Best to learn Christian theology through direct encounter, say students

Best to learn Christian theology through direct encounter, say students

In these days when social media play such an important role in campus life, direct contact with other students remains the most important way to learn Christian theology and develop spiritual life, say students at the conclusion of a three-week intensive theology program held in Indonesia.

“Relationships with others is the most important thing,” says Nelson Kalay of his experience at the Global Institute of Theology (GIT), which concluded on July 1.

Kalay was one of ten Indonesians selected to study with 40 international students and newly-ordained pastors in the biennial training program offered by the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC). This year the program was hosted by Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta.

The second-year theology student who plans to be ordained in his home church in eastern Indonesia – the Protestant Church of Moluccas – says he applied for the programme in order to learn from people from other countries about their approaches to theology and the problems of their local context.

“Group discussion helped me learn,” says Kalay. “Before, I had never heard about other ways of worshiping and of thinking about God. Now I know more about Christian spirituality. It is not only about worship on Sunday, it is about how to struggle for justice and peace in communities.”

Kalay says participants from other countries asked him about the relationship between Christians and Muslims and how that will affect his ministry in a local parish.

“It is a crucial problem,” Kalay admits. “We have to face it together as Reformed church Christians. We have to travel together.”

The opportunity to study with students from around the world in a context where Christianity is not the majority faith was a “fantastic opportunity” says Marianne Emig Munro, a Canadian theology student, when asked why she applied for GIT. Like Kalay, Munro found direct contact with other students to be a key element of the learning experience.

“It was moving to hear the commitment and passion of students from around the world, to feel their faith. They are so full of hope,” says Munro, who is in her final year of study at John Knox College in Toronto, Canada.

Munro began her theological studies after leaving a position as a lawyer with General Motors. Following her ordination in December, she plans to serve the Presbyterian Church in Canada in the Toronto area where her two children are in secondary school. Her focus is on social justice and church outreach.

“Indonesia is multicultural like Toronto,” says Munro. “What I learned about ethics and spirituality, mission and inter-religious dialogue will be all useful in that multicultural city where there are people from so many faiths.”

Learning from Indonesian Christians about what it is like to be in a minority will be important to her ministry, Munro adds.

“The church is now on the margins of Canadian society because of secularisation and materialism,” says Munro. “It is ideally placed to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

WCRC convenes GIT every two years as part of its commitment to the formation of new generations of Reformed leaders who are fully aware of the faith dimension of contemporary challenges such as economic injustice and environmental destruction and who are committed to interfaith solidarity, spiritual renewal, church inclusiveness, and Christian unity. The next GIT is planned for 2014 in Latin America.

WCRC represents 80 million Christians in 108 countries. Its member churches are active worldwide in initiatives supporting economic, climate and gender justice, mission, and cooperation among Christians of different traditions.

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