He always thought he would return to the Canadian dairy farm where he grew up and be a farmer.
Kent Brower, vice principal of Nazarene Theological College-Manchester and chairman of the Church of the Nazarene’s International Board of Education, still loves the farm and the wide plains of Canada. While working on his master’s degree in the 1970s, he found he loved something else, too: "the process of academic theological study in community that helps to shape people in their holistic development and participation in God’s mission."
He went on to complete his Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Manchester under F. F. Bruce while teaching and serving as bursar and dean of students at NTC-Manchester (then known as BINC). Then, in 1979, he returned to Canada to teach biblical studies at Canadian Nazarene College (now Ambrose University). In 1988, he came back to NTC-Manchester to be academic dean, and in 2004, he was named vice principal.
Brower’s wide-ranging service to education in the Eurasia Region — and beyond — was recognized at the Eurasia Regional Conference in November when he was presented with the Dr. Hugh Rae Award for lifetime achievement in education.
The award is given once every four years in celebration of the faithful lives of those who have given themselves sacrificially to their students and their service in education, said John Haines, Eurasia Region education coordinator.
“It’s lovely to have affirmation from my colleagues with whom I’ve worked for a long time on the region,” Brower said. “It’s really important to celebrate the importance of education in the life of the church. Education isn’t seen as something additional, but an integral part of how the Church is being the Church by looking after the development of people, both for mission but also developing them holistically…. It’s helping them become who they are created to be. It is also knowing and being that’s important, not just doing.”
Because Brower cares about shaping people holistically, he wants to “energize and empower other people,” said Peter Rae, academic dean of NTC-Manchester.
“I feel like my own role in Christian higher education has been because of Kent’s deliberate encouragement and mentoring and his inspiration,” Rae said. “That’s been significant for me and for others. In my role as dean, he was my predecessor and mentored me into this role and stepped aside to allow me to step into that.”
That may be why Brower says that some of his most significant pleasures come through supervising PhD students.
“It’s been an unbelievable thing for me to see the quality of their work,” he said. “It’s been outstanding. I’m really proud of them.”
Brower said he believes the purpose of theological education is to serve the church.
“I learned from Dr. Hugh Rae, for whom this award is named, how important it was for faculty to be constantly and intimately engaged with the local congregation, because our thinking is related to what God is doing in His people, and if it isn’t, it’s simply a conceit – self-serving.
“I’m very keen to remember that in a place like ours, we face both ways: we face towards the academy and towards the Church. We are engaged in both and we find the best of the academy to apply to the Church. We make sure the academy listens to the questions of the church in the process of education in the formation of people. Education matters.
“I treat a call very much as opportunity and how might I serve the people of God,” he said of his decision to choose academic leadership over life in agriculture. “I do think I’ve been doing the right thing and … God’s allowed me to have a place to use the gifts he’s given me. It’s where I’ve had a chance to flourish and I’m thankful for that.”