History of Stirling College

“The chief purpose of the College is to provide Biblical instruction and to furnish ample facilities in education for Christian ministry…”
(Principal A R Main, 1911)

Stirling is firmly grounded in the Christian story. Our roots come from the early vision and commitment of men and women from the Churches of Christ Movement. Even before the establishment of the College, the need to train people involved in preaching and evangelism was recognised. One of the early advocates for founding the College wrote that no one could:

“dispute the propriety and imperative necessity of our preachers being fully instructed in the sacred Word, and this is the prime object of the Bible College” (1871).

The College of the Bible (COB), as it was known, began with 16 students under the tutelage of Principal H.G. Harward on 19th February 1907. For a brief time, lectures were held in the Lygon Street Church of Christ (Carlton), and then on Rathdowne Street. With the assistance of a generous benefactor, the College moved in 1910 to a four-acre property at Glen Iris..

In 1911, the second principal, A.R. Main, clarified the College’s reason for being:

The chief purpose of the College is to provide Biblical instruction and to furnish ample facilities in education for Christian ministry…to encourage an impartial and unbiased investigation of the Christian Scriptures, and in the spirit of devout faith in the Divine Word, freely to lay under tribute every source of light and truth available to modern scholarship.

The goal was the rigorous study of Scriptures and the equipping of men and women (since 1912) for mission and ministry. Interestingly, the ‘modern scholarship’ of 1911 was very much focussed on ‘the historical Jesus’. This initial focus on the history of the Bible developed into a concern for, and acknowledgment of, its interpretation as a living text. This awareness led to a growing maturity and richness of Christian understanding within the College. It also opened the way for the College leadership to engage with the ecumenical community, and in wider Christian scholarship. Principal E.L. Williams was influential in these areas through the middle decades of the twentieth century – click here to read his story.

The construction of the Monash freeway forced the College to sell its property to the State Government. What seemed at the time to be a setback proved to be a God given opportunity. The spacious new premises in Mulgrave, with views towards the Dandenong Ranges, were opened in February 1989 and our name was changed to the Churches of Christ Theological College (CCTC).

In August 2011 the College announced two exciting developments. First, as a college of the University of Divinity we were pleased to announce our elevation to become Australia’s first specialist University. Second, we announced a name change from the Churches of Christ Theological College (CCTC) to Stirling Theological College: a ministry of the Churches of Christ. The name ‘Stirling’ was chosen after considering the life and ministry of Gordon Stirling (1914-2010). Gordon remains one of the most influential ministers Churches of Christ in Australia has produced. His excellence and faithfulness in local church ministry (and more broadly) serves as a prime example of the qualities that Stirling aims to nurture in its graduates.

Today, Stirling seeks to prepare and support people for effective and faithful Christian ministry and mission through the provision of flexible learning programs. The primary purpose of Stirling is still the formation of ministers and leaders to serve churches, but the College is also committed to providing a stimulating learning centre in which diverse groups of people can engage in theological education.

“For the pioneers, the New Testament teaching on ministry was clear. Each Christian was a minister, rendering that service to Christ for which God has given him the ability.”
(Gordon Stirling)