Training key to Asian growth - Sydney interviews Abp John Chew

Archbishop Chew was special guest speaker at the Synod Mission Hour last night where he stressed the importance of home grown theological education in South East Asia as the key to Christianity’s continued growth in the region. Archbishop Chew is also Secretary of the Global South Leadership team, a partnership of the theologically conservative Anglican dioceses in Asia, Africa and South America.

“There needs to be theological education of the next generation of Global South leaders growing out of our own provinces rather than sending them overseas to be trained,” Archbishop Chew says.

In the Anglican communion debate that followed Archbishop Chew’s address, an amendment was successfully proposed by Alan Hohne from Moore Theological College. It encouraged Sydney Diocese and other biblically faithful dioceses to partner with like-minded dioceses around the world in promoting home grown theological education.

At the ‘Seek the Welfare of the City’ conference held in Singapore in August 2005, Archbishop Chew says Chinese leaders saw that Christianity could be significant for its society and citizens, on the condition that Christianity, as seen in the papers which captured the early first century of Christianity and expressed as such, could be appreciated and welcomed as contributing to the social development and well being of Chinese society. “The Chinese leaders were happy and encouraged to see that the Christian church saw the welfare of the city as a priority,” he says.

Archbishop Chew says Chinese leaders now see Christianity as more relevant to their culture. “Chinese leaders attended my installation as Archbishop in February 2006. There, probably for the first time, they met with many key Anglican primates from non-Western provinces. “They thought the Christian church was Western-centric and that the Anglican Church focused on Canterbury,” Archbishop Chew says.  “This time they saw the Anglican Church as global - which includes Afro-Asian and Latin American.

Archbishop Chew says Christians over the world can learn from the experiences of Christians in China. “I would see them as more mature than many of the Christians outside because of the difficult situation they are in. Materially they are poor but they are very mature spiritually,” he says.

As Archbishop of Singapore, Archbishop Chew is also leading the five missionary deaneries of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam with Nepal which contains some 450 million people.

Archbishop Chew says Anglicans throughout the communion must share with each other and learn from one another. “Historically, everything was focused around Canterbury. Now the majority of Anglicans are not in England. So we must learn to function as a global communion,” Archbishop Chew says. “Sharing ideas and resources is the key to strengthening the Anglican Communion. The growth and global nature of the Anglican communion over the last ten years means that, as a result of the globalisation process in the world, its multinational and multi-contextual nature is more clearly seen. While we appreciate the historic role of Canterbury and the West, we must now learn to share ideas and resources to strengthen the communion. The communion will be greatly enriched as a result.”

New pastors required for Uganda

Mission Hour also featured two pre-taped interviews. Bishop of Georges River Peter Tasker spoke with the Rev Canon Alfred Olwa from Uganda Christian University and the Most Rev Josiah Fearon, Archbishop of Kaduna in Nigeria. Nine of Uganda’s population 27million people are Anglicans according to census data and Canon Olwa says the church is succeeding in reaching out to society. “The church is really preaching for Christ and preaching with conviction, asking people to make a decision. People are responding to the gospel and people are joining fellowships,” he says.

However, Canon Olwa spoke of a need for more trained clergy. “We are not doing very well in terms of training ministers. In 10 years half our clergy will retire.” The bishops of Uganda have resolved that each of the 32 Anglican dioceses in Uganda will send three students per year to train at the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology at Uganda Christian University. Canon Olwa also spoke of the need for financial support to provide scholarships to students at the college.

“How else can we give nine million Anglicans good Bible teaching without proper theological training?”

The Nigerian boom

Archbishop Fearon of Kaduna in Nigeria spoke of the vibrant Anglican Church that contains 17.5 million people who are predominantly Located in the southern and central regions of the country. “It is very vibrant.

Sixty per cent of the church is young people and they are very active and committed to Bible studies,” Archbishop Fearon says. “The church is evangelical because CMS UK introduced us to Christ and a renewal in the 1980s is responsible for our recent growth.”

Archbishop Fearon also spoke of the need for more theological training of pastors, particularly in the Northern provinces. “We are so wide but very shallow in our knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith,” he says. He has made a target to produce 200 graduates from the Moore College-created Preliminary Theological Certificate course by the end of 2008. Bishop Peter Tasker assured Archbishop Fearon of the support of Sydney Diocese and the Archbishop’s Overseas Ministry Fund to the work in Nigeria.

“We want to assure you not only of our commitment financially, but also of our commitment to pray for you that God will bless the work of this teaching.”

Archbishop Chew’s press office has revised the article reporting his interview in Sydney.


Source: Sydney Anglicans

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