Interviewed and written by
"CGST's establishment and continuity is a miracle." 1
Witnessing this miracle which spans over forty years, and the everlasting grace of God is Dr Michael Chiu, who stepped down from Chairman of the CGST Board by the end of June 2015.
Uncover the Word: vision became lifelong pursuit
1967 was a time of unrest and fiery in Far East. Dr Chiu enrolled to study in the Department of Biology of Hong Kong University. He saw himself as a fervent young man. After graduation he furthered his studies in the UK, focusing on environmental conservation and river pollution, a very unusual research area at that time. Upon graduation, he worked at the HK Government. -- At that time there had not been an Environmental Protection Department.
Dr Chiu still remembered when he arrived in Britain, the school dormitories were fully occupied and he had to sleep in the park. Being alone in a foreign land, Dr Chiu would never imagine that frustration could be transformed into a channel of grace: a schoolmate who was a non-believer helped him ride out the storm. Another surprised move, he also brought Dr Chiu to a church. Dr Chiu then decided to commit himself to Christ, growing spiritually. Bible reading became a habit, and eventually a lifelong leisure pursuit. He even included Bible reading as part of his profile in his Curriculum Vitae. Recalling how this hobby was cultivated, Dr. Chiu believes that it is closely related to the church culture’s passion in Bible reading and the opportunity for him to meet the devoted brothers-in-Christ and being edified by them. One of whom was the brother who brought Dr Chiu to Christ. He visited Dr Chiu every week for three years, reading Bible with him. The other two were Ronald Fung and Rev Che-bin Tan who served at the church. New Testament scholar Professor F F Bruce was their supervisor then. Every Friday evening after the church prayer meeting, they would study the Bible together, “the richness of Bible interpretation and the rigorous theological training they had, opening up new horizon for us. I recalled that Ronald spent two consecutive Friday evenings analyzing the first few verses of the book of Ephesians. As you can see~ I can still remember it until now! We were all amazed and in such joy! The passion they had for the Bible had ignited us! We were in awe of the Bible being uncovered, and could not help but praise ‘Wow! God is so great, the Bible is really remarkable!’”
1970s was a time when Chinese Bible interpretation and theological resources were extremely scarce. Nurturing such researchers to serve Chinese Church became an urgent cry. When Dr Chiu heard of CGST’s vision, he became so excited that upon returning to Hong Kong, he immediately took the No. 7 bus to see CGST in person, "At first glance, ‘oh, so small?!’ It didn’t look like a school at all, seemed like a residence.” It was indeed the case. Devon Campus was modified from a residential building. Faculty, students and their families lived on the campus, learning and sharing their life together. It was both a small community and an extended family. “I came here very often. Every time I knocked the doors of Che-bin Tan, Ted Ma, Gail Law, Peter Chang and so forth to talk in length. I still found those times enjoyable: children playing around, students bumped into the teachers asking questions when they passed by. The dialogue could last for over half an hour, like having a lesson."
Changed from the Inside Out: reflect the past and see challenges ahead
From initial setup to the 1980s, Dr Chiu was a frequent visitor of CGST—attend classes, meetings or visiting faculty and friends. President Emeritus Wilson Chow invited him to join the CGST Board in 1993, which then kicked off his service as our Board member that extended across two decades. From mere acquaintance to active participant that covering forty years, Dr Chiu witnessed various changes, major or minor: faculty moved out of campus; no more student quarters after rebuilding of the school; at canteen, large round tables with dishes being shared communally had become history. While we cherish a big family life style of friends, Dr Chiu affirmed the necessity of the school’s further development, “CGST’s past and present is indeed very different. In the past we were oriented towards theological studies in general, now we have a diversified development, like Marketplace Theology and Word of Life Ministry. Responding to the ever-changing society and the corresponding needs, the newer development is inevitable. In fact, more importantly, we ought to pause regularly and consider how we would take the next step, identifying CGST's orientation, thus focusing resources in those areas. "
In the recent decade, inside CGST there has been a transition phase, in which the school’s mission is being carried on as one generation retired. Outside CGST, the society becomes increasingly restless, with drastic change of current events developing. Facing changes and challenges, how would we respond? Dr Chiu highlighted, "CGST’s emphasis on theological or biblical studies is our core, which should be upheld. On the other hand, 'Incarnated' would be another key, which means 'identifying the rhythm’ of what is happening around us, avoid shying away from the Church’s experience in reality. If we simply focus solely on research and study, it would do harm to us." He admitted that external conflict is unavoidable, "No religious community is able to hold back from current issues in society, which is what the Center for Faith and Public Values is trying to accomplish. In view of the societal evolution, we have to get involved in the social issues. Not only that, we also need to move further ahead. CGST certainly has her tradition of approaching the issues, in which we may respond with a different perspective.”
Returning God’s love: do the best and strive unceasingly
Even if Dr Chiu had retired from the Board Chairman position, the fellowship he has with CGST goes on, "I belonged to the CGST family, I still do." Dr Chiu grinned, "The retirement age of board directors can be up to seventy, so theoretically I can assume the same role again after a year. However, I tend to not allowing gerontocracy to appear at CGST. Rev Dr Philip Teng once said, 'The Kingdom of God is broad.' No one is indispensible. I have done my job, and it is the right time for me to step down in order to go forward. Do what God has entrusted to me in a different position and at different times. Do not hold back. "
Since retirement, Dr Chiu began taking up a new ministry, and his passion of Bible teaching and preaching has never ceased, "We are only the servant of God. Life won’t be in vain as long as we are faithful to the master."
1 Chiu, Michael. “It Is All Grace”, CGST Bulletin, Issue 282, Sep-Oct 2005.