Global Scholars Canada welcomes its newest member to its humble guild, Dr. Michael Wagenman. Dr. Wagenman works as a campus minister at Western University, sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church in Canada. He is also senior research fellow and director of postgraduate studies at the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology in Cambridge (UK) and serves on the board of the Student YMCA (university chaplaincy, Christian residence and study centre) at the University of Cape Town. He has taught as part-time faculty at a number of institutions, published a number of books, and he reminds us that “most of his graduate students in Canada are international students.”
Why did he want to join GSC?
Dr. Wagenman summed up his desire to be a global scholar with this statement: “Global Scholars Canada offers me the opportunity to bring the various parts of my vocation together: my work with international graduate students in Canada, and my work with international graduate students in the UK.” Dr. Wagenman’ completed his PhD in Britain, focused on a Dutch theologian, and was published through an American press: Pickwick Press. He is a global scholar in many ways already. Furthermore, GSC expands his network through the Society of Christian Scholars and allows him to raise money to cover some of his transnational travel.
A Canadian citizen, Dr. Wagenman’s biography begins in a Baptist megachurch in Minneapolis, then shifts to the culturally engaged life of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Minnesota, and then turns to the corporate world where he worked for seven years. He then went to study theology at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and after serving a few short pastoral stints in churches in both the USA and Canada, found his vocational home in campus ministry at Western University, where he has been since 2005. He completed a PhD in theology while in this ministry position at the University of Bristol, UK, focused on Abraham Kuyper and his view of power in the church as an institution of society.
Bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to Global Scholars Canada, Dr. Wagenman’s versatility in the articulation of a Christian worldview for the academy is of special value to our fellowship. He has made a mentoring practice of taking a student from a place where their faith rests in a private compartment towards a deeper understanding of how the broad sweep of Christ’s authority and Scripture’s story are vital to the student’s discipline. He currently offers this through his regular writing at the Faith in Scholarship blog (part of the Thinking Faith Network). Now, as pastor, theologian, and philosopher, Dr. Wagenman offers gifts to our fellowship that could help our other scholars enrich their Christian worldview and delve more deeply into the integrality of their faith and academic discipline.
One Western alumna, Tobi Tayo from Nigeria, offers a testimony of Dr. Wagenman’s ministry through her undergraduate years.
This community transformed my university experience at Western. I came to Western, not knowing anybody in the whole city and unfamiliar with the new terrain I had found myself in because, as a Nigerian, I was used to constantly being surrounded by familiar faces and a generally accepted Christian worldview. In my first month as an undergraduate student, I was certain I had made a mistake coming to school in London. Not too long after, I found Mike and the fellowship he led and that became my anchor during my time as a student, through the peaks and deeply distressed seasons of my studies. What I learnt from Mike and other students enlightened me, challenged me and left me with a deeper appreciation for bible study and our call to live like Christ.
A giant research university can be a lonely place. Hospitality is the beginning of academic ministry, no matter how old the students might be. In fact, we never end our time as student, if we are bent on learning until we die.
Tayo spoke of her experience with Dr. Wagenman and campus ministry groups as a spiritual family. Like a father-figure to wandering students, Dr. Wagenman demonstrated a remarkable “passion, sincerity, and a clear love for scripture,” and “his eyes would literally light up as he unpacked the Word of God.”
She adds, “I grew as a Bible scholar at that time, and as a leader, applying scripture to the classroom and the workplace.” She recalls hot meals together, special trips off campus, and “laughter to rejuvenate my soul.” Campus ministry follows students through the most important milestones of one’s life, and so when Tayo looked for a pastor to officiate at her wedding, the choice was clear: her campus pastor.
Tayo was an economics major and is now the founder and owner of 18th Avenue Solutions, a student admissions consultancy that assists international students with coming to Canada to study. She works closely with her mother, based in Nigeria.
Biblical study and Christian fellowship are core to a faithful student life. For those who make the academy their life vocation, however, the mission goes deeper and involves persistent study. As an undergraduate participant in Dr. Wagenman’s graduate student ministry, Tayo got a sense for this:
Christian scholarship is crucial because in a world with so many questions and no clear direction on where to find answers, the church needs to have answers that point the world back to Jesus and the church needs to understand how to engage with academia as the intellectuals of the day wield a lot of influence on our communities, government and subsequently, on policies. The world needs dialogue and fellowship for Christians from all nations at the graduate level is a great place to start.
This is a wonderful testimony not only to Dr. Wagenman’s legacy in student ministry and academic faithfulness, but a picture of what all our global scholars seek to do in their teaching, research, and community service: interdisciplinary study and teaching, with faith guiding and inspiring the work, in order to see hearts ignited and communities transformed.
Welcome aboard, Dr. Wagenman. God bless your ministry with us and may your work bear fruit that feeds a world hungry for meaning, purpose, justice, and something to hope for. May Christ’s kingdom come among us.