Rereading the Bible in the Context of the Mekong Region
Despite the many things that Asian countries are proud of as their heritage and achievements, millions of migrant and daily wage workers, the elderly and disabled, women and children, and students and young people continue to be exposed to multiple forms and experiences of suffering and struggle. Economic injustice, political repression, human trafficking and climate crises continue to fragment and diminish the lives and communities. Fear and uncertainties, violence and oppression, and threats and disasters are the common experiences of most Asian people.
No proper formal theological schools exist in Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Most of the church leaders are lay people and the churches are sustained by lay leaders short-term training program since there is no opportunity to go for higher theological studies. Recognizing the potential of re-reading the Bible, the Program for Theology and Cultures in Asia (PTCA) launched this project: “Contextual Reading of the Bible” to help church leaders learn skills and methodologies to read afresh with a better awareness of the lived realities of the people, The trainer’s workshop on “Rereading the Bible in the context of Mekong Region” focused on the life and people in the Mekong region to impart skills and methodologies to make their interpretation of the Biblical text relevant and purposeful in their context, and their ministry effective. The trainer’s workshop was held at the Bangkok Institute of Theology (BIT) from 5-9 December 2023. Pastors and theological educators from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam participated. Experts and skilled leaders provided rich resources and training to read the Bible in context and engage the social and economic realities of the Mekong region with prophetic vision.
The value of the workshop was summed up comprehensively in the words of a participant, “this is the first time I have learned about the Bible and context and I will share with my community by working with other groups.” Overall, the workshop was appreciated and inspiring. The workshop was sponsored by the Foundation for Theological Education in Asia Pacific (FTEAP).
Under the theme, “The understanding of Christian Education (CE) in Asia”, ATESEA Mentors and Research Students Conference for Christian Education, held from September 21-22, 2023 in Bangkok. Altogether 24 in-person and 37 online participated in the conference. As part of ATESEA-SERAMPORE exchange program, 5 research students from the South Asia Theological Research Institute (SATHRI) were invited. FTESEA supported this exchange program. 12 research papers highlighted the contexts, practices, and issues that influence the current understanding of Christian Education and other related issues in Asia. On the second day, a workshop was organized to identify the unique Asian understanding of Christian Education for integration into the curriculum of the theological institutions, which would eventually trickle down to the CE programs of the churches.
ATESEA Women’s Conference on Gender Justice, September 19-20, 2023
The ATESEA Women’s Conference on Gender Justice was organized on September 19 & 20, 2023 in Bangkok. 25 persons via Zoom and 17 in person attended the conference. The Conference brought together women’s faculty members to share their reflections and stories on the issues surrounding gender justice and other concerns facing Asian women in their respective countries. In the light of sharing their stories and experiences, a lecture-workshop on Gender Equity in the Curriculum was organized on the second day of the conference to transform the existing curriculum on gender justice. It was affirmed that gender justice is not a women’s issue alone, and therefore, the participants recommended the organizer maintain equal participation of gender in future programs.
The first regional FTESEA-sponsored project on Religion, Gender and Sexuality was held from August 18-21, 2023, at the Senate of Serampore College. The Senate and the National Ecumenical Forum for Gender and Sexual Diversities of NCCI jointly organized it. The event included the presentation of research papers, story sharing and immersion in LGBTQI+ community in Kolkata city. The presence of members of the LGBTIQA+ community, church leaders, activists and theological teachers belonging to different faith communities from South Asian countries made the conference unique, and the participants were able to share the first-hand experience of different layers of discrimination in the church and society. It was clear that despite promoting gender issues by churches and theological institutions like the Senate of Serampore College (Uni) for the last three decades, the success story is minimal. Gender and sexuality as a discourse and theological reflection remain at the margin. There is a continuing perception in South Asian countries that Gender is a women’s issue. LGBTIQI+ issue is still a taboo. Though the Senate has introduced a course on human sexuality [BTE51] for the Bachelor of Divinity degree program, only a few colleges offer it.
Feminist theology is offered as a compulsory course, but the impact on the Church has not been much due to the entrenched patriarchal mindset. This lacuna calls for a re-orientation of theological educators on gender and sexuality is critical if seminaries/colleges are to embrace gender justice as a core value in theological formation. The Senate plans to launch a theological orientation program in different regions in the coming years. FTESEA accompaniment in this issue is highly appreciated.
The Institute of South Asia/India Academy of Campus Ministry
The Institute of South Asia/India Academy of Campus Ministry took place from August 21-31, 2023, at Serampore. The institute was hosted by the South Asia Theological Research Institute (SATHRI). The United Board supported secular faculty from Christian Colleges in India, and the Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (FTESEA) supported faculty from theological colleges from South Asian countries. The Institute was designed to help teachers to carry forward their mission as campus ministers. The course covers a wide range of issues to help participants understand the holistic understanding of intersection between campus ministry and broader societal challenges. Along with biblical foundation and theoretical approaches to caring ministry, the course was designed to provide practical skills to nurture the mental health and well-being of students, counseling, nurture, compassion, and mentorship, especially in a Media-Addicted world.
Participants of the Institute of South Asian Campus Ministry
Assisting Anglican Seminary Deans Network Development
In March 2023,the second gathering of the Anglican Seminary Deans Network (ASDN) brought together the Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar, FTESEA Executive Director, along with Archbishop Paul Kwong, Ming Hua (Hong Kong), Dean Simon Ro, Sungkonghoe (Seoul), Dean Andrew Nakamura, Central Theological College (Tokyo), Dr. Tim Pan, Taiwan School of Christian Ministry (Taipei), and Convener, Dean Gloria Mapangdol, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary (Manila). Guest speakers also included representatives from the Anglican Communion, and Trinity Church Wall Street. Dr. Longchar shared current FTESEA priorities to promote Faculty Development, Women’s Leadership Initiatives, and support for digital and library resources. A $5,000 grant was approved by the FTESEA Executive Committee, to help strengthen ecumenical activities by pooling existing resources and facilitating regional faculty development. This grant could assist regional Anglican seminary deans to meet face-to-face in Japan in November 2023.
The denominational effort HS Wilson and Peter Ng started in 2015, now facilitated by Fr. Bruce Woodcock, The Episcopal Church (TEC) Asia and the Pacific Partnership Officer, will promote regional collaboration due to vast similarities of resource development interests, challenges, and needs. The ASDN will be part of a global Commission for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC). In his presentation, the Rev. Canon Stephen Spencer, Anglican Communion Theological Educationand Lambeth Conference Implementation Advisor, noted that 36 out of 42 Anglican provinces are now represented. In response to the 2022 Lambeth Conference, TEAC will be focusing on these areas of theology: Safeguarding and Safe Church; Reconciliation; Intentional Discipleship; Science and Faith; and Oppression and Freedom.
Trinity Church Wall Street (TCWS) Leadership Development Initiative presentationsby Dr. Robert Garris, Managing Director, Leadership Development Initiative, and the Rev. Tony Tian-Ren Lin, Trinity Fellows Program Director, shared three areas to assist churches in lay and ordained leadership training: 1) support for institutions to integrate faith, practical skills, and leadership; 2) developingTrinity Leadership Fellows program participants as faith leaders; and, 3) a partnership with the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) to develop hybrid theological education resources for clergy and faculty. TCWS conversations with church leaders and lay people of faith have emphasized a need for new forms of leadership development; by providing clergy with faith-anchored practical skills and mindsets to lead congregations, teams, projects, and communities, and lay people of faith with practical skills to lead in a secular world.
The ASDN will virtually meet again on June 23 to identify topics for in-person workshops to promote sharing library/online resources/papers; faculty exchange and enrichment (sabbaticals, faculty development, graduate studies); student exchange exposures, online lectures on selected topics for faculty and students; spiritual retreats; leadership and management skill training for heads of institutions and potential leaders among senior students; and linkages with other seminaries. Anglican seminary deans will next be invited from South Pacific Provinces of Australia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and ANZP (Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia).
ASDN March 2023 participants included Archbishop Paul Kwong, Ming Hua (Hong Kong), Dean Simon Ro, Sungkonghoe (Seoul), Dean Andrew Nakamura, Central Theological College (Tokyo), Dr. Tim Pan, Trinity School for Christian Ministry (Taipei), and the ASDN Convener, Dean Gloria Mapangdol, St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary (Manila). Observers and guests shown above include the meeting facilitator, Fr. Bruce Woodcock (TEC), Dr. Rob Garris and Rev. Tony Lin (TCWS), Canon Stephen Spencer (TEAC) and Dr. Wati Longchar (FTESEA).
Call to Theological Re-orientation of Theological Educators on Gender Justice
The introductory virtual meeting FTESEA project on “Religion, Gender & Sexuality” in the Asia-Pacific region met on the 10th of March in Asia (and 9th of March in US/Canada). Thirty-one participants attended the meeting from seven regions – Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, and the Pacific. Rev. Dr. David Esterline, Rev. Dr. J. Dorcas Gordon, and Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar represented FTESEA. Recognizing that much work has been done during the last two decades on gender issues in theological education and the ministerial formation program of the churches, the meeting was organized to share, listen, think, and plan activities toward realizing an inclusive community for all.
The introductory meeting focused on the following issues: (a) How does your school/region define gender and how do you define sexuality? b) What is happening in your region/schools on “Religion, Gender and Sexuality”? c) What challenges do you face in addressing the issues in your schools? d) What are the possibilities in moving forward toward an inclusive community? e) How do you plan to initiate the project in your region?
The challenges across regions were similar. Though many significant changes are taking place in the church and theological institutions, Gender and Sexuality as a topic for discourse and theological reflection in theological education and formation is still at the “elective” level. In addition, most regions are still at the “Gender is a women’s issue” level and have not progressed toward including LGBTIQ+ and other marginalized-related topics.
All the speakers affirm that religion, gender, and sexuality affect everyone, and are thus a core human rights and justice issue, not just issues and concerns for women. This key understanding of gender as a justice issue seems to be not yet shared by the majority of theological educators. Therefore, FTESEA’s intentional engagement on theological re-orientation of theological educators on gender is critical if we want our seminaries to embrace gender justice as a core value in theological formation. This theological re-orientation on gender will consequently re-orient curriculum content and teaching processes. All the regions felt the need to map, plan, and strategize a way forward in this direction. FTESEA also affirms its commitment to faculty formation on gender justice.
In addition to different theological re-orientation activities of theological educators in the region, it was suggested that a “trainer of trainers” workshop be organized in 2024, in collaboration with the United Board. Furthermore, an editorial committee will review the papers of the regional workshops and publish them as a resource book both in English and different regional languages.
Theological Education Accompaniment -Group (TEA-G) Planning Meeting.
The TEA-G project is co-sponsored by the Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (FTESEA) and the International Ministries (IM) of American Baptist Churches initiated by Rev. Dr. Ben Chan and Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar.
To strengthen the vision and mission of FTESEA, the first planning meeting to form a Theological Education Accompaniment – Group (TEA-G) was successfully conducted via Zoom on February 16, 2023. Representatives of Baptist colleges/seminaries and universities which provide doctoral study programs in India, Myanmar, and the Philippines actively brainstormed how their schools may share resources and build synergy, especially in the area of faculty development, mutual exchange program, theological research, joint publication, digitization of theological materials, and contextualization of Asian theologies. Participants of the meeting agree to have the first in-person conference this year in June/July, either at Central Philippine University, Iloilo, or Eastern Theological College, Assam.
Participants in Planning Meeting
Association for Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM)
Association for Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM) launches two new books (a) A History of Churches in Myanmar (b) Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (translation in Burmese). The FTESEA, along with other partners, supported the book project, View Details
Celebration of the Life of Peter Ng – Jan 21 at 10:30 am Eastern (Zoom Option Available)
Zoom offering is being explored. Kindly RSVP to [email protected] if you wish to receive a link
Keep the faith, stay safe and be healthy
Wu Pei-Shih 吳培世
FTESEA Condolences for Canon Peter Ng
Dear FTESEA friends and colleagues,
By now many of you have heard the sad news about the passing on Saturday of our dear friend and faithful servant of the church. Notes of condolence have been arriving throughout the week, like the attached from the FTESEA website which we are sharing with the family, with thanks to H.S. Wilson. If you would like to share an address for Annie Ng, letters and condolence cards may be sent to her at : 197-15 46th Avenue, Bayside, NY 11358
For those who were close friends, Peter’s daughter Pattie Lamarsh has offered her email address as well, to convey messages to Annie at: [email protected]
Funeral arrangements are as follows: Chun Fook Funeral Services 134-35 Northern Blvd Flushing NY 718-353-2218. The viewing will be held on Tuesday, December 20 from 3 PM to 6 PM.
There will be a celebration of Peter’s life in 2023, at which we will share official condolences as well. I will be honored to represent the FTESEA Board at these services.
Peter’s illness progressed quickly, with a diagnosis of bone and liver cancer in October. Chemotherapy was no longer an option by the end of November. He was hospitalized very briefly during the first week of December, and then moved to his daughter’s home for hospice care on Dec 6th. Peter Ng passed away on Saturday December 10th surrounded by his family. We can take comfort that Peter is now at peace, having felt ‘surrounded by God’s love’ and blessed not to suffer pain from his condition any longer. Please keep Peter’s family, including wife Annie and children Pattie and Benjamin, in your thoughts at this challenging time of bereavement.
ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, to whom there is never any prayer made without hope of mercy, be merciful to the soul of your faithful servant, Peter, being departed from this world in the confession of your Holy Name that he and all the departed may be welcomed into the company of thy saints, through Christ our Lord.
Rest eternal grant him, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon him. May our brother, Peter, rest in peace. Amen
Pax Christi, with Advent blessings,
https://youtu.be/42gHvYZ_3n0 Giving Thanks (music from Peter’s FB page)
The Rev. Bruce W. Woodcock
Asia and the Pacific Partnership Officer, The Episcopal Church
815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017 USA
Asia-Pacific Theological Educator Conference – Serampore – November 29-December 1, 2022, View Report
HS Wilson addressing Serampore Convocation on 28th Nov. 2022
Presentation in BTESSC Seminar on 24th November, 2022 – H. S. Wilson, View Details
Annual Meeting of the FTESEA Board of Trustees – Manila – October 27-28, 2022
FTESEA Board members visiting Union Theological Seminary, Manila – October 2022
Planning meeting for Consultation on Religion, Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, September 29-30, 2022 at Manila
Consultation on Faculty Development and Formation in Asia and the Pacific. September 25-28, 2022 at Manila, View Report
Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) at the WCC Assembly at Karlsruhe, Germany, Aug 26 to Sept 9, 2022
108 younger theologians from around the globe who took part in the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute (GETI) that took place in conjunction with the WCC Assembly at Karlsruhe, Germany from Aug 26 to Sept 9. Twenty facilitators, two chaplains and nine plenary speakers assisted in the program. FTESEA partially supported the GETI to enable participants from Asia.
Chinese Scholars Meet with H. S. Wilson at World Council of Churches 11th Assembly
Executive Director H.S. Wilson met Rev. Feng Tian and Ms. Qian Feng, candidates from the China Christian Council who are currently enrolled at the WCC Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland on the occasion of the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe, Germany (September 1, 2022). Their academic program is partiallysupported by FTESEA.
General Assembly of the Association for Theological Education in Southeast Asia (ATESEA)
The 2022 ATESEA General Assembly was held at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City, Philippines from July 18-20, 2022. The theme of the Assembly was “Harnessing the Winds of Change in Theological Education.” The keynote speakers were Dr. Frank Yamada, Executive Director and Dr. Lester Ruiz, Director of Accredition and Global Engagement of the Association of Theological Schools in the US and Canada. Dr. Dorcas Gordon, Chair and Dr. H.S. Wilson, Executive Director of FTESEA participated in the Assembly. Dr. Gordon addressed the Assembly providing an update on the ministries of FTESEA and H.S. Wilson brought greetings on behalf of the Board of Trustees of FTESEA. In Appreciation of the service of Dr. H.S. Wilson, the Chairperson of ATESEA awarded a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the member seminaries of ATESEA. Dr. Tan Kim Haut (Trinity Theological College, Singapore) was reelected as the Chairperson and Dr. Limuel Equina was reelected as the Executive Director for the triennium. The FTESEA Board of Trustees congratulates them and the new board of trustees and looks forward to continuing the 65 year long partnership since ATESEA was formed in 1957.
Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar Selected as Next Executive Director
The Board of the Foundation for Theological Education in Southeast Asia (FTESEA) met on May 9, 2022 and selected the Rev. Dr. Wati Longchar as the next Executive Director. Dr. Longchar will take office on January 1, 2023. He will succeed the Rev. Dr. Henry (H.S.) Wilson who will retire at the end of 2022. Dr. Wilson has served as Executive Director for sixteen years.
Click here for the full press release regarding the appointment.
Chinese Theological Review Goes Online
Beginning with issue #31 (June 2022), the Chinese Theological Review will be made available online on the FTESEA website. Janice Wickeri, editor of 30 issues of CTR dating from 1985, handed over the editorial responsibility to Dr. Theresa Carino in 2021. The FTESEA Board has recorded its great gratitude to Janice Wickeri for her 35 years of service as editor.
The back copies of CTR stored at the Office of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Hong Kong have been distributed to member seminaries of the Association of Theological Schools in Myanmar (ATEM), the Association of Theological schools in Indonesia (PERSETIA). A few copies are being held at the office of the Association for Theological Education in Southeast Asia (ATESEA) to be made available to its member seminaries at the Assembly of ATESEA later in the year.
FTESEA mourns the death of Rev Dr. Ching-fen Hsiao
The members of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation of Theological Education in Southeast Asia were saddened to hear of the death on November 26, 2021 at the age of 86, of one of its former stalwart members, Rev. Dr. Ching-fen Hsiao. Dr. Hsiao served on the Board as a representative of the United Church of Christ (UCC), while serving as the UCC Area Secretary for East Asia and the Pacific. After a period as Vice Chair, from 1990 to 2002, he gave leadership to FTESEA as its Chair. During his years on the Board, Dr. Hasio was of immense help in re-establishing FTESEA’s relationship with its historical associate, Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, and other newly formed seminaries founded since the 1980s through the Commission on Theological Education of the China Christian Council. FTESEA’s Board members express their heartfelt condolences to Dr. Hsiao’s wife, Peggy, their three children, their families, and to his extended family as well as his large circle of friends.
Retirement of Rev. Dr. H. S. Wilson
In 2019 the Reverend Doctor H.S. Wilson informed the FTESEA Board of Trustees of his intention to retire at the end of December 2021. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its interruption in the ongoing work of FTESEA, Dr Wilson, at the Board’s encouragement, agreed to stay on as Executive Director until the end of December 2022.
With wisdom, generosity of spirit and endless energy, Dr. Wilson has served the foundation unstintingly. He began his work with FTESEA in 2007, serving first in India as a consultant, and since 2014 as the full-time Executive Director. Dr. Wilson has worked diligently to foster relationships not only with FTESEA’s historic associates but also more broadly with many ecumenical organizations working in theological education in Asia and the Pacific. He has flown to Asia more times in a single year than many fly in a lifetime, convinced that networking through face-to-face encounters is the best way to foster understanding and respect. During his tenure, programs, developed in partnership with FTESEA’s historic associates and other ecumenical partners, have taken place based on FTESEA three priorities: Supporting faculty development, Promoting women’s leadership and Enhancing the development of digital and print library resources and facilitating the training of librarians in Asia.
The Board of Trustees has appointed a Search Committee and the work has begun. More information can be found below.
Search for new Executive Director announced
FTESEA Executive Director Dr. H. S. Wilson will retire at the end of December 2022 and the Board has announced a search for a new Executive Director to begin October 1, 2022. Please click here to see the job description.
FTESEA Annual Board Meeting – October 15-16, 2021
The FTESEA Board of Trustees met at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan
Conversation with the officials of FTESEA ecumenical colleagues in North America and Globethics in Switzerland – May 14, 2021.
On May 14, 2021 the FTESEA Executive Committee met by Zoom with ecumenical colleagues representing sister organizations in North America and Switzerland: Dr. Christine Hong (the Asian and Asian North American Theological Educators), Dr. Lester Ruiz (the Association for Theological Schools in USA and Canada), Dr. Wonsuk Ma (the Global Forum of Theological Educators), Mr. Andreas Waldvogel (Globethics), Dr. Kwok Pui (the Pacific, Asian and North American Asian Women in theology and ministry), Dr. Tat-Siong Benny Liew and Dr. Monica Melanchthon (the Society of Asian Biblical Studies). The conversation began with a brief presentation on the FTESEA process of reviewing its ministry and mission to which our colleagues responded in relation to the respective programs of their organizations. The focus then turned to the impact of pandemic and the challenges it has raised for the immediate future. Our conversation concluded with suggestions as to what our North American and Globethics colleagues see and hope for in their continued programmatic relationship with FTESEA in promotion of transformative theological education in North America and Asia.
Conversation with the officials of FTESEA ecumenical colleagues in Asia – May 12/13, 2021
On May 12, 2021 the FTESEA Executive Committee met by Zoom with ecumenical colleagues representing sister organizations in Asia: Dr. Po Ho Huang (Asian Forum for Theological Movements)), Dr. Lal Tin Hre (the Association for Theological Education in Myanmar), Rev. Hsiu Yin Chan (the Asian Women’s Resource Center), Rev. Arnel Faller and Hilda Putong (the Forum of Asian Theological Librarians), Rev. Lenta Simbolon (the Association of Theological Schools in Indonesia), Wati Longchar (Program on Theology and Cultures in Asia) Dr. Limatula Longchar (South Asia Theological Research Institute of the Senate of Serampore College), Dr. Wai Ching Wong and Dr. Hope Antone (United Board for Christian Higher Education). The conversation began with a brief presentation on the FTESEA process of reviewing its ministry and mission to which our colleagues responded in terms of their own ministries. The focus then turned to the impact of pandemic and the challenges it has raised for the immediate future. Our conversation concluded with suggestions as to what our Asian colleagues see and hope for in their continued relationship with FTESEA as together we seek to promote theological education that strengthens the ministries of Christian communities in Asia.
South Pacific Association of Theological Schools (SPATS) Accreditation Follow-up Workshop, February 11, 2021
The SPATS Accreditation Follow-up Workshop was held at the SPATS Secretariat Board room in Nasese, Fiji. Participants from the following colleges/seminaries took part in the workshop: 1. Davuilevu Theological College 2. Pacific Regional Seminary 3. Pacific Theological College 4. Methodist Deaconess Training Centre 5. St John the Baptist Theological College 6. Methodist Lay Training Center. The workshop was partly supported by FTESEA grant.
Conversation with the representatives of FTESEA Ecumenical Associates, February 22, 2021
On February 22, 2021 the FTESEA Executive Committee members had a Zoom meeting with the representatives of its ecumenical associates: Dr. Wen Ge, Mr. Job Zhou (Nanjing Union Theological Seminary), Dr. Manhong Lin (China Christian Council), Dr. Tan Kim Haut and Dr. Limuel Equina (ATESEA), Dr. Ioan Sauca and Dr. Kuzipa Nalwamba (WCC). The conversation focused on the following: the vision our associates have for their ministries in coming three to five years and their expectations for how FTESEA might accompany them in that process. Other areas of conversation important to FTESEA’s visioning process included their feedback on FTESEA increasing focus on actively initiating and engaging in consultations for the mutual benefit of theological education in Asia and the Pacific.