Our identity as a seminary can be summarised by these five commitments:
1The Westminster Standards
We embrace the Biblical concept of confessing our faith publicly, and we joyfully adhere to the Westminster Standards (the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism). All our lecturers annually reaffirm their commitment to these Standards. Students not under care of a Presbyterian denomination need not subscribe to the Westminster Standards personally, but should be aware they will be taught in accordance with them.
Following God is a matter of the heart as well as the head. As Jonathan Edwards puts it, true religion consists in genuine affections as well as true doctrine. This has been called experimental – or experiential – Calvinism. It is in stark contrast to formalism (‘going through the motions’), and rationalism (which denies God’s supernatural activity in the world today). All Christians, including academics, are called to the fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace and gentleness. Real knowledge of God is never solely intellectual. Those who know most about God should also be the most loving and joyful.
3Presbyterian Church Government
We are Presbyterian in our theology of church government. In fact, we are the only Presbyterian seminary in England and Wales. Although we welcome students of other denominational affiliations, our faculty are Presbyterian and teach from this perspective. In addition, our leadership and governing board on both sides of the Atlantic are ordained elders in conservative Presbyterian denominations and are accountable to them in teaching and conduct.
4Ordinary Means of Grace Ministry
God has given the church an unambiguous mission – to make disciples – and the means to do so: the Word of God, the sacraments and prayer. These ‘ordinary means of grace’ appear foolish and weak so that God receives the glory when He works through them. The church does not need new means of achieving its mission, as some would suggest, but renewed confidence in God’s promise to act by His Holy Spirit in this ministry. Consequently, we seek to train faithful men who labour with compassion, perseverance and full dependence upon God.
Scripture teaches us how to worship God. Passages like Deuteronomy 12 tell us not to imitate the world around us, nor to invent new ways of worshipping him. Rather, we should worship the living God as He has instructed us in His Word. (This is called the regulative principle, and is in contrast with the normative principle.)