat and I could not be more excited and humbled that we have been asked to join in her mission.
Our vision broadly is to do what we have been doing for years, but on the graduate level—to teach, continue writing, contribute meaningfully to the community, and serve the church in our region and around the world. But we specifically want to thrive in community, Pat being integrated to the campus and the campus being integrated to our home. We want to walk with students so that, by God’s grace, they might thrive in life and have a greater impact on the world.
Pat and I plan to move to Vancouver in late May 2018, just after our Anna graduates from Union University. For now, we are deeply grateful to our Lord and astounded at his goodness in leading us through this life.
To him alone be glory, both now and forever.