Where have all the academics gone?

Yesterday I was looking rather jealously through the list of leaders who form the council of Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Their website states their council is made up of “leading pastor-theologians who reflect major ecclesiastical and ministry networks”. That got me thinking. What equivalent do we have here in the UK?

I didn’t get much further than the word “pastor-theologians”. I know of few who could claim that title (John Stott, Donald McLeod and possibly NT Wright are three exceptions). 17 of the 22 Alliance Council members have PhDs – how many British church leaders do you know with doctorates, or even have written good solid books? Is it no wonder that the UK church is struggling, and good British theological colleges are rarer than hen’s teeth?

Then look again at the list of Alliance Council members. What do you notice about these names?

  • Eric Alexander
  • Alistair Begg
  • Gerald Bray
  • Sinclair Ferguson
  • Derek Thomas
  • Carl Trueman

Every one is British (four are Scottish!). How is it that nearly one in four of this US Alliance has hailed from these shores? Guys, we need you back!

Why are there more British pastor-theologians abroad than at home? (You could also add Jim Packer to that list.) Is there something wrong with our churches? Our theological colleges? Do pastor-theologians only thrive away from their roots?

Whatever the reason, it’s time some came home. We are in desperate need of strong colleges and churches. Worse still, of the ten names I’ve mentioned here, only one is a Baptist.

I’d appreciate feedback from those who move in different evangelical circles than I. And if anyone know how to twist the arm of the men I’ve mentioned…


  1. Good to find another ETCW student in blogland (though you are at a more advanced stage than me)!

    We certainly live in difficult times. I was recently talking to my presby friends who are planting a church in Solihull. They, both american, were bemoaning the fact that it is easier to find americans to do this work in the UK than it is to find Brits. Whenever there is a gifted Brit, there are american churches knocking at their door with a call to cross the pond (Begg, Ferguson, Derek Thomas are some examples). And who can blame them for going? When churches there want you and churches here are indifferent, as they are, it is a tough call to stay.

  2. its a tragic indictment on the UK church isn’t it – how anti-intellect we are….

    One other for your list might be Ian Stackhouse who is at least trying to pursue the pastor-theologian model in his ministry at Guildford Baptist Church, see his book The Gospel Driven Church.

    The other one that comes to mind is Chris Sinkinson of Alderholt Evangelical, some of his writing here – on worship and theology

  3. One reason is the lousy hermeneutics taught by American seminaries.
    Keep on bringing the Brits! At least they don’t buy into the error dispensationalism
    like only the Americans do.
    Now Philadelphia just reoplaced two pastors with two more exellent
    British Theologians, Mark Johnston and Liam Goligher.
    Is it any wonder they did not look to the dispensational-taught graduates
    of the big American seminaries like Dallas Theological Seminary? No way, they
    went out and got two more covenantal theologian-pastors.
    Pretty soon no american graduate will be able to get work and Dispensationalism
    will be another theological error of the past, and thank God for that!