Friday, February 20, 2015

Welcome home: A song in which I keep finding added layers

It was announced yesterday that I’ve been appointed the new Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, serving the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. (The Uniting Church announcement has been emailed but is not yet online). I was in meetings yesterday, but here is some of the personal story behind that announcement:

In 2010, Team Taylor crossed the ditch, moving from New Zealand to Australia, from pastoral ministry in the Baptist church to founding Director of Missiology, Uniting College for Leadership and Theology.

The most helpful way I found to understand this call at the time was through the narrative of the man from Macedonia in Acts 16, who appears to the Apostle Paul saying “Come on over.” Paul is a missionary on pilgrimage and the shift “across the ditch” is the next step in an unfolding journey. There would be different cultures, but – like any missionary – the expectation of listening, serving, partnering with what God is already doing.

So began a season first as founding Director of Missiology, then from 2012, as Principal of Uniting College. In May 2014, we indicated to the Leadership Development Council of Uniting College that we would not be seeking an extension of placement in the Uniting church at the end of my fixed three-year term as Principal. It had been an enormous privilege to serve in the Uniting Church. It is very humbling to be invited to lead a different Denomination’s College, candidates and theological education. That’s a lot of trust.

But for family reasons we felt we needed to return to New Zealand. We had nothing to go to, but hoped that making this clear to the LDC would help with their ongoing planning. In order to give the LDC time to quietly do the long range planning they needed, while I informed the Uniting College team, it was news I did not at the time make widely known.

In October 2014, I spoke at General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. A number of things happened during that time that I found unsettling.

First, I was surprised how many people I knew, how many now ministers in the Presbyterian Church I’d been part of training during my time as Lecturer at Laidlaw College, Christchurch.

Second, I took a photo on my cell phone that would grow increasingly important over the next months. It was of two non-Anglo ordinands training for Presbyterian ministry, sitting together, leaning against a side wall of the hall where Assembly was taking place. At the time the photo was for me prayer; of thanks that God is raising up leaders across cultures, of petition that all leaders would find ways to move from leaning against the wall to the centre of the life of their church.

gift from Presbyterian Third, at the end, I was given a thankyou gift, a Maori toki. I can’t recall the exact words from the Moderator of the Church, but it was something along the lines that even though I was “across the ditch”, New Zealand was still home and so this gift was given in the building of friendship. The gift and words meant a lot at a relational level (and in hindsight, at a prophetic level).

In November 2014, the then Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership (KCML) announced he was moving to a new placement.

A number of folk from New Zealand contacted me in the following days suggesting I consider applying.

I did and was interviewed in late January. This involved a formal interview, a 50 minute lecture, a 50 minute presentation on current research followed by 50 minutes of questions and a number of informal conversations with key stakeholders. It was a very thorough process.

The vision of KCML, to equip church leaders for today’s world and their recent change journey around internships excited me.

Our oldest daughter, Shannon was moving to Dunedin to study Medical Science at Otago University. So the whole of Team Taylor visited Dunedin during the interview process, to provide moral support, to show Shannon around her new city and to wonder if we could imagine ourselves in this Southern clime. Kayli liked the feel of Logan Park High School. Lynne can complete her PhD (in missiology) from Dunedin.

The last 10 months have been difficult for Team Taylor. We’ve had to close a door, with no clarity about the future. We’ve had to live in an in-between space, at times quietly, while church processes moved at their pace.

Looking back now, we can so clearly see God’s love – to end up serving in a similar role (leading an organisation that forms leaders across a church system), in our home country, in the city where our oldest is already at University, feels a great gift.

“Crossing the ditch” back, I suspect I’m a few years “out of touch” with New Zealand culture. We’ve undoubtedly picked up a few Australian, a few Uniting Church, vowel sounds!

Our commitment is to do what we did when we came to serve the Uniting Church, to seek, across difference in cultures and denominations, to – like any missionary – to listen, serve, partner with what God is doing.

Posted by steve at 10:10 AM


  1. Congratulations Steve on your new exciting ministry leadership appointment in NZ.
    You will however be greatly missed here.
    Thanks for your ministry leadership in Oz.
    Well done.
    Thoughts and prayers for the transition time and then settling into new life.
    Kind regards, John.

    Comment by John Littleton — February 21, 2015 @ 6:30 pm

  2. Thanks John.

    Last year I learnt something about leadership from my garden. I wrote about it here –

    here’s an excerpt
    “I’ve needed to remove the broccoli. That was really difficult. It was large and impressive. But it was actually harming the growth of another. I’ve begun to inspect my own life, wondering what habits and attitudes are in fact choking the life of something else. I’ve begun to realise that the loss of a key person, a key leader, as essential part of the team, might in fact be an opportunity for another person to begin to fruit – differently, uniquely. Which has provided a different perspective on the current movement within the team at Uniting College.”


    Comment by steve — February 21, 2015 @ 9:39 pm

  3. Agreed.
    Thank you Steve

    Comment by John Littleton — February 22, 2015 @ 7:55 am

  4. Can’t be original so just to echo student colleague John.

    Comment by Bruce Grindlay — February 22, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  5. Dear Steve. Thank you so much for this story. It makes sense of things for me. And I love how every part of your life, from broccoli to teenage daughters is part of listening, serving and partnering with what God is doing.
    I have been privileged to be a student at your & Lynne’s feet.

    God Bless on the next part of your journey with Him.

    Comment by Susan Doughty — February 22, 2015 @ 3:46 pm

  6. Congratulations on your new post! Here’s wishing you all the best!

    Comment by Anthony dela Fuente — February 25, 2015 @ 12:33 am

  7. Steve,

    Many thanks for the riches you’ve shared during your time here. I’ve appreciated challenging insights, searching questions and generosity of spirit.

    And blessings for the move. Our prayers for your family.


    Comment by Scott — February 25, 2015 @ 12:12 pm

  8. Thanks Scott. Thanks for the invite to lovely Tasmania – that was a highlight. The material I developed for that, actually became the material for what I did with the Presbyterian Assembly in October which was an important part of the process,


    Comment by steve — February 28, 2015 @ 4:54 pm

  9. Dear Steve, Congratulations on continuing your exciting, yet often challenging journey in ministry. Again, back in your beloved home country NZ.I feel so privileged having been apart of your seminars / reflection group for 6 months when you first crossed ‘the ditch’ before the big move. Here, you presented searching ideas and raised questions, challenging new reflections towards ministry. You sparked a passion for presenting worship and God’s Word in a way that connects with peoples lives – transforming, life giving,thought provoking and spiritually awakening. This I will always ‘Takeway’ and hold with me. You maybe crossing back ‘over the ditch’ yet, you will always be apart of my journey and continued ministry.

    Blessings as the ‘Taylor Team’ continues their journey with God.


    Comment by Leanne — March 3, 2015 @ 10:38 am

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