The need for a common platform for theological education in Asia has been raised by many theological institutions and associations in various occasions. To address this need, Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) has been bringing together theologians through the Congress of Asian Theologians. The Program for Theology and Cultures in Asia (PTCA) has been organizing inter-regional, sub-regional and national activities in doing theology with Asian resources. Both the Ecumenical and Evangelical theological education networks have formed “Associations” or “Boards” for accreditation/affiliation of their degree programmes. All these networks and associations work independently without much cooperation, and sometimes even with some sense of rivalry or competition.
With the sprouting of many theological institutions and Bible schools in various places, there is a need for these theological education networks to come together, learn from each other and work together. Considering the changing global scenario of ecumenical theological education, the Ecumenical Theological Education of the World Council of Churches (ETE-WCC) brought together representatives from the Board of Theological Education-Senate of Serampore (BTESSC), Association of Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA), Asian Theological Association (ATA), Asia Pacific Theological Association (APTA), Association of Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM), Association of Theological Schools in Indonesia (PERSETIA), CCA and ecumenical partner organizations (FTE, EMW) to a workshop at Bangkok Institute of Theology in Bangkok, Thailand in July 2010, to consider the crucial tasks of theological education – e.g. theological faculty development, promotion of Asian theologies, and production of resources for theological education in Asia. Participants of the workshop affirmed the need to bring together all theological education networks in an Asian Forum on Theological Education.
Nature of AFTE
It is an all-Asian Theological FORUM FOR theological educators from mainline denominations, Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic churches, including Asian Diaspora, Christian partners and Asian theological networks.
- To bring together under a common umbrella the associations/networks of different denominational and church backgrounds in Asia for dialogue and cooperation in theological education;
- To promote holistic and relevant theological education;
To provide space for dialogue between regional associations of theological schools and theological networks on the following projects:
a. mutual recognition of academic degrees and diplomas awarded by various theological institutions
b. joint theological leadership institutes
c. joint theological publications
d. shared understanding of principles and standards of accreditation
e. faculty and student exchange among theological institutions
f. sharing on new ways and models of theological education and pedagogy such as distant learning models;
g. global and regional sharing resource in the area of theological education;
h. sharing and learning opportunities on doing theologies in multi-faith contexts in Asia.
- Towards Mutuality and Cooperation inTheological Education in Asia -
The spirit of mutuality and cooperation or "working together" as Christians is grounded in the teachings of Christ. Since time immemorial Christians of every tribe and nation have found it challenging to resist being exclusive. Church history reminds us of the fierce competition churches and denominations have undertaken to claim and defend their turf all in the name of Christ. Even Jesus’ disciples were not spared the competitive spirit. They complained about someone who cast out demons in Jesus’ name: “we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” But Jesus replied: “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” (Lk 9: 49,50). St. Paul also reminds us that we are many but one body in Christ. (ICor. 12.4-13, Eph. 4. 4-6).
It is in this cooperative spirit that we, the representatives of the Asia Pacific Theological Association (APTA), Asia Theological Association (ATA), Association for Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA), and the Senate of Serampore College, gathered together in Biblical Seminary of the Philippines, Manila on January 10-11, 2014, to discuss furthering mutual understanding and fellowship.
Toward this end, we the participants of this meeting commit ourselves to pursue these Strategic Directions for “Mutuality and Cooperation for Theological Education”
Critically cultivating mutual understanding and stronger fellowship
Exploring resource sharing
Collaborating, reviewing and improving accreditation practices
We will be considering the following:
1. Roundtable conversation to be hosted by the Senate of Serampore
2. Resources sharing such as faculty, student programs and library.
3. Reciprocal observation on accreditation activities
4. Research and documentation on variety of accreditation practices in theological education in Asia
Asia Pacific Theological Association Alex Fuentes
Asia Theological Association Takanori Kobayashi, Joseph Shao
Association for Theological Education in South East Asia Ngoei Foong Nghian, Limuel Equina
Senate of Serampore College Santanu Patro
Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia Lester Ruiz, H. S. Wilson
Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada Lester Ruiz
Ecumenical Theological Education WCC Dietrich Werner (through skype)
Asian Forum for Theological Education Huang Po Ho
Global Fellowship of Theological Educators Planning Group
May 15-16, 2014
Present: Dan Aleshire, Steve Bevans, David Esterline, Rosalee Ewell, Carlos Ham, Po Ho Huang, Manfred Kohl, Lester Ruiz, Dietrich Werner, H.S. Wilson
In the course of the two-day meeting held at McCormick Theological Seminary, the following agreements were reached:
1. The working name of the group is “Global Fellowship of Theological Educators: International Forum for Christian Leadership Development.” This name will be sent to the members of the Planning Group who were not able to attend the Chicago meeting, with the request that they affirm the name or make comments on ways it might be improved.
2. We are planning for a series of three meetings, the first to be a gathering of 120-150 held in either October/November 2015 or April/May 2016. The first meeting will likely be held in Germany; the following two meetings will be held in Africa or Asia.
3. The general theme for the first meeting will be “Preparing Christian Leaders in the 21st Century.”
4. The Planning Committee will meet January 16-17, 2015 in Germany—close to the site where the first main gathering will be held if that is possible. In order to add five or six members to the Planning Committee, specific assignments were given to individuals to identify and contact potential new members.
5. The Executive Committee will consist of Manfred Kohl, Joseph Shao, Wonsuk Ma, Rosalee Ewell, and David Esterline, with Dietrich Werner serving as consultant. The Executive Committee will meet in Europe (Frankfort, Berlin, or Oxford) on September 7-8, 2014. Manfred Kohl and David Esterline will serve as co-chairs through the planning process; that is, until a committee is identified to lead the first gathering.
6. Each member of the Planning Committee will receive a grid identifying the different faith streams (Protestant mainline, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Independent) and the geographical regions. Each member is encouraged to nominate people to be invited to the first gathering (with a brief indication of location and faith tradition as well as email address) and send the nominations to Manfred and David who will send them on the Planning Committee.
7. The following should be kept in mind when nominating people to attend: we are hoping for equal numbers of women and men and a strong representation of people under 40 as well as those more experienced. We would like influencers (or likely to become influencers), people who are committed to the church, and those who work in an interdisciplinary manner. We would like to avoid people who are exclusive and those not open to new ideas.
8. Dan, Dietrich, and David will collaborate in looking for funding, working on the principle that all participants should contribute something. The funding conversations will include provision for the Executive and Planning Committee meetings as well as the main gatherings and staffing. Manfred and David will draft a budget.
9. The street address printed on stationary will be 5460 S. University Ave., Chicago, IL 60615 USA; the names of the executive and co-chairs will be included.
10. Please share the news of this historic endeavor!