LOGIA PROFILE FOR FEBRUARY: MEGAN POWELL DU TOIT

Stanley Grenz, Baptist and evangelical theologian, said of himself:

I am imbued with a commitment both to warm-heartedness and right-headedness. I am, in short, a pietist with a Ph.D. And this, I would add, marks me as an evangelical.[1]

I resonate with this formulation of Evangelicalism, so it perhaps not surprising that I am engaged in research on Stanley Grenz. Like Grenz, I’m an ordained minister. I own the same theological identities as Grenz, Baptist and evangelical. I am currently completing my PhD studies, looking at Stanley Grenz and how his theological project for Evangelicalism could function as a response to the current and ongoing tensions within Evangelicalism.

As an Australian woman who has combined ministry with motherhood, my career trajectory looks in other ways quite different from that of Grenz. His was marked by fast and steady academic progression, and a prolific publishing history. My own has meandered, shaped by the female exigencies of family load and reduced opportunities. Now in middle age, that meandering path has wandered, though perhaps led by the Holy Spirit, into theological academic publishing and a public profile as an Evangelical woman.

Originally an editor, I then trained in theology and ministry, and became a pastor. I spent 17 years in the pastorate, also doing some adjunct lecturing at Morling College in Sydney. Looking for a break from pastoring, I took a job working for the Australian College of Theology (ACT), an evangelical theological consortium in Australia. I am Publishing Manager there, as well as the editor of peer-reviewed journal Colloquium: The Australian and New Zealand Theological Review.

My many intersecting roles have led to two main directions within my research and ministry.

The first is that I seek to be a voice for women within Evangelicalism and the theological academy in Australia.  I collaborated on research on women within the evangelical academy in Australia, along with Jill Firth (on the Logia board) as well as Kara Martin and Moyra Dale (published in this book). This work has sparked a much-needed conversation about women in the theological academy in Australia.

The second is that I seek to be a restorative voice within Evangelicalism.  My research on evangelical tensions and my own practice within the evangelical community inform and enhance each other. I co-host a podcast with another evangelical minister, Rev Dr Michael Jensen, who has several key differences from myself. Our podcast With All Due Respect seeks to have serious conversations that engage with theology and culture, acknowledging and exploring both difference and commonality. This has itself given birth to a wider project, The WADR Project, which seeks to help people live with grace in a conflicted church & world. As part of that, we run a Facebook community group comprised of Christians from across the theological spectrum and some people of no or different faith who have sympathy with our aims.

This broadening out from the Evangelical community is mirrored within my work role in which I interact with the greater breadth of Australian Christianity as I edit the journal of ANZATS, the Australian and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools. I am heartened by this opening out of the circle, reminded of Grenz’s concept of Evangelicalism as a renewal movement for the sake of the whole church.[2]

My research and practice, therefore, are about contributing to an evangelicalism which is, like  the gospel itself is meant to be, warm-hearted, right-headed, and helping-handed. This is an urgent task in a world where Evangelicalism is too often a source of darkness rather than light. In continuation with the trajectory of Evangelicalism, I seek to find a way forward which finds those tensions within the movement as fruitful for ongoing faithfulness. Rather than collapsing those tensions, becoming unbalanced and sectarian.

Of course, I do this within my own Australian context, which has its own shapes and challenges. Thus, I hope first to be part of the development of my own context, and that this in turn may contribute to the richly diverse wider movement.

I was born and bred within Sydney Evangelicalism. Piggin and Linder in their volume on recent Australian Evangelical history name two Sydney denominations as the most influential within Australian Protestantism: Hillsong and the Sydney Anglican Diocese.[3] One of the factors noted by Piggin and Linder is the significance of family dynasties within Australian Evangelicalism. It is with wry resignation that I will admit myself and my WADR project partner are both the scions of such dynasties, Baptist and Anglican respectively. We have been formed within the tensions of our own context. We have seen the damage done by diversion into sectarianism. We have also witnessed the great good of evangelical cooperation, Billy Graham crusades within our memories. We choose to be reflective participants, seeking to transform from within rather than to be carried along in the stream.

This is my conclusion as I have tried to understand the contours of my own vocation. Much of it is outside my control. I am born (both physically and, I believe, spiritually) into a community and find myself in contexts shaped by others. Yet as I do so, I can choose to find my own particular calling in nurturing those communities and contexts into the way of Christ.

[1] Stanley J. Grenz, “Concerns of a Pietist with a Ph.D,” in American Academy of Religion (Toronto, ON2002).

[2] “Die Begrenzte Gemeinschaft (“the Boundaried People”) and the Character of Evangelical Theology,” JETS 45, no. 2 (2002).

[3] Stuart Piggin and Robert D Linder, Attending to the National Soul : Evangelical Christians in Australian History, 1914-2014 (Monash University Publishing, 2020), 24.

References

Grenz, Stanley J. “Concerns of a Pietist with a Ph.D.” In American Academy of Religion. Toronto, ON, 2002.

———. “Die Begrenzte Gemeinschaft (“the Boundaried People”) and the Character of Evangelical Theology.” JETS 45, no. 2 (2002): 301–16.

Piggin, Stuart, and Robert D Linder. Attending to the National Soul : Evangelical Christians in Australian History, 1914-2014. [in English]: Monash University Publishing, 2020.

Megan is Publishing Manager of the Australian College of Theology, and editor of the academic journal Colloquium: The Australian and New Zealand Theological Review. She is also an ordained Baptist minister in the Baptist Churches of NSW and the ACT.

Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash

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