Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

Princeton Seminary President Barnes: “Campus covenant communities build character”

2017-11-02 17:36

“This era needs pastors who not only have the theological capacity to interpret Biblical truths but also understand and practice the value of faith,” said Dr. Craig Barnes (photo), president of Princeton Theological Seminary in the U.S.A. During an interview with Kukmin Daily on October 27 in the conference room of its building in Yeoeui-do, Seoul, Dr. Barnes explained his educational philosophy and expressed his hopes for expanded exchanges with Korean churches and seminaries.

President Barnes was in Korea to receive an honorary doctorate from Keimyung University on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Prior to the interview, he signed an MOU (memo of understanding) with the United Graduate School of Theology at Yonsei University, for the strengthening of exchanges and cooperation. He also preached sermons at Onnuri Community Church, Yoido Full Gospel Church and other churches, and met with diverse Korean church leaders.

-Why are you seeking stronger cooperation with Korean seminaries and churches?

“The emphasis of Princeton Seminary for both professors and students has been global theological education, which perceives the world while practicing community life on campus. Through other countries, we receive motivation to transcend our patterns of U.S. ministry that adhere to standardized U.S. worship forms and reflect the dominant white perspective. This is my fifth visit to Korea since I became president in 2013. Observing the Korean churches and their worship, my understanding of faith has broadened. Listening to the confessions of faith of the world church and the people of many countries, my worship experience has become much more abundant, and I can understand God’s presence in the world. In the early 20th century the U.S. was a country that dispatched missionaries overseas and exerted influence on many nations, but now it has become a country that is learning new ways from world Christianity and the churches of the world.”

-We hear that seminaries in the U.S. and Korea are in crisis due to financial troubles, fewer students, etc.

“Not only the Presbyterian, Methodist and other mainline churches but every place, including even the more evangelical Fuller Seminary, are in a similar situation. To overcome this problem, I think we are doing our best. We are emphasizing community education. Recently, with the activation of online courses, it has become costly and inefficient to operate a school with students living on campus. Nevertheless, we are sticking to this because of the many benefits we gain through community living. Rather than a ‘contract relationship’ in which the student comes to school, attends classes, gets good marks and leaves with a degree, it is more important to develop leaders through their experiences of commitment and mutual help in covenant communities.

“In particular, 40% of our students are nonwhite. If you want to do ministry in the U.S., you need a ‘cultural receptiveness’ that allows you to live within different races and cultures, and you can develop this capacity naturally while living life in community on campus. I think that this way of developing character together in the ‘learning community’ is linked to the calling of our school.”

-This is the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Where should true religious reformation start?

“The Reformation did not just start in Germany 500 years ago, but was going on without letup in many churches. There were reforms within the Catholic Church also. Though the forms and methods were different, their common feature was the history of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit history was a precious moment experienced in all the churches. We must remember that John Calvin’s statement ‘All churches must always be reforming’ does not mean 'we' are reforming, but is a ‘passive expression’ meaning that the Holy Spirit is bringing about reform within us. Just as happened in the Reformation 500 years ago, today also we must be deeply attentive and distinguish what work the Holy Spirit is doing. Above all, I think this should be a time when, rather than looking back at past history, we try to look ahead. My focus should be on the problem of how the seminary, the church, and I myself need to be reformed, as we go forward.”

Reporter Narae Kim (narae@kmib.co.kr), with Marion Kim (marionkkim@icloud.com)
Photo by senior reporter Kang Min Seok

Full Story in Korean:
[인터뷰] 크레이그 반스 프린스턴신학교 총장 “신학교 위기, 언약공동체를 통한 성품교육으로 풀어야”

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