Learnings from an Interview with Prof. Lawrence Chia

Interview of Prof. Lawrence Chia, by Joshua Sim // 9 September 2020

OCF alumni Joshua Sim and John Kiew made a little trip down to visit Prof. Lawrence Chia’s home on 2 September 2020. Joshua Sim was from OCF Perth (known as OCF UWA now) in 2006 to 2010. John Kiew was from OCF AU 2012 to 2016.

In this mini-series, they share their learnings from their conversation with Prof. Lawrence. Here’s Part 2 of Joshua’s learning points.

Shared evangelical ‘family’ values with IVF, not an arm

Professor Lawrence Chia (LC) told us that before the formation of OCF Australia, the Evangelical Union (EU) had an overseas student arm which he was asked to serve in. That was before he became President of EU. When I asked if OCF Australia ever considered becoming the international student arm of Inter-Varsity Fellowship (IVF), the parent body of EU (today’s Australia Fellowship of Evangelical Students), LC’s reply was that that was unthinkable as becoming an ‘arm’ of EU would indicate to some OCF members that the leaders of OCF Australia were too pro-IVF, and therefore, too ‘western’ or willing to subordinate themselves to the authority of IVF. Thus, this was never a consideration. Rather, the consideration of affiliating to IVF (which LC pushed quite hard for) was to be able to build ties with a body which they shared similar theological beliefs and values with. Due to the threat of liberalism in that period (represented by the Student Christian Movement group which looked enviously at OCF’s ability to capture overseas students and thereby sought ways to counter OCF’s influence on international students), LC believed that affiliation with IVF would provide them broader evangelical coverage. The constitution of OCF Australia, he also explained, was essentially IVF’s, but adopted for the body. Thus in sum, according the LC, OCF Australia was looking to be part of the IVF family, but it always sought to maintain its autonomous position and operate apart from both EU and IVF, while having ties with them. In the early years, these ties were sustained through staff workers appointed by IVF to minister to OCFers.