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Reverend Dr. John Vissers nominated as Principal of Knox College

John Vissers

Knox College’s Board of Governors is pleased to nominate the Rev. Dr. John Vissers as Principal of Knox College to the 143rd  General Assembly of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, effective July 1, 2017.

The Board of Governors appointed a Search Committee, chaired by Board member Peter McKinnon, to represent the Knox College community. The committee included members of the Board, Faculty, senior staff, alumni/ae, and students – plus representatives from the General Assembly Council Executive and the Toronto School of Theology. It circularized presbyteries to make them aware of the search and to request nominations; fifteen nominated Dr. Vissers.

The committee conducted a rigorous and time-consuming international search, reading materials submitted by applicants, conducting interviews of four strong candidates, and checking references. The committee asked Dr. Vissers to present a public lecture at the College, after which committee members met with each of the groups in the Knox community to hear their general comments and feedback. Peter McKinnon submitted a report to the Board, recommending that Dr. Vissers be nominated as Principal of Knox College, and the Board approved the recommendation unanimously.

Raised in The Presbyterian Church in Canada, Dr. Vissers was ordained as a minister of Word and Sacraments by the Presbytery of West Toronto on May 24, 1981. From this date forward, he has been an active and supportive Presbyter, holding many offices and serving on many committees, both at the presbytery and national level. In the year 2012-13, he was Moderator of the 138th General Assembly. He has also served the church as senior minister at Knox Presbyterian Church in Toronto and as professor and Principal of Presbyterian College, Montreal. Currently he is a full professor (Historical Theology) at Knox College and the Toronto School of Theology and he is the Director of Academic Programs at Knox College.

Dr. Vissers graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Victoria College, University of Toronto, followed by a Master of Divinity degree from Knox College and a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his Doctor of Theology degree from Knox College, University of Toronto: his doctoral dissertation is titled, ”The Conception of Revelation in the Theology of Walter W. Bryden.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Vissers has written extensively, mainly in the theology and history of the Reformed Protestant tradition and its effect on the Canadian context. He wrote The Neo-Orthodox Theology of W.W. Bryden and co-edited and contributed to Calvin at 500: Theology, History, and Practice and Studies in Canadian Evangelical Renewal: Essays in Honour of Ian S. Rennie. In addition to these books, he has written numerous journal articles, chapters in books, book reviews, and magazine articles. He has received several awards for the quality and relevance of his research.

His teaching has focused on his deep knowledge of and passion for theology, which he has shared through courses such as “Principles of Christian Theology,” “Christianity in a Global Perspective,” “Church, Ministry, and Sacraments,” “Theology of John Calvin,” and “Reformed Theology in Dialogue.”

Dr. Vissers has broad interests, as demonstrated by his writing and his contributions to our national church. In recognition of his contribution to ecumenical theological education, the Montreal Diocesan Theological College at McGill University awarded him the degree Doctor of Sacred Theology, honoris causa.

Join with the Knox College Board of Governors in celebrating the Rev. Dr. John Vissers’s contributions to The Presbyterian Church in Canada. His strong faith and well-endorsed character, demonstrated passion for theological education, and leadership qualities led the Board to recommend Dr. Vissers as Principal with enthusiasm and confidence.

Charmila Ireland receives Chris Vais Community Award at Knox’s Graduand Celebration, March 17

Charmila Ireland, completing Knox College’s Master of Divinity program in May 2017, received the Chris Vais Community Award at Knox’s Graduand Celebration on Friday, March 17. Knox’s faculty, staff, and students elect each year’s recipient.

The Chris Vais Community Award is presented to a theological student in his/her graduating year who has contributed to the Knox Community in an exceptional way by having a pastoral and community building influence on the College. Rev. Thomas Vais, brother of Chris Vais, presented the award.

Knox’s Graduand Celebration is an opportunity for College faculty, staff, and students to acknowledge and congratulate graduating students. This year, 13 of the 19 graduands were able to attend the banquet, along with family and friends.

The March 17 event began with a Service of Celebration, including a message by Principal Dorcas Gordon, liturgy of anointing, and litany of blessing. The group then enjoyed a reception hosted by Principal Gordon in the Rotunda before moving to the Dining Hall for a banquet. After toasts from faculty, staff, and students, Dr. John Vissers acknowledged each graduand present.

The lighthearted event also included a Knox-specific adaptation of The Sound of Music’s “So Long, Farewell” – sung by Knox Professors John Vissers, Dorcas Gordon, Nam Soon Song, Charles Fensham, and (the lyricist) Stuart Macdonald. Macdonald also provided the evening’s official musical entertainment, performing favourites on his guitar.

Come celebrate with the graduands awarded their degrees at Knox’s 173rd Convocation on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. Find information about this year’s convocation and pre-convocation events here.

Find additional photos from the March 17 event on Knox’s Facebook page.



1) Seaton Brachmayer anoints Julio Miranda with oil. Both intend to graduate Knox this May with Master of Divinity degrees.

2) Principal Dorcas Gordon speaks a benediction upon the group. In her sermon, “Letting God be God,” she reminded the graduands: “If we believe that the Spirit of God continues to move in the world, we must be ready for the surprising ways, the surprising people, through whom God will act.”

3) Graduands receive well-wishes following the service.

4) Rev. Thomas Vais (right) presented this year’s Chris Vais Community Award to Charmila Ireland (left).

5) Thirteen of the 19 graduands attended this year’s event on March 17.

Find additional photos from the March 18 event on Knox’s Facebook page.


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