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The Story: 1995 - 2009

The Story: 1995 - 2009

Brian Stiller

Reviewing sixteen years of life at Tyndale can be aided by key markers, points of activity in which one sees the Spirit at work. Between these key markers heavy burdens were carried, many prayed into the night, a number gave and gave and gave, and so many faithful ones served in teaching, administering and operating the campus. You know who you are and know how much I value and celebrate your gift of love and service. The loss of wages, frozen salaries, benefits greatly reduced were some of those offerings of service usually never noted. It is to the staff, faculty, board and supporting friends that I offer this brief description of those key markers.

When I arrived on June 28, 1995, we had 60 days to get the schools back operating in time for the fall semester, knowing if we missed, collapse was sure to follow. Steve Hubley and Larry Willard and I put together a financial appeal during the worst time of times of fund raising – the summer months. Called "Operation Restore," giving was instant and generous, with sufficient for the fall start up.

Critical to our immediate and long-term plan was a strong board and the need to secure our legal status. Archie McLean, president of Maple Leaf Foods agreed to chair. A nominating committee recommended the new board, bringing together a group of women and men with skills and wisdom, central to the future. Legal counsel Paul Mack stepped in and negotiated with the governmental body, which oversaw charities: we needed to get them onside or face losing our charitable status. As well we faced the challenge of negotiating with creditors to avoid bankruptcy. At each key marker the Lord provided key people, each central in doing what was needed.

As we learned, what we thought was trouble often became an open door. One such moment was meeting Winston Ling. It was my task to tell him his investment had been lost in the financial collapse. At the end of the conversation I asked him to consider leading finances and administration. Over the ensuing years I trusted him and found our friendship a sustaining factor through the many tough and troubling moments we faced.

Early in our sojourn -- fall of 1996 -- struggling with an enormous loss of enrolment at the college, while driving north on Bayview, as we passed the campus of the Sisters of St Joseph, Lily turned and pointed to the eye-catching setting and said, "Brian, some day The Lord will give that to you." It was at that moment a new vision for the OBC/OTS was born.

One of the strangest moments -- summer of 1997 -- was when the city threatened to shut us down if we didn't fulfill a long-term promise to pave our parking lot. We didn't have the funds but as the word got it, with the aid of a gracious donor we appealed for help. It poured in. But more than that, it became a symbol. A new optimism was sparked, as one said, "If you can get that paved then it means we have a future."

The old name Ontario Bible College/Ontario Theological Seminary was not only clumsy it was time to move from a college to a university and to do that we needed a name. We struggled to find one when one day Karen Pascal asked if we had considered William Tyndale, scholar, linguist, spiritual advisor, missionary and martyr. Tyndale the first to translate the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English was the name we were looking for. It was so quickly accepted that we had to update its use from our original plans as everyone began to use it.

The seminary leadership, the largest of our two schools reviewed its mandate and vision. Led by dean Greenman they began the process of orienting its entire operation under the "missional" banner, meaning that curriculum, programs, teaching syllabi would be shaped by this understanding that as God's mission to the world, everything we did was outward, to the world Christ had come to save.

Through each year we sought and achieved a fiscal surplus. Operational debt was rejected as an operating principle. And it worked. With a challenge to rid ourselves of debt, we launched a drive. Within a few years it was gone, freeing all income to be dedicated to creating a viable university and seminary.

In our early tenure together, Archie McLean and I agreed that even though the provincial government didn't allow for private colleges to become a university, we would work towards that, trusting the Lord to open doors. And he did. With a government favourable to private institutions, on June 23, 2003 the provincial legislature passed a private members bill giving us university status. Earl Davey, Ruth Whitt and I sat in the visitor’s gallery watching the proceedings. As the MPPs voted for our new status, they stood, turned towards us and applauded.

The board agreed that to build a university, both recognized as such and offering degrees that sent grads into the public square, the launching of a Bachelors of Education was a vital step. After much investment in program development the new provincial government said they would not approve our application. We decided to launch an offensive designed to get them on side. With the help of ten pastors, we finally got a meeting with a key minister who agreed. In a matter of days we had our letter of permission. 

As the seminary expanded it was seen that a Doctor of Ministry was important both to serve our grads looking for further studies but also to identify the seminary as offering a doctoral program. At the end of the accrediting body's review, its two representatives sat in my office. The chair, a Harvard grad, looked at me over his half glasses and in a marvelously rich African American base voice said, "Dr. Stiller, I've reviewed many doctoral programs, but yours is in a class few deserve. This is a Cadillac program. Congratulations."

In our beginnings -- 1894 -- the schools have not only been particularly interested in the development of the church in China, but in the recent years home to the Canadian Chinese community. It was important that with the arrival of Mandarin-speaking Chinese we establish a Mandarin-speaking seminary. This development provides pastoral staff for churches in Canada along with those who will locate for ministry in China.

The story of the purchase of the Sisters of St Joseph is a book in itself. Building on a warm friendship with Sister Margaret, together we assembled a working team to negotiate price and settle the many issues associated with such a purchase. To recruit the needed funds, a financial campaign was launched: The Common Ground campaign. Beginning with a major gift from the Bridgestone Foundation, many gave graciously and sacrificially. It was a wonderful moment of seeing the Lord open the door to new friends. 

As I write, faces, moments, events flash by. The leading of the Spirit however, marks these extraordinary moments. Markers remind us of what we did, with whom and the result in each step. Even when not conscious of his overshadowing presence, we knew then and know it even better in retrospective, that his hand of guidance, comfort and resource has been with us all along.

A verse given to me, the fall of 1995 continues to replenish me with a reminder of his leading:
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance. Ps 16:5

Brian C Stiller
Global Ambassador, The World Evangelical Alliance