Fuel for the fire
"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching." 1 Timothy 4.13
JS Stewart represents the best of an increasingly rare breed of scholar-preachers, ordained ministers who submit their ability to engage at the highest level of academic endeavour to the service of the church, both in preaching and in preparing others for ministry. That tradition lives on in seminaries and in the University of the Highlands & Islands, through the Highland Theological College. But most of the ancient universities appear to have sold out to the increasingly cut-throat demands of the academic market-place.
In some respects this reflects the secularisation of the Church of Scotland, in terms of the shift away from traditional forms of ordained ministry to new patterns of lay leadership and responsibility. The movement is being driven by a relentless decline in membership, income and candidates for ministry. Yet rather than being the disaster it appears, it may be the only way the Church will listen to the Holy Spirit's call for the release of the gifts of all of God's people which, for too long, have been stifled by the unhelpful assumption that everything depends on ministers and office-bearers.
Yet whatever new order arises, that essential link between preaching and teaching must be retained - even if it finds new expression in terms of its delivery through online and part-time training. Only then can the Church be confident that it is proclaiming a message which is informed by scripture and not "blown about by the winds of (false) doctrine".