Senior Pastor, The Church of Christ in China Quarry Bay Church
When I went through my memory and my documents to recall my experience at CGST, I was both thankful and moved. I would like to share eight special features of CGST from my encounter with the School:
1. Aspiration to dedicate
I first heard of CGST during my university fellowship time in 1971.We were talking about CGST in the context of a “Graduates’ Dedication Movement”. This movement emerged in the 19th century in Europe and the US, and spread to China in the 20th century. It came to Hong Kong and Taiwan in the 60s. CGST was started from a calling received in this movement. It was no surprise that it was established as a theological school that trains university graduates. By the time I heard about CGST, several graduates had already dedicated their lives to the Lord and went to the States to be equipped in order to serve at CGST, one of whom including Rev Dr Wilson Chow. He holds the record for the longest-serving CGST President.
The devotion of the “Graduates’ Dedication Movement” conveys a wholeheartedness that is “not for his own advantage”, “willing to lay down and surrender” and “willing to be wronged and to suffer”. As CGST was established coming out from this movement, it is naturally tied to an aspiration to dedicate one’s life with the willingness to surrender and suffer.
Today’s world emphasizes on rights. Middle-class churches look for comfort. Quite a few pastors look to job benefits and a life of ease. The dedication movement and aspiration of CGST bear a special significance to the training of pastors today.
2. Sentiment of comradeship
Before I began church ministry, I studied for a two-year theology diploma course at the Disciple Training Centre (DTC) in Singapore. In 1982, after five-years in church ministry, I considered studying for MDiv degree in CGST. I enquired then if CGST would recognize the credits from DTC. I was uncertain as it was just a diploma course. Eventually, CGST gave full recognition of all the DTC credits.
I did not know what factors CGST had considered when making that decision, but I believed that the sentiment of comradeship played a part in it. Like CGST, DTC was also established as a result of the “Graduates’ Dedication Movement” and had strong connection with the student evangelical movement. Both are evangelical schools, it is understandable that they would support and reckon each other. In fact, CGST has been in collaboration with many seminaries to share resources and work together as comrades. This sentiment could still be felt in later years. I took part in the 1994-95 curriculum review. The new part-time Diploma of Christian Studies was a result of joint effort with the Graduates Christian Fellowship of Hong Kong. The curriculum was designed referencing Rev John Stott’s teaching. Such trust and dependence on like-minded organizations is indeed a valuable sentiment.
The training in CGST attaches a great deal of importance to critique and creativity. This is valuable , though it is important not to get to the stage of aloof arrogance. Interdependence is a mark of a mature worker and mature service.
3. Ethos of respecting knowledge
In 1983-84, I studied part time in CGST. Of the many activities at CGST, I was most interested in the Book Club organised by the Student Union. Students were enthusiastic in getting books. They were more than happy in buying books with the book gift coupon. Buying a book does not necessarily mean reading them all, but it does exude a sentiment of respecting knowledge which should be affirmed.
Apart from having a high regard for knowledge, the respect for esteemed teachers was strong. When I was at CGST, rumors said that Dr Ronald Y K Fung would be retiring soon to focus on his research. His teaching of the Book of Galatians would be his last class. Hence everyone rushed to register for that course.
Nowadays, the more one pursues wealth and success, the less one’s quest for knowledge. I pray that CGST folks will never stop studying.
4. Philosophy of encountering the situation
While I was studying full-time at CGST in 1984-85, I was most impressed with two subjects. One was “Evangelism and the Hong Kong Society” which was coordinated by Rev Dr Carver Yu. There was a profound meaning of having this course. It conveyed a clear message that pastors ought to encounter the situation they were in and get to know Hong Kong. Another subject was “The History of Contemporary Chinese Church” taught by Rev Jonathan Chao, who helped us face with another situation: the communist China.
Encountering one’s situation could be said to be an important philosophy behind the training of CGST. Today, the Chinese Culture Research Centre and The Centre for Faith and Public Values carry on this training philosophy in much depth and breadth.
5. Gene of trusting our youths
I was 35 when I was invited to join CGST as the Director of Theological Education by Extensions (TEE). That did not materialise as I had other commitments in church then. I later joined CGST in 1989 when I was 39 and hence still “young”. It was in the genes of CGST to have faith in youths. When the school was established, most of its teachers were in their 30s. The directors of the CGST Board and President Rev Philip Teng had a lot of trust in them. That however did not mean that the school did not have a rigorous recruitment policy. Let’s hear the words of Rev Dr Wilson Chow, “They have moved me tremendously through their maturity, their dedication, their spirituality, their character, and their academic excellence. This group is indeed the cream of the crop, and they are not only teachers to emulate, but friends to treasure.” (CGST Bulletin Issue 177, Jan 1992).
Today’s churches are demanding and rigorous in their succession plan. Churches require young pastors with aspirations, spirituality, character and good academic background. CGST has a great responsibility on its shoulders.
6. Eclectic culture
When I joined CGST in 1989, theological training for the grassroots had already commenced and was running as a separate unit. For a graduate level theological school, it was eclectic for them to setup a theological program for those with secondary school qualifications or less. Another example was the recognition of “mature students”, Christians without undergraduate qualifications are able to study at CGST.
In addition, CGST embraces a diversified group of teachers. CGST does not aimed at teachers who only fit a stereotypic category. The Lord loves diversity, and the eclecticism of CGST exemplifies the beauty of diversity.
7. Insistence to achieve balance
In January 1992, I participated for the first time in a retreat led by Dr Hans Burki. That was another step towards the insistence to achieve balance. CGST has sought balance in different areas, for example, balance between academic studies and current context, between reading the Bible and reading people, between classroom learning and practicum. Introducing such retreat camp was a step further towards achieving balance: balance our busy lives and ministry through retreats; balance the rational nature of academic research through stillness and centering. In today’s world, people are so busy with their own lives, there are never enough time for prayers and retreats. CGST should not give up such insistence.
8. Vision for a Chinese theological education
CGST is the abbreviation of the School. This abbreviation encompasses the word “China”, and shows that it is a school established for China and with China in mind.
In the June/July 1992 issue of the CGST Bulletin, Rev Dr Wilson Chow talked about how CGST faced the change of sovereignty in 1997. He said, “If we are to have a profound impact and contribution to theological education in China, we should run the school well so that it will be of superb quality to prepare us well for the future.” He also added, “CGST will remain in Hong Kong. This is in line with its purpose, and is also a strategic decision. We believe that God raised up CGST for the current opportunities.” In the July/August 1997 edition of the CGST Bulletin, he mentioned, “Our goal is to build up and strengthen theological education in China, and also play a meaningful role in the international scene.”
CSGT has step by step borne some fruits for China’s theological education. May this vision be passed on to our future generations.
(This is an excerpt of Rev Chan’s sharing at the Chapel Service on November 19, 2015.)