Chinese Theological Review 17

Two Staunch Friends of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary: Y.T. Wu and Luo Zhufeng


As we celebrate the 50 th anniversary of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, we naturally want to remember our many colleagues and friends. I want to speak about two of them particularly: Y.T. Wu and Luo Zhufeng.

There are so many things worth remembering about Y.T. Wu. I want to mention just one—how in a Chinese church which had little regard for theology or even reason, he stressed the importance of theology and theological training and thereby won a solid standing for Christianity among Chinese people, especially in intellectual circles. In the early 1950s, China had many seminaries of all sizes, which were very scattered and depended for financial support on mission boards in the U.K. and U.S. When the Korean War broke out, and the U.S. government froze all financial transactions between the U.S. and China, these institutions were thrown into chaos, with no way to support their staffs. There were voices in the church then that spoke only of things spiritual; these voices proposed safeguarding the churches and leaving the seminaries to sink or swim.

Y.T. Wu resolutely advocated for uniting the seminaries to be self-sufficient and to see the difficulty through together, without abandoning a single teacher. This raised confidence among colleagues and co-workers, and over a dozen seminaries in east China first came together in Nanjing to form Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, retaining a large group of staff and financial strength, though it was hard going initially.

Later, about a dozen northern seminaries, with their staff and students joined Nanjing Union Theological Seminary as well. Y.T. pointed out that our guiding principle in this union must be to respect each other in matters of faith and practice.

But the establishment of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary and the support of a few other seminaries could not satisfy Y.T. Wu. He was more concerned with how we should manage to keep up with the times, and what sort of theology we would have to equip our students, staff, the Chinese churches, our clergy colleagues and Chinese Christians in general. This was a question of the renewal and upbuilding of theology, which at times could hardly be managed. It is for us now—his successors—to continue Y.T.'s legacy in promoting theological reconstruction.

The second person I would like to speak about is someone many of us remember often: Comrade Luo Zhufeng. When Nanjing Union Theological Seminary was first established, he was head of the Religious Affairs Bureau of East China and a frequent visitor to the seminary. His humble, sincere and friendly attitude made him many staunch friends here.

In recent years, we have often heard it said that the government should strengthen its oversight of religion, as if cadres were managers who had no need of oversight themselves, and those in religious circles were not in control, but only objects of this oversight. When Luo Zhufeng came to the seminary, he seemed like someone here to learn or a friend; everyone found him very accessible. He always said that though he was not a Christian, still, the fact was that Christianity had a two-thousand-year history, so many theologians, the fruits of whose study were accepted by so many, and that all this was part of our human heritage. In a large nation like China there must be some who were familiar with and studied Christianity; China could not be left behind in this area. He also said that if one day he were no longer a cadre involved in government religious work, he would like to become a student of Christian theology and even a scholar of theology. Those who pursue a nar-rowly-define "spirituality" tend to discount theology, while Luo, a Communist intellectual, thought so highly of it. It is worth mentioning that Luo later wrote a book Religion under Chinese Socialism , a scholarly affirmation that religion is not an opiate.

During the Cultural Revolution, some rebel factions in Shanghai turned up an essay I had published in the Nanjing Theological Review in 1957, "On Christian Theism." They claimed it was my way of propagating theism and had to be criticized. I heard that they had big character posters ready. But Luo Zhufeng opposed them. He said that even the head of the Party School propagated atheism—was that any different from the head of a seminary publishing an essay on theism? Because of Luo's intellectual acumen, the rebel factions were unable to argue with him, and so he was able to protect me. He was a true friend. He himself came under attack as well—the rebel faction forced him to live in a dark corner where he could not even stand up straight. Yet he did not forget to protect a friend. I have always been immensely moved by Luo's example.

Talk delivered during celebrations of 50th anniversary of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.
Nanjing Theological Review, 4 (2002): 23-24.