Stephen Kneale serves as Minister of Oldham Bethel Church in Oldham, Greater Manchester. In September 2018, Oldham Bethel Church will start a Union Learning Community.

"Oldham is the most deprived town in England*, and is woefully under-served by gospel churches. The borough has 230,000 people, and yet there are only two Gospel Partnership churches in the region. One of these is my church Oldham Bethel Church (the only FIEC church in the borough) – where I serve as Minister. You could count on one hand the other churches which could credibly be labelled as evangelical.

We are excited to be partnering with Union in starting a Learning Community this September, offering their Graduate Diploma in Theology. We were particularly drawn to Union’s focus on closing the gap between academy and church, such that able theologians might be raised up to serve in local church contexts.

It is our hope that the GDip may lead some to come to Oldham Bethel Church, and train practically in an urban context mission alongside their academic studies with Union. We are also excited at the possibility of training workers from elsewhere who may consider planting into the borough of Oldham in future years.

This model of training will help to serve our own community as well as the wider church. It especially means that we will not have to send our very best workers away for theological training, but may keep them in-house throughout their studies. Furthermore, it will help cover much of the cost associated with theological training by allowing people to stay at home and study alongside their existing work. In offering this Learning Community locally, we will also be able to serve other local churches in need of in-context training for their people. 

It is our hope that this partnership with Union will lead to more workers for Oldham Bethel Church, more churches being planted in our borough, and more gospel workers being raised up for the wider work of the church."

Stephen Kneale, Oldham Bethel Church

Check our blog down the track to hear more about this pioneering Learning Community!

Find your nearest Learning Community: could you study with Union?

Click here to visit Union School of Theology website.

*“Oldham had the highest proportion of most deprived LSOAs at 65.2% (43 out of its 66 LSOAs)”: Office for National Statistics – Towns and cities analysis, England and Wales, March 2016