KST’s History: from Canada to Scotland, Oxford and beyond…

2 Jan 2024

As part of the celebrations for our 40th birthday, we have been looking back at where KST started, and how it has changed along the way.

Here, Vice Principal Lizzie Hollow charts a potted history of the college, from Canada, to Harpenden, the Scottish Borders, Oxford, and now to part time studies which use multiple locations and allow students to study purely online if they need to.

King’s School of Theology began life as a full-time residential college, serving the Salt and Light (S&L) Network of churches. Barney Coombs, then leader of S&L, desired to see men and women trained in handling the Word of God. The emphasis was on learning together – a value we continue to this day.

‘King’s Bible College’, as it was then known, began in 1983 in Vancouver. It was led by David Denninger, and teaching was done by visiting lecturers from across the Salt & Light family of churches. In 1987 the College moved to Harpenden in Hertfordshire to encourage more UK participants. Then in 1991 it moved up to Whitchester in Scotland where it was led by Tony and Doreen Gray. The emphasis was on biblical teaching, and setting theological foundations for the charismatic movement of churches. Those who attended look back fondly on a year of uninterrupted study, ‘away from it all’ in an idyllic setting, defined by the close community of college life.

After a fallow year, the College moved to Oxford in 2001 where it became ‘King’s Bible College and Training Centre’. The name change reflected the change in nature of the college and an emphasis on training for cultural engagement in what was a changing world. Aled and Helen Griffith led the college into this new phase, and over the following decade, 312 students attended the full-time course in Oxford.

In 2009, under the leadership of Simon Shaw, York St John University became the validating university for what became KBCTC’s ‘Certificate in Theology and Ministry’ programme. This was a great endorsement of the quality of KBCTC’s curriculum and teaching – surprisingly few edits were required to meet the criteria for validation. The College had long been a place where academic study and spiritual formation coexisted to great effect. That combination of ‘Word and Spirit’ remains one of our core values today.

In 2011 the Salt and Light training team felt a sister programme would be helpful, and the part-time course of King’s School of Theology was born. It enabled a new demographic of students to take part: people whose work, family and church commitments prohibited them from studying full time, and who wanted to balance work and study. Mike Beaumont was the founding Principal of KST, and he oversaw the establishment of the three-year programme we run to this day: five teaching weekends a year, complimented by small group mentoring and personal study.

In 2012, Mike moved to Teesside in the North East of England, and Lizzie Hollow transitioned from the fulltime course to lead KST. 2012 saw the final cohort of students take a full-time year-long course in Oxford, under the leadership of Rich Colbrook. Whilst this meant an end to some of the features of the programme, such as church placements, chapel services and overseas trips, the majority of the curriculum was continued in the new part time course, and for the first time, students were able to ‘work out’ and immediately apply their learning within their home churches. Nationwide changes to university funding models meant it was no longer viable to offer the Certificate programme (the fees would have trebled for our students). But whilst we parted ways with York St John, we were able to continue the same curriculum – and still offer a programme akin to Certificate level to this day.

Mark Norridge became the KST Principal in 2015, taking over from Lizzie during her first maternity leave. She returned as Vice Principal a year later. Around this time, in the midst of a changing context for both S&L and the theological education sector at large, the Executive Board felt there was an opportunity to grow KST’s reach and serve students from a wider range churches. Whilst KST (and KBC before it) had always welcomed students from different denominations, it had primarily served Salt and Light Ministries. Now the vision became about serving the wider charismatic evangelical church, and students of any denomination who were looking for affordable, part-time learning. By 2018 fifty percent of KST’s intake was from a non-S&L background, and in 2019 KST became its own charity.

Since then, KST has continued to adapt and grow. The global covid-19 pandemic inevitably required some fast-thinking on the part of the staff team, as they migrated quickly to online learning. Whilst there were some bumps in the road early on, the transition was a surprising success. So much so, we’ve happily maintained our online learning provision. Our 3-year courses can now be studied fully online, with the option of attending in-person gatherings. This is helping more people to access theological training. We have more international students than ever before, and this number is growing each year. In 2023 we welcomed our first ‘international Hub’: a group of 3 students studying together in Bangalore, India.

In addition to the 3-year part time programme, we run short courses. These weekly, low-commitment courses allow people to ‘top up’ previous studies, or try theology out for the first time. They are designed to equip God’s church for mission, action and Biblical understanding – going beyond what churches can offer locally. So, whether you want to study ecclesiology, culture, the Bible or learn a Biblical language, there’s something for everyone.  

KST courses are accessible, affordable and achievable. They enable students to grow in knowledge, lead with greater depth, think with more clarity, and serve God with greater purpose, whatever their background or context.

Over the last 40 years, the training provided by KST and its predecessors has shifted and changed to meet the needs of a changing society and the contemporary church. We will no doubt continue to morph in the years ahead. Theological training must stay ‘light on its feet’ – staying true to its founding principles, but adapting to best serve God’s church.

At KST, we are passionate about helping people to deepen their understanding and love of Christ through theological study – and to transform their conviction into action. This is theology for everyone.

Lizzie Hollow is KST’s longest standing member of staff. She studied with the college in 2004-05 when it was a full-time residential course in Oxford, and joined the staff team as Academic Manager in 2009. In 2012 she took over from Mike Beaumont as Principal of the new part time course, KST. In 2012 Lizzie completed her Master’s Degree in Christian Education at King’s College London. Her Dissertation included an extended case study on KBCTC and KST, in an exploration of the Pedagogy of Transformation in Evangelical Charismatic education.

Lizzie Hollow ©2024 | Article link | News
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