A bit of an update…

Posted by on May 18, 2021 in Blog | 25 comments

Many of the people who read this blog do so because our paths have crossed – and this is a good way to keep in touch. So let me update you on some of the things that have been happening in my life. If it is old news for you, sorry, but others are reading it for the first time.

At the end of 2020 Vose Seminary merged with Morling College to form one of the largest theological colleges in the Southern Hemisphere. This was a very sensible move, as both Vose and Morling are Baptist Theological Colleges and the merger has enabled the two colleges to offer a united online program, share staff, have students access a much larger electronic library collection and in dozens of other ways become a fit for purpose 21st century theological college. Remarkably the governing bodies of both institutions were able to go back to the drawing board and ask: “If we were starting a theological college today, how would we design it?”  and to follow through on the answers. I am extremely positive about the contribution the newly merged college will make towards shaping the Christian leaders we need. As the smaller of the two entities, Vose Seminary is now classified as the Vose or Perth campus of Morling College. The first semester of the new arrangement is almost over, and the significant majority of students and staff are genuinely pleased with how the transition has gone. God is good!

The change did however have implications for me, and after 17 years as principal of Vose Seminary I thought it best that I step aside to allow the new entity the best possible chance of success. I really didn’t want people to feel that they were somehow beholden to the way things were done in the past, and in any event, I had been feeling for some time that God was opening another season for me. While I continue to do some lecturing at the new College, it is very much on a part time basis – an arrangement that works well both for me and the College. I continue to be engaged in the broader work of theological education as a Director of the Australian College of Theology (Australia’s oldest and largest theological consortium), where I also chair the Academic Board.

So what am I doing with the bulk of my time?

Since 2009 I have been very involved with the Carey Group, and from 2009 – mid 2013 served as senior pastor of the Carey Church (part time, while also principal of Vose Seminary) and when the church had grown too large for that to remain practical, I stepped down as senior pastor but became the Pastor at Large and Chair of the Board for the Carey Group. It has been an exhilarating time as Carey has started a second school, a second church, a community center, the Right Track Foundation, Carey Hope and several other initiatives. It now employs over 375 staff and has an annual budget of many millions. For some time it has identified the need to train and shape leaders for the Carey Group – while also committing itself to be a net exporter of leaders, to bless the wider community with well trained, ethical and insightful leaders.

In what we see as the provision of God, towards the end of 2020 a few clues on how to achieve this emerged. My time as principal at Vose was ending, while Jen Argue, the Executive Principal of the two Carey Colleges was feeling that she should step out of the Executive Principal role and work more intentionally in the area of leadership development and leadership coaching. In addition, we were aware that the multi-talented Jon Bergmann was looking for a new challenge. This seemed like something of a dream team to start the leadership institute Carey had been thinking of, and so, in a short space of time the AVENIR Leadership Institute was born as an initiative of the Carey Group.

Naturally I stepped down as Chair of the Carey group when I commenced as AVENIR’s director and am delighted that Jen Argue serves as our executive consultant and Jon Bergmann as our project manager. Our tag line is “The world we see – the leaders we need”. If leaders shape the world, what world would we like to see, and what kinds of leaders do we need to make this world possible?

What does AVENIR do?

We work in five main areas:

  1. Providing leadership coaching and mentoring,
  2. Delivering keynotes and running workshops at conferences and professional development days,
  3. Designing online courses,
  4. Creating bespoke leadership products for clients,
  5. Hosting thoughtful conversations on things that matter.

In addition, we are increasingly engaged for consultancy work and to run leadership retreats. In doing this, we are endeavoring to cultivate environments of deep listening, and to shape reflective and transformative leaders. To date most of our work has been with Christian leaders and leaders of not-for-profit organizations, though more recently we have also been engaged by organizations who have no specific faith commitment.

How has it been going?

Better than we ever imagined. Actually, a lot better. Heaps of work has come our way, including some significant projects which have the potential to do a great deal of good. We hope to appoint some people with specialized expertise as AVENIR associates, which will enable us to expand the range of what we are doing. Work has been from all over Australia, as well as further abroad, and we have already completed a project for New Zealand and are about to embark on another for the UK.

How does this fit in with my long-term call as a pastor and a theologian?

I am loving it. In many ways it is an exercise in public theology – thinking about how core Christian principles work their way out in practice and on a wide canvas. Most of our clients are practicing Christians, but some are not and the response from them has been deeply encouraging. There is a genuine hunger for ethical leadership and many people want to be more than good leaders – they want to be leaders who do good. In a day when so much news is discouraging, I am deeply encouraged by the caliber of people I am meeting and getting the privilege of working with. Oh, and I am still the pastor at large for the Carey group and most Sundays I am preaching somewhere.

Well, if you have read this far, you clearly are a friend, so let me fill you in on a little home news. My third grandchild and first grandson, Ashton Kim Chidgzey, was born a little over a week ago. After a 32 hour labor it was decided that a Caesar was necessary, so that was a tough start for Amy, but all is well, and we are delighted.

After going into semi-retirement (just working a few hours a week as a practice nurse) Rosemary was persuaded to return as a clinical nurse at one of the local hospitals on a 3 month .7fte contract which she has just agreed to extend for another 3 months. She is not sure how much longer she will do this for (three grandchildren are calling), but at the moment, it is going well.

I think that gets you up to date with my life. Oh, incidentally, many people have said that they think my latest book Why Christianity is Probably True is my best and have backed that by buying multiple copies to give away to their friends. Just saying…

As always, nice chatting…

25 Comments

  1. No such thing as retirement! Congratulations on all fronts, Brian. I have a friend whose dream it is to eliminate bad leadership. He says there are no bad leaders, just bad leadership. An interesting perspective. I like your idea of ‘leaders who do good’. I might plagiarise it in my work – not just good businesses but businesses that do good! God bless you.

    • Love that you’ll use it as businesses that do good. Originally I had it as “A sermon that is good is a sermon that does good.”

  2. Loved reading this, Brian. Although the journey is rarely predictable, it is always exciting. Who would want to live a “normal” life, hey?
    32 hour labour? Poor Amy!
    God bless you, and your beautiful family.

    • Thanks Lockie. It was a tough labour for Amy but Ashton is more than worth it.

  3. Thank you for the update. God bless you Brian in your new area of ministry and this new season.

    • Thanks so much Kim. And blessings on the adventures ahead for you.

      • You’re welcome Brian. God bless.

  4. Thanks for the update Brian. Great to see you responding to God’s leading. Hope to see you doing some leadership work over on the east coast some time.

    • Thanks Phillip. As restrictions ease I am hoping to get over East fairly often.

  5. Great story Brian of Gods provision during a time of transition.
    You have put together a powerful team. I don’t know Jon, but Jen I have known since your group days. A remarkable lady.
    With a ‘better than expected’ start, sounds like you have the followers… a sure sign of great leadership. Looking forward to hearing more.

    • Thanks Col. It has been encouraging. Hope things are going well for you.

  6. It’s so encouraging to read this Brian, thank you for it. It’s heartwarming to me that leaders of your calibre are doing so much on the frontline. Leaders who do good, definitely.
    I wonder if you’ve come across Jonas Santos of Reach Beyond? He gave a magnificent address at Waratah this week, again so encouraging.
    Bless you and the growing family, hope we will get to hear you sometime this year and say hi!

    • Thanks Shelly. Good to hear Jonas did so well. He is a graduate from Vose a few years back.

  7. Hi Brian so excited about the work you are dining with Avenir. I’ve just started a PhD with Avondale and am looking into Spiritual practices and Spiritual Wellbeing in the leadership of Christian schools. Like Phil Nash it would be great to see you on the East coast again.

    • Thanks Cass. Sounds like a great PhD. Hope to get back over East sometime soon. Will keep in touch.

  8. CommentLoved reading your update, Brian and so thrilled about all the new developments including a grandson. Reading about the courses and the response excites me. I am forwarding your blog to my daughter so she is aware of some of the things on offer on leadership. She is Executive Pastor of her church so it might prove profitable.

    • Always good to hear from you Ruth and do pass on the information to anyone you think might be interested.

  9. I was delighted to get this update Brian! As one of those who crossed paths with you and Rose, in a now distant season, I am so grateful to the Lord for that time together. I’m also grateful that through your writing I feel reconnected and am being blessed all over again! Take care and I hope we’ll have opportunity sometime soon to enjoy a leisurely meal with you both.

    • Carl, a leisurely meal with you and Karen would be great. Hope that travel normalises and that it will be possible in the not too distant future.

  10. Brian,
    Loved reading your update. Congratulations on the new grandson! How wonderful!

    I enjoyed hearing about AVENIR and your role. This sounds very exciting!

    Jim Martin

    • Thanks Jim. Lovely hearing from you. It’s a good season.

  11. CommentHi Brian. Greetings from Trish and Rod in Jakarta. Great to hear of your new role at Avenir Will have to get you back again to Jakarta.to encourage school leaders here

    • Great to hear from you. It’s been a while. Loved the time I was in Jakarta a few years ago and very happy to come again.

  12. Thank you for the update,Brian. Wonderful to hear how so much has been happening and how all the threads are weaving so well together. It is also wonderful to hear your passion and enthusiasm, it warms my heart.

    • Very good to hear from you Christine. Hope you and Paul are keeping well.

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