James Houston honoured at first forum for Christian Higher Education Canada
On May 30, 2012, Dr. James Houston, Board of Governors' Professor of Spiritual Theology and one of the founders of Regent College, was awarded the first annual Christian Leadership Award in Higher Education for lifetime achievement by Christian Higher Education Canada. The award was established "to honour and celebrate people who have provided outstanding examples of leadership."
Dr. Houston received the award at the first forum for Christian Higher Education Canada, which was held at King's College in Edmonton, Alberta on May 28–30, 2012. The forum brought together leaders in Christian higher education from across the country. It included faculty, student deans, staff, administrators, and presidents from bible colleges, universities, seminaries, and graduate schools. It was an historic event. Dr. Houston was honoured at the awards banquet, and delivered the closing address of the forum.
Another Regent faculty member, Dr. Bruce Hindmarsh—the James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College—was invited to give the opening address. Both Dr. Houston and Dr. Hindmarsh spoke on the conference theme of "inspiring a new generation," and their addresses will be published by Christian Higher Education Canada through Regent College Publishing.
The award is a significant recognition of Dr. Houston's many contributions to Christian intellectual and spiritual life, which Dr. Hindmarsh summarizes in these words:
"Jim Houston has had a outstanding career as a Christian educator, a public intellectual, a Christian statesman, and a spiritual director. Houston was born in Scotland to Brethren missionary parents, and was educated at Edinburgh and Oxford. Before he came to Canada, he had a distinguished career as a geographer and historian of ideas (1947–1971), and wrote three highly respected books that were standard reading in his field. He was a senior fellow and bursar of Hertford College in the centre of Oxford. A wide circle of Christian intellectuals met regularly in his home for discussion of religious topics, including the Russian intellectual Nicholas Zernov, as well as Malcolm Muggeridge and C.S. Lewis.
Houston gave up the security of his academic career in Oxford in 1970 to become the founding principal of Regent College, and his vision shaped Regent as an international graduate school with a unique focus on lay theological education. In 1976 he also co-founded the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington, DC to bring Christian reflection to the domains of personal and public life in America’s capital. His heart for the Christian laity is also reflected in the men's breakfast he has led in downtown Vancouver for over thirty years.
In addition to his work as an institutional founder and educational leader, Houston has shown remarkable prescience in his intellectual career, alert to widespread changes in the culture and the need to be ahead of these trends as a Christian thinker. The Christian mind, environmental ethics, spiritual theology, the patristic revival, spiritual direction, trinitarian theology–in all these fields, Houston was ahead of the curve, leading the way rather than following. As a Christian intellectual and educator, Houston has meaningfully integrated an unusual breadth of inter-disciplinary reading and insight and has spoken prophetically to the secularization and depersonalization of human life in Western culture and the church, and has awakened a whole generation of evangelicals to the much neglected, larger heritage of Christian spirituality.
Jim Houston has a generosity of spirit matched with a prophetic boldness to always speak honestly to the truth as he sees it. He is a provocateur in conversation who rarely goes along with the consensus, but he is known most by his friends and colleagues for his empathy, charity, and his gift of discernment. There are countless Christian men and women today whose lives were changed by a single, never-to-be-forgotten conversation with Jim Houston. And at 89 years of age, he is still going strong.
Jim Houston has been one of the giants in the land. It has been a privilege to have him among us as Christian educators in Canada, and it is a privilege to honour him with this award today."