In the morning of January 17th, a ceremony with arround 450 attendees was held in Nanjing, China, to lay the foundation for the new campus of the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.
Nanjing Union Theological Seminary is the largest, most authoritative seminary. Also, it is the only theological seminary that receives students from the whole country in China.
Founded in 1952 by the Chinese National Christian Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee, the seminary was born of a merger between twelve theological seminaries in Eastern China.
Today, it is considered to be the most respected institute of theology in China. However, as believers are growing more and more rapidly in recent years, the current campus and furnishments have become too small to carry the increase in students.
As it is written in the introduction of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, more than 300 students apply to enter each year, but only arround 60 can be accepted at one time.
According to the state-run newspaper Xinhua Daily, the new campus of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary will be the first project that aims to improve the conditions of religious educational institutes. In addition, this will be the first religious improvement project that will be state-funded.
The new campus, which occupies 23.8 million square meters, will easily accomodate 500 students -- more than two times of its previous capacity of about 250 students.
In the past decades, news concerning the rapid growth in the number of Chinese Christians has captured the attention of the whole world. According to figures released by the China Christian Council, at the time of the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, there were arround 700,000 Christians.
Since then, this number has grown to 16,000,000, which is 23 times more than the original figures given 55 years ago. However, the unofficial estimate of the number of Chinese Christians is still higher, placing the total at 70,000,000 to 80,000,000.
This rapid growth brings forward a new problem, however. Over the years, there have been reports that an overwhelming majority of Chinese churches lack qualified preachers and teachers. According to China Partner, China produces about 1,200 theological graduates each year. Thus, bringing the ratio of believers and ministers at 10,000:1. At the same time, more than half of the total number of seminary candidates are turned away due to the severe capacity limit of the nation's theological seminaries and Bible schools.
This problem is drawing more and more concern amongst overseas Christian organizations and believers, as well as the Chinese government.
450 Christian leaders and government officials attended the founding ceremony of the new Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, included Bishop Ding Guangxun, who is presently the honorary president of the Chinese National Christian Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee, the honorary president of the China Christian Council, and the dean of the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary.
Also present was Presbyter Ji Jianhong, president of the Chinese National Christian Three-self Patriotic Movement Committee; Reverend Cao Shengjie, president of the China Christian Council; Ye Xiaowen, general director of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, Zhu Weiqun, vice-president of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and officials from the Jiansu Province, where Nanjing is located.
Speaking on behalf of the State Burueau of Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen expressed his gratitude, and hoped that with the new campus, Nanjing Union will take a new step in both education and administration. And in doing so, becoming one of the top theological seminaries in the world.
Currently, designs for the new campus have not been completed. However, the final blueprint and model is expected to be completed by Feb 1st.