Fuller Paves the Way to Unite Diversity of the World

( [email protected] ) Jan 19, 2004 01:22 PM EST

According to the L.A. Times, School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, is experiencing high enrollment of international students from Africa, Latin America, and Asia where Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity are rapidly growing. Nearly 200 students from 30 countries are enrolled which accounts for 27% of student body of 4,000 students at Fuller. The biggest number of students are from South Korea, other big groups include Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Brazil and Mexico, representing more than 100 denominations, including some Roman Catholics.

The Rev. C. Douglas McConnell, the new dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and a former head of a worldwide Protestant mission society, said Fuller benefits by having such an international enrollment.

"International students bring the uniqueness of their own worldview and help expose all the other students, including those from other countries, to the diversity of the world," said McConnell.

"As Christians, we believe that we are part of God's family, and that is wonderfully brought home every time we meet together," he said.

According to the Times, the missionary movement until about 1960, was going from the west (North America and Europe) to the east (Asia) but that is no longer the case. A great number of people from Asia are dispatched as missionaries all over the world, what the experts call it “an interracial and intercultural movement.”

"The fastest growing edge of the missionary movements are non-Western," said McConnell, an ordained Baptist minister and former director of Pioneers, a mission organization with 1,000 missionaries at more than 50 countries.

Such new movement within Christian mission led Fuller to change the name of School of World Mission to the School of Intercultural Studies, looking into the need of growing in insights into history, anthropology, sociology, and non-Christian religions.

"Our vision for the 21st century is to equip servant leaders who mobilize the global church for the mission of God," said McConnell.

Many of the scholars who are studying at Fuller are also ministering at churches in California to experience multi-cultural congregation.

For example, L.A. Times reported about the Rev. D. Kinoti Meme, a Methodist minister from Kenya, who is currently ministering at a Chinese American church in Alhambra after studying at Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies.

Meme said it’s only possible in L.A. where it is diverse in culture and ethnicity that being a Kenyan can teach Chinese American youth. He said “I thank God for the experience. It’s beautiful. It’s wonderful.”

Although Pastor Meme, a former World Vision community development worker in Nairobi, at times faces hard time ministering Chinese American children because of the cultural difference but he looks at it as a learning experience for him.

"In my culture, I could discipline them … by having them out of the class," said Meme. "However, in my current setting, I am not always sure what the parents' response will be or whether or not this is acceptable. I am still learning appropriate discipline processes in the American culture and also Chinese ones."

Another exemplary figure would be the Rev. Enock De Assis, former executive director of the Mission Board of Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, who is working on a master's degree in intercultural studies.

He is working with a Brazilian church, “serving as vice moderator of a group that helps the denomination understand the challenges and possibilities of working among Portuguese-speaking groups,” The Times reported.

The Rev. Enock De Assis is in the position where he could inform the believers in the U.S. about the ministries in Brazil and through out the rest of Latin America.

"I feel very welcome here," he said. But sometimes, he is struck by the "lack of information" about Brazil. "I was once asked if we had computers in Brazil," De Assis said.

The Times talks about a third figure, Alvin Tan, a Singaporean Evangelical missionary to Cambodia, who came to work on a master's degree in Christian leadership three months ago. He is currently working to make contacts with local Cambodian churches and agencies. He said over the past decade, the number of Protestants has grown from 1,000 to 100,000, although the number still only comprised of 1% of the population.

He's been attending the First Evangelical Church, an Asian American church in Glendale where he will be teaching adult Sunday school.

"I just learned that California used to be part of Mexico," Tan said in excitement of the new knowledge that he is gaining through studying history of Asians in California.

He said what he is learning would be helpful in his work when he returns to Asia.