A Korean Seminary
‘Transformed by God’s Kingdom’

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 D79, now professor of worship at Boston University School of Theology, traveled to Korea to conduct the schools first International Symposium. Below, the Rev. Dr. Joon Kwan Un discusses his vision and goals for GSPT with Dr. Wainwright.

Q & A

Geoffrey Wainwright, Cushman professor of theology at Duke Divinity School; the Rev. Dr. Joon Kwan Un D’62, founder and president of the Graduate School of Practical Theology; and Karen Westerfield Tucker D'79, professor of worship, Boston University School of Theology; at the First International Symposium on Worship in Iceheon, Korea, June 2005.
Courtesy of Geoffrey Wainwright :

 Geoffrey Wainwright, Cushman professor of theology at Duke Divinity School; the Rev. Dr. Joon Kwan Un D'62, founder and president of the Graduate School of Practical Theology; and Karen Westerfield Tucker D’79, professor of worship, Boston University School of Theology; at the First International Symposium on Worship in Iceheon, Korea, June 2005.

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.

GW: What are your aims?

The first is to serve the Korean churches (and thereby the church universal) to be a community of Laos tou Theou, the community of God’s people, called out, called up and called into the world by the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. This goes beyond clericalism and laicism, but at the same time embraces ministers and lay people within the community.

This is a community of God’s people continuously transformed by the reign of God’s Kingdom. At the same time, this community is called to bear witness to the transforming reality of God’s Kingdom in the world.

GSPT firmly believes that the ontological event of the church is neither the church itself nor its denominations, but the Kingdom of God in Jesus Christ. Korean churches have lost their identity because they have lost their eschatological motif in worship, education, koinonia and mission.

Second, GSPT is dedicated to changing the ministerial paradigm from a clerical paradigm (Edward Farley’s term) to the total ministry of the people of God, which is even beyond a congregational paradigm (James F. Hopewell’s term).

Last, GSPT trains future ministers to be professionals in munus triplex (priestly, prophetic and royal office), but at the same time, trains them as the pastoral director, or orchestra conductor or grass-root theologian or reflective practitioner to serve the people of God in their called-out, called-up and called-into ministry of God’s Kingdom in the world.

Joon Kwan Un

Born: Dec. 9, 1933

Experience: Korean Methodist Church, Chicago, 1964-1968; Methodist Theological Seminary, Professor of Christian Education, 1968-1975; Chung Dong First Methodist Church (known as the mother church of Korean Methodism), Seoul, Korea, Senior Minister, 1975-1979; Yonsei University, School of Theology, Professor of Theology and Christian Education, 1979-1999; Chaplain, 1980-1985; Dean of the School of Theology, 1988-1992; GSPT, Chair of the Board of Trustees, 2002-2005; President, 2005 to present.

Education: Th.M., Duke Divinity School, 1962, studying under Drs. Cushman, Kale, Richey, Herzog, and Lacy. Th.D., Pacific School of Religion, 1968

Family: Married to Aeh Sun Kim-Un. They have two daughters and two sons, including the Rev. Won Hyung Un D89, Elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church and a member of the Duke Divinity School Alumni Association’s National Council.

Graduate School of Practical Theology

Sept. 30, 2004: Korean government recognizes GSPT as an accredited graduate school. GSPT is dedicated in October 2004 and welcomes 23 students on March 3, 2005.

  Faculty are international, ecumenical and inter-disciplinary and include seven full-time professors; three titled professors, four adjunct professors, five clinical professors, and several internationally distinguished visiting professors, including Dr. Geoffrey Wainwright of Duke.

  Admissions requirements include a bachelor’s or M.Div. degree from an officially accredited institution and more than two years of full-time pastoral experience.

   By April, 2006, 60 students representing eight denominations were enrolled.

Editor’s Note: GSPT will host an international symposium in July 2006 following the meeting of the World Methodist Council and Conference in Seoul. Drs. Wainwright and Westerfield Tucker, who were colleagues at Duke for 15 years, will be the leaders for The Third International Symposium. They also served as keynote lecturers at the First International Symposium on Worship, “The Kingdom of God and Worship,” in June 2005. Dr. Christian Link of Bochum University was the keynote speaker for The Second International Symposium, “The Crisis of the German Church,” held in October 2005.

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