by Jonathan Chao
I. THE CHURCH IN CRISIS During the twenty-five years following World War II, most countries in Asia underwent drastic transformations. The result has been the formation of a Westernized, secularized, urbanized Asian society in which the conflicting values of the East and West, ancient and modern, have been thrown together without a common framework for integration.
I. THE CHURCH IN CRISIS
During the twenty-five years following World War II, most countries in Asia underwent drastic transformations. The result has been the formation of a Westernized, secularized, urbanized Asian society in which the conflicting values of the East and West, ancient and modern, have been thrown together without a common framework for integration. The emerging younger churches of Asia, many of them still under the tutelage of paternalistic missionaries, have been struggling for self-identity amidst nationalistic aspirations. They are caught in the midst of such movements as industrialization, nationalism and nation-building, the rise of an educated younger elate, and the increasing influence of mass media.
The emerging Protestant Church in Taiwan is a good example of a younger church that has been caught between the rapid changes in Asian society and the traditional concepts and practices of the church transmitted from the West. The church in Taiwan is in a serious crisis.1 It is bewildered and uneasy because it does not know how to minister to its people. The crisis was caused by the impact of the changing Asian society on the one hand and by the failure of the church to train adequate leaders in response to the changing society. Many pastors confess that they cannot cope with the new situation. Young people by-pass the clergy in search of meaning for their faith in a secular context.
This crisis situation is driving many to re-evaluate Western concepts and practices of the ministry. This re-evaluation causes us to rethink the whole question of theological education in the Chinese church in Taiwan.
II. THE DEVELOPMENT OF THEOLOGICAL SCHOOLS IN TAIWAN, 1876-1971
Since the British Presbyterians started the Tainan Theological College in 1876, thirty-nine seminaries and Bible schools have been founded in Taiwan; of these, twenty-six are currently in operation. Such a large number of theological schools on such a small island is quite understandable both from the standpoint of history and from the standpoint of the individualistic nature of evangelical missions.
The historical development of Protestant theological schools in Taiwan may be divided into three periods, which coincide with the political state of the land.
A. Period I (pre-1951). Prior to the coming of the Nationalist Central Government to Taiwan in 1949, and with it a large number of government officials, military personnel and refugees, Taiwan had been predominantly an agricultural island with Taiwanese language and sub-culture. The Protestants had been predominantly Presbyterians. Their first missionaries landed in 1865. The Presbyterian Church, while it still received missionary assistance in manpower and money, had already by 1949 attained a considerable degree of independence. The Presbyterians in Taiwan are not quite a "younger church." During this period there were only four theological schools in operation, three belonging to the Presbyterian Church, and one to the Holiness Church.
B. Period II (1951-1961). However, the Korean Wear brought a new and significant dimension to missions in Taiwan. With the Korean War came the renewal of Sino-American relations; the sending of the U.S.Seventh Fleet to the Taiwan Straight; the resumption of U.S. military and economic aid, and the subsequent ambassadorial exchange and the mutual-defense pact.2 This military security and the subsequent political stability gave foreign mission boards the green light to send both old missionaries, who used to work on the Mainland, and new missionaries to Taiwan to take care of the "refugee flocks" of their respective denominations and to evangelize the local Taiwanese. There was practically no mutual consultation or coordination among the mission boards; this was especially true of the evangelicals. The result: denominational multiplication and Protestant fragmentation, squeezing into Taiwan what used to be spread throughout China.
During this second period, 1951-1961, nineteen new schools were founded. Of these, seventeen were founded by evangelicals; eleven by denominations, two by mission societies, and four by individual missionaries. In 1952 alone five seminaries were founded! An evangelistic boom occurred during the 1950's. Refugees felt homeless. Land reform uprooted the farmers and enhanced rural evangelism. A general sense of insecurity prevailed. Experienced missionaries were available. All of these factors contributed to both superficial and real successes for "harvesting." Consequently, numerous churches and chapels were founded under missionary efforts, and every mission group felt an immediate need to train Chinese evangelists and pastors.
Church planting was understood in terms of planting denominational churches. Accordingly, each denomination opened up its own seminary to train ministers for its own denominational ministry. Hence, seminaries and Bible schools mushroomed along denominational and missionary society lines of demarcation. The decade of the 1950's was, therefore, the period of founding denominational and mission-operated theological schools. The pattern: American Bible schools or seminaries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as modified by mission experiences on Mainland China; the students: willing converts; the standard: junior high and senior high graduates; the staff: missionaries.
C. Period III (1962-1971). As Taiwan entered the decade of the 1960's, industrialization, commercialization and urbanization accelerated at a rapid rate, resulting in a significant shift in living standards for the people. This change sharply affected the church. There was a serious decline in evangelistic returns; difficulties for the pastoral ministry mounted. Evangelism and church growth reached a plateau by the mid-1960's and began to decline in some cases.
The development of theological schools in this period was marked by three characteristics:
1. Drop in enrollment. Twelve seminaries and Bible schools closed between 1962-71 (some of them merged afterwards.)
2. The tendency toward union. In 1960 the Methodists and the Episcopalians joined the Presbyterians and clustered their efforts around Tainan Theological College. In 1966 Calvin Theological Institute (Christian Reformed Church) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church Theological Class merged to form the United Calvin College, which closed down again in 1970. In 1969 the Missouri Synod Concordia Seminary and the Lutheran Seminary merged to form the Federated Lutheran Seminary. Beginning in 1965, under the leadership of Rev. James H. Taylor, Jr. of the Free Methodist Mission, several evangelical missions talked of establishing a union seminary. This was unsuccessful primarily because the missions were not willing to close down their own denominational seminaries. However, in 1970, the China Evangelical Seminary was formed with the help of a few Chinese leaders from free local churches. The Church of the Nazarene, the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society, the Evangelical Covenant Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, the Oriental Missionary Society, Overseas Crusades, Overseas Missionary Fellowship, and Worldwide Evangelization Crusade participated in this joint effort. While participating in this united effort, however, these missions continued to operate their own denominational seminaries and Bible schools for high school and junior high graduates.
3. The emergence of small primitive Chinese efforts. Six "seminaries" were founded and operated by individual Chinese who have never had higher training in theology. These schools are no more than evening adult lay training efforts; some even conduct business classes for non-Christians under the coverage of a "seminary" because they can not get a permit from the Ministry of Education.
Looking back on twenty years, we can see that the multiplication of theological seminaries and Bible schools has been done primarily by evangelical mission groups, and secondarily by evangelical missionary individuals and Chinese individuals. These schools opened and closed in response to the immediate evangelistic needs as perceived by missions or individuals. There was a conspicuous lack of planning and coordination among mission boards and missionaries on the field. The theological educators involved settled for low educational standards. From the Chinese perspective, one receives the impression that evangelical missions, in spite of their evangelistic zeal, really do not take theological education in the younger churches very seriously. The historical facts do not reveal that evangelical missions developed their theological efforts for the best interests of the Chinese church in Taiwan as a whole, but according to their own interests.
In this respect the ecumenical people have demonstrated a much better record of coordination and planning. Consequently, they are able to inspire more respect from students of Chinese church history and theological educators. Historical facts give rise to much doubt about the wisdom and qualifications of evangelical missions for engaging in theological education among the Chinese.
III. PRESENT SITUATION OF MISSION-OPERATED SEMINARIES
Of the thirty-nine seminaries and Bible schools founded in Taiwan, twenty-six currently are in operation. They may be divided into four categories according to their admissions standards:
Group A (For high school and college graduates): China Evangelical Seminary, Federated Lutheran Seminary, Holy Light Theological Seminary, South China Adventist College, Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary, Taiwan Conservative Baptist Seminary, Tainan Theological College, Taiwan Theological College.
Group B (For junior and senior high graduates): Assemblies of God Bible Institute, Central Taiwan Theological College, China Lutheran Seminary, Mount Olive Theological Seminary, Presbyterian Bible School, (Taiwan) Nazarene Theological Seminary.
Group C (For mountain tribal students): Crusade Baptist Bible School, Glad Tidings Bible School, Mountain Bible Training School, Tribal Girls Bible School, Yu-shan Theological Institute.
Group D (Operated by Chinese not related to missions): Chung-hua Chi-to Hsueh-yuan, Chung-hua Pei-ling Hsueh-yuan, Oriental Theological Seminary (Tong-fang Shen Hsueh-yuan), Taiwan Fu-nu Sheng-ching-Hsueh-yuan (Girls Bible Institute), Tainan Fu-yen Sheng-Thing Hsueh-shao, Tao-sheng (Living Word) Christian College, Theological Seminary of the True Jesus Church.
Inasmuch as schools in Group C are for mountain tribal students and those in Group D are too primitive to be considered as seminaries – plus the difficulty of obtaining data from these latter groups – we shall restrict our discussion to Groups A and B, making some comparisons between the Presbyterian seminaries on the one hand and the eleven evangelical schools on the other.
Enrollment of full-time students in the eleven evangelical schools totals 175, which makes 17 students per school, or 26.5 when part-time students are included. The three Presbyterian seminaries have 382 full-time students. Of the 44 college graduates now in seminary, 30 are in the Presbyterian schools, and the remaining 14 are spread over three other schools. Of the total high school graduates studying in seminary, only 115 are in the eleven evangelical schools, averaging ten per school.
In faculty strength, of the 87 full-time teachers, 49 (or 4.4 per school) are in evangelical schools. This makes a ratio of approximately one full-time teacher to every four full-time students. For the Presbyterians, the ratio is 1:10. In these mission-operated seminaries, part-time instructors carry 42 percent of the teaching load, and missionaries carry 62 percent of the load.3
If we consider the qualifications of the faculty, the picture looks dark. In the eleven evangelical schools there were as of December, 1971, only three men holding doctorates (two foreign), five with masters degrees (four foreign), and the rest had lesser degrees. Why is it that in twenty years none of these schools has been able to build up a respectable number of Chinese faculty members? Out of the nine returns to a survey, in answer to the question, "Do you have a definite program or plan for training Chinese faculty members for the doctoral degree and have them come back to teach?", eight either answered "no" or did not answer.
The evangelical seminaries have small libraries (average 4,620 volumes), scattered land, and unnecessary waste that comes from maintaining separate campuses. Among the evangelical schools the average annual expenditure per school is $10,600 (not including missionary salaries). Together these schools pay at least $7,087 land tax for a total of 54.35 acres, with a conservative market value of $5,283,000. One is tempted to ask: Is this what mission executives really wish to perpetuate? Is this that for which Western Christians have so sacrificially contributed? How can such fragmented and weak theological institutions hope to train strong leaders for the modern Chinese church? Will such evangelical theological schools be strong enough to combat liberal theology and to address themselves to highly educated Chinese youths?
IV. THE EFFECTS OF MISSION-OPERATED SEMINARIES ON THE YOUNGER CHURCHES
Mission-operated seminaries founded by denominations and societies clearly declare that their purpose is to train "native helpers" to propagate and plant denominational churches in Taiwan. As one of my Nazarene missionary friends says, "We are not here just to plant churches, but specifically the Nazarene Church. We are here to spread the Wesleyan-Arminian way of life; otherwise we have no reason to be here." The same feeling is often shared by other missionaries. To insure loyalty to denominational distinctives, these seminaries are usually staffed by missionaries, especially the leading positions such as the presidency and professorship of theology. All of the mission-related seminaries have foreign presidents. This persistence in foreign administrative leadership has greatly retarded the development of national leadership in the church. Since each mission tends to regard its work primarily as work within its denomination, leadership training is likewise designed for service within its own fellowship. Necessarily, mission-operated denominational seminaries will fail to train men for leadership on the national level and for ministry to the Chinese church and society at large.4 This is the first effect of mission-operated seminaries.
This denominational training has also seriously frustrated the emergence of a national church consciousness among Chinese evangelicals, because missionaries, through their institutions, work hard to preserve denominational boundaries and permit selfhood to be developed only within the denominational framework. Thus, the selfhood that is being encouraged to develop must do so in small pockets of denominational structures, and, if it finally does develop (usually over 100 years), it is not the selfhood of a national church, but the counterpart of Western denominational churches. Even the large Presbyterian Church, after 100 years of existence in Taiwan, has failed to shake off its sectarianism and to emerge as a national church. The hardening of denominational lines, suppressing the emergence of a truly Chinese indigenous church, is the second effect of mission-operated denominational training.
The third serious effect of fragmented denominational theological education patterned after Western models is the retardation of creative national theological leadership. What does it take to create indigenous theological thought?
(1) A Christocentric and biblically-oriented critical spirit that seeks to de-Westernize denominational theology in the light of historical research and of our understanding of the biblical message; (2) a willingness to reject or to relativize denominational biases imposed upon us by the missionaries; (3) intense concern for the welfare of our Asian church rather than denominational concerns; (4) loyalty to Jesus Christ and the unwillingness to sacrifice our freedom of conscience to the demands of the missionaries; (5) a sense of solidarity with our own people.
It is futile, therefore, for foreign missions to expect the younger churches to develop indigenous theological thought while trying to preserve traditional denominational patterns of theological education. What results from teaching at denominational, mission-operated seminaries is the formation of subservient minds, people who are patient listeners and obedient assistants to their missionary masters.
The fourth effect of denominational theological education is the reproduction of Western mother institutions, and hence the extension of Western theological conflicts. In the Central Taiwan Theological College (OMS) and Holy Light (Free Methodist), which are Wesleyan-Arminian in theological tradition, the missionary faculties are mostly graduates of Asbury College and Seminary. That is where these denominations send their prospective Chinese staff.
Out of the ten full- and part-time faculty members in the former Calvin United Theological College, six were trained at Westminster or Calvin Seminary; the other four Reformed men did not study in the U.S. Out of the nine full-time faculty members of the Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary, eight were trained in Southern Baptist seminaries in America. Similarly, Taiwan Theological College, which is related to the Canadian Presbyterian Church, has its faculty trained in Montreal (three) and Princeton (two). Tainan Theological College depends on Union Theological Seminary in New York (five) and Princeton (three).
Such theological loyalty doubtlessly perpetuates conflicting branches of Western theological schools of thought and extends American and European theological battlefields to Taiwan. Is this not theological imperialism? When will our Western theological colonialistic friends grant us our theological freedom and independence?
Finally, Western modelled denominational theological education tends to pay very little attention to a serious study of Chinese culture and society, to which the Christian faith is to be preached and in which Chinese believers live. Unless we are freed from Western theological institutional bondage, when shall we be able to "do our own thing" for Christ's sake among our own people?
V. THE REAL ISSUES AT STAKE
These observations from the perspective of a national Christian force us to ask some questions.
1. What is the concrete goal of foreign missions?
Theoretically, the purpose of missions is to preach Christ to "the heathen" and to gather the converts into God's family, the church. But to us, the "converted heathen," the family of God, the body of Christ, does not appear to be one, but many. Historical facts and current observation seem to tell us that the real goal of most of the mission societies and denominations is to extend their respective spheres of "Christian influence" by founding their respective denominational churches. Hence it is very difficult to keep a Chinese, for example, from concluding that the goal of Western foreign missions is to reproduce themselves denominationally in form and in belief.
However, as a member of the "younger church" I would like to pose this question: Can any mission executive or missiologist prove, on biblical grounds, that founding denominational churches is the goal of missions? Must the visible church necessarily be manifested in this denominational form? Cannot the planting of Christ's church be done without Western denominational forms? We admit the necessity of group organizations for the functional purposes of missions, but Western denominations certainly go far beyond this functional limit. It seems that Western denominations are unable to eradicate themselves from a colonialistic desire for expansion and possession.
What, then, is the biblical alternative for denominational church planting as the goal of missions? This question calls us to rethink the concept of "foreign missions," and to re-examine the idea of "the sending church."
If the term "foreign mission" is ever justified, it is because a geographical boundary needs to be crossed. At the same time this implies crossing a national-cultural boundary in order to proclaim Christ. "The sending church," as a group of believers, may be called a denomination in the right sense if it fulfills a functional role as the Church of Antioch did. Thus defined, a denomination means a serving group, and that is good.
But the mistake Western evangelicals make is that in proclaiming the good news they also proclaim the channels. In so doing, the missionary loses his sense of being commissioned by Christ and his sense of servanthood in the onward proclamation of the gospel in God's total economy. He tends to transfer his loyalty to his mission board, a loyalty which should be rendered only to Christ. Unknowingly, the mission board robs the glory and authority which rightly belong to Christ. In this process the denomination, which should have become a functional means to mission, becomes an end of mission, and assumes the authority of mission.
Similarly, a church is a "sending church" when she sends her messengers to a frontier field. When the church of Jesus Christ is founded in that land, it should not be called a "receiving church," because every church should be at the same time a sending church and a receiving church (e.g., the Jerusalem Church). "Receiving" has been used, I presume, on financial grounds. Missionaries coming from the "have" countries to the "have-not" countries are used to being the channels of financial gifts. But that is only an incidental matter conditioned by temporal considerations. In the New Testament sense, once a church is founded, it is a church on a parity with the initial church; both are members of the same body. The newly founded churches do not belong to the sending church.
2. Is it the role of the foreign missionaries to develop the emerging national chinch?
There is, of course, the need for the first missionaries to teach the new believers and make disciples of them, but the fact is that many missionaries tend to become continually involved with the organizational growth and administration of the new church, seeking to perfect it after their historical Western models. C. Peter Wagner calls this "the church development syndrome."5 This paternalistic concern seems to reveal that the missionaries have little faith in Christ whose task it is to develop his church through gifts given by the Spirit to the believers.
Missionaries also seem to be unwilling to accept the fact that the resultant form of the new spiritual community could be different from the Western model and still remain biblically valid. They manifest even less faith in the national Christians who, while feeling grateful to them for bringing the gospel to them, would rather like to exercise their Christ given gifts as they feel led of the Spirit. It is at this point that the tension between missionaries and nationals is sustained. The concept of planting and perfecting denominational churches causes missionaries to become victims of the church development syndrome. This denominational consciousness drives the missionary to retain control over the younger church, and theological education is, perhaps, the most strategic handle of that control. This leads us to the third question:
3. Is the task of theological education and ministerial training the task of the foreign missions or the task of the national church?
If planting denominational churches is taken as the goal of foreign missions, then the answer would be: ministerial training and theological indoctrination are the task of the missionaries until nationals can be trained to do the same as "men of our denomination." On the basis of this traditional belief denominational seminaries must, of necessity, be formed and perpetuated. As many missionaries argue, "If we send our candidates to other seminaries, they wouldn't be as loyal to us as when indoctrinated by ourselves."
When missionaries spy they are willing to shift their administrative and teaching responsibilities to qualified nationals, what they really mean is when qualified men from within their denomination emerge, men who are at once loyal to the denomination and at the same time qualified academically and in other respects. But the problem is that national Christians feel loyalty only to Jesus Christ and don't pay that much attention to Western-oriented denominational differences. At least this is true among the Chinese. Furthermore, the kind of leaders who are really qualified to take up leading administrative posts are usually independent thinkers who often find missionary denominational opinions nothing but historical biases, unsubstantiated by Scripture. Hence, they are unwilling to accept missionary demands blindly. This is, perhaps, one reason why, for twenty years, the above listed mission-operated schools still can't find Chinese presidents. Strong indigenous leaders simply don't emerge and at the same time remain comfortable within denominational boundaries; they simply leave the denomination to serve Christ and his church at large as the body of Christ. As long as loyalty to denominations is not seen as a relative matter, theological education will continue to remain in the hands of the missionaries. They will train workers in their churches, and nationals can hardly be expected to feel that theological education is their responsibility. Is this not one reason why Chinese giving is so small in mission-operated schools?
Since the purpose of theological education is the training of God's men – men to whom the Holy Spirit has given gifts to preach the gospel of Christ and to build up the body of Christ in their own countries – then theological education is primarily the task of the younger church as a whole, not the task of just one church or one denominational group, and certainly not the continuing task of the missionaries. In the case of the Chinese, the task of theological education belongs to the Chinese church as a whole. God has given to the Chinese church enough gifted men to assume this task, if denominational fragmentation can be removed and unity in Christ restored.
4. If the task of theological education belongs to the national church, then what is the role of the missionaries in the theological task of the emerging church?
If missionaries and mission executives accept the first three propositions propounded above, they can be of continuing help to the younger churches. But missionaries must be willing to relinquish the concept of planting denominational churches. They must accept themselves as members of the universal body of Christ, participating in the tasks of building up his body in Taiwan by contributing their Spirit-given gifts. Only as they accept their fellow national workers as equals will they truly appreciate the fact that they are members of the same body. Once liberated from denominational bondage, they will come to experience a new awareness of their singular loyalty to Jesus Christ and a new sense of solidarity with the Christian community of the younger church. This sense of identity and solidarity will enable the missionary to serve relevantly in response to the needs of the national church. Freedom from denominational control permits the missionary to direct his efforts in the interest of, and participate in the agonies and struggles of, the Chinese church. He will no longer be preoccupied with his own denominational growth, but with the growth of the Chinese Christian church at large as an integral part of the universal body of Christ.
In the area of theological education, missionaries can perform a needed service if they relinquish the hope of perpetuating their denominational seminaries. As long as denominational structures are not broken down, very little meaningful creative participation can be expected from the missionary in Chinese theological education.
Denominational structures in theological education in most of the younger churches will probably continue to persist (1) because many of the evangelical foreign mission boards basically have an inadequate understanding of the biblical doctrine of the church and of mission itself, and they lack a critical understanding of their concepts and practices; (2) because many foreign mission boards, and hence their missionaries, are unwilling to accept the thesis that the theological education is primarily the task of the national church; (3) because Western financial power is still strong enough to maintain those denominational institutional structures; (4) because most mission boards still believe, though sometimes unconsciously, that where the money is there is the right of control. My findings indicate that heavy mission financial investment is correlated with strong missionary administrative and ideological control. This fact is quite revelatory of the secular nature of Western missionary enterprises, as well as the secular power structure of mission-controlled theological institutions.
What, then, is the role of foreign missions and of the missionaries in the task of Chinese theological education? If mission executives and missionaries accept the thesis that the theological task is primarily the task of the Chinese church, then the following suggestions may be helpful for mutual consideration.
A. The Missionary as a Fellow Reformer
The first and foremost role of missions is to dissolve their denominational theological institutions and assist the Chinese church in its effort to create bona fide indigenous theological educational structures. This will help to solve or at least reduce the problems arising from fragmentation and duplication. If a mission as an organization persists in its unwillingness to engage in Chinese theological renovation, then the enlightened individual missionary must play the role of a fellow reformer in theological education alongside his Chinese reformers. For him to engage in the reformation of denominational institutions will be far more effective than were a Chinese to do it, because national voices on the same matter are often misunderstood as "anti-missionary."
This suggestion fox dissolving existing mission-operated denominational theological schools is the most radical remedy because it aims at solving the problem at the roots. The commonly suggested transference approach, i.e., handing administrative and teaching responsibilities to the nationals within the denomination, is essentially inadequate. That still perpetuates the denominational structures in theological