For nearly three years now, Central has been collaborating with the Luce Foundation to support our educational initiatives with Myanmar Institute of Theology. When I am speaking with constituents of the seminary about the aspects of global Christianity that this funding has made possible, I am careful to spell L-U-C-E lest anyone think there is any loose money at Central. There isn’t!
The Henry Luce Foundation was established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., to honor his parents who were missionary educators in China. A significant benefactor in theological education, the foundation has funded Central’s global immersion experiences in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), faculty-student participation in intercultural studies in Myanmar, ministry preparation for refugees from Burma coming to the US, and a collaborative Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Health. Faculty from Myanmar Institute of Theology have taught at Central, and several of our faculty have lectured and conducted courses there.
Faculty and students from Central have traveled to Myanmar Institute of Theology over the past several years; in October, for the first time, students from MIT will come to Shawnee. We will welcome the first cohort of D.Min students and three faculty members for two weeks of intensive seminar study in Shawnee. The stated priority of the Luce Foundation for “support of new models of theological education to prepare leaders for service in a religiously plural world” is the focus of our developing work with MIT. Baptists in Burma have lived in a predominantly Buddhist culture for nearly two centuries. They have sustained Christian identity respectfully and have employed culturally sensitive language and practices. We have much to learn from MIT about forming leaders for our own socio-cultural context that is rapidly becoming more pluralistic.
In his recent work A Global Introduction to Baptist Churches, Central’s Dean, Dr. Robert E. Johnson, noted that almost 3.5 percent of the global Baptist family is located in Southeast Asia, primarily in Myanmar. Baptists in Myanmar continued to grow through the twentieth century in spite of major disruptions to their work; today there are over 1.2 million Baptists in that beleaguered land. A considerable number of these will make their way to the US—and to Baptist churches. The mission began by the Judsons now comes to American shores and is revitalizing many churches.
Our grant from Luce makes possible a post-colonial, mutually beneficial collaboration between MIT and Central. We are grateful for this generative partnership.
Molly T. Marshall
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