The Rev. Dr. Joon Kwan Un, who graduated from Duke Divinity School with the Th.M. degree in 1962, is the founder and first president of the Graduate School of Practical Theology (GSPT) at Icheon, 30 miles southeast of Seoul, Korea. In June 2005, Geoffrey Wainwright, Cushman professor of theology at the divinity school, and Karen Westerfield Tucker Dí79, now professor of worship at Boston University School of Theology, traveled to Korea to conduct the schoolís first International Symposium. Below, the Rev. Dr. Joon Kwan Un discusses his vision and goals for GSPT with Dr. Wainwright.
Q & A
GW: What inspired you to create the GSPT?
Protestant churches grew dramatically during the ’70s and ’80s along with industrialization of Korean society. By l990, many church leaders seemed to be held captive to the “church growth syndrome.” No alternatives had been contemplated beyond church stagnancy and a clerical paradigm.
Most of the theological schools in Korea, where I have taught for nearly 30 years, persistently preserve what is traditionally known as the “fourfold pattern” of biblical theology, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. But they seem to fail in providing a new curriculum, one that envisions a new direction for future churches. A gap between theological schools and local churches has been widened.
As a Christian educator, I was seriously challenged by these phenomena to wrestle with the future of the Korean churches. The Graduate School of Practical Theology (GSPT) is a theological and ecclesial attempt to provide an alternative beyond the clerical paradigm and church growth syndrome that has permeated Korean churches today.
I have been inspired by the biblical notion of Basileia tou Theou through my doctoral dissertation, The Christian Community as Mission-Event in the Theology of Karl Barth (Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California in l968) and my twin book, Theological Ecclesiology and Practical Ecclesiology, published in l999 just prior to my retirement from the School of Theology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea.
GW: How did you set about realizing the project?
The idea and vision of GSPT was initiated while I was writing a final draft of two books, and it was well received by a small company of committed leaders representing three denominations here in l997. After long discussions, the committee for establishment of GSPT was organized in 1998, and I was acting chair. The committee and I devoted our whole energy and time to fundraising, collecting books related to practical theology, and searching for a campus site.
It has been a long, lonely, painful journey, but a great blessing for us to experience the presence and guidance of God through the Holy Spirit. GSPT was initiated by my vision, but the creation and dedication of GSPT was orchestrated by the company of trustee members, concerned pastors, and dedicated lay leaders.
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