Bishop and Mrs. S. K. Parmar Lecture-2014
Theological Education: An Enterprise in Mission
I consider it a great honour, and privilege, for the invitation, extended to me, to deliver this series, established by my Guru and Bishop S.K. Parmar and his partner-in-life. Bishop Parmar returned to Leonard, his alma mater, after receiving doctoral degree in New Testament and taught us St John in Greek when I was in my final year. It was his teaching that generated in me life-long interest in Johannine literature and scholarship. Whenever I met him, I always expressed my disappointment at his leaving teaching and entering into administration. He used to smile and said: someone has to lead the church as well. He did lead, not only Methodist Church but whole Church, as the President of National Council of Churches in India. He never lost interest in scholarly pursuits, and continued to produce books, articles and religious literatures all through his active life, even after retirement. Personally speaking, he was a great admirer of my father, and took a great care of me, throughout my ministry and life. I am grateful to him for the personal interest he took in me and encouraged me to go for higher studies. As the area bishop, he granted me leave to pursue doctoral studies at the university. He did not hesitate to loan my services to Serampore College when they needed it most. He was a real Guru, keenly interested in the welfare of students. Whenever in town, instead of asking them to come and meet him, he will make a point to visit them at their places of work. His personal care and concern, genuineness and honesty, humility and softness have moved and inspired many of us. I often cite his example to my students for emulation in life. He is not present with us today, but, I am sure, he is eagerly waiting to hear something about the event here. We thank him for his ministry and interest in mission for which he and his partner-in-life has initiated this lecture series.
(When we were through the lecture series, we came to know the demise of the Bishop at the residence in Hyderabad. We are proud that he was our teacher, Bishop and the genuine leader. We were richly blessed by his knowledge, wise counsel and guidance. May his legacy continue to guide our lives and works.)
I would also like to express my gratitude to the Faculty of the Leonard, and the Community here for extending the invitation. I sincerely hope I will be able to justify, through these lectures, their trust and prove myself worthy of their expectation.
The most of the material of the present lecture are found in my notes, some were written for the purpose of initiating a discussion on the subject of curriculum revision under Serampore system. I have also tried to summarize some of the discussions that has taken place in the past.
History of the church and its organizations in India informs us that theological colleges, as missionary centers, built up structures that were to support the concerns of the missionary organizations. For long, theological colleges were considered as centers where pastors, evangelists, missionaries and church professionals were educated in order that they may preserve, and propagate, certain Christian truths and ethical norms that were held by particular denominational community. There is general agreement now that theological colleges are meant to educate entire people of God so that authentic Christ-centered communities are formed. This dimension of theological education needs to be recognized and strengthened. It is also accepted that the mission of the church has to be praxis oriented and contextual, demanding total commitment with changed life-style of whole people of God. Theological colleges, therefore, need to involve the whole church, and have to become instruments of the church, in equipping the believer to be an active agent of the liberative mission of God through witness, service and teaching.
In view of the general scope and expectations of these lectures, I propose to look into the area of my involvement in theological education, for last thirty-five years, from the perspectives of the ministry and mission of the Church in India. I would, therefore, propose to reflect upon theological education as an enterprise in mission with special reference to the Serampore College. Theological education and Serampore College are taken to be synonymous and integrally related to our context in India; some reflections, therefore, may be helpful as Serampore College is one of the pioneers in theological education in India. College was the product of the missionary motive of the Serampore Trio- William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward. We also recognize that theological education is, and should be, an essential part of the mission and witness of the Church. As such, revival/renewal in the church is directly related to the revival of its theological institutions.
I will be attempting to offer my reflections through following three lectures:
I. Introducing Serampore
II. Curriculum Revision: An Introspection
III. Towards relevant theological education in India
As theological community at Leonard was the main audience, we had lively and stimulating discussions to clarify issues and concerns. Some additions are included in the revised version for the print, to take care of the questions raised, and clarifications sought, during the discussions. I have also included an epilogue, as suggested by a few respondents, to present some reflections on Serampore University-in-making. I am sure this will help to generate more interest in the continuing mission of Serampore Trio, and their successors, through affiliated institution, and people of God, here in India and throughout the world.