Meet Dr. Anna M. Robbins
How and when did you experience a call to ministry?
I think my call came in stages. I knew as a young child that I wanted to serve Christ and that I had gifts for leadership. Those were affirmed by my church family, and they gave me many opportunities to lead. After undergraduate studies and marriage, my husband, Peter, and I were involved so completely in church life that it became a natural progression in some ways.
In other ways, my call emerged from a crisis. I was working at the Red Cross in development education, and we led a group of young leaders at a weekend camp. To my surprise, they decided the world would have been better off without humans in it. That was a turning point for me. I realized I needed to be able to engage real world challenges from the perspective of faith if, in fact, my faith was up to it.
This was a secular camp. But I knew if Jesus was to make a difference to these kids and the issues that confronted them, then the Bible had to say something about the real world and address its problems with good news. Though I had been given excellent biblical and practical foundations at my church, my questions were bigger. I knew I needed to study theology and find out if my faith could stand the test.
My husband felt called as well. Our church affirmed our call, though I was told clearly that Peter, not I, would be the minister. Despite having a leadership role at work and multiple leadership roles at church, this was okay with me. I had never experienced anything different. I enrolled in the Master of Religious Education program at Acadia Divinity College rather than the Master of Divinity.
My call took clear shape while I was at ADC. In many ways, I was in my element as a theology student. I’d always had a natural academic ability. But I had never studied anything that I was truly passionate about. At ADC, my ability and passion came together for the first time. I just had to come to terms with the call.
Like most women studying for ministry at that time, I had to understand biblically how God could call me to leadership.
This was not something I undertook lightly. I had gentle encouragement from many faculty members and from the churches where I served. In particular, Dr. Allison Trites taught consistently from the New Testament on this topic. He patiently answered my questions at his open door until I surrendered to God’s sovereignty and said yes to the call.
My home church then had to decide whether they would recognize my call or not. They had several meetings about this. I was told that the matter was settled when one deacon said, “Well, I don’t know if God calls women. But we all know that God has called Anna!”
And that was that. My call was unanimously affirmed at every stage, including ordination council. That means a great deal to me. I believe that ministry can’t be done as a lone ranger.
How has ADC been influential in your formation?
ADC prepared me exceptionally well for ministry in various forms. I grew in practical skills, intellectually, and spiritually. My time as a student laid the foundation for my understanding of the Bible, of theology, and of who I am as a called servant of God. I learned to learn and to keep learning!
From Jarold Zeman I learned that we don’t know what’s ahead if we don’t appreciate what’s behind. From Andrew MacRae I learned that intellect and evangelism belong together. From Miriam Ross I learned that mission is a rigourous and demanding gift. From Dennis Veinotte I learned to think theologically and not to fear myself. I could go on and on.
But more than that, my professors taught me to wrestle with God, theology, and my understanding of my place in the world. Best of all, I gained a confidence in Christ that goes beyond my ability to grasp His kingdom. Knowing that I am held by Him helps me let go of my striving and consider the possibilities of mission that exist around us. I am a servant of Christ, not His lawyer. I am a servant of the church, not its saviour. That role is taken. What a relief! I am free to do what God has placed before me.
What are you most excited about in your new role as president of ADC?
I am excited by the opportunity to shape theological education for today. It will take discernment to identify and preserve the foundational aspects of our work. We will also need flexibility to identify the changing skills and issues that will equip servants of Christ for His mission.
I believe we have the most excellent team and resources to enable ADC to be a seminary for Canada and the global church. Our faculty are smart, resourceful, and in touch with the church and society. They love scholarship and they love the church even more. We are ready!
Where do you hope to lead ADC in the days ahead?
We have no idea what the world will look like twenty years from now, but we do know it will be very different. Automation, artificial intelligence, and the stewardship of the planet have wide-ranging implications for the future. For ADC and the church to carry on “as is” is not an option. I hope that in the future we will train people with faithfulness and flexibility, ready to lead amid global change. ADC will continue to be the place to be in the kNOW about Christian life and ministry, not in a vacuum. It will be a place for Christians to understand their faith in the context of the world as it is now, and as it will become. I know that Jesus is here with us. I pray that we may discern clearly His voice and His footsteps so, that as a college, we move where He leads, in the confidence and power of the Holy Spirit.
For more interview responses from Dr. Robbins, visit https://acadiadiv.ca/introducing-president-robbins/