CALVIN CELEBRATED BY HIS WORLD FAMILY

 

 BY ELSIE McKEE
CALVIN CELEBRATED BY HIS WORLD FAMILY
Who says Calvin was just an old-fashioned European? Not worldwide alums of PTS! Long before the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birthday in 2009, members of Presbyterian and Reformed communities around the world were planning appropriate ways to remember this church leader, this founding pastor…and I was privileged to witness and share some of these celebrations, especially those in the global south, during the summer months of 2009.

The Presbyterian Church of Taiwan (PCT) is a diverse and strongly engaged body with three seminaries. In May the George Mackay Lectures took me to Taiwan Seminary in Taipei with its many PTS-related scholars. Primary host Professor Yang-en Cheng (Ph.D., 1994) was on sabbatical (in Princeton!); Professor Tsong-Sheng Tsan (PTS visiting scholar) organized a fine program; a wonderful group welcomed me and translated for me. Alums who attended included Professor Shang-Jen Chen (Th.M., 1998; Ph.D., 2004), Mei-Lun Shen (M.A., 2002), Professor Tzu-Lin Tsai (Th.M., 2000), Ma-Li Lai (Th.M., 2007), the Reverend Peter Dao-Nan Chen (M.Div., 2006), and the Reverend Chin Shun Kang (Th.M., 2002). The family of YuHui Chang (Th.M., 2007) came to meet me.
 
Yu-shan Theological College and Seminary in beautiful Hualien is the seminary of the aboriginal tribes of Taiwan. It was lovely to see WuHua Paqaliyus (Th.M., 2003) and Professor Shu-pin Chiu (Th.M., 2001) again, to meet Professor Peter Nan-Jou Chen (Th.M., 1978) and Professor Chun Fa Tung (aka Masegseg Zengror Gadu, Th.M., 1983), and to visit some churches. After I left Taiwan the Typhoon Morakot brought death and destruction to many, including the families of nineteen Yu-shan students; the whole PCT has responded to this crisis, and we join in with our prayers.

Tainan Seminary in Tainan, with its focus on enculturation, has its first woman president, Professor FuYa Wu (Th.M., 1987; Ph.D. candidate, 1992), and lively faculty, including Professor John Chhong-fat Tseng (Th.M. candidate, 1994) and Professor Hsueh-Ming Liao (Th.M., 1999)—whom I did not see because he was recovering from a very serious traffic accident.

Korea

Korea is the land of Presbyterian churches—and a great number of PTS graduates! My wonderful host, Professor Jung-Sook Lee (Ph.D., 1997), dean of Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, organized an amazing program in Seoul and beyond, translating every lecture by herself—a marathon of Calvin communication! Given the sheer numbers of PTS grads in Korea, it was impossible to see them all.
 

We began at the historic “mother church,” Saemoonan Church, where Dr. Jung Woo Shin (Th.M., 2000) serves with Calvin scholar Dr. Sou-Young Lee. We then visited Presbyterian College and Seminary (PCS), which has a “chapel” building to rival the chapel of Princeton University. The event at PCS gathered the largest group: Professor Won-Mo Suh (Th.M., 1993; Ph.D., 2000), Dr. Byung-Joon Cheong (Th.M., 1999), Professor John Flett (Ph.D., 2008), Professor Shin-Geun Jang (Th.M., 1996; Ph.D., 2002), Professor Douil Kim (M.Div., 1993), Professor Sang-Hoon Lee (Th.M., 1995; Ph.D., 2004), Professor Kyoo-Min Lee (Th.M., 1989; Ph.D., 1996), and Professor Seung-Gap Lee (Th.M., 1997).
The Korean Calvin Studies Society reunited me with Professor Geung Su Park (Th.M., 1997), and later there were visits with Dr. Joseph DuYol Choi (M.Div., 1989; Th.M., 1990) and Professor Sangkeun Kim (Ph.D., 2001).
 
At Honam University in Kwangju, President Chong-Soon Cha (Th.M., 1984) showed me both the cemetery of PCUSA missionaries and the plans for the monument for the approximately one thousand Korean Christian martyrs of the twentieth century, a very moving history. I then visited with Professor Seung Gi Choi (Th.M., 1996).
On the other side of the country are Pusan/Busan Presbyterian University and Kosin University, with a fine Reformed Institute. At Busan I met again Professor Park Mann (Th.M., 1995) and Professor In Seung Wang (Th.M., 1996), who welcomed us with big blue banners picturing Calvin! The hospitality of all the Korean communities was richly spiced with kimchi and many other traditional dishes: a gourmet feast!

Japan

Although there are very few Christians in Japan, it has a remarkable number of PTS grads. My organizing host, Professor Akira Demura (Ph.D., 1964), was an “elder brother” to me in our studies at PTS: he was one of Princeton Seminary Professor Ed Dowey’s first doctoral students, and I was among his last. Now retired from Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai but still very active in academe and church, Professor Demura organized and translated my lectures and sermons both in Sendai and in Tokyo—and you should see him in action! The Tokyo lecture was sponsored by four Japanese Christian publishers to celebrate Professor Demura’s translation of my book John Calvin: Writings on Pastoral Piety.
Then at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary there was a warm welcome from Professor Masami Kojiro (Th.M., 1992) and Eri Kojiro, and I met again Professor Minoru Nakano (Th.M., 1994).

I preached in the chapel of the International Christian University (ICU), hosted by my classmate Professor Takashi Nagata (Th.M., 1975; Ph.D., 1981), who also serves as a chaplain. He told me of ICU’s important ties with the Myanmar Institute of Theology (MIT). Though I was not able to visit them, we want to join in remembering MIT and its people (and PTS graduates) in their 75th anniversary year.
 
At ICU I was also hosted by Professor Anri Morimoto (Ph.D., 1991), director of the Center for Christianity and Culture. I had the pleasure of seeing again senior colleagues Professor Y. Carl Furuya (Ph.D., 1959), Sachi Shimomura Furuya (special student, 1953), and Professor Shin Chiba (Ph.D., 1983).
 
Then the Reverend Takashi Yoshida (Th.M., 1995) conducted me to Kobe Reformed Seminary, which has a PCUSA heritage. My lecture in Shantou-Koki Church—where Masaaki Suzuki, the Japanese musical artist who has brought the Psalms to new life, was a member—began with Psalms. More reunions followed, with Professor Ken Miyamoto (Ph.D., 1999) and the Reverend Katsumi Mochida (M.Div., 1976).
 
A final tourist visit to Kyoto gave me a day with PTS doctoral student Yoshiyuki Kato and his fiancée.
   
Germany

The conference on Calvin and Calvinism in Mainz, Germany, in June gathered a group of international Calvin experts for a substantive series of papers and good conversations; one of our alums, Dr. Andrew Wilson (Ph.D., 2009), visited from Strasbourg.

Lebanon

In July I visited the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, a remarkable, diverse, resilient institution in a cosmopolitan city being extensively rebuilt after the civil wars (1975–1990) and Israeli invasion (2006). NEST’s gifted president, Mary Mikhael, and dean, George Sabra (M.Div., 1980), organized continuing education lectures that drew about twenty to thirty participants from all over the Middle East—Presbyterian visitors from Iraq, NEST graduates from Lutheran Palestinian churches, and members of Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Armenian Evangelical churches in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. I enjoyed more reunions with my classmate Professor Habib Badr (Ph.D., 1992), pastor and professor, with Professor Johnny Awwad (Ph.D., 1996) at NEST, and with Professor Paul Haidostian (Th.M., 1988; Ph.D., 1994), now president of Haigazian University in Beirut (Armenian Evangelical).
 
Australia and New Zealand

I arrived in August at the Uniting Church of Australia for the Nothey Lectures. My host was Professor Christiaan Mostert, who has been a scholar at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton. Their Center of Theology and Ministry is wonderfully ecumenical: the respondent to one of my papers was a Salesian priest/retired bishop! Participants included the Reverend Robert Fraser (M.Div., 1979) and the Reverend John Smith (Th.M., 1982), who fondly remembered PTS as “a crossroads of the world.”
 
Then I traveled to New Zealand for another conference, lectures, and a meeting with the Reverend Robert Paterson (Th.M., 1960), retired missionary to Indonesia…where there are other PTS alums.
 
Remembering and considering how to appropriate Calvin for the church today—that was one benefit of the international riches of the PTS family in 2009. I offer my deep gratitude for all the family!
 
 



Elsie McKee is the Archibald Alexander Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship at Princeton Theological Seminary.