Centre Director: Associate Professor Robert McIver

The Avondale Spirituality and Worship Research Centre was established in 2015 for the following purposes:
1.The Centre will provide an environment for interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research relating to matters of spirituality and worship.
2.The Centre will seek out research that that has practical applications that meets identified needs in the Christian Church and the wider community,
3.The Centre will act as a forum where academic discussion relating to the nexus between society and Spirituality and Worship is encouraged.
4.The Spirituality and Worship Centre will, by its very existence, highlight the continued importance of the core spiritual heritage and ongoing vision of Avondale College of Higher Education. It will respect historical roots within Seventh-day Adventism, and will welcome dialogue with the broader community.

The Spirituality and Research Centre is establishing professional and other resources. It is working to establish links with academics from all parts of the world – including Australia, naturally – who are actively involved in researching topics related to Spirituality and Worship, and would welcome inquiries from interested academics. The centre is negotiating to make available relevant data sets to suitably qualified researchers for further investigation, and is working with the Centre Board to establish policies regarding access to such databases.

Featured Research
July 2016: Daniel Reynaud reports that he is close to completing a book titled Anzac Spirituality: The First AIF soldiers speak, a 100,000- word study of what the Anzacs had to say on spiritual and religious matters, based on a reading of the diaries and letters of over 1,000 Anzacs. An article titled ‘Attitudes to Compulsory Church Parades in the AIF: Signs of Spiritual Crisis or Evidence of Unexpected Commitment?’ is in publication in the Journal of Religious History.

Reports to Council
Reports to Council include more information regarding the governance, publications and most recent activity of the SWRC.
To view these reports please click the links below:
2015 SWRC Report
2016 SWRC Report

The Heritage
Fostering the spirituality of its staff and students has been at the centre of Avondale’s Mission since its establishment in 1897. This emphasis is clearly evident in the “Introduction” of the earliest surviving “Calendar”, that of 1899, which opens with the words, “True education is the co-operation of man with God in working out the plan of redemption; it is a process by which God works in man to restore His image in the soul.” It states in its second to last paragraph that “The present is emphatically an age of reform, and we profess to be a progressive people. The gospel message for this time is a three-fold message, its work being to reveal three phases of truth, physical, mental, spiritual.” [“Third Annual Calendar: The Avondale School for Christian Workers, 1899,” pp. 9, 12]. The commitment of the early leaders of Avondale to the three-fold development of the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of their student body was reflected in a very practical way in the way the student’s time was arranged. “A daily program was published in the Announcements between 1903 and 1915, and the information given there and elsewhere in the Announcements reveals the following result. Each five-day week was organized in a way which allocated the following number of hours: 9.75 to religious exercises (including morning and evening worships and chapels), 22 for classes (including 1 hour to spelling; 1 hour to music, 5 hours to industrial training, and 15 hours for academic study); 11.25 for study, 12.5 for work. Saturdays (observed strictly as Sabbaths) were devoted to religious exercises and evangelism, and most Sundays were spent in a physical labour program” [Robert K. McIver, “Physical, Mental, and Moral Education at Avondale College,” Adventist Heritage 16/1 (Spring 1993) 53; Cf. “The Future of Theological Education in Australia – A Case Study: Avondale College,” Colloquium 25 (1994) 96-98].
Subsequent to its 19th century beginnings, the Avondale School of Christian Workers has transformed itself into the Avondale Missionary College, and more recently Avondale College of Higher Education. Currently it is seeking government approval to become Avondale University College. This trajectory from secondary school, through a teaching-focused tertiary educational institution, to an institution poised to become recognized as a research and teaching focused University College, has brought great changes. But throughout its history, spirituality has remained at the core of Avondale’s values. The Avondale Spirituality and Worship Research Centre is a tangible representation that this core value remains central to Avondale as research becomes a greater part of the activities of Avondale’s faculty members and students.

Reports to Council
Reports to Council include more information regarding the governance and most recent activity of the SWRC.
To view these reports please click the links below:
2015 SWRC Report
2016 SWRC Report

The Team

Associate Professor, Robert K. McIver PhD, was appointed the inaugural director of the Avondale Spirituality and Worship Research Centre in 2015. He is joined by Associate Professors Phil Fitsimmons PhD, Daniel Reynaud PhD and Steve Thompson PhD who form the core cadre of Avondale researchers whose research interests frequently include topics relating to spirituality
The importance of spirituality at Avondale is revealed in how many of the faculty members at Avondale are either currently involved in or planning research relating to spirituality. These faculty members include: Dr Carolyn Rickett, Dr Darren Morton, Dr Ewan Ward, Dr Jason Morton, Dr John Skrzypaszek, Dr Kevin de Berg, Dr Lyndon Rogers, Dr Lindsay Morton, Dr Lyell Heise, Dr Maria Northcote, Dr Peter Beamish, Dr Richard Morris.
The centre is currently seeking to widen the circle of those involved in the work of the Avondale Spirituality and Worship Research Centre both nationally and internationally (see section on plans).

More about the Avondale Spirituality and Worship Research Centre Team

Associate Professor Robert K. McIver, PhD

Dr Rob McIver began his professional career as a teacher of mathematics in 1974 in a state high school in Christchurch, New Zealand, but since 1980 has pursued a career in theology and biblical studies. He now has more than 29 years of teaching experience biblical studies at tertiary level. Currently, he is lectures in the Avondale Seminary, and is Academic Board Chair of Avondale College of Higher Education. Amongst his other roles, he is the editor of the Avondale Academic Press, and is the President of the Australia and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools.
Rob has wide research interests and has published in journals as diverse as New Testament Studies, Australian Religion Studies Review and The Monash Bioethics Review. His publications include 15 articles in refereed journals, 9 chapters in academic books, 6 books, 9 articles in professional journals, 29 book reviews published either in refereed journals or on the SBL-sponsored website (www.bookreviews.org), more than 55 articles in popular journals, and he has co-edited 5 books. As well as this, he has presented over 30 papers at scholarly meetings such as the Society of Biblical Literature, the Historical Jesus Seminar of Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, and at the Australia and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools.
Because he is working in the area of biblical studies, most of Rob’s publications touch on spirituality to a greater or lesser extent. This is particularly true for a set of Adult Sabbath School Lesson Quarterlies which will be used by all Divisions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2017, and the book that he has written to accompany the Sabbath School Quarterly, Ransomed, Sanctified, and Having Genuine Mutual Love: 1 and 2 Peter and Living as Christians in Times of Uncertainty (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, forthcoming).
Rob is in the process of publishing a book and related articles on research he has conducted since 1999 on Seventh-day Adventist tithing demographics and motivation in five different countries (Australia, Brazil, Kenya, the United Kingdom and the United States). One of the interesting outcomes of this research is the close link between tithing behaviour and practices of personal piety such as prayer and Bible study. Spirituality lies as the heart of much of the tithing behaviour of Seventh-day Adventists.
Details of Rob’s publications may be found by clicking on the following link [https://www.avondale.edu.au/staff/staff-profiles/?staffcode=794009 here]

Associate Professor Daniel Reynaud PhD
Dr Daniel Reynaud taught secondary school History, English and Religion for twelve years in New Zealand. Returning to the land of his birth, he has been a lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education since 1992, and has served a term as Faculty Dean of Arts & Theology. He is widely published in two key areas: Anzac cinema and the Anzacs and religion. His interest in spirituality is also reflected in his publication of monographs on a Christian approach to media and on reading the Bible from a literary perspective.
Details of Daniel’s publications may be found by clicking on the following link [https://www.avondale.edu.au/staff/staff-profiles/?staffcode=502280]

Associate Professor Phil Fitzsimmons PhD
Dr Fitzsimmons began his career in education as a primary school teacher in several schools in the Illawarra region of NSW. This chapter of his teaching career included setting up ESL programs in disadvantaged schools and undertaking research into language and literacy acquisition.
In 1990 he moved to a lecturer and senior lecturer position in the faculty of education at the University of Wollongong where he taught research methods and subjects focused on language, learning and literacy. During the two decades at Wollongong he also worked in an innovative teaching program (KBC), senior administrative positions in the primary program, and was also director of the domestic professional experience, co-director of the overseas professional experience, honours coordinator and coordinator of core subject areas. He also co-supervised several doctoral students throught to completion as well as sixty honours students many of whom became award winning students. Another key component of this position was his development and securing of several international contracts for the faculty that included a World Bank project to upgrade Sri Lankan academics and langauge immersion projects partnerships with the Hong Kong Institute of Education. During this period he also taught and consulted at the University of Alabama (USA) and Buckinghamshire New University – High Wickham (UK). Prior to taking a postion at Avondale College of Higher Education, he was director of the San Roque Research Institute, a private research centre in Santa Barbara, California. During his tenure in this position at this institute he forged links with the education faculty at the University of California Santa Barbara whereby the insititute and attached ‘lab school’ became a teaching provider for this California institution. He also initiated educational research and ran international conferences.
While still researching in the area of language and literacy with projects focussed on popular culture and writing development, he is also engaged in projects focussed on spirituality as understood by young children and tertiary students. It was while engaged in natural literacy development through an ethnographic lens that the concept of inate spirituality emerged, which was further established by his doctoral students. He is also currently engaged with several research projects focussed on spirituality with academics in other international settings."
Details of Phil’s publications may be found by clicking on the following link [https://www.avondale.edu.au/staff/staff-profiles/?staffcode=10247608]

Dr Steven Thompson
Although Dr Steven Thompson grew up in the United States, he has spent his adult years in the UK and Australia. He has pastored churches in Scotland and England, lectured in theology and served in administration at Newbold College. In Australia since 1991 he has lectured in theology at Avondale College where, in semi-retirement he now supervises postgraduate students writing theses. He is active in several current research interests which intersect with “spirituality and worship” when taken in a very broad sense.
He has traced the belief, from classical Greek sources to the present, that drunkenness has a “spiritual” component, and has published this research in two articles: “‘Daimon Drink’: Ancient Greek and Roman Explanations for Drunkenness,” Christian Spirituality and Science 8 (2010) and “Thirst for Spirits? Thirst for Spirit? Two Models to Explain Alcohol’s Impact,” International Journal of New Perspectives on Christianity 1 (2009).
In the field of healthcare and healing in early Christianity, he has written “Did Jesus, in the Memory of his Earliest Followers, Ever Nurse the Sick?” in Stanley Porter and Andrew Pitts, eds. Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement (Early Christianity and its Hellenistic Context, vol. 4. Leiden: EJ Brill, forthcoming).
Phil Fitzsimmons and Thompson are exploring in collaboration the ways in which beliefs and values are transmitted in the process of education, starting with education among Greeks and Romans, ancient Jews and early Christians. From this background they will extract implications for values transmission in education today.
On the topic of mission in Scripture, he authored Biblical Missionaries (Pacific Press, 2015), the companion volume to the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Sabbath School lessons for July-Sept 2015. He was also contributing author to the lessons themselves for that quarter.
What are the practical/spiritual (rather than scientific) implications of belief in the biblical doctrine of creation? What difference could such belief make in daily living? Thompson is working on a book exploring these practical and spiritual implications for a hypothetical early Christian who chooses to believe in creation. Initial work on this topic appears in his chapter “The New Testament Use of the Genesis Text” in Bryan Ball, ed. In the Beginning: Science and Scripture Confirm Creation (Pacific Press, 2012).
Hospitality to strangers is another topic Thompson is working on—what can be learned from treatment of refugees and sojourners in ancient societies that is relevant for today’s refugee situation? Initial work on this topic appeared in his “The Boundaries of Christian Hospitality in a Postmodern Setting.” Børge Schantz and Reinder Bruinsma, editors, Exploring the Frontiers of Faith: Festschrift in Honour of Dr. Jan Paulsen (Lueneburg, Germany: Advent-Verlag, 2009), pp. 325-340.
Details of Steve’s publications may be found by clicking on the following link [https://www.avondale.edu.au/staff/staff-profiles/?staffcode=618292]