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Parallel 3

Barriers and Gateways to the Development of Practical Theology in Taiwanese Theological Education: Taiwan Graduate School of Theology as a Case Study

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Prof. Jonathan A. SEITZ

Practical Associate Professor

Taiwan Graduate School of Theology

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Dr. Jui-Chi HU

Assistant Professor

Taiwan Graduate School of Theology

This essay begins by offering several definitions of practical theology, with the aim of articulating the history and development of the field as it relates to Taiwan. It uses Taiwan Graduate School of Theology (historically known as Taiwan Theological College and Seminary or 台神) as a case study. Like many schools, TGST historically had four general fields of study—history, theology, Bible and ministry. In the modern period, while core fields have developed healthily, practical theology has always struggled. As a cognate field, practical theology at TGST has cycled through several emphases: education, social work, and counseling. There have also been a mix of faculty in fields like homiletics or mission, or from sympathetic faculty in other fields.

 

This essay identifies several “barriers” to the growth of practical theology in theological education. In the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) candidates are likely to come to seminary older and then to spend year as evangelists 傳道, leaving them less time to study. A second barrier is the lack of specialized ministry development, with few ministerial placements with a focus on youth, education, or pastoral care. A third barrier is the challenge of prior academic study. In many fields of practical theology there is a related university-level curriculum that has prepared candidates (psychology or counseling; education; communication, speech, or theater). In Taiwan, students more often come from unrelated fields. Another barrier is the nature of international theological education programs, which are often culturally rooted in ethnocentric North American or European models of ministry. These schools often prize popular culture or their own contextual models of ministry and may not understand or be able to equip students from other cultures. Another barrier is that there are simply far fewer programs in practical theology than there are other fields. Finally, the type of candidates who are attracted to practical theology are often more mature and experienced and thus the most likely to be recruited by congregations, non-profits, agencies, and denominational leadership, translating to fewer years on the faculty. After an in-depth discussion of these issues, the paper concludes with a set of suggestions for ways to expand practical theology. It draws on the conference theme, hoping to locate “Asian resources” that could equip seminaries to prepare practical theologians for the church and theological education.

 

Bio

Jonathan A. Seitz is Practical Associate Professor at Taiwan Graduate School of Theology and a PCUSA Mission Co-Worker

 

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