May 12th was an amazing day at Asbury Theological Seminary. We had the privilege of hosting Vice Chancellor Douglas Carew and Provost William Udotong on our Wilmore campus. Dr. Carew is the senior leader of Africa International University in Kenya and Dr. Udotong is the senior leader of the West Africa Theological Seminary in Nigeria. This is the beginning of some vital partnerships for Asbury as we truly engage in the globalization of theological education. I thought I would share with you the remarks I delivered at the formal signing ceremony.
REMARKS AT THE SIGNING OF THE MOU WITH NEGST/AIU and WATS
May 12, 2011
The Lausanne movement has popularized the phrase, “the whole church, bringing the whole gospel, to the whole world.” It is a way of capturing a movement of mission from a “West Reaches the Rest” paradigm to a paradigm which is truly rooted in the missio dei, namely, God orchestrating his work through his church in his world. Mission has never really been about tasks which the church does, but about God’s redemptive work in the world. None of us possess the resources or ingenuity or strategic insight sufficient for the unfolding of God’s great meta-narrative. Indeed, God’s work is often filled with surprises which come from unexpected quarters.
Today, we are honored to join in partnership under the great banner of the missio dei with two exemplary institutions, the West Africa Theological Seminary (WATS) in Lagos, Nigeria and African International University, formerly known as NEGST, Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology. We do not regard this signing today as the end of anything. Rather, it is the beginning of a relationship founded on a shared vision and a desire to serve Christ in the world. Partnerships are never simply organizations or schools doing tasks for the other or cooperating on this or that initiative. Partnerships imply a deeper re-ordering of relationships based on mutual trust, respect for the identity of the other, and shared mission. It is an expression of genuine Christian hospitality which will flourish as we grow to know, love and trust one another. We began our first formal global partnerships with our brothers and sisters in Africa for three reasons. First, it is a way of our demonstrating our profound respect and appreciation for God’s work on the continent in the last century. Africa was once known in popular literature as the “dark continent” and the “white man’s graveyard.” Today, Africa is the continent of light and the home of the fastest growing church in the world. There is no greater need in Africa today than the faithful equipping of a whole new generation of African leaders. These two institutions stand at the forefront of this great challenge and we are honored to stand with them.
Second, these institutions do not come to us today as strangers, but as friends. We already have long and abiding ties with these two institutions. Dr. Mark Royster, our Presidential Envoy for Global Partnerships taught at NEGST for a decade and Dr. Jim Miller, our Associate Professor of Inductive Bible Study and New Testament taught at NEGST for four years and served as their Dean of Doctoral Programs. Dr. William Udotong, the newly installed Provost of WATS, graduated in May of 2010 with a PhD in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. Julie and I had the privilege of spending a day with Vice Chancellor Douglas Carew on the campus of AIU in Nairobi and I have a long standing relationship with Nigeria. Thus, we already have a deep and growing relationship. Third, we in the West desperately need the biblical vision, the vigorous commitment to church planting, and the deep connection between personal and social holiness which is so evident in the African church. We truly believe that God is using Africa to enable the West to re-discover Apostolic Christianity as a faith beyond the Western forms of it.
I want to conclude with the same hopeful prayer that Vice Chancellor Carew uttered on the day that NEGST formally received the status to become Africa International University. He used the words of Charles Wesley, as I will,
The task Thy wisdom hath assigned, O let me cheerfully fulfill,
In all my works, Thy presence find, And prove Thy good and perfect will.