Chinese Theological Review 17

From the Editor

Nanjing Union Theological Seminary celebrated its 50 th anniversary 31 October- 1 November, 2002. The opening ceremony was held in the auditorium of the imposing Nanjing headquarters of the Jiangsu People's Political Consultative Conference. Bishop K.H. Ting, principal of the Seminary, honorary President of the CCC and honorary Chair of the TSPM, welcomed the more than 400 alumni and 35 guests from Hong Kong and overseas. Rev. Cao Shengjie, President of the China Christian Council, Presbyter Ji Jianhong, Chair of the TSPM and Executive Vice-President of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary and Dr. Wenzao Han, General Secretary of the Amity Foundation, also spoke. It is perhaps a measure of the progress the Church, and by extension, the Seminary, has made in developing its public role in socialist society that church and seminary leaders were joined on the podium by government officials, including Ye Xiaowen, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, Zhu Weiqun of the National United Front Department, Associate Party Secretary of Jiangsu Province Wang Shouting and Party Secretary of Nanjing University Han Shingchen. Both church and government leaders and many overseas guests struck the theme of theological reconstruction, which Bishop Ting described as adapting theological thinking to social changes. Dr. Marvin D. Hoff, the executive director of the Foundation for Theological Education in South East Asia, brought greetings to the celebration from the FTE and its ten member denominations.

At an afternoon symposium, papers were read on heretical sects, theological education, pastoral care and psychological counseling, and factors affecting theological reconstruction. Two of these, Xu Xiaohong's assessment of factors hindering the progress of theological reconstruction, and Chen Yilu's appraisal of the state of theological education and areas for improvement, are included in this issue.

Ting also spoke at the symposium, presenting an appreciation of two friends who had played positive roles in the life of the Seminary, one from within the church, Y.T. Wu, a founder of the TSPM and one from outside, Luo Zhufeng, a Religious Affairs Bureau official from Shanghai. In the early 1950s, Y.T. Wu not only encouraged the church, fiscally weakened by the loss of western support, to move boldly toward the establishment of its own, self-supported, institution of theological education; he was even more "concerned with how we should manage to keep up with the times and what sort of theology we should have to equip the students and staff of our seminaries, what we would impart to our clergy and through them, to the church and our Christian believers." In remembering Mr. Luo, Bishop Ting underscored another theme of the events: the timely and encouraging role of sympathetic and far-sighted government officials in the ongoing implementation of the policy of religious freedom in China and in the development of the seminary.

""Fullness' and "Emptiness'," the sermon preached by Presbyter Ji Jianhong, Chairperson of the TSPM, at the chapel service during the celebrations, is also included here.

In these articles and in the four selections from Bible, Faith, Church (Shanghai: CCC/TSPM, 2001), a collection of recent writings by K.H. Ting, we find what might be called an apologetic for theological reconstruction. The case is made for the naturalness and indeed the inevitability of changes and adjustments in theological viewpoints in response to changes in culture, society, economics and politics throughout the history of the Christian Church. Theological views arise and gain support in a particular context or historical period, and lose ground or are downplayed for the same reason. These changes, Ting emphasizes in these essays, do not threaten or affect basic faith. Less emphasis on the distinction between believers and unbelievers and on justification by faith alone are seen as key to enlivening theology and opening up a broader role for the church in the rapidly modernizing context of Chinese society. The need for better-informed overtures to intellectuals is also a concern.

Three essays, those by Chen Yongtao, Li Xinnong and Yang Donglong, follow the spirit of theological reconstruction in their exploration of possible directions for Chinese theology. Chen draws on three culture-based metaphors to explore the contours of an ethical christology which would be more accessible in Chinese culture than the traditional christologies inherited from the West: a bowl, the sun and the image of the suffering mother. All three resonate against the large background of the concept of tao . Li examines what faith in practice means in the Chinese context and its implications for a Chinese ecclesiology. He looks at efforts to contextualize the Christian message in other Asian societies and what this has to say to Chinese theologians. "We must believe that the Holy Spirit is leading us to understand in context what God wants us to do, and what the text is saying to us Chinese theologians today as we do our own theology (p. 58). Yang Donglong considers some of the contradictions in the relationship between Christianity and culture and society in China: belief/unbelief; the challenge of folk religion; ecumenism/patriotism; and this world vs. an other-worldly faith. He sees possibilities in the dialogue around these issues and calls for a broader and more positive interpretation by Christians and greater understanding by non-Christians. The secularism of modern society and the threat of superstition posed by folk religion, especially in rural areas, are seen as two of the greatest challenges to the church at present.

The issue concludes with Chen Kuanrong's consideration of the presentation of women disciples in Mark, a paper by Lin Manhong presented at a meeting on peace, justice and people's security, and three talks given during the CCC/TSPM visit to the World Council of Churches in April, 2003.

I am grateful to the authors of essays included here who have allowed their work to be shared, either in English original or in translation. Any errors in representing their work are entirely my own. Quotations from books in languages other than Chinese which could not be consulted in standard English translation have been made indirect to minimize the pitfalls of back translation.

The various levels of church bodies and offices are referred to as CCC or TSPM with appropriate regional modifiers (local/ regional, etc.) or (at the national level) CCC/TSPM.

Biblical quotations are taken from the NRSV, unless another version has been used in an original English piece.

Thanks are, as always, due to the FTE for its continuing support of this journal and in particular to Dr. Marvin Hoff and Mrs. Joanne Hoff.

Janice Wickeri
San Anselmo