‘Education as Hope’: Anglican universities conference convenes in Seoul

July 18, 2014

Delegates attending the CUAC conference visit the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula.

Delegates attending the CUAC conference visit the DMZ on the Korean Peninsula.

[Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion press release] On Sunday July 5th, seventy delegates from five continents, representing forty-seven member schools of the Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC), gathered on the square outside a chapel in Seoul, Korea to convene CUAC’s 8th International Triennial Conference, “Education as Hope: Working Towards Transformation in Our Common World.” Hosted by Sungkonghoe University (SKHU) during its own centennial anniversary, the conference drew on the heritage of Korean culture as well as the peninsula’s specific context of separation and reconciliation as frameworks for exploring the programmatic theme. The tone was set as a group of SKHU student musicians in the Pungmul Kilnori tradition led the delegates in a parade of free dancing into the Chapel of the Epiphany, where the ensuing liturgy incorporated traditional Korean music and dance.

SKHU President the Rev. Dr. Jeong-ku Lee presided and preached at the opening Eucharist, which began with delegates representing the seven CUAC regional chapters bearing candles to the table behind the altar. Dr. Lee proclaimed that, “If the Anglican spirit is like Peter, CUAC is like Paul with the Anglican spirit and its vision for education is being spread worldwide through CUAC.” He continued, “If the Anglican educational institutes that God planted become like blind people in this world, our common world and its education will fall into a ditch….CUAC is a plant that God planted. May this CUAC international conference be another wonderful experience of our being a rainbow spectrum in diversity.”

The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Law, Dean of Chapel of Canterbury Christ Church University, who led the development of the conference theme, connected “Education as Hope” to the theology of the German theologian Jürgen Moltmann. In his seminal Theology of Hope, Moltmann insists that Christian hope is not limited to a future that emerges from the possibilities of the world, but reaches out to that resurrection future which arrives from the possibilities of God; this is hope for nothing less than a new creation. This hope, Law suggests, underwrites the open-ended enquiry that lies at the heart of genuine education. He thus called for education that “resists the stabilization of things, that provokes the question of meaning that makes the familiar strange, and so keeps the world open to that ultimate future God promises to bring.”

The delegates spent a day on “Reading the Korean Context” that included an overview from the Rev. Dr. Jaejoung Lee, South Korea’s former minister of unification, and a visit to the Demilitarized Zone that defines the division of the Korean peninsula.

The Triennial’s two keynote speakers addressed issues of Anglican identity and mission from different perspectives. The Rev. Dr. Sathinathan Clarke, professor of theology and culture at Wesley Theological Seminary, in Washington, DC, called for “a shift from post-colonial Anglicanism to TransAnglican cosmopolitanism.” Speaking to delegates representing a plurality of schools where Christians are in the minority, Clarke cited Namsoon Kang’s proposal to “move from politics of single identity to the politics of multiple solidarities across various identities without abandoning one’s personal attachments and commitments to the group one finds significant.” Such a posture allows colleges and universities to offer hospitality to other faiths, as well as to those who have none, while remaining Christian in character. “TransAnglican cosmopolitan Communion,” to Clarke, “is grounded in God’s grace, sieved through the preferential compassion of Jesus Christ, and nurtured by the cosmo-centric restoration of the Holy Spirit.”

Keynoter Dr. Jenny Te Paa Daniel, a public theologian and former dean at St. John’s Theological College in Auckland, New Zealand, related how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to her situation as a young Maori student: “I said to my children, ‘I’m going to work and do everything that I can do to see that you get a good education. I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of God’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.’”  She challenged delegates to reframe Anglican education, by having “the capacity and will to transform the way things are, by reaching out to include disadvantaged individuals not only in our schools, but by preparing them to make it to top levels of leadership.” “What I want for my grandchildren,” she concluded, “is for them to be transfigured, changed into something beautiful.”

Other conference speakers included Dr. John McCardell, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, who led off the conference addressing Personal Transformation as “Development of Character,” noting, “Character is balancing liberty with restraint from within;” Dr. Elaine Graham, research professor at the University of Chester in the UK, who took on Social Transformation in her paper “Apologetics without Apology,” focusing on the dilemma of navigating between religious resurgences in societies over against the new place of secularization; Dr. Gerald Pillay, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University in the UK, who looked at Social Transformation through the lens of church history, describing “Christianity as the most globalized phenomenon in the world, surpassing democracy and capitalism;”and Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa, President of Cuttington University in Liberia spoke to Personal Transformation from his experience in Liberia of “Education from Ex-Combatants to Students.”

CUAC’s General Secretary, The Rev. Canon James G. Callaway, D.D., challenged the delegates that “as liberal arts recognizes the importance of learning a second language in starting one’s critical thinking about his or her mother tongue, [their] task was to begin to speak Sungkonghoe as they learn about its situation and context, to understand their own institutions better.”

The delegates at the Triennial elected members to the Board of Voting Trustees for the next three years. Prof. Robert Derrenbacker, Vice-Chancellor of Thorneloe University in Sudbury, Canada was elected chair; The Rev. Dr. Renta Nishihara, Vice President of Rikkyo University in Tokyo, Japan, Vice Chair; The Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang of Sungkonghoe University in Seoul, Korea, Treasurer; and Prof. Alexander Jesudasan, principal and secretary of Madras Christian College in Chennai, India, as Secretary. At the closing banquet Canon Callaway cited the words of greeting of the Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, who told delegates that “Sungkonghoe’s witness in human rights and human development was the same as his,” and that of the Mayor of the City of Guro, Lee Sung, who noted that “the mission I have for this city has been shared by Sungkonghoe University.” Callaway then told President Jeong-ku Lee that because CUAC shared the solidarity of the mayors that Sungkonghoe’s witness in their hundred years lived out CUAC’s vision as well. He then presented Lee a commendatory Centenary certificate signed by CUAC’s Patron the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

The Triennial concluded on Friday July 11th, and was followed by a two-day Chaplains’ Conference facilitated by Dr. Law. The next Triennial will be held in Chennai, India in early January 2017, hosted by Madras Christian College.

CUAC is a world-wide association of over 130 institutions of higher education that were founded by and retain ties to a branch of the Anglican Communion. With institutions on five continents, CUAC promotes cross-cultural contacts for the exchange of ideas and the joint development of educational programs among member institutions. As a network of the Anglican Communion, CUAC leverages its global presence to help the faculty and students of its member institutions become better citizens of an increasingly-diverse world. For more information, visit www.cuac.org.