George Whitefield Pembroke College
|Location||Cape Town, South Africa
George Whitefield College (abbrev GWC) is a Christian theological college which is reformed and evangelical situated in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, and is named after the 18th-century English evangelist George Whitefield. It was founded in 1989 on the initiative of Bishop Joe Bell, then presiding bishop of the Church of England in South Africa, and its founding Principal was David Broughton Knox, who had for 27 years been Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney.
Knox’s vision was for “the best theological college in Africa”, teaching the “whole counsel of God”, sending out well trained and effective students who would make an impact in the communities they would serve. The college at that time made use of some of the Bible Institute’s facilities and lecturers to augment its own program, and purchased some buildings for its own use nearby. Of the 28 students linked to GWC in its first year, only six graduated in 1990 as members of GWC; the others graduated from the Bible Institute and were only linked to GWC as they were seeking training for ministry in the CESA. After a several years at the college Dr Knox retired and was succeeded by Dr David Seccombe in 1993. The author of several books and commentaries, Dr Seccombe has recently published “The King of God’s Kingdom” which has been well received internationally. Under his leadership the college has been developed considerably, and in 1998 it moved from its original Kalk Bay premises to a property on Beach Road Muizenberg. Since then a number of other buildings have been acquired, most of them residential in order to accommodate the growing student body. In 2013 David Seccombe was succeeded by Mark Dickson.
The GWC faculty in 2013 totals eight full-time members and numerous part-time lecturers. The administration comprises a registrar, assistant registrar, business manager, IT manager, library director, student services manager, a librarian and two development managers. The Explore correspondence course is internally managed, and currently has 100 enrolments in about 10 countries, including Madagascar and Thailand. The library (which started off as Dr Knox’s substantial personal library) has grown to 35,000 volumes (adding in about 800 new titles each year), and is housed in a custom-built resource centre. There are currently over 80 full-time undergraduates enrolled for the 3 year BTh, and in the Postgraduate program there are 7 in honours, 11Masters students, and 5 engaged in doctoral studies. Students have the use of a computer centre as well as an intranet, along with wireless access to the internet. Lecture rooms are equipped with data projectors and modern seating. Applications for study flow in from all over the world and it is not uncommon to have students from Chile, England, Germany, Korea and Australia. Most however come from Africa, with the majority from South Africa.
The bulk of the enrollments are for a BTh in Pastoral Ministry, but the college has for many years offered a BTh in Children’s Ministry, a unique degree. There is also a fully accredited one year Certificate qualification, and each year several students prior to any engagement with other studies, come to the college for some theological grounding. At the commencement of each year, there is an 8 day language school which introduces the rudiments of Biblical Greek and Hebrew, and is open to members of the public.
In 1997 GWC became affiliated with Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, now known as North-West University and with Dr Seccombe an accredited external New Testament professor of NWU. Up until 2010, most students of GWC were also students of NWU, and although they studied at GWC with GWC’s curriculum, they were able to graduate with the Bachelor of Theology, the Bachelor of Arts Honours, and the Master of Arts from NWU. Since January 2010 GWC has offered its own BTh program, one that has been fully accredited by the Council for Higher Education.
In 2008 the research wing of the college received a boost via the appointment of full-time director Dr Ben Dean (PhD Systematic Theology Cambridge). GWC encourages scholars to join the GWC Post Graduate Fellowship and to live and study on the college campus. The director and his team assist students in writing their research proposals and finding their way through their post-grad studies. Regular seminars are held where researchers can share their progress. Visiting scholars spend time at GWC and conduct PostGraduate modules: In 2011 Dr Paul Bowers (New Testament), in 2012 Dr Abel Ndjerareou (Old Testament), Dr George Athas (Hebrew), Dr Peter Bolt (New Testament) and as special guest in Feb 2013 Dr Mark Thompson, principal elect of Moore Theological College. GWC has also employed new PhDs in a postdoc capacity resulting in the publishing of several books: Dr Vhumani Magezi on Pastoral counselling and Aids in Southern Africa (2011), and Dr Fabulous Moyo in the area of Church history in Malawi (2012).
GWC is keen to continue developing in the area of practical theology, and in 2009 acquired a new faculty member to oversee this. The college in its efforts to promote evangelism and to stimulate thinking in regard to applying the Bible in local contexts, seconded one of its faculty members Jomo Mchunu to the planning team for the Lausanne conference held in Cape Town in October 2010. In addition, the college became a Globalink partner so as to offer the benefits of the conference to a wider public. In 2012 Bishop Frank Retief took over the Evangelism course.
To stimulate public interest and support, GWC hosts an annual lecture which in October 2009 was given by former member of faculty Dr James Krohn on the topic of Calvin as preacher of the Word. In October 2010 Dr John Azumah delivered this lecture. In 2012 this lecture was given by Dr Ashley Null.
Some graduates of GWC have produced instruction manuals to provide grassroots training, and in one case have founded an organization to assist in the task. The manuals have been translated into several African languages and workshops have been held in the respective countries .
GWC seeks to maintain friendly ties with the Bible Institute of South Africa situated in Kalk Bay in Cape Town, and two sister CESA colleges: the Johannesburg Bible College and the Kwazulu-Natal Missionary and Bible College (KMBC) formerly Trinity Academy. The college also enjoys close ties with several local churches including St James Church Kenilworth whose rector is former GWC vice principal Dr Mervyn Eloff. The college is also keen to maintain ties with former students and faculty, and supports the creation of electronic pages by students to this end
George Whitefield College is overseen by a board of directors chaired by Bishop Frank Retief up till September 2010, but recently succeeded by Bishop Desmond Inglesby currently the presiding bishop of the Church of England in South Africa. The board is fully compliant with demands set by King 3.