Shank calls church to its ‘central mission’ — children
‘Down the street from where you live are houses filled…
Two Churches of Christ on opposite sides of the world — one in in the southern U.S. and the other in southeastern Australia — are working together to help Christians everywhere in between pursue graduate education in biblical studies.
The idea was to facilitate access to the accredited graduate theology programs offered in the U.S. to the growing membership of Churches of Christ outside the country, according to Harold Shank, a former professor at Harding School of Theology and Oklahoma Christian University who serves as director of GCS.
“How can Christian leaders outside the U.S. benefit from graduate theological study taught by professors who are sympathetic to Restoration ideals?” Shank asked. “That’s where GCS comes in. We provide a pathway.”
But the relationship between Eastside and Belmore Road goes back much further — almost half a century, in fact. Ron Cannefax, an Eastside elder, said his congregation provided support for the young Belmore Roach church in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when it began as a mission church with no preacher or eldership.
Now a self-sustaining congregation, Belmore Road helps Eastside oversee the work of GCS and provide for its operational costs, while donations — funneled through Eastside — go toward students’ tuition and related costs.
For the current semester, the nonprofit has 10 students from Africa, Europe and Australia enrolled in the Christian ministry master’s program at Harding School of Theology in Memphis, Tenn.
The students are able to take their courses mostly online and partially at their convenience, which is helpful for balancing their studies with the various walks of life they represent: In Nigeria, one GCS student teaches Bible at a Christian college while another is a full-time minister there. About 10,000 miles away, in Australia, one student is a physiotherapist while yet another works in education and arts.
Benny Tabalujan, an elder for the Belmore Road church, said those Christians who supported the congregation in its infancy decades ago taught its members how to grow their faith through strong Bible teaching.
“Now we’re trying to do the same for the next generation — not just in Australia, but in other countries as well,” Tabalujan said.
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