The Theological Institutions in Indonesia
The number of theological seminaries and Bible schools in Indonesia is over 200. They belong to four associations:
PERSETIA, the association of theological schools in Indonesia, consists of 45 denominational and/or inter-denominational schools, with a total of about 8000 students. Ecumenical in nature and spirit, the Indonesian Council of Churches helped establish it. PERSETIA is an open association of member school from various theological backgrounds that identify themselves as being ecumenical, evangelical or Pentecostal. The majority of them were founded and are supported by mainline Protestant churches. One membership criteria is that a school must be supported by at least one church body, that is, have close ties with a particular denomination or set of churches. It is also important for them to go through a process of accreditation in order for the government to recognize their degrees, which only 11 have done thus far.
PASTI, the association of evangelical theological schools, has more than 80 members throughout Indonesia. The total enrollment of these schools is lower because they are supported by smaller churches or foundations without a clear relationship with any denomination. None of these schools has been accredited through the government.
The third association is that of Pentecostal Bible theological schools, many of which have low academic standards.
Why do the evangelical and Pentecostal seminaries have their own association even though PERSETIA is an open association? One reason amongst others is because they have a different understanding of the mission of the church in the world, even though some of them are members of the Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI).
In addition to these associations of Protestant theological schools is the association of the ten Catholic seminaries, which provide priests and lay workers for the Roman Catholic Church in Indonesia.
These four associations of theological seminaries reflect the four major groups of Christianity in Indonesia that long have been present in the country. More recently there has been a stream of independent missionaries coming from abroad, holding business visas and without a clear connection with the national/local churches, but with strong financial backing from their supporters aboard (such as South Korea and the USA). They have started theological seminaries independent of established denominations for the purpose of starting new churches. This is problematic because this usually involves members transferring from their churches to these new churches.
The Vision and Mission of the Member Schools of PERSETIA
PERSETIA's stated goals are "to advance and develop theological schools, the science of theology, and theological thoughts for the ministry of the church in the world and especially in the context of the Indonesian nation and society." The purpose of the association is to work for the development of each member school as a good educational institution with a good quality of education. Secondly, it creates means for developing theology that forms the foundation for the churches' ministries in Indonesian society and in the world, that is, to further the mission of the church.
Churches should struggle together to formulate their understanding of the church's mission. Theological seminaries should be where this is discussed academically and adequate theological statements developed The failure of theological education to come to terms with this affects the church's understanding of its own mission, because most church leaders are products of the seminaries.
In looking at the formulation of vision and mission of some seminaries belonging to PERSETIA it is surprising to see that, except for one or two schools, the ecumenical dimension rarely is mentioned. There apparently is little understanding or attention given to an ecumenical vision.
Because many of the theological seminaries in this association were founded and are owned by a church, set of churches, or denominations, these seminaries tend to serve the needs of these churches and denominations. The seminaries themselves do not have the actual task of carrying out the mission of these churches, but to help nurture the identity and development of the churches, and thus enable them to participate more fully in God's mission in the world.
What then is God's vision or mission? Is God's vision limited to humanity or does it encompass the whole of creation? Is it just for the life hereafter or does it only include life here and now? At this point it is likely that evangelicals will answer those questions differently from those who claim to be ecumenical. As an open association, we in PERSETIA try to listen to each other and come to more or less common understandings of the church's mission--to preach the whole gospel for the whole of humanity and creation. Because of this broad understanding and the huge task it entails, we are called to work together in an ecumenical spirit. We work together not only with those who have the same faith but with any others who are also working for justice, peace and a more humane life.
Yet we are challenged by the evangelical faith in the great commission of making disciples. Should this aspect of preaching the good news be left behind? While we must be critical of the label "great commission" which should be broader than bringing people to church and making them church members, I do believe that disciples are those who follow the teacher in doing what the teacher does, which is to love God and our neighbors. Thus, the great commission is to love God and neighbor, as the greatest command.
How to Nurture an Ecumenical Vision and Spirit
As an association of theological schools we have programs for faculty and students at the graduate and undergraduate level that seek to nurture an ecumenical vision and spirit. The following are some of our programs:
Study institute: Every year a number of faculty in a certain field of study are brought together for two weeks. Initially the purpose of this was to help the faculties improve their knowledge and catch up with the latest developments in the field in order to improve their teaching. Lately these meetings have changed their approach from a field of study to a focus on certain topics which are in keeping with ecumenical concerns. These topics include: feminism, environmental issues, HIV/AIDS, globalization, interfaith dialogue and others, considered from a Christian theological perspective. We are hoping that, through such discussions, the participating faculty members will take these issues back with them and include them in their teaching. Resource persons help with these discussions, including from ecumenical bodies. The many resources being prepared need to reach the local congregations through theological seminaries.
Summer school for graduate students: Every year PERSETIA organizes a two-week course for graduate students who are mostly pastors doing their M.Th. degrees. More than one hundred graduate students attend this summer course facilitated by faculty from overseas seminaries. The two purposes are to provide an international dimension to the graduate programmes by hearing professors from abroad. Secondly, this provides an opportunity for graduate students to struggle together about their common vision and mission for their ministry as future leaders of the churches in Indonesia, and thus to nurture an ecumenical spirit of solidarity and cooperation. In the future, graduate students from the evangelical and Catholic associations need also to be included, as well as the sharing of ecumenical visions from ecumenical bodies such as the WCC, CCA and PGI.
National consultation of Indonesian theological students: This program is held every two years, and brings together undergraduate students from member schools. This past year we invited students as well as resource persons from the three main associations: from PERSETIA, evangelical and Catholic seminaries. This is part of the ecumenical formation where the undergraduate students, as future leaders of the churches, are exposed to the current challenges for the churches in Indonesia and try to develop relevant theology to meet those challenges. More than 70 students from all over Indonesia attended, which was the largest group ever. The consultation is an opportunity to be exposed to the ecumenical vision through listening to one another in a dialogical environment. We celebrate our differences with a willingness to learn from one another and a desire to work together in responding to God's mission in the world, especially in the Indonesian context. The consultation established a network of theological students--the Fellowship of Indonesian Theological Students--with an opportunity to communicate more intensively in the future.
Theological Journal: PERSETIA also has a biannual theological journal where articles on ecumenical issues can be published and disseminated. This is a strategic means for spreading and nurturing an ecumenical vision and mission. What needs to be done in the future is to include articles published by ecumenical bodies such as WCC and CCA in Bahasa Indonesia for a wider readership.
To have a common vision based on God's mission is not easy, but the efforts that have been made are promising. We must create a climate of mutual learning and listening in order to come to common understandings. Even before reaching a common understanding, we can also celebrate our differences and learn to work together.
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|Title Annotation:||Select Surveys on Theological Education in Emerging Asian Churches|
|Publication:||The Ecumenical Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2012|
|Next Article:||Memorandum on the future of theological education in Asia ETE Reference Document 2011.|