Theological News Oct 2007 Vol 36 No 4



  • Leadership changes, reflection and networking for TC in Philadelphia 2007
  • A Statement on Evangelical Social Engagement: The Philadelphia Statement, August 2007
  • WEA and Adventists agree on joint statement
  • WEA Participates in ecumenical discussions on conversion
  • Ethiopia Graduate School of Theology marks 10th anniversary
  • Wide circulation for special issue of Evangelical Review of Theology
  • Theological Education in Asia and the Pacific
  • Verbum: Christian Origins and “New School” Historical Scepticism by Rob Haskell, Senderis.


WEA Participates in ecumenical discussions on conversion

The World Evangelical Alliance was represented at a gathering convened by the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church to discuss conversion between religions. Those representing the event which took place in Touluse, France in 8–12 August were John Langlois (Channel Islands), Richard Howell (India) and Thomas Schirrmacher (Germany). There were also representatives of Pentecostal churches present at the consultation which was intended ‘to produce a code of conduct on religious conversion commonly agreed among Christians by 2010’. A press release for the consultation stated that an initial meeting ‘affirmed freedom of religion as a “non-negotiable” human right valid for everyone everywhere and at the same time stressed that the “obsession of converting others” needs to be cured.’

The Toulouse gathering was the second phase of a three-year joint study process, which unlike the previous meeting, was an intra-Christian discussion consisting of a high-level theological consultation entitled ‘Towards an ethical approach to conversion: Christian witness in a multi-religious world’. The WEA general secretary Rev. Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe ‘gave his full approval’ to the organization’s involvement in the process so far sponsored by the WCC and the Vatican. According to WEA executive council member John Langlois, who reported positively on the consultation, the code of conduct should express ‘repentance for past wrongdoings so as to make clear that the superiority mentality in regard to other religions has been overcome.’ For Rev. Dr Tony Richie from the Church of God, a Pentecostal US-based denomination, the code of conduct is not about ‘whether’ Christians evangelize, but ‘how’ they do it. He advocated a ‘dialogical evangelism,’ ecumenically oriented and marked by an ethical approach.

Among the issues identified by the participants as elements upon which the code of conduct should be based are: common understandings of conversion, witness, mission and evangelism, and concern for human dignity; a distinction between aggressive proselytizing and evangelism; the balance between the mandate to evangelize and the right to choose one’s religion. ‘Although these are very preliminary findings, the fact that representatives from all these walks of Christian life have been able to meet and discuss such a complex issue, starting to build a consensus, is in itself a success,’ said Rev. Dr Hans Ucko, WCC’s programme executive for interreligious dialogue and cooperation.

Its promoters expect the code of conduct to fulfill several goals: be an advocacy tool in discussions with governments considering anti-conversion laws, to help to advance the cause of religious freedom, address other religions’ concerns about Christian proselytism and inspire them to consider their own codes of conduct, and also help to ease intra-Christian tensions. None of the partners involved intend—nor have the means—to impose the code of conduct on their constituencies, but they all trust that it will be able to ‘impact hearts and minds’ and allow for ‘moral and peer pressure.’

The next step in this study project jointly undertaken by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the WCC’s programme on inter-religious dialogue will be a meeting in 2008 in which the code of conduct will be drafted, building upon the findings of the Toulouse consultation. Launched in May 2006 in Lariano/Velletri, near Rome, the project bears the name: ‘An interreligious reflection on conversion: From controversy to a shared code of conduct’.

Theological Education in Asia and the Pacific

‘Association strengthens the quality of education’ was the view of thirty-six delegates from seventeen member schools who attended the 22nd biennial conference of the South Pacific Association of Bible Colleges, held 3–6 July 2007 in Auckland NZ. Keynote speaker, Dr Craig Blomberg, (Denver Seminary, Colorado) explored ‘Contemporary Trends in Hermeneutics and their Implications for Theological Education.’ Noting the popularity of narrative, Dr Blomberg highlighted the renewed significance for spiritual formation of personal testimony as legitimate witness in a post-modern world.

Each morning began with worship led by Donna Dinsmore of Vancouver using Trinitarian poetry and songs echoing Celtic and Gregorian roots. Another highlight was a discussion on Middle Eastern Christian education featuring Rev Dr Paul Sanders (Arab Baptist Seminary, Lebanon), Rev Alex Awad (Bethlehem Bible College) and Dr Heidi Campbell, an expert in Israel media-studies. Delegates appreciated the challenges they faced in taking opportunities for love and reconciliation in the midst of conflict.

Dr John Sweetman, Principal, Malyon College, Brisbane was elected to the position of President succeeding Dr Peter Ralphs, Principal, Bible College of Queensland.

The Triennial Assembly of the Asia Theological Association, held in Manila Phillipines Aug 6–10, brought together about 100 delegates from Japan to Jordan to focus on the theme, ‘Prophetic Voice of the Gospel in Contemporary Asia.’ The opening session was led by Dr Brian Wintle who stood in following the death of former General Secretary, Pastor Derek Tan in whose memory a collection of essays and tributes was released in this session, titled: The Pastor and Theological Education.

Morning devotions were led by Dr. Nomer Bernardino and seven presentations on the conference theme were delivered by a range of speakers including Dr. Vinay Kumar Samuel, Mr. David Wang, Dr. Wong Kim Kong, and Dr. Calvin Chong. These papers will be published in Journal of Asian Evangelical Theology. Business reports indicated a growth to 196 member schools in 26 countries. Dr. Akio Hashimoto (Japan) was elected chairman. Dr Joseph Shao (Philippines) was installed as General Secretary. The lengthy service of outgoing Chairman, Dr David Sang-Bok Kim and Treasurer Dr Michael Shen was officially recognized.

Also reported in the business session was the Asian Bible Commentary series, now with nine volumes in print, led by Dr Bruce Nicholls. Other sessions were devoted to curriculum development, accreditation and the work of the International Council of Evangelical Theological Education.