JAKARTA, Indonesia

Some 22 representatives of the major Asian associations of theological schools came together recently in Indonesia to discuss challenges for training of ministers and lay people in Asian churches and to set goals for a new forum on theological education.

The meeting, which was the first of the newly created “Asian Forum on Theological Education” (AFTE), took place here from Aug. 29-Sept. 1 and was hosted by the Evangelical Amanat Agung Theological Seminary.

After preparatory meetings in Bangkok (2010) and Singapore (2011), the three-day meeting was the broadest forum ever held in the region in terms of geographical and interdenominational participation.

The group agreed on guidelines spelling out the mandate and working mechanisms for the new forum, formulated a communiqué on the vision for their work, elected a continuation committee and decided to create a common website.

A comprehensive new publication on trends, challenges and needs in theological education in Asia was released during the event ―  Training to Be Ministers in Asia: Contextualizing Theological Education in Multi-Faith Contexts, by Dietrich Werner (PTCA Series No 3, 2012).

Also discussed were plans to publish a major Asian Handbook for Teaching on Ecumenism as well as cooperation with the Global Digital Library for Theology and Ecumenism, the global survey and research project on theological education and the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute planned for the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea, Oct. 30-Nov. 8, 2013.

The meeting was facilitated by the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Theological Education unit and prepared by an Asian coordination group led by Professor Huang Po Ho from Taiwan in cooperation with the Indonesian association of theological schools, PERSETIA.

“It is hoped that regional cooperation and exchange between the different Asian networks, churches and institutions of theological education will be greatly advanced by this new forum,” said Werner, the WCC’s program coordinator for Ecumenical Theological Education.

The partners at the conference committed themselves to increase cooperation among programs for theological education in Asia in order train leaders for church and society.

They called for more mutual learning through the exchange of theological resources between the different regions within Asia and more dialogue and sharing between different denominations and church traditions.

They also committed themselves to developing more effective mechanisms ensuring quality and relevant theological education and to increased mutual solidarity in providing support mechanisms and networks for newly emerging Christian communities in Asia.

Participants included official representatives from the following associations: Programme for Theology and Cultures (PTCA), Chang Jung Christian University Taiwan (CJCU), Association for Theological Education in South East Asia (ATESEA), Indonesian Association of Theological Schools (PERSETIA), Board of Theological Education of the Senate of Serampore India (BTESSC), Bangkok Institute of Theology (BIT) Thailand, Vietnam Christian Mission/Vietnamese Initiative for Theological Education, Association for Theological Education in Myanmar (ATEM), Asian Theological Association (ATA), Trinity College Singapore (TTS), Bangladesh Council of Churches/Bangladesh Theological Association, Korean Association of Theological Schools (KAATS), China Christian Council and the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (CCC/TSPM), Overseas Council - India, Australian Catholic University, North East India Theological Association (NEITA), Lutheran World Federation – Asian network on theological education, Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia (FTESEA).