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The Leader: Dr Jacqueline Grey, writer, professor, pastor, and academic leader

JO KADLECEK speaks with Dr Jacqueline Grey about her role at Sydney’s Alphacrucis University College, current challenges facing Christians in Australia and what advice she’d give her younger self…

Writer, professor, pastor, and academic leader Dr Jacqueline (Jacqui) Grey has served at Alphacrucis University College (AUC) in Sydney for over 25 years. During that time, she’s held several roles including academic dean, lecturer, dean of theology, and church engagement. She’s also written on hermeneutics, Pentecostalism, ethics and gender roles, while helping guide AUC through various changes.

Established in 1948 to train Pentecostal ministers, AUC has recently become a liberal arts college that includes courses such as business, education, music, media and arts among others, which Grey helped oversee. She recently returned primarily to the classroom.

Dr Jacqueline Grey (right) in conversation at an event. PICTURE: Supplied.

You’ve been part of AUC’s evolution. What’s motivated the changes and why did you decide to return to lecturing? ”
“As the understanding of ministry has expanded in the world, that’s been reflected in the college as well. We want to see Christ glorified in all areas of our society and culture and these changes reflect that. I’ve been part of that story here and the broader strategic planning, from a bible college to a liberal arts university college. I’ve had the privilege of spearheading a core subject called Faith and Purpose connecting faith with vocation.

“Now I’ve stepped back from those decision-making roles and am involved primarily in lecturing, supervising students, and my own research. I also try to engage the local churches as well as broader Christian groups for the sake of unity. Like other professions where you’re promoted to management rather than the areas you’ve had a passion for, it’s been a challenge: do you go with promotions, policy, governance and management or go back to what you loved in the first place? For me, it was a decision to stick to my lane.”

“I’d designate myself as an accidental academic. It wasn’t my plan to go into higher education…So it was something I felt the Lord directing. I studied linguistics at Sydney Uni and worked in student ministry before I realised I should consider Bible college.”

What were a few stops on the way to becoming a professor of Biblical studies?
“I’d designate myself as an accidental academic. It wasn’t my plan to go into higher education – I’m not from an academic family. I’m only the second person in my wider family to go to university. So it was something I felt the Lord directing. I studied linguistics at Sydney Uni and worked in student ministry before I realised I should consider Bible college. I also lived in Turkey for a number of years, which really enriches my work now. As a Biblical scholar I learned a lot about honour and shame culture, which gave me many insights and ways of reading the Bible that I might not have had without that experience [in Turkey], especially reading the Bible with women.”

Some of your areas of expertise include church unity, women/men in leadership, Pentecostalism, and biblical ethics. Which resonates most with you now?”
“Hermeneutics! Helping people understand and be confident reading the Bible because so many of these other areas hang on that topic, on how we read Scripture. When we talk about women, for instance, so much hangs on how we interpret the Bible. The same with ethics and our moral internal life -that’s where I’ve tried to engage many audiences. It’s why I have a new book coming out in September, co-authored with Paul Lewis: Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Participating in God’s Story of Redemption.

“Hermeneutics is important because a common pitfall is not knowing the context of the passage. They’re not deliberately ignoring it, but they sometimes don’t see it as important. Because I work a lot with Pentecostals, a common approach is to ignore context. Yet the Bible is written in a specific time and place, and it’s meaningful in its time and place and relevant to how God speaks, then and today.”

What are some current challenges Christians face in Australia today?
“Challenges to church unity today versus 20 years ago might be that we don’t listen to one another and therefore we don’t understand one another’s traditions. Many churches are closer in theology and values than they think. But because we don’t take the time to understand each other, we miss out on each other’s traditions.

“However, I do see more of an awakening and desire for understanding, particularly in the younger generation. They want to understand different traditions across the church (like liturgy) and often approach it with more interest and less suspicion or resistance. I’m hopeful for the future of unity growing within church traditions. And the internet has broadened people’s experiences in understanding Christian approaches, also making academics more accessible. I see a widening interest in the broader culture as well as a desire for community.  People are beginning to open themselves up to others, which we have to do in a multi-cultural society. And it starts with simple things, like trying different food.”


Books by my bedside…”The Gift of Thorns by AJ Swoda; Charismatic Christianity by Helen Collins; and, The Madness of Crowds (in the Three Pines mystery series) by Louise Penny”

Formative verses for me included…”Isaiah 6 and Psalm 37″

So you’re hopeful for the broader Australian culture?
“I think the desire for community and interaction in the culture provides potential for the local church to meet those needs. There is a hunger for human connection and local community. That’s why having a diversity of local churches is helpful as well.”

Best and worst piece of leadership advice you’ve received?
“Best: To be prepared. I’m best and most creative when I have time to think about a topic. Being prepared helps on many levels, helping you think of potential challenges and responses. Part of that is knowing yourself. Worst: Someone told me not to bring my ‘feminist ideals to the boardroom’ – which I didn’t follow – but it showed me the type of resistance you can encounter.”

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What do you still look forward to?
“Those moments when students engage with new ideas, and I see the lightbulb come on – that gives energy and I love being able to pass that on. Also seeing the long-term effect of teaching because too often we want instant results. But I love seeing the long-term impact of theological education overflowing into the communities where they work.”

What advice would you give your early self?
“To be courageous and confident. I was shy when I started. We don’t always see ourselves as competent as we are and it’s unhelpful to compare. I’m writing a commentary now on Isaiah and reflecting on Isaiah 11 how the Spirit empowers this leader for governance and community leadership with gifts of wisdom. It’s what you’d expect as gifting for a leader, yet they also delight in doing the work of God. That’s something I hope we never miss out on as leaders.”

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