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The resignation of the long-standing and highly respected principal of Moorlands College leaves the Christian theological training centre with a tricky choice, says one former student
Dr Steve Brady, principal of Moorlands College for 19 years has resigned to take up a pastorate in the West Indies later this year. Giving six months’ notice will help the college in its search for his successor, who will become only the fourth principal in Moorlands’ 70-year history.
The college will do well to recruit a similarly successful principal. Brady has overseen significant development of the main campus facilities and courses in Christchurch, Dorset, which helped upward growth in student intake. This came during and despite huge challenges that led to decline or closure in many other Christian theological colleges.
Brady and his academic team have followed a strategy of opening regional college-linked centres, allowing students to learn in situ with local churches. This has strengthened Moorlands’ reputation for interdenominational applied theological training with a strong practical emphasis.
Changes to the financing of higher education and the introduction of new checks on independent colleges have heaped economic pressures on theological institutions. Brady, who has also served as chair of the Association of Bible College Principals for many years, told Premier Christianity in 2015 that these developments “continue to crush some of the smaller colleges”.
Another negative trend for non-denominational colleges such as Moorlands and the London School of Theology, has been the growth of ‘tribalism’ among evangelical Christians, leading to increasing numbers of small theological training institutions opening to serve niche markets.
Meanwhile, the 20-something age group, which historically represented the vast majority of student intake is often missing from, or lower in number in, most UK congregations, further depressing potential student recruitment.
As well as these financial, administrative and societal pressures, fast-moving technological advances in artificial intelligence is opening up new learning possibilities. This means the challenges facing Christian training colleges in years to come will continue apace, making the departure of Brady from the theological training scene even more significant.
Born and educated in Liverpool where he came to faith in his teens, Brady is proud of his roots and is passionate about Everton FC.
Brenda, his wife of 40 years, whom he met while training at London School of Theology, died at the end of 2017, after a very long illness. Announcing his decision to leave Moorlands College, Brady expressed gratitude for “all the love, support, prayer and friendship I have experienced here, not least in these last six months since my dear Brenda’s passing”.
Dr Brady has accepted an invitation to become the senior minister at First Baptist Church, Grand Cayman, West Indies. It is a church he has preached at several times and has been associated with for 20 years.
Dr Brady is a regular keynote speaker at Keswick and other Bible weeks and festivals and is also in-demand in local church pulpits. Spending many weekends on the preaching circuit, Brady has proved an effective ambassador for the Moorlands brand. His conservative, evangelical, expositional preaching and winsome, contemporary communication skills helped recruit new students as he travelled the UK and overseas.
In the search for his successor, Moorlands will be looking for more than a great lecturer and college principal. They will need someone who can pull in a crowd by their ministry reputation – YouTube clips of preaching and social media comments and blogs are an increasingly important tool to convince students to invest their time and money in a particular college education. For Moorlands to remain financially sustainable and relevant for the years ahead, the decision of who to appoint as Brady’s successor is a critical one.
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