Historically, Presbyterians have been passionate about education, and here at Providence we walk in that tradition as well. It has been a burden of our hearts to establish an institution of higher learning here almost since the beginning of the work, and now by God’s grace it is beginning to happen. We have named the school, “The Machen Institute” in tribute to Dr. J. Gresham Machen, founder of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (and, by extension, the BPC), the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Machen’s balance of cutting edge apologetics and pastoral training set the example and parameters for what we are trying to do here in Bonners Ferry.
Classes have begun already this semester, though we have not advertised them far and wide as of yet. A key component of our program is that all classes are offered live (video and audio) online using the Webex interface, and so our efforts this fall are something of a “beta” stage in the development as we work through the challenges and capabilities of the technology. There’s a small learning curve with Webex for both professors and students, but all are making good progress! Currently, we are limited to seven online slots, but plan to upgrade that to twenty-five by the fall of 2016, when we hope to formally launch the whole program. Of course, students sit in the classroom here at the church to take part as well.
Our faculty includes Dr. Len Pine, Dr. Mike Matthews, and Rev. Michael Kohl. Dr. Pine has been teaching a class on the life of Christ on Wednesday evenings for a couple of months now online, and has just begun teaching a homiletics class this fall on Tuesday afternoons in cooperation with Western Reformed Seminary. Starting October 7, Rev. Kohl will teach a class entitled, “What is the Gospel?” for an eight-week period on Wednesday afternoons at 2:00 P.M. Pacific time. If you wish to sign up to participate online, just drop us an email and let us know. Space is limited online, so don’t delay if you’re interested. Dr. Kohl’s class will also be recorded for later viewing by students who are signed up. At present, there is no charge for these classes.
Currently, we have students from around the Northwest, Canada, and Australia taking Dr. Pine’s Wednesday evening class, and the experience is immediate and personal. While not quite the same as in the class, it’s close, and our students appreciate the convenience and connection the technology enables. Please be in prayer for The Machen Institute here at Providence. There’s much to be done before the fall of 2016! But we are determined to create a program that will prepare sound and vigorous apologists and missionaries for the next generation, by God’s grace.