by Hui Jun Chia
“Our time in Wuppertal was an absolutely amazing reality of the beauty of God’s diversity—from the thoughtful setting, to the imaginative worship experiences, courses, exposure visits, to the clear and loving model of leadership provided by our lecturers and coordinators,” said Sanya Beharry.
The student minister with the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago echoed the sentiments of many of the 41 students in the Global Institute of Theology (GIT) 2017, an intensive WCRC programme that brings together young theologians and faculty from diverse countries and traditions to live together, teach, learn and do theology in an inter-contextual and ecumenical setting, connecting theology from local to regional and world levels.
Sanya attested to the strong bonds created in the first phase of GIT 2017 at Wuppertal, and these safe spaces for expressions and gaining fresh perspectives during uncertainties about statements and decisions during the GC at Leipzig—something characteristic of her entire GIT experience.
The theological presentation by Jürgen Moltmann with the responses from three young female theologians, and grace and communion in the language used for inclusion left a deep impression on her; so did participating as a voice in solidarity with vulnerable Caribbean youth during the listening session “Mission in Communion.”
Seeing how a vast majority from different cultures and contexts could be led to reach a consensus largely favourable to most, skills in managing diverse personalities on the floor and during meetings and the realization that “we can differ and still be in communion” were the tip of the iceberg of what Monyane Ntai, an aspiring South African theology student at University of Pretoria had learnt through the GIT Programme.
Mitri Raheb’s Bible study on the Palestine context suggesting that “Jesus Christ must always be seen as an occupied Messiah” and his message of liberation resonated strongly in Monyane. The GIT experience has changed his world view, as he realized that problems of racial division were not unique to South Africa.
Monyane hopes to take concrete steps such as initiate a process of mutual listening and talking among students of all colours in his university about divisive issues arising from history, supplement the little knowledge on ecological justice in his context with eco-theology and on early education on treatment of women to prevent gender violence.
For Shuba Keerthana, a female ordained presbyter in Karnataka Central Diocese, Church of South India, the programme courses and real-life stories from different contexts enriched her theological understanding and contributed to her personal and ministerial formation by shattering her stereotypes of gender orientations, challenging her perspectives and inspiring her to “challenge power structures and give heed to subaltern voices.”
“The topics we learnt at Wuppertal were carefully designed to allow us to relate to our contexts… These insights enabled me to contribute in my discernment group and also to journey with the proceedings in the Council,” she added.
Her practical implications include applying hermeneutical tools in theology, sensitizing youth and women in her church to issues around them and encouraging them to relate their faith to the realities through Bible studies and missional activities.
Shawn Harmon, a student at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, felt that the wide-ranging issues raised by about the idea of mission has helped him comprehend the global witness of the church and the importance of partnership in mission to understand where the church can engage in justice, evangelism and reconciliation, to participate in local and global missions that work towards fullness of life for all in Jesus Christ especially in areas where the church has been complacent to act in the past.
The nationalities, cultures and languages among participants were diverse, but one overwhelmingly clear fact was clear: “You won’t be the same theologian when you go back to your home country.”