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ISSUE 02 | WINTER 2017






R. Albert Mohler on the centrality of

John Piper and Michael Reeves speak

Introducing Union’s hubs and Learning

preaching to Christian worship.

about the truth and power of the Bible.

Communities around the world.

Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey to the birthplace of the Reformation alongside Michael Reeves and Phil Hill. Hosted by Union School of Theology from 5th-11th November 2017, with Optional Pre-Tour visit to Oxford and Cambridge. We’d love you to join us! To reserve your spot on the Union Reformation Tour, contact Rev. Phil Hill at Union Campus, Bryntirion House, Bryntirion, CF31 4DX, UK. Call +44 (0) 740 0743 164 or email

Contents 4

FROM OUR PRESIDENT Michael Reeves writes about the Church’s greatest need: the word of God.


EXPOSITORY PREACHING – THE ANTIDOTE TO ANAEMIC WORSHIP R. Albert Mohler on the centrality of preaching to Christian worship.


AN INTERVIEW WITH NATHAN FELLINGHAM Dan Hames asks Nathan Fellingham about worship, theology, and deciding to study at Union.


THE PECULIAR GLORY OF THE WORD OF GOD John Piper and Michael Reeves speak about the truth and power of the Bible.

14 IMPACTING ROME Leonardo De Chirico reports on the work of the gospel in the heart of Rome. Editorial board Daniel Hames (Editor) Joel Morris Sarah Bennington Union Oxford 3 George Street Oxford OX1 2AT UK Union Wales Campus Bridgend CF31 4DX UK Contact Email: Freephone: 0330 123 4446 Twitter: @UnionTheology Design Luther Spicer Campus Photography Linda Acunto

16 WE ARE UNION Introducing Union’s hubs and Learning Communities around the world. 19 GROWING UNION AND CHURCH PLANTING How you can help Union enable healthy church growth. 20 THE JOINT DECLARATION ON THE DOCTRINE OF JUSTIFICATION: A CURTAIN ON THE REFORMATION? Michael Reeves examines the theology of salvation at the Reformation and today. 24 THE PRACTICE OF CHURCH PLANTING Union’s course for those whose ministry will involve pioneering new churches in unreached places. 27 PROSPECTUS Learn about our courses on campus and in Learning Communities.

1517-2017 A lesson for healthy church growth Five hundred years ago, in 1516, something happened that

would change Europe forever. Erasmus published his Greek New Testament, planting the seed of the Reformation. It

was there that Martin Luther would discover the astonishing news of a gracious God and his free gift of righteousness. The astonishing refreshment of the church

through his word he brings his new creation

in the years that followed was therefore the

into being (2 Cor 4:6). The church has come

fruit, not of one man’s ingenuity, but the word

into being because God has spoken.

of God. The Bible was why the church – and, indeed, all Europe – was turned upside down.

The point became basic for the Reformers: the church is born of the word of God, and grows in

In the years that followed, Luther would become

both size and health by the word of God (Eph

clearer and clearer on this. After getting the

4:11-13). Indeed, wrote John Calvin, ‘wherever

Reformation ball rolling in 1517 with his 95

we see the Word of God purely preached and

theses, Luther found himself debating a number

heard, and the sacraments administered

of Roman Catholic theologians. And more and

according to Christ’s institution, there, it is

more, the question of how the Bible relates to the

not to be doubted, a church of God exists.’ 1

church kept coming up. Luther’s first sparring partner, Sylvester Prierias, argued that the

Five hundred years later, this is a truth that needs

Scriptures ‘draw their strength and authority’

to be heard loud and clear: the church receives its

from the Church of Rome, and in particular the

life and health and growth from the word of God.

Pope. Next, Cardinal Cajetan weighed in, claiming

We especially need to hear this again in post-

that Scripture must be interpreted for us by the

Christian Europe, where the situation is generally

Pope, who is an authority above Scripture.

so disheartening. Faced with reams of horrifying statistics about church decline, a wearing negativity

As they saw it, the Bible was written by the church,

or defeatism can set in. Focussed on the sheer

and therefore the church is a higher authority than

enormity of the uphill battle before us, a siege

the Bible. As Luther saw it, the Bible is the word of

mentality can develop. Losing the confidence to

God. The church is not its ultimate author. Quite

step out with the old word of God, we circle the

the opposite: the church was created by the word.

wagons and lose the confidence to step out into the world. Or we look elsewhere for the solution. But

As in the beginning God brought light, life

Christians can know that we are not mere teachers

and creation into being through his word, so

of an unfashionable message, nor salesmen of one


Calvin, Institutes, 4.1.9


religious product: we herald the very word of God.

found in the Bible by looking at the question of

The word of God entrusted to us is the very power

justification today. And we are delighted to share

of God which does not return empty, and which

some of the stories from our Union hubs – stories

will one day drive all darkness away for good.

of how that gospel is transforming lives today.

This is the need of the hour. If we are to see a

Five hundred years later, we are looking forward

reformation and refreshment of the church today,

– looking forward to seeing God’s word go out in

we need churches filled with the glorious and

our generation, fuelling the mission of the church

surprising news of Jesus held out in his word.

and enlivening it again. I hope this magazine will be an encouragement to you in this vision.

This issue of the Union magazine is appropriately devoted to these concerns of the Reformation. Albert Mohler examines the importance of expository preaching of Scripture, and John Piper describes how the Bible proves itself to be this very

Michael Reeves Michael Reeves is President and Professor of Theology at Union

word of God. We also consider the good news Luther



Expository Preaching — The Antidote to Anaemic Worship Evangelical Christians have been especially attentive to worship in recent years, sparking a renaissance of thought and conversation on what worship really is and how it should be done. Even if this renewed interest has unfortunately

Music fills the space of most evangelical

resulted in what some have called the ‘worship

worship, and much of this music comes in the

wars’ in some churches, it seems that what

form of contemporary choruses marked by little

A. W. Tozer once called the ‘missing jewel’ of

theological content. Beyond the popularity of

evangelical worship is being recovered.

the chorus as a musical form, many evangelical

Nevertheless, if most evangelicals would quickly agree that worship is central to the life of the church, there would be no consensus to an unavoidable question: What is central to Christian worship? Historically, the more liturgical churches have argued that the sacraments form the heart of Christian worship. These churches argue that the elements of the Lord’s Supper and the water of baptism most powerfully present the gospel. Among evangelicals, some call for evangelism as the heart of worship, planning every facet of the service—songs, prayers, the sermon— with the evangelistic invitation in mind. Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. When preaching the word retreats, a

churches seem intensely concerned to replicate studio-quality musical presentations. In terms of musical style, the more traditional churches feature large choirs—often with orchestras—and may even sing the established hymns of the faith. Choral contributions are often massive in scale and professional in quality. In any event, music fills the space and drives the energy of the worship service. Intense planning, financial investment, and priority of preparation are focused on the musical dimensions of worship. Professional staff and an army of volunteers spend much of the week in rehearsals and practice sessions. All this is not lost on the congregation. Some Christians shop for churches that offer the worship style and experience that fits their expectation. In most communities, churches are known for their worship styles and musical programs. Those

host of entertaining innovations will take its place.

dissatisfied with what they find at one church can

Traditional norms of worship are now subordinated

language of self-expression to explain that the new

to a demand for relevance and creativity. A media-driven culture of images has replaced the word-centred culture that gave birth to the Reformation churches. In some sense, the image-driven culture of modern evangelicalism is an embrace of the very practices rejected by the Reformers in their quest for true biblical worship.


quickly move to another, sometimes using the church ‘meets our needs’ or ‘allows us to worship.’ A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation. But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate


or healthy. Why? Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God. Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper and baptism are honoured as ordinances by the Lord’s own command, and each finds its place in true worship. Furthermore, music is one of God’s most precious gifts to his people, and it is a language by which we may worship God in spirit and in truth. The hymns of the faith convey rich confessional and theological content, and many modern choruses recover a sense of doxology formerly lost in many evangelical churches. But music is not the central act of Christian worship, and neither is evangelism nor even the ordinances. The heart of Christian worship is the authentic preaching of the word of God. Expository preaching is central, irreducible, and non-negotiable to the Bible’s mission of authentic worship that pleases God. John Stott’s simple declaration states the issue boldly: ‘Preaching is indispensable to Christianity.’ More specifically, preaching is indispensable to Christian worship— and not only indispensable, but central. The centrality of preaching is the theme of both testaments of Scripture. In Nehemiah 8 we find the people demanding that Ezra the scribe bring the book of the law to the assembly. Ezra and his colleagues stand on a raised platform and read from the book. When he opens the book to read, the assembly rises to its feet in honour of the word of God and respond, ‘Amen, Amen!’ Interestingly, the text explains that Ezra and those assisting him ‘read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading’ (Neh 8:8). This

This text is a sobering indictment of much contemporary Christianity. According to the text, a demand for biblical preaching erupted within the hearts of the people. They gathered as a congregation and summoned the preacher. This reflects an intense hunger and thirst for the preaching of the word of God. Where is this desire evident among today’s evangelicals? In far too many churches, the Bible is nearly silent. The public reading of Scripture has been dropped from many services, and the sermon has been sidelined, reduced to a brief devotional appended to the music. Many preachers accept this as a necessary concession to the age of entertainment. Some hope to put in a brief message of encouragement or exhortation before the conclusion of the service. As Michael Green so pointedly put it: ‘This is the age of the sermonette, and sermonettes make Christianettes.’ The anaemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.

remarkable text presents a portrait of expository

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

preaching. Once the text was read, it was carefully

Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. is the President of

explained to the congregation. Ezra did not stage

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

an event or orchestrate a spectacle—he simply

in Louisville, Kentucky.

and carefully proclaimed the word of God.



An interview with Nathan Fellingham Union Learning Communities around the world are buzzing as

students and Lead Mentors spend time together being equipped for ministry.

Nathan Fellingham, well-known for

It was actually an idea that my wife, Lou,

his songs ‘There is a Day’ and ‘Awake,

planted. She’d said to me several times that

awake, O Zion’, is a GDip student in the

she felt that it would be a good thing for me to

Worthing Learning Community. Dan Hames

do. Then the lead elder at my home church—

spoke to him about worship ministry,

Joel Virgo—suggested it too. So I guess the

theology, and being part of Union.

idea just started to resonate with me.

You’ve been in the world of Christian

What made you choose Union?

ministry—especially in writing songs and

leading worship—for some time. What brings you to the point of theological training now?

I’d had some contact with Mike Reeves on a couple of occasions and had also co-written an article with my dad for the Union Theology website, so it felt to me like there was a connection there. Practically speaking, it was the Learning Community that made it a possibility. For me as a self-employed musician/songwriter it wouldn’t have been viable to do it any other way. Have you always been interested in theology? How has that grown over time, and how do

you see your worship ministry relating to it? Yes, I’ve always had an interest, predominantly in the realm of getting rich theology into our songs. It’s so important to understand why we gather together to worship. It’s important to serve our congregations by caring about what they’re being fed with in that context, and also as they listen to songs at home or driving in the car. I’ve also always had a keen interest in understanding how God can use creativity— especially in music—to help point people to him. Recently people have been sharing an online article by Jamie Brown which outlines his

concerns that evangelical worship is heading

for a crash because of ‘performance-ism’. Do



you have any reflections on that? What is your

grace to us, and like any skill, it’s something to be

heart for worship ministry going forward?

worked on and honed– and can do such an amazing

Yeah, it’s an interesting article. The easiest thing

job of communicating truth in a beautiful way.

to say is that, yes, I agree that the dangers he

We can still so often find in the church an attitude

is highlighting in the article are very real and

of things just being ‘good enough’ in the area of

concerning. If our gathered times of corporate

music, rather than trying to push for excellence.

worship are not enriching theologically and

Jeremy Begbie says that often: ‘music is treated

the congregation isn’t engaged and drawn in to

as the mere carrier of “theological truth” and is

participate, and if Jesus isn’t exalted and glorified

valid only insofar as we can spell put clearly what

then we’ve certainly missed the mark, however

the message is. Music becomes an attractive gloss

high the quality of the music is. But there are a

for conceptual truths – secondary and colourful

few things in here that I would also want gently

wrapping to be tossed away once the specific “idea”

to push back on at least a little! I think that

has been grasped.’ You can so easily see how this

labelling all the concerns under the banner of

approach leads to mediocrity in music. ‘As long as

‘performance-ism’ is unhelpful. It’s very easy to

we’ve all been able to sing the words together, we’re

equate somebody ‘performing’ to them having a

ok’. I think it can and should be more than that.

wrong self-glorifying attitude. I often encounter musicians who are sensitive to this ultimately drawing more attention to themselves because

How do you think theologians and worship songwriters/leaders can work together

they’re fearful of playing with conviction and

more for the good of the Church?

expression. They don’t want to ‘get the glory’. But

It’s so great when theologians get alongside

as soon as we’re playing music, we are in some

songwriters and just drop some inspirational

way performing – it just goes with the territory. So

theological bombs on them to get them

my encouragement to musicians would always be

thinking! I think trying to understand each

to play confidently. Be expressive! But also check

other is so helpful. What makes us tick? Why

your heart. Know why you’re playing but don’t be

are certain songs important? Looking for

scared to play. The writer of the article wouldn’t

ways to encourage each other, recognising the

necessarily disagree with anything I’ve said above,

different gifts, and trying to work together.

but to me it ends up framing performance as negative without any qualification. And I don’t think that is ultimately being specific enough!

Finally, you were in a band called ‘Phatfish’ for twenty years, which finished a few years ago

now. What musical exploits are you up to now? In terms of my heart for worship ministry going

Well, my wife Lou was the singer in Phatfish

forward, I’d say I would want it to be marked by

and she has now recorded several solo albums

the truth and power of the gospel, full of musical

too. These have been projects that we’ve very

excellence, and drenched in the presence of the

much worked on together, in the song writing

Spirit. And with all that leading to people being able

especially. We are just now building towards

to participate with conviction, while being edified

a live album recording of brand new songs in

and edifying others in return! I love this quotation

January 2017. So we’ve been working with various

from Paul Tripp who says, ‘Corporate worship is

people on the songs and trying them out in live

designed to get you to look at life through the lens

environments too. We still spend a good amount

of the presence, promises, and provisions of Jesus

of time out and about doing concerts and leading

Christ.’ In order to do that we need to set forth what

worship at various events, so look out for us!

those promises and provisions are. So my heart for those who write songs, and those who lead times of

Dan Hames

corporate singing, is that they learn more and more

Daniel Hames is Head of Resources

how to do that. How to remind people. How to pen words that will do our congregations good. To be so

at Union and lectures in Systematic and Historical Theology.

filled with the wonder of God themselves that they can’t help but have that spill over. But I also believe strongly that God has given us the gift of music as a



Calling all worship leaders We’re delighted to offer a unique six-part mini course on the subject of leading worship by Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace. Bob covers the purpose of congregational singing, the role of the worship leader, and pastoring through song. This short but in-depth video course is available exclusively online for £6.00


The Peculiar Glory of the Word of God John Piper’s latest book, A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian

Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness, is destined

to be a modern classic on the Bible.

Piper writes that the scriptures show themselves to be true—self-authenticating—because they reveal the glory of God. Michael Reeves spoke to him about the theology that prompted the book. Michael Reeves: This isn’t a new argument peculiar to you, is it? John Piper: No, not the basic argument of the Scriptures being self-attesting: that is, not so much that they claim to be the Word of God, but rather that they show themselves by their revelation of the glory of God, mediated through them, to be the Word of God. I start with the scriptures but I try to root it in relationship to Calvin, and to Jonathan Edwards, and to the Westminster Catechism. MR: I was particularly excited to see this book because I hadn’t seen anything done at this length and with this level of seriousness since John Owen. His writings were so helpful to me when I was trying to rest all my faith simply on rational arguments for the historical reliability of the scriptures. These are very helpful, but until I read Owen no one had shown me that the Scriptures could themselves be the foundation for faith. How did you come to your understanding of the complete truthfulness and reliability God’s Word?





I grew up in a Christian home and I was taught

Right. A conviction grows—and it may settle

that this book was God’s word. I never doubted

on you very quickly depending on how you’re

that. Only later did I begin to formulate questions.

taught—where you’ve seen enough of the glory

I remember in seminary hearing Dan Fuller

of the apostles’ writings, and of Jesus’ teaching,

unpack a very sophisticated historical argument

and of the Old Testament, that it warrants the

for the reliability of Paul’s apostleship – and

rest of it. Then when you bump into things that

from these Paul’s writings and, from there, the

don’t feel glorious, your spiritual inclination

rest of Scripture. I was fascinated, but it was

is to be patient and say, ‘Lord, I am confident

really complicated. It gnawed away at me – 90%

that you are here; help me see the glory.’

of people in the world don’t have access to that kind of argument. It drove me to think that


if God indeed spoke in a book, and what’s in

This sounds quite similar to what C. S Lewis

that book has eternity hanging on it, surely he

said: ‘I believe in Christianity as I believe

would provide a means by which all his children

the sun has risen: not only because I see

would be able to know he’s telling the truth.

it, but by it, I see everything else.’



In explaining how scripture reveals God’s glory, you

Exactly. I quote that: it assumes in one of

talk about Rembrandt’s picture, ‘The Storm on the

my chapters a pretty large position!

Sea of Galilee’. Can you unpack that analogy for us? JP:

MR: It is also very different to the idea of a leap

Suppose you have a Rembrandt, and you cover it

in the dark. In fact you say, ‘Faith is not a

with a black sheet of paper. Is that glorious? My

heroic step through the door of the unknown,

question is, how much of it might you need to see

it is a humble happy sight of God’s self-

in order to say, ‘Rembrandt! Beautiful!’ Would a

authenticating glory.’ Now, how is that

pinhole work? Probably not. How many pinholes

then different from say, Pascal’s wager?

would you need? The answer is not easy because differing places on the canvas would yield more


certainty to a Rembrandt expert than others. Over

That wager, ever since I was in college, has haunted

here everything’s kind of dark… this is black… but

me. Firstly as attractive, and then the more I

if you made two or three holes here you can say

learned about the way the Holy Spirit works,

‘That’s a Rembrandt!’ There are parts of scripture

unattractive. Pascal said if you venture everything

that are much more quickly illuminating with

on the gospel being false and are proved wrong,

regard to the glory of God than others. With the

then the stakes are enormous, and the payoff is

book of Job you might need to cut a big hole in the

horrible – it’s hell. If you venture everything on

black block and say, ‘Oh, I get it!’ A lot of pinholes

the gospel being true, and you’re proved wrong,

in Job would not help you very much. In other

you haven’t lost much, and therefore, he said,

parts—Romans might be a good example —just

why wouldn’t you wager that it’s true? Here’s the

a few isolated verses are off-the-wall glorious.

problem: saving faith in the Bible isn’t like that.


Saving faith doesn’t walk up to a person with a

So to the doubting believer, you wouldn’t say

bag over their head and say, ‘Are you beautiful

if they’re struggling to see the glory of God in

or are you ugly? I’m going to venture that you’re

this verse of scripture, they just need to read

beautiful, Jesus.’ That’s so dishonouring to Jesus!

it again and again. It might be that they need to read a lot more broadly in God’s Word, and


then that text that didn’t fit for them will start

It’s a different understanding of the nature of

making sense in the light of other texts.

the gospel. The gospel is simply to get out of hell rather than to come to know and enjoy God.





Right. Saving faith is not concluding that

John, what practical difference does all this make

something is beautiful for which you have

to the way you approach and read the Bible?

no evidence that it is beautiful. You cannot honour God by saying, ‘I trust you, but I have


no reason to trust you.’ That doesn’t honour

Surely it means that pastors, small group leaders,

God. It may look heroic; it may look like we’re

teachers, will handle the Bible with a view to

going to venture into the dark and cast all our

showing that glory is seen not just by a rational

effort in that direction, but all it does is glorify

inference, but as a revelation of beauty. So we

us – it doesn’t glorify him. The Holy Spirit must

will labour to show with every text that this is a

reveal the truthfulness of God. So the difference

part of a beautiful redemptive history. Beauty

between a leap in the dark and what I’m saying

and glory and the radiance of God will become a

is that the Holy Spirit takes the dark away.

category in our preaching and teaching that may be higher than it has been. I think it will produce


fresh, deeper, more earnest prayer, because I

You say a particular kind, or a peculiar, glory.

realize how dependent I am on the Holy Spirit.

Why do you say ‘peculiar’ glory?

But it doesn’t mean that I will somehow become less textually rooted. I really fear this: I fear this


with regard to the gospel-centeredness today or

I saw texts, like in Isaiah where it says, ‘Who is

any other ‘centeredness’ today. I fear that as we

a God like you, who works for those who wait

work through texts, we immediately jump off

for him?’ compared with these Babylonian gods

the text, hover above it with our paradigm, and

who must be carried. I began to see that there

thus constantly prove our paradigm, and never

is a strain in scripture where the majesty of God

go back in there. No! This word follows this word;

shines most brightly because it’s manifested in

this clause follows this clause. We should stay

lowliness; manifested in servanthood. You follow

there in the text because the glory is seen in the

that right through into the life of Jesus. It’s a

minutiae of the text, just like the glory was seen

peculiar glory in that majesty and meekness

in the minutiae of Jesus’ life.

coalesce. Edwards, on Revelation 5, speaks of Jesus as the lion and the lamb. He is a lion-like


lamb and a lamb-like lion. He’s not glorious

And that’s how we stay faithful and loyal to him.

because he’s a lamb; he’s not glorious because

John, thank you so much. I hope and expect that

he’s a lion; he’s glorious because he’s a lion-

your book will be a modern classic on the Bible,

like lamb a lamb-like lion. Right through the

bringing liberation and joy as we see the self-

Scriptures we see this particular angle on the

evidencing nature of the scriptures.

glory of God. We have a God who is high, and holy, and dwells with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit.



Impacting Rome Italy is in desperate need of a biblical reformation. Five hundred years ago the Protestant Reformation was suffocated through repression and coercion. The circulation of Bibles was prohibited and

Rome is the capital city of the nation and

proclamation of the gospel was forbidden. The

represents in many respects the heart of Italy

Roman Catholic Church instead promoted a religion

and its people and culture. Impacting Rome will

centred on a confused gospel with a powerful

therefore result in open doors and opportunities

institution mediating God’s grace to the people.

to the rest of the country. By the grace of God

This situation has been unchallenged for centuries.

since its beginning in 2010 the church Breccia

Today, evangelicals make up less than one per cent

di Roma ( has sought to

of the population. There is great need to spread

be a catalyst for gospel renewal throughout the

a strong biblically-based gospel across Italy.

city. The preaching of the Word, an emphasis



on church life and multiplication, evangelism,

training pastors and leaders for 20 years. Today we

theological training and gospel-centred cultural

see a potential for an even greater breakthrough:

events, mercy ministries to refugees and the poor … have all been and continue to be part

1. We have three academic centres with

of Breccia di Roma’s strategy and vision to see

experienced local tutors: Padova (north),

the gospel transform Rome and its people.

Rome (centre), and Caltanissetta (south). Nearly 150 students are studying with us.

In recent months the church purchased a fantastic property in the heart of Rome. The space is next to

2. We have a partnership with Union School

historic sites (Coliseum), institutional buildings

of Theology to offer GDip and MTh level

(Presidential Palace), financial institutions (Bank

programs to Italian students: (https://

of Italy) and academic centres (i.e. two main

Catholic universities are next to us, the Gregorian and the Angelicum, with thousands of students

Starting this academic year we have been hosting

from among whom the future bishops and popes

the Union Learning Community in Rome at our

of the Catholic Church will come). Symbolically,

new building. The first two Italian students began

it represents the right of the Gospel to be a

a Graduate diploma in theology. This is another

public voice, right in the midst of the powers

dream coming true. So far Italian students had to

of this world, after centuries of oppression and

go abroad to get theological training at graduate

harassments. We are right there to preach the

and post-graduate level. With this new initiative

Gospel, train people to become servant leaders,

we are offering it without uprooting people,

impact the city and the nation. The work is already

in the context of the life of the local church,

blossoming and the potential is breathtaking.

with cheaper costs and with contextualized mentoring. It is something of a watershed.

This move is somewhat historic. The last property bought in Rome city centre for Gospel work dates

For a number of reasons, leadership training has

back to 1920. Since then, the city has been neglected

not been a priority for evangelical churches. As we

and churches have tended to be fearful. Now it’s

look forward to a new window of opportunity for the

time to reverse the tide and to invest in promoting

gospel in Italy, leadership training is key. There is

the Kingdom. The space is an ideal centre for

no single issue more urgent than this. This is why

training leaders, church planters, and professionals

we are so excited to see what God is doing and look

to be gospel witnesses throughout the country.

forward to what He has prepared for us. We dream a biblical reformation in Italy and are working hard

We want to bring the highest quality theological

to be instruments of it. We are thankful to Union

training possible to the largest possible number

for partnering with us in this wonderful vision.

of potential pastors and leaders. We have now the experience and the tools for doing this. If blessed by God, this project could result in a watershed

Dr Leonardo De Chirico Pastor, Church Breccia di Roma

initiative for the consolidation and expansion

Lecturer in Historical Theology at IFED

of the Italian evangelical church in the future.

Lead Mentor, Union Learning Community, Rome (Italy)

Through IFED (, we have been



We are Union Men and women are training for ministry and mission all around the world in Union Learning Communities based in local churches. We are excited to see these

multiply and grow, producing labourers for the harvest. Here we highlight five locations with strong links to Union alumni. Are you an alumnus of our campus? Could a Union Learning Community in your church contribute towards raising-up the next generation of leaders? We’d love to hear from you:

UNION WASHINGTON DC A learning community for Maryland in the capital of the United States.

UNION ATLANTA A brand new Learning Community for Georgia in partnership with Sports Fan International.



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CANON IX.-If any

and the Lutheran World Federation signed ‘The

one saith, that by

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’

faith alone the

(JDDJ), claiming that they were ‘now able to

impious is justified;

articulate a common understanding of our

in such wise as to

justification by God’s grace through faith in

mean, that nothing

Christ.’1 This has led many since to think that

else is required to

the fundamental theological differences of the

co-operate in order

Reformation have now been resolved, and that

to the obtaining

there remains little or nothing of real theological

the grace of Justification, and that it

substance to prevent evangelical-Catholic unity.

is not in any way necessary, that he be

Professor Mark Noll, for instance, boldly declared,

prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.




JDDJ (http://www. curia/pontifical_ councils/chrstuni/ documents/ rc_pc_chrstuni_ doc_31101999_ cath-luth-jointdeclaration_ en.html), para. 5. Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over? An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism, Grand Rapids, Il.: Baker, 2005, 232. JDDJ, para. 5.


Ibid., paras. 44, 5.

If it is true, as once was repeated

CANON XI.-If any one saith, that men are

frequently by Protestants conscious of

justified, either by the sole imputation

their anchorage in Martin Luther or John

of the justice of Christ, or by the sole

Calvin that iustificatio articulus stantis

remission of sins, to the exclusion of the

vel cadentis ecclesiae (justification is the

grace and the charity which is poured

article on which the church stands or

forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost,

falls), then the Reformation is over.2

and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only

The JDDJ itself was rather less sanguine about

the favour of God; let him be anathema.

what had been achieved, and stated explicitly

CANON XII.-If any one saith, that

that it ‘does not cover all that either church

justifying faith is nothing else but

teaches about justification.’3 Nevertheless, it did

confidence in the divine mercy which

claim to be a ‘decisive step forward on the way to

remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that

overcoming the division of the church’ in that it

this confidence alone is that whereby

managed to express ‘a consensus on basic truths

we are justified; let him be anathema.

of the doctrine of justification and shows that the

CANON XXIV.-If any one saith, that

remaining differences in its explication are no

the justice received is not preserved

longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnations.’

and also increased before God through

This itself, though, was a considerable claim.

good works; but that the said works are

Those ‘doctrinal condemnations’4 it professed

merely the fruits and signs of Justification

to avoid include the binding anathemas of

obtained, but not a cause of the increase

the Council of Trent (1545-63), such as:

thereof; let him be anathema.5




view). And the possibility of two substantially

Since the JDDJ expressly sought to avoid

– even radically – different interpretations

those condemnations, its understanding of

of that paragraph is never mentioned.

justification cannot be that sinners are saved by faith alone without works by the sole

A couple of paragraphs later it becomes

remission of sins and the sole imputation of

clear that the traditional Roman Catholic

the righteousness of Christ. It cannot then

interpretation has, in fact, been assumed.

amount to the evangelical understanding of

Justification is defined as follows:


justification that the Council of Trent sought so carefully to define and oppose. And since it does

Justification is the forgiveness of sins (cf.

not encompass the evangelical understanding of

Rom 3:23-25; Acts 13:39; Lk 18:14), liberation

justification, it cannot be a decisive step forward

from the dominating power of sin and death

to overcoming the theological differences between

(Rom 5:12-21) and from the curse of the law

evangelicals and the Roman Catholic Church.

(Gal 3:10-14). … It occurs in the reception of the Holy Spirit in baptism and incorporation

A closer look at the JDDJ makes this very clear:

into the one body (Rom 8:1f, 9f; I Cor 12:12f).8


Quite clearly, justification is here said to include

When it first sets out to define the biblical

the process of inner transformation, and not

message of justification, various aspects of

include the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

salvation are listed alongside each other.

But that is an understanding of justification quite different to that we have seen so ably opposed

In the New Testament diverse treatments

by the Council of Trent. Any theology that makes

of “righteousness” and “justification” are

the believer’s inner transformation a constituent

found in the writings of Matthew (5:10; 6:33;

part (instead of a consequence) of justification

21:32), John (16:8-11), Hebrews (5:3; 10:37f),

is at odds with the material principle of the

and James (2:14-26).[10] In Paul’s letters

Reformation (justification by faith alone).

also, the gift of salvation is described in various ways, among others: “for freedom


Christ has set us free” (Gal 5:1-13; cf. Rom

The essential problem with the Declaration is a

6:7), “reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:18-21; cf.

consequence of its positive intent. The aim of the

Rom 5:11), “peace with God” (Rom 5:1), “new

JDDJ is to find commonalities, not differences.

creation” (2 Cor 5:17), “alive to God in Christ

But with that comes a lopsided methodology

Jesus” (Rom 6:11,23), or “sanctified in Christ

that obscures those differences. It means, for

Jesus” (cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 1:30; 2 Cor 1:1). Chief

example, that while it will emphasise the agreed

among these is the “justification” of sinful

truth that faith and love are not to be separated

human beings by God’s grace through faith

in salvation, it fails to give any equal weight to

(Rom 3:23-25), which came into particular

explaining how differently evangelicals and the

prominence in the Reformation period.7

Roman Catholic Church would distinguish the


roles of faith and love in salvation. So paragraph In evangelical theology, all these diverse aspects

22 argues that faith and love ‘are not to be

of salvation are important. But they are not to be

separated.’ Absolutely, but that leaves a pastorally

confused. Particularly, the believer’s progressive

vital question unresolved: do my works of love

transformation into the likeness of Christ is not

contribute to my righteousness before God, or is my

to be confused with – or taken to be the cause of

righteousness an ‘alien,’ ‘passive’ righteousness

– his or her justification. Yet in that paragraph,

– the righteousness of Christ imputed to me?

The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Oecumenical Council of Trent, trans. J. Waterworth (London: Dolman, 1848), 45-47.


The JDDJ expressly affirms, ‘The teaching of the Lutheran churches presented in this Declaration does not fall under the condemnations from the Council of Trent’ (para. 41).

it is not at all clear whether different aspects of salvation are being listed alongside and including

Similarly, we read in the JDDJ how Lutherans

justification (the traditional evangelical view),

‘emphasize that righteousness as acceptance by

or whether they are being seen as facets of

God and sharing in the righteousness of Christ


Ibid., para. 9.

justification (the traditional Roman Catholic

is always complete. At the same time, they state


Ibid., para. 11.



that there can be growth in its effects in Christian

No one may doubt God’s mercy and

living.’9 Of course that is entirely true, but in the

Christ’s merit. Every person, however,

context it is misleading. For while Lutherans and

may be concerned about his salvation

other evangelicals do believe that there can be

when he looks upon his own weaknesses

growth in the effects of grace and justification

and shortcomings. Recognizing his own

on a believer’s life, they do not believe that those

failures, however, the believer may yet be

effects can justify. We are clearly meant to see

certain that God intends his salvation.

a commonality, but there is no evidence here that the two radically different theologies of

At first sight this is rather confusing: can a believer

justification have actually come closer together.

have assurance or not? The second sentence sounds thoroughly Roman, making us concerned when we


Ibid., para. 39, my emphasis.


JDDJ Appendix Resources for 4.6, from The Condemnations of the Reformation Era: Do They Still Divide? Ed., Karl Lehmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 56, original emphasis.


see our failings. The third appears more evangelical,

Parsing the details of how evangelicals and the

offering certainty of salvation for the believer. The

Roman Catholic Church understand justification

Declaration’s own explanatory sources explain: ‘a

could give the impression that the differences

person can certainly lose or renounce faith, and

are too refined to be significant. It certainly feels

self-commitment to God and his word of promise.10

more positive and less mentally taxing simply

But if he believes in this sense, he cannot at the

to say they look pretty similar. But when each

same time believe that God is unreliable in his

theology is practically applied to real lives it

word of promise.’ In other words, God is faithful

becomes clear how deep the differences go.

to save, but only to save those who maintain their ‘self-commitment to God and his word of

Take the question of assurance of salvation, which

promise.’ The assurance of believers thus rests

drove Luther on his quest and which the JDDJ

on their own self-commitment. That fits nicely

addresses in section 4.6. According to paragraph 36,

with the theology of the Roman Catholic Church,



but not with how Luther himself expressed it. The

It also recognized some of the lopsidedness and

believer, he wrote, can have absolute assurance that

ambiguity of the JDDJ in how it constantly sought to find and affirm commonalities. This meant,

Her sins cannot now destroy her, since

for example, that where the Declaration had

they are laid upon Christ and swallowed up

affirmed that the good works of the justified are

by him. And she has that righteousness in

always the fruit of grace, it had failed to clarify

Christ, her husband, of which she may boast

how the Roman Catholic Church maintains that

as of her own and which she can confidently

they are also the fruit of man. ‘We can therefore

display alongside her sins in the face of

say that eternal life is, at one and the same time,

death and hell and say, “If I have sinned, yet

grace and the reward given by God for good

my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned,

works and merits.’ 15 That is, the Roman Catholic

and all his is mine and all mine is his,” as

Church still repudiates the material principle of

the bride in the Song of Solomon [2:16]

the Reformation (justification by faith alone).

says, “My beloved is mine and I am his.”11

It must do, for its very understanding of justification remains materially different. Where evangelicalism

Looking with ultimate concern on personal

views justification as a divine declarative act

shortcomings, or confidently saying ‘all his is mine

whereby God pronounces the sinner righteous in

and all mine is his:’ those are the two applications

Christ, Rome still sees justification as an ongoing,

that reveal two quite different theologies.

transformative and cooperative process. For that


reason, the Response also stated that further CONCLUSION

discussions with Lutherans and evangelicals would

The JDDJ claimed to have formulated a new

need to consider the sacrament of penance, by

consensus position that managed to avoid both

which – according to the Council of Trent – the

the condemnations of the Council of Trent on

sinner can be ‘justified anew (rursus iustificari).’

evangelical theology, and those of the Lutheran

With such reference to ‘re-justification,’ the

Confessions on Roman Catholic theology. Yet

Response could not be clearer that, for all attempts

when the Roman Catholic Congregation for the

to find wording that fits both Roman Catholic and

Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council

evangelical views of justification, there remains a

for Promoting Christian Unity made an official

material and momentous difference between them.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 31 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 352.


‘Response of the Catholic Church to the Joint Declaration of the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation on the Doctrine of Justification,’ Declaration, http:// roman_curia/ pontifical_councils/ chrstuni/ documents/ rc_pc_chrstuni_ doc_01081998_offanswer-catholic_ en.html


Response, Clarification 5.


Ibid., Clarification 1.


response to the Declaration on behalf of the Church, they felt the need to make some important

All that being the case, it is wishful thinking to

clarifications. ‘The Catholic Church,’ stated the

imagine that the JDDJ has proven anything like

Response, ‘cannot yet speak of a consensus such

an end to the important theological differences

as would eliminate every difference between

between evangelicals and the Roman Catholic

Catholics and Lutherans in the understanding of

Church. The matter of the Reformation was not



Indeed, some of ‘these differences

accurately addressed there, and still stands: are

concern aspects of substance’ so significant they

believers justified through faith in Christ alone, or is

must ‘be overcome before we can affirm, as is done

eternal life ‘at one and the same time, grace and the


Ibid., Clarification 3.

generically in n.41, that these points no longer

reward given by God for good works and merits’?


Ibid., Clarification 4.

incur the condemnations of the Council of Trent.’ 13 In particular, the Response made it clear that

Michael Reeves

evangelical language describing believers

Michael Reeves is President and

being at the same time righteous and sinner is

Professor of Theology at Union.

unacceptable to the Roman Catholic Church. It remains difficult to see how, in the current state of the presentation, given in the Joint Declaration, we can say that this doctrine on “simul iustus et peccator” is not touched by the anathemas of the Tridentine decree on original sin and justification. 14



also provoking us to rekindle a joy and wonder at

by Timothy Keller

the good news of Christmas in our own hearts, and to encourage our church families in the same vein.

Tim Keller’s latest offering explores a range of


biblical texts around the

FOLLOW JESUS by Mark Dever

theme of Christmas. Each chapter comes at the topic

Jesus commands those who follow him to go out

from a different angle,

and make disciples of others (Matthew 28:19-20).

prodding and probing at

However, we can feel unsure about what it means

the different perceptions (and misconceptions)

to disciple others and how we go about it exactly,

that people have of Christmas.

or even whether we should do it at all. Mark Dever has written Discipling: How to Help Others Follow

The author wastes no time in getting to the

Jesus to help us understand biblical discipleship and

point, reminding us in the book’s introduction

to encourage us in our obedience to Christ (p. 19).

that Christmas, like God himself, is both more wonderful and more threatening than we

Mark defines discipleship as “deliberately doing

imagine. It’s a powerful reminder of the awesome

spiritual good to someone so that he or she will be

significance of the incarnation - a theme which

more like Christ.” (p. 13). With this simple and clear

permeates the entire book, drawing the believer

definition in hand, he goes on to lay out the who,

to delve further into the wonder of the gospel,

what, where, when, why and how of discipling. At

and challenging the non-Christian to see that

only 128 pages, Dever has made good use of the

there is truth and power in the Christmas story.

space afforded to him. He writes in a clear and engaging style throughout, whilst being a faithful

From here on, the book takes a number of passages

guide on biblical discipleship in the context of the

of Scripture in turn, looking at Christmas in light of

local church. I especially appreciated the union of

Jesus’ genealogy, before considering Israel’s wait for

theory and practice when Mark shares examples

a king, and examining Mary’s and the shepherds’

from his own life after laying out a particular

responses to his arrival. Throughout these chapters

aspect of discipling and then encourages the

we are challenged to respond rightly to God’s Son,

reader to think about how they are best suited

who descended to dwell amongst us. However, it

to disciple others in light of what’s been said.

is the later chapters that really throw down the gauntlet, showing that the message of Christmas

Anyone who reads

causes division between and within people, and

it will be well-

challenging us to respond to the king who came

equipped and greatly

down to offer salvation, freely given by his grace.

encouraged to help others follow Jesus.

This book will be a great read for any Christian over advent, helping us to remember the incredible gift of salvation that we have been given in Christ. It will provide a challenge to the thoughtful sceptic, who earnestly seeks to understand the purpose and message of Christmas. And it will undoubtedly provide a wealth of quotes and inspiration for many who are preparing Christmas talks - helping us consider how to challenge the non-Christian, whilst


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The School of Theology exists to help raise up future leaders who will bring gospel growth in post-Christian Europe. On our campus and our regional learning communities we deliver a world-class theological education, from BA to PhD, that is both geographically and financially accessible. The School specialises in studies for ministry and scholarship, including Bible, theology, church history, and preaching. If you study at UST, above all, we want you to delight in God and grow in Christ and thereby serve the church and bless the world. This magazine prospectus is just a brief taste of what Union School of Theology has to offer. For more information, please visit our website or you can email specific questions to We also have a number of Taster Days throughout the year, and you are always welcome to visit us at our campus or our Oxford base. *Subject to validation by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David



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Global Ministry Course Campus-based and built around the English Language programmes of Union School of Theology, the GMC mentors and disciples students who have a vision for global ministry. TRAINING DISCIPLES FOR GLOBAL MINISTRY The GMC seeks to strengthen the faith of those from non-English speaking countries whose longing is to delight in God, grow in Christ, serve the church, and so bless the world. The 6-month Global Ministry Course and the 13-week Intensive Global Ministry Course offer English language study while deepening the students’ understanding of the gospel and Christian belief. The varied curriculum is designed to produce Christ-like disciples who develop a global mind-set and become the Christian leaders of their generation. The GMC caters for English language students from pre-intermediate to advanced levels, preparing them for University of Cambridge and IELTS examinations up to university entry standard. The Intensive Global Ministry Course offers similar content in abridged form. Living with British students on our campus provides students with daily English practice. As students attend a local church, their confidence and spiritual maturity can grow as they enjoy opportunities to serve and meet with other Christians. The course includes regular day trips to local and national tourist attractions and Christian heritage sites. An organised and accompanied trip to another European country is also provided and is always a highlight of the course. The GMC runs from July-December and January-June. Find out more at


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Union Magazine - Winter 2017  

Our Biannual Magazine

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