This brief history draws on Richard K. Moore’s work in Baptists of Western Australia : The First Ninety Years and All Western Australia is My Parish : A Centenary History of the Baptist Denomination in Western Australia 1895-1995.
For most of its life, Vose Seminary has been known as the Baptist Theological College of Western Australia. At the W.A. Baptist Assembly in 1957, Noel Vose moved a motion that the assembly recognise the urgent need for a state theological college and that a concrete plan be presented to the next assembly for establishing one. The Baptist Union subsequently appointed Noel as the first principal of the college. He received his doctorate in the USA and returned to Australia in May 1963 soon after the opening of the Baptist Theological College of Western Australia in March.
A young medical doctor, Neil Beck, generously loaned the College a house at 81 Kingsway, Nedlands. The College was opened here in 1963 (pictured below). The house was both the Vose family residence and the College itself. The first day of classes was 5 March; the official opening on 9 March 1963 attracted three hundred people.
The cramped conditions in the Nedlands house could only ever be a temporary arrangement. A small, highly motivated group formed the Residential College Appeal Committee. Their aim was to build a new college which could also provide accommodation for theological students, most of them at this time being single men.
Initially, the new College was to be built on land bought in Wanneroo. However, the chance came up to purchase land in the Collier Pine Plantation, opposite the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University) in Bentley, much closer to the city. The new College was opened on 11 November 1967. Over 1000 people attended the ceremony (pictured above).
A feature of the 1970s and into the 1980s were the open air commencement services, with large attendances and big name speakers like John Stott and J. Oswald Sanders.
By 1973, student numbers had grown to twenty-four. Noel was still the only full time lecturer, but plans were underway for additional faculty. The class of 1970 is pictured above.
Finally in 1978 and 1979, two full-time lecturers were appointed to the faculty – John Olley (Old Testament) and Richard Moore (New Testament). John, Noel and Richard (L-R) are pictured below in 1983.
In 1985, BTC formed the Perth College of Divinity (PCD) with the Anglican Institute of Theology, the Catholic Institute and the Uniting Church’s Perth Theological Hall. The PCD negotiated with Murdoch University to begin teaching theology through Murdoch. For BTC, this meant its courses were now recognised by Murdoch University, although they were still taught at the College in Bentley.
The association with Murdoch allowed BTC to offer studies beyond Bachelor level. The first student to be awarded a PhD in theology by Murdoch was a student from the Baptist Theological College, Ken Panten.
In 1988, a new library building was opened and the old library became the chapel.
Between 1987 and 1992 Bob Covington and his wife Gerry Covington worked at the College, on loan by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention of the USA. Between 1985 and 1990 Noel was the president of the Baptist World Alliance while still employed as the College principal, and the Southern Baptists wanted to relieve some of the pressures on his time. Bob lectured and took charge of preaching and worship while Gerry helped in the library and gave personalised tutoring to students.
In 1990, Noel and his wife Heather Vose were in the USA as part of a Baptist-Mennonite dialogue when Heather unexpectedly died. The Noel and Heather Vose Library Foundation honours her memory. Noel retired as College principal at the end of January 1991.
The Baptist Union appointed John Olley as the second College principal. It also appointed Max Davidson as lecturer in systematic theology.
In 1999, Max Davidson was replaced by Mike Parsons from England. Richard Moore retired at the end of 2002, and Evelyn Ashley eventually became the New Testament lecturer. John Olley retired at the end of 2003. Prior to his retirement, he oversaw the transition from Murdoch University affiliation to affiliation with the Australian College of Theology from the first semester of 2003. David Cohen became the head of biblical studies, while Brian Harris from New Zealand became the new principal from 2004.
With Brian Harris at the helm and the association with the Australian College of Theology, the College has taken a new direction over the past years. In 2008, BTC became Vose Seminary. The year also saw the launch of Vose Leadership, a new centre of excellence. In 2009, Vose Mission and Vose Research were launched. Vose Mission brings together many different mission organisations in Western Australia for co-operation, training and dialogue. Vose Research is a centre responsible for promoting postgraduate research, publications and academic conferences. In 2011, VET began with a new emphasis on vocational level training and an interns program. Student numbers are now in excess of one hundred. Our library has grown to nearly 40,000 books and expanded into ebooks, DVDs and talking books.
Our alumni includes our graduates, past students, past and present staff and faculty, guest lecturers, donors, volunteers, friends and supporters of Vose.
Vose is proud of our diverse community of graduates who are influencing and shaping their chosen contexts of life and mission. Our aim is to continue to include our graduates in the ongoing life and mission of Vose even once they have graduated.
One of the ways we keep our Alumni updated on the events and news of Vose is through our seasonal publication, Beyond. If you have any news or personal announcements that you would like included in our next edition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know.
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