Rev. Dr Mike Ovey, principal of Oak Hill Theological College, died suddenly on 7 January 2017. Mike was 58 years old and is survived by his wife Heather and their three children. Mike’s sudden death has left the Oak Hill community in shock and mourning.
Dr Ovey studied at Oxford and worked as a parliamentary lawyer before training for the ministry at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. His first post was as curate at All Saints Crowborough, he later moved to Moore Theological College, Sydney, where he was a junior lecturer and continued his studies.
Mike joined Oak Hill as a research fellow and doctrine lecturer in 1998, he was appointed principal in 2007. He has been described as a rare combination of brilliant academic theologian with a warm and generously pastoral heart. He also had a quirky, English sense of humour.
Chris Stead, a former Oak Hill student, testified to his practical compassion in a blog post: ‘I don’t think I have come across someone who held such esteemed honour amongst so many people, who was at the same time breathtakingly kind and interested in the lives of everyone under his care’.
Dr Dan Strange, who led closely with Mike on the current curriculum and ethos of the college, said: ‘Mike was an outstanding educator, who shaped a whole generation of evangelical pastors, teachers, leaders, missionaries, youth workers and church planters across Britain and around the world’.
Those paying tribute to Mike have praised his significant contribution as an evangelical leader in the Church of England, the wider Anglican Communion and within Independent churches. He has been particularly lauded for his address to the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) conference in Nairobi, in 2013.
But Oak Hill College was where Mike wanted to be, and that was because of his passionate conviction that the people of God deserve the best possible pastors and teachers. This conviction was shaped by his understanding of Ephesians 4:11-15. He said: ‘There we’re told that the Lord Jesus Christ gives gifts of ministers to his people, so that they can be built up in the unity of the faith, and so that they can be protected from false teaching in its various forms … That’s where theological education fits in, and that’s why it must be deep and it must be broad’.
Dr Ovey was also wholehearted in sustaining a community where Anglican and Independent students study alongside each other, and he worked with others in developing a curriculum at Oak Hill tailored to the needs of both constituencies.
Several evangelical leaders have paid tribute to Mike in the days since he died. William Taylor, Rector of St Helen’s Bishopsgate, said, ‘Mike was one of the foremost evangelical thinkers and leaders of my generation in England. His razor intellect and godly faithfulness to God’s truth gave him the ability to analyse and get to the very heart of an issue’.
Peter Jensen, general secretary of GAFCON, said, ‘He was a dear brother in Christ, a good friend of GAFCON and a great theologian who will be sorely missed. His address on “cheap grace” at GAFCON’s second international conference in Nairobi in 2013 is an outstanding example of his clarity and insightfulness’.
Dr Dan Strange, who has been appointed acting principal of Oak Hill, said: ‘We are resolved more than ever to build on Mike’s huge legacy in the training of men and women to be servant leaders who can be the best possible gift to Christ’s church’.