A Tribute to Mike Ovey – 1958-2017

Our friend Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society, has kindly given us permission to re-post an abridgement of his tribute to Mike Ovey, Principal of Oak Hill Theological College and IVP Author (Pierced for our Transgressions) who passed away suddenly this weekend. Lee’s longer piece includes more detail on Ovey’s publications, and some warm personal reflections.

It was with great sadness that I learned of the sudden and unexpected death of Mike Ovey on Saturday evening. Personal tributes and testimonies to his impact on a generation of theological students and ministers have been springing up all over social media.

He has gone to be with Christ, which is better by far, after a life spent fruitfully in his service.

Michael John Ovey was born in December 1958. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, finally graduating with a Bachelor of Civil Law degree in 1982 before going on to work as a parliamentary draftsman in the civil service, helping to write government legislation. In 1987 he married Heather, and shortly afterwards left the life of a lawyer to train for ministry in the Church of England at Ridley Hall in Cambridge (1988-1991). He and Heather subsequently had three children together: Charlie, Harry, and Anastasia. Our hearts and prayers go out for them as they grieve his untimely loss.

He was ordained in 1991 and served for 4 years as curate of All Saints, Crowborough. He and Heather then left to move to Sydney Australia, as Mike took up a post as Junior Lecturer at Moore Theological College. While there he also did research for an MTh, with a dissertation on the concept of truth in John’s Gospels. Mike’s PhD from Kings College, London was on the eternal relation between God the Father and God the Son in selected patristic theologians and John’s Gospel, integrating systematic, historical, and biblical theology. Much of this work made it into his most recent publication Your Will Be Done: Exploring Eternal Subordination, Divine Monarchy and Divine Humility. He was keen to encourage Christians to engage more carefully in systematic theology, which he saw as something of a weakness in evangelical circles. In 2007, Mike took over from Professor David Peterson as Principal of Oak Hill and also published his first major book, a defence of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement called Pierced for our Transgressions (Mike Ovey, Andrew Sach and Steve Jeffery).

As well as a college principal, Mike was also an active churchman and contributed in particular to the Church of England’s recent debates over women’s ordination and consecration as bishops. His 1993 Churchman article on the ordination of women was just the first of several well-argued pieces from the conservative side of those debates. Mike’s writing for the Cambridge Papers and in Themelios was always stimulating. His remarkable keynote address to 1300 delegates from 38 nations at the GAFCON conference in Nairobi in 2013, “The Grace of God or the World of the West?” was very widely appreciated. He had thought a great deal about the doctrine of repentance in recent years, and we mentioned one of his helpful sermons on the subject on our blog some time ago. But he was most eloquent on this subject only a few months ago, at the Church Society annual conference in June 2016, when he spoke to us about the major challenges in the Church of England today, and gave us his prescription for how we can remain clear and steadfast in the face of them. That talk may now stand as his final word on (and to) the Church of our day — it is well worth listening to, carefully and prayerfully.

By God’s grace alone, in which he as a sinner always rejoiced, he rests in peace and will rise in glory. Please join me in praying for Heather and the family, for his many friends, and for the Oak Hill community — as they grieve, but with faithful hope, for Mike.